Interview By Moke Kelekome
From Murder Dog vol. 13 #3
You have been dubbed the King of Hyphy beats, heir to Rick Rock, The Youngest In Charge, yadda yadda. How do you deal with people speaking on you in such terms knowing that it’s a double edged sword?
I take it all with a grain of salt really. I don’t present myself as nothing other than a music producer trying to make a name for myself. It is a blessing that anyone would think so much of my music that they would label me something, but I’m no king of anything. I’m just Traxamillion. Being labeled like that can be a curse, that type of shit creates a lot of jealousy and hate. I don’t want that, I want to network, not get worked. Plus, I’m not really out there like that. I’ve been out here doing my thing and