"I'm that hip-hop dude in a drum and bass world"Getting to know the man behind Life in Remixes, T.R.A.C.
T.R.A.C. - Life In Motion - Vinyl:
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You've seen his name on our releases and you've heard his words, but T.R.A.C. is still like the distant relative you don't know enough about... It's time we change that!
As an MC hailing from Brooklyn, who was brought to the attention of V in 2014, T.R.A.C. has become a close member of the family over the years. Time spent learning his craft in a burgeoning hip-hop scene, before foraying into the world of D&B, has allowed him to shape a niche sound bridging the gap between hip-hop and drum and bass.
Whether it's his silky smooth verses, or his drive to deliver meaningful lyrical messages, T.R.A.C. is artist who has been quietly putting his American stamp on the UK D&B scene. None more so than with the release of his debut D&B album in 2017, Life in Motion.
Three years on from that game-changing project, Life in Motion has now been given an epic remix treatment from a whole host of V regulars and more. To celebrate the release, we felt it was necessary to take a deep dive into Life in Motion with T.R.A.C., and uncover more about a member of our family you need to get acquainted with.
Life in Motion remixed! This is huge.
It's a compliment to what I believe is the best project I've done. Bryan (Gee) encouraged me to do it. At the time we were talking about the way people were playing Life in Motion long after its release. I was still hearing my songs on the radio and felt really taken aback by that… Step Tune and Blue were still getting rotated in people's mixes, and to me that's a massive accomplishment. I'm very happy with the life it has had.
It must be interesting to see how the remixers have flipped your tracks.
Definitely. Credit to all the producers for having such energy in wanting to do this. Being around for a while, I've seen people have to pull tooth and nail to try get something like this done, but the producers were so keen! It shows they really cared about the project. I was blown away.
Even though the album has been remixed, the hip-hop sound hasn't been detracted from.
Clearly the UK has a bunch of great hip-hop fans… Haha! Not to mention amazing D&B producers. The truth is, I'm in America and most of the producers are across the water, so usually you might not expect that to work, but it did! Everyone understood the project. This album is its own new original. When you listen to the remix album it reminds you of the first version, but it still stands on its own. I think that's amazing.
Were there any remixes that caught you off guard in a good way?
Welcome to the Stateside by Maverick Soul. That one really surprised me. The original was a banger, but this is a vibe. Maverick Soul is very talented. The idea he came up with was unexpected… Especially the swing of the record and how it feels with the East/West Coast theme. Everyone deserves a shout though.
So tell us more about the original release. At the time you said it was one of the best days of your life?
It still remains that way. Initially, I wasn't so keen on a remix project because of my connection to the original album and the stories behind it. Everybody put their heart into it. Along the way of making Life in Motion there were people telling me I couldn't pull off an album with 15 different artists from different places, but we really did.
Life in Motion clearly has a very personal story behind it.
It's about a guy who's broken and has been trying to find his way out of the darkness. Not to get too dark…but I do tell people there's a dark side to Life in Motion you don't hear! That part is basically you feeling tired of everything. You're tired of the setbacks. You're tired of the toxicity around you. So you put it all together, roll it up, and shoot it. Depending how you shoot it, that will determine where you end up.
You've got to just put it out there and hope something comes back to create a better energy around you. For me musically, I was writing that album during a depressed moment. Mentally, inside I'm fighting for the last of my goodness in various situations. Whether it's someone not believing in you enough, or someone holding you back. Life in Motion with Submorphics was one of the first records, and I remember writing it during severe life situations.
Some of the best music is inspired by difficult situations.
Absolutely. It's sad to say, but when you don't give a shit anymore you create some of the best music. I'm not saying you should lose your mind… But whatever your biggest worries are, if you stop worrying about them and commit yourself to whatever it is, then something good will come. Life in Motion is an album of encouragement.
Was it all based on your experiences?
Yeah it was. It has a touch of – yes I can rap, but it also has stories. Step Tune is a story about me stepping to a girl wrong. There's a whole bunch of nuances in it. To make a confession, the track reflects the way I'm that hip-hop dude in a drum and bass world, trying to dance.
