Into the groove with Treway Lambert - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

When I spoke to Beano French during the Give Them Their Flowers series, the West Philly singer talked about the pride he has for his hometown because of the undeniable impact it has in the music world. Not just the music artists who are in the forefront, but even the characters who play the background. Some examples of that would be Natalie Imani, singing background for John Legend, or DJ Aktive spinning for Janet Jackson. One of the many names from Philly who’s making a name himself is Treway Lambert, a drummer from North Philadelphia who credits his faith in God to all the blessings and opportunities he’s received, which includes recently touring with hip hop artist Lil Durk.

Like many musicians, Treway Lambert started off in the church, and made his way into the jam sessions in the city after being exposed to them by his mother when he was a kid. His affection for the drums came when he noticed that he could control any place he played in because of how the song always centers around the beat. Whether for tours, music festivals, or television talk shows, his skills as an elite drummer have been utilized by artists across genres — such as Tye Tribbett, Floetry, Bebe Rexha, and Meek Mill — to obtain two Grammy awards and three nominations.

Yet with all these opportunities to perform all over the country, Lambert’s commitment to his faith in God is just as impressive as talents as a musician. Not to say that he’s perfect, because no one is, but it’s something to be said to be so disciplined in any faith that you have that you make sure to add it into your contracts. Lambert says that his faith not only rewards him with opportunities that he could never have imagined, but it also keeps him strong to deal with any weapon he faces — including a stray bullet that almost took his life in 2017.

According to Lambert, Philly has a history of jam sessions. Venues like Zanzibar Blue, Warmdaddies, The 5 Spot hosted the events like Black Lily which helped create a new generation of soul music which the world would know as neo-soul. That’s interesting, considering how jam sessions are still current; maybe venues like Time, Leda & The Swan, or world Cafe Live are preparing a collective of 3rd generation soul musicians and singers like Treway Lambert. After getting off a long tour with Lil Durk and preparing to jam with Marsha Ambrosia in Las Vegas in the near future, I was able to talk to Lambert about a variety of topics such church, jam sessions, playing for a variety of artists, and how the swag of his hometown stands out no matter where it is.

Rahman Wortman: You’ve made your name as a drummer. Do you play any other instrument?

Treway Lambert: I can dibble and dabble on the keys. I can play what I hear or if I have an idea in my head, I can play it.

RW: What is it about the drums that make them get the most attention from you?

TL: I feel like it’s different for me, because most musicians play in their chops. I’m more of a drummer of feeling. When I play, I want you to feel what I’m playing, I want to see you dance. When I’m playing at a jam session, I’m always looking around, seeing the emotions of the different people in the crowd. If they look like they had a bad day, I’ll play a certain type of music. If I see them tapping their feet, I might speed it up a little bit. It’s a feeling and knowing that I can control the room because the tempo starts with the beat.

RW: Like a lot of musicians, you started off in the church. You’ve talked about missing your sophomore dance because of your first paid gig was in LA for the Greater Emmanuel Temple Church. On Hot Ones, Anderson .Paak talked about how much church had an impact on him because it had the best musicians, and the energy was like trap rap/punk concerts where you can see mosh pits. You have seen a fair share of people dancing, fainting, screaming, running around, stomping and crying because of gospel music. Do you feel like gospel music has the rawest or one of the rawest energies of all genres of music?

TL: Yes, because I feel like it comes from a place of pureness. Any artist that I play with knows I’m spiritual, I love God and that’s my focus. They know if there’s a gig on Monday, I’m not leaving until after church or if it’s on Saturday I’m leaving right after to get to church Sunday morning. That’s in my contract. I’m not a crazy drinker and I don’t do drugs, but church is my high. That’s where I give thanks and where I’m the most grateful and the humblest. If I’m going through something throughout the week, church is where I get to let loose and let it out. So, I say it’s the rawest spot because your flesh is the weakest there, you’re the emptiest there. I feel like at any other gig you have to do something to get to your high, at church the high is the church. That’s why you got people jumping up and down and screaming and shouting. They ain’t on drugs.

RW: I like what you said there — whatever you’re going through, you release it at church. So, all the feelings of anger, stress, frustration, and sorrow get released there.

TL:  Yeah, and it’s a grateful feeling too. I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t thankful to God, my church, and family, so why wouldn’t I go back? Why would I allow God to bless me and be like “Ard I’ll holla, and I’ll see you when I see you”? It’s not like God blesses you just once.

RW: Would you say that playing in church is like playing at a jam session?

TL: I feel like it goes back to what I said: it’s a place to let loose. You are playing what you feel, not playing what’s practiced. Of course, you practice a song, but it’s really a feeling. It’s like somebody going home and practicing how to shout and thinking they’re going to do it at church. Naw…it’s a place of release and that’s why I can understand why Anderson said some of the best musicians come out of church because there are. You can a name a bunch of artists from the past 50 years who come from church. James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, who was taking hymns and flipping them. D’Aneglo, James Poysner is a PK (preacher’s kid). Adam Blackstone, Spanky, Brian Fraiser Moore, who just got the Pink gig, a majority of the musicians in Philly come from the church.

RW: You went to jam sessions at Walnut Room in 2012; you’re either currently throwing your own at Time or attending others like Mixed Bag at Leda & The Swan. Describe the importance of jam sessions for musicians

TL: In the early 2000s, my mom used to take me to The 5 Spot. Philly was based off jam sessions, that’s a thing that we did back in the day. Black Lily at the 5 Spot, Warmdaddies, Zanzibar Blue, these were the hubs. My mom used to take me to those jam sessions when I was a kid, and that’s why I have an old soul when it comes to music. My mom and aunt would have me around the Black Lily, had me with Fat Back Taffy which is Jill Scott’s band. I was the little guy who was always there. Doing jam sessions is in my blood, it’s natural to me and I think that’s why I can command a room. But to answer your question, it plays a valuable role for us. When you think Philly, I think overall music. I think musicians, rappers, singers, producers, and performers and how all of that comes out of jam sessions. Music brings people together.

