Rap, as an artform, is incredibly malleable, but it is often pinned down by persistent stereotypes. Fort Worth rapper Wrex seeks to rise above those tired tropes, aspiring, ultimately, to enrich and inspire his community instead of merely getting his. And while his platform is the same as the one used by the artists rhyming about money, guns, and “hoes,” his content is decidedly more esoteric – if he raps about wheels, he’s not talking about spinning rims.
Born Therron Cole in 1989, Wrex comes from a family in Como, a predominantly African-American neighborhood in West Fort Worth. Back then, it was a dangerous place.
“My real dad… grew up around here, part of the Fort Worth-era in the ’90s where it was real thug life.”
His mother later remarried, and the family moved to the Alief neighborhood in Houston and then, when Wrex was a teen, to Austin. His home life was chaotic, he said, describing his stepfather as an “evil man.” He ran away from home a few times and got in trouble, though he was never arrested. All of that contributed to a pervasive depression. But Wrex tried to deal with his emotions constructively, poring over self-help books of a decidedly Eastern bent.
“I got into Eastern thought patterns because I was always dealing with depression when I was younger,” he said. “So I looked into self-help books – Russell Simmons has a book on meditation, Eckhart Tole, Deepak Chopra … you don’t hear about any of that shit in the communities I grew up in.”
After high school, Wrex enrolled at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, but he dropped out after his second year, partly because of his own inner turmoil. Shortly thereafter, he had a particularly life-changing experience tripping on mushrooms – he didn’t speak for two weeks afterward.
The trip inspired a lot of writing. He was 20 at the time and decided to move back to Como to stay with his grandparents. Somewhat rudderless, he needed a creative outlet.
“I wrote to myself all the time,” he said. “I was listening to different rappers, everyone from Lupe to Rick Ross to Rakim, just trying to find my own thing. I didn’t know I was going to pursue rap for real, but I just liked doing it.”
One night at an open mic he performed in front of two fixtures of the Fort Worth rap scene, Dru B Shinin and Big Cliff, impressing both enough for them to bring him into their fold.
“Dru kinda raised me as a rapper, and [producer] Eye-J pretty much told me how to find my own sound,” he said. “It was a lot of experimentation.”
For a few years, Wrex – then known as Wrex Washington, the de facto leader of a five-man crew called Mount Olympus with Dru and Paul “Lion Eye” Gordon, as well as rappers named Xeus, Big Cliff, Cuddy Cane, YKK, and DJ Dredey – lived it up as a local hip-hop star.
“I was 23, super-confident, super-arrogant even,” he said, describing a somewhat wild period in his life. “I was thinking I’m the man… And then I got a reality check.”
At the age of 25, Wrex learned he was going to be a dad. He’d had a job at Lockheed Martin but was laid off in 2012. With his new responsibilities as a father, he reaccepted his old job in 2014 when it reopened. He also stopped performing. His rap career became part of his past, but he never forgot the lessons he’d learned about the seven chakras.
The Sanskrit word for “wheels,” chakras refer to the belief that the human body has seven different energy centers that align vertically from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. In 2016, he started to write about them, assembling a seven-song EP called Chakra Flow. Released in March on Spotify and iTunes, Chakra Flow (credited to W. Wrex, incidentally) is Wrex’s endeavor to effect positive change in other people.
“It was harder to pull off than I thought,” he laughed. “I had to find a way to make it genuine, true to hip-hop rather than ‘Look at me trying to present Eastern philosophy to you.’ ”
Wrex, in effect, has aligned his life and his art to improve himself, which is itself a stepping stone to improve the lives of others. In addition to his day job at Lockheed Martin, he’s about to complete real estate school. Once he has his license, he said, his goal is to help Fort Worth’s African American communities gain ownership of their own neighborhoods.
“Almost everything in the black community is owned by someone else,” he said. “And so the issue is us not taking control of our own neighborhoods.”
Whether he and others can amass the capital for that kind of demographic change remains to be seen, but if the positive vibrations and self-healing philosophies espoused in Chakra Flow are any indication, Wrex is on the right path.