You're doing the dad dancing at the back of the room…
Literally! So I walk away, and the girl comes back telling me I'm doing it wrong. She corrects my vibe, and we both dance off together into the sunset. The album is about all these learning experiences I've had. Most of the stories are fun ones. Overall, the album is very special. I also want people to know that Marcus Intalex was supposed to be involved, but we never managed to finish the track. God bless him. Bryan told me Marcus was calling his phone every five seconds when Higher Ground dropped… There were also people telling me they had been waiting for an album like this for so long. All of this made me feel like the luckiest guy in the world.
It's true! Bringing your hip-hop influence into D&B has injected the scene with something unique. Was it a quick transition?
It took a couple of years before I really started liking D&B. At the time, people weren't so keen on a hip-hop MC rapping half-time. They preferred the UK style with speed. I tried a couple of times, but it never felt right, so I set out to show people a different way of doing things.
It's interesting comparing hip-hop to D&B. Hip-hop MCs are idolised, whereas D&B MCs are often fighting for recognition.
It's funny because I went through 20,000 different battles in hip-hop, to then do it all over again in a different field completely separate to America... I ended up with Americans going – what's this? And everyone else going – hey, let's see what this guy is about. It's great because the UK's D&B scene has been waiting for this bridging of genres to happen. I'm not the first to do it, but it's the idea of an artist having a cohesive discography of D&B and hip-hop. I'm in a unique space in that sense.
It's fair to say you've gone pretty under the radar in the UK scene over the years.
That's the fun part… There's a huge world out there, but if you keep on pushing then opportunities will come your way. That's what happened to me. Everyone wants to break into the UK scene. It's a special place to be, but also quite nerve-racking. I remember performing the 25th anniversary night for V at The Steel Yard two years ago, hosting Bryan and Frost as a new face. V knew me, but most of the crowd didn't… It was a golden moment for my career.
V has been a good route into the UK scene for you!
Definitely. I'm so grateful to Bryan, Frost and V for introducing me into the D&B scene. They've let me spread my wings by putting me in some great situations. I currently feel like I'm on a campaign trial as a politician running for office – going around shaking people's hands, talking madness on the podium, then moving onto the next city… I'm excited for people to hear my music and go – how have I missed this?
So for the people who don't know much about you, what other background light can you shine for them?
I come from a West Indian family and I'm a last born. Because of that, I always had older siblings being my protectors. They often held me back from the world, leaving me at home a lot, and eventually I came across rap. Being from New York, it snuck into everybody. We had a friend who would come round with a boombox and he would be kicking raps with my brothers. I was still learning how to write a,b,c at the time… But as I got older I started putting bars together, and it took me into the world of music. Hip-hop raised me, but drum and bass saved me.
And when did you first pick up a mic?
I want to say 12 or 13-years-old. The first time I properly picked up the mic was when the fella next-door, who had decks, would invite us over to rap over his DJing. One day I had to do it in front of people… There were about 10 girls in this living room. I was nervous. But we did our rhymes and when we finished all the girls were like – yo, that was nice! And I was like – what! Really? That became the beginning of my attitude of wherever I see a mic, I see a chance.
Incredible. You also seem to have a great attitude towards the lyrics you write.
Everything I do is to provide a message. Especially at the moment, the messages of vocalists are more important than ever as they could help someone struggling. The first time I realised the power of words was when a lady would regularly pass me on the street, and I thought she was the cutest. I'd always ask her how she was doing, and one day she stopped to say “No one ever asks me how I'm doing…” There I am thinking everything is perfect with this gorgeous lady, but it wasn't.
Sometimes words can really hit the right notes with people.
That's what goes on in music when people hear words relating to their life. They help spiral the person into a better place. T.R.A.C. stands for to rule and conquer. It's the idea that I want to create songs pushing people in the right direction with their journeys. Some may think I'm trying to be a king, but the name means I'm on my way to doing something. It's like the way we're all pushing to reach our dreams. Sometimes people need a good song to put them in the right direction, and hopefully I can be that song!
T.R.A.C. - Life In Motion - Vinyl:
Support direct from V