Private Playlist: Channel Tres shares the classic songs that created his world

Channel Tres. Photo by Clare Gillen

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.

Compton native Channel Tres (Sheldon Young) may be in the midst of a stratospheric rise, with a string of acclaimed singles culminating in an endorsement by none other than Elton John. But his newfound acclaim has been long in the making: he played drums in the church band and deepened his musical education in college, returning to LA to write and produce for artists including Wale, DUCKWRTH, and August 08. Like all musicians in 2020, Tres has been working away in solitude under quarantine, but on his new mixtape, “i can’t go outside,” he leans even further into the concept than most.

For this edition of Private Playlist, Channel Tres reflects on the music that made him whole as an artist and a person, from Prince and Nate Dogg to D’Angelo and Pharrell.


Channel Tres: The way I learned music was very organic. You know, me and my little brother used to beat on pots and pans, and everything was a musical instrument. And then, when I started making beats, I was always somewhere where it wasn't maybe the most optimal space to make music. I used to go to coffee shops; I used to have terrible neighbors where I had to make music with my headphones on; I used to have dorm-mates that didn't want to hear things. So I figured out how to survive in any kind of setting when I'm making something. So when the pandemic happened, it gave me a chance to get back to my roots, being at home and in one city in one place for a long period of time. 


Nate Dogg’s "My World" is a G-funk classic. I really like this song because it's like gangsta R&B. It's one of my quarantine jams for sure, because I had to make my space, my room, my house, and I had to make them my world. [When it came out] I remember being at my grandma's house in Compton. I remember 40s, Old English, orange juice. I guess they used to mix it with Hennessy or something. I wasn't really drinking, 'cause I was eight years old. I remember motorcycles being in the front yard, and pit bulls, and music playing, and weed cigarettes and ice cream trucks.


This one I like because it's just kind of dirty, the way he's singing. I remember in maybe 2011, I wasn't on the scene at all or anything. I was watching something, I think he had a Jheri curl and a hat, and he was just singing his heart out, and it almost brought me to tears. This was the time when I was really discovering what funk means, and what it means to be stinky and disgusting and funky. I was just like, "Dang, he don't give a fuck." It was just so genuine. 


My earliest introduction [to funk] I can remember is George Clinton, "Flash Light," Zapp & Roger. My older uncles and aunties and older family, that's what they were playing when we had family gatherings. Growing up listening to West Coast music, Dr. Dre used a lot of George Clinton samples, and that was another way for me to understand funk music. I started getting older and doing the research and seeing how different records were made, the samples and stuff. So I found a lot of music [that way] as well. And then I had a moment where I discovered Prince, and that really shaped a lot of the way I think about music, With Prince, you can tell the respect that they had [for] him. Prince could do things that nobody else can do and still be ... I don't like to use the word "accepted," but he made it okay to do certain shit. He sort of had that macho mentality, but he was playing the most beautiful shit ever. "Purple Music" is an 11-minute song from his vault. He's just talking about how he don't get high or do drugs, but the purple music, that's what gets him high. I love it.


When I was young, I couldn't really compute D'Angelo. I used to be really scared to call myself a musician, or even be involved in music. D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar" was that good, to the point where it made me not even want to do music unless I'm really serious about it [or] unless I'm going to dedicate my life to it, because you hear the conviction. When I first heard it, I didn't understand about vocal stacks or nothing, or the magic that happens behind the scenes. It was just really, really good, and it's still good to this day. It's timeless. But "Lady" is also just a feel-good song. 


I heard "You Can Do It Too" when I was transitioning from being influenced by what was just on my block, to being influenced by the internet and different things I had seen. And Pharrell was one of the most pivotal artists that came into my life that made it possible for me to think differently. He was really cool with the gangsta rappers, but there was still this sense of good about him, because he was making all these pop records with other people and wearing weird clothes and skateboarding. And so I felt like with Pharrell, the way he uses his voice and all that stuff, that really inspired me. He was one of the first artists that really could do no wrong. And it's kinda corny to say, but when I was feeling down and getting bullied, all the stuff I had to go through in high school, "You Can Do It Too" was one of the songs that was my secret joy. Like, if Pharrell says I can do it, I can do it.

Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:

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La Santa Cecilia's La Marisoul finds hope for the future in music
Bob Mould seeks artful inspiration from Janelle Monáe, Elliott Smith, and the Byrds
San Cha believes we can create, no matter our circumstances
M. Ward is listening to music by his influences’ influencers
Alice Bag is doing the live music withdrawal dance
Madame Gandhi on Fela, feminism, and the bravery of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell
Aimee Mann looks past the snark to appreciate Steely Dan’s craft
Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on finding solace in Gil Scott-Heron
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TOKiMONSTA is rediscovering her love for the guitar
Jeff Parker is busy studying music in hibernation mode
Dorian Wood is walking a tightrope and trying not to look down
Thundercat on the importance of albums as a journey
Neon Indian shares music for your inner monologue
Mia Doi Todd recommends space-age sounds and Brazilian tunes
Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy offers an earthy soundtrack for the homebound
Chris Cohen shares Algerian synth funk, avant jazz, and more far-out sounds
Inara George shares tips for raising music-literate kids during quarantine
Go Betty Go’s Nicolette Vilar shares her love of Mazzy Star, Dusty Springfield, and more
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