RW: Who are the first five musicians that come to your mind who, when you know they’re playing tonight, then you know you’re about to ball?

TL: Oh man, The Now Generation. That’s the band I created along with my friends.  You have these musicians that come up through the University of Arts, some of them I met just going to jazz joints or meeting people in church. But when I’m with the core people of The Now Generation which would be Eric Wiley on bass, Sheldon on percussion, Simon Martinez on guitar, Henry on sax, even a singer named Mare who also plays keys. You also have Steve Leavey who’s from Camden but based in Philly, Scoop who plays keys, Arnetta Johnson. You have a lot of people who I know if they hop on stage with me, I know it’s going to turn up, but these are the people I know that if we’re all together it’s like the Power Rangers! I even think The Now Generation set a tone, like once we started doing our thing in 2012 or 2013 a lot of people started creating those types of bands in Philly.

RW: Church not only made you a skilled music but made you strong man of faith. In 2017, you were nearly killed in from a stray bullet in his North Philadelphia neighborhood. Can you describe how your faith in God helped you bounce back to where you are currently?

TL: Well, honestly bro everything happens for a reason. And before that I’m not going to say that my life wasn’t lit, because it was. I was playing with Future, Meek, Jazmine, Floetry, I got the two Grammys with Tye. I had my brand OnDa1 and everything was up, but I didn’t know my purpose. Once I got shot, I found my purpose and that’s why life is where it is now because my meaning for what I’m doing is defined, you know what I’m saying? I understand why I’m a drummer, a leader, this brand, this entity, why hundreds and thousands of people follow me and all these things. Everything that’s happening in my life is because of my faith in God.

My consistency in making sure artist know that I have to be at church, paying my tithes, not losing faith by praying.  Any artist that I work with, they know that I want to pray before we go on stage, that’s a given. My light shines in any dark room because I’m not going into the world trying to conform. So going back to you saying about me getting shot, bro, I woke up like “Ok, DID I JUST GET SHOT?!” The crazy part is that when I got shot, I got a call from Future to play at Coachella that same day. It was supposed to be Future and Gucci Mane, I just came from LA, had to go to a school for career day and I got shot that night. Woke up, I didn’t remember any of it, had tubes all in me, I couldn’t feel my legs. I was scared and told my mom if I can’t play the drums just end it. I’m out. I don’t want to do it or be around because I don’t know how to function without that, you know? After that it was up, a month later I was on Ellen show with Future playing “Incredible.”

RW: You have experience in playing background for a variety of music artists of different genres; Tye Tribbet, Marsha Ambrosia, Jazmine Sullivan, Meek Mill, Bebe Rexha, Lill Durk. You even contributed to H.E.R.’s Grammy-nominated album Back of My Mind. Besides H.E.R., can you name one song from each of those artists’ catalog that you enjoyed performing the most with them?

TL: My favorite song from Tye Tribbet would have to be “No Other Choice,” and another song would have to be “Overcome” off the album Greater than that I played on.  Man, from Floetry it would be “Floetic” and “Butterflies.” I’m going to be with Marsha next week in Vegas, but “Floetic” was like a Philly anthem back in the day. It had that Philly bop that, that neo soul bop that everyone tries to mimic to this day. For Jazmine I love playing “Brand New” off Reality Show, that album was top tier fo sho. My favorite song to play with Meek is hard, but it might be “Monster” and “Dreams and Nightmares.” Meek put me onto Future, we were in rehearsal for Nicki Minaj’s Pinkprint tour, and he played “March Madness.” Two years later I started playing for Future so I would say that song is my favorite to play with him.

The first time I played with Durk was at Dope Shows at the Mann Center and we rehearsed at Noto the night before. That was the first time I met him. When he saw the reaction of the people is when it hit him on pros of having a band. Like for him to be able to take a break and let the band rock out was a blessing to him. He gave the name for the band as the OTF Bandits which consist of me, my cousin Larry Lambert, Greg Moore and DJ Reese. This past tour, my favorite tracks to play are “The Voice,” “Weirdo Hoes,” and “India Pt. 2” which is the last song that we play for every show. That was the one for us because were letting loose. Durk is my dog and I respect him on so many different levels because he allows us to be us. He respects the band and knows how valuable we are to him.

RW: You talked about it earlier, how this city has always been known for jam sessions. What do you think it is about artist from Philly that makes them stand out?

TL: The swag. We got a different swag bro. That’s why you have artists who have been performing for years that don’t got to really put out music but we’re going to always blast Beanie Sigel, Freeway. “Dreams and Nightmares” been running ten years, you know what I’m saying? We going to always blast Eve. People come to Philly to get those sounds, you know. You’re fool to not come to these jam sessions. You’re a fool to not book me as your drummer. You’re a fool to not book all these other bands from Philly. If you make it out of Philly you can make it anywhere else.  I’ve been almost all over the world and everywhere I go they mention Philadelphia bro. You can’t name one artist that’s poppin that never had a Philly musician or wanted one. You can’t name a television or award show where Philadelphia did not play a part in it. One of the head people from Broccoli Fest is from Philly, he’s my boy who works with Jimmy Fallon and for The Roots. The way we carry ourselves, talk, dress, Philly just has a swag man that’s undeniable.

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