Milwaukee rap is still reeling from the death of Big Wan, the teenage savant who left an outsized influence on the scene before his murder in November at age 19. But nobody in the scene feels that loss more acutely than Lil Trav, Wan’s best friend, frequent collaborator, and the closest thing the late Milwaukee legend had to an heir apparent.

Trav eulogized his friend on December’s “Letter To Wan,” and on his new single “Right Or Wrong,” he’s still processing his grief. “Can’t believe Wan gone, you gon’ hear him in every song,” Trav raps. That may be a literal promise (the first thing we hear on the track is Wan’s voice, via beatmaker HunchoPunchDatShitIn‘s producer tag), but it’s a figurative one as well. No rapper comes closer to capturing Wan’s unmistakable flow than Trav, who raps in the same dense, focused contractions of words punctuated by blasé rhymes. When Trav raps, you can’t help but hear Wan.

Despite their shared flow, Trav and Wan are very different rappers. Where Wan rapped with an air of imperviousness, and a smirk that turned even the most serious subject matter into his own inside joke, Trav can’t compartmentalize his emotions. His voice betrays how wounded he is by Wan’s loss, and some of his bars are sentimental in a way Wan’s own never were. Trav may be rapping for Wan on “Right Or Wrong,” but the expression is unmistakably his own.

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About The Author

Contributor

Evan Rytlewski is the former music editor for the Shepherd Express and web editor for Radio Milwaukee. His writing has appeared in Pitchfork, The A.V. Club, NPR, and The Washington Post.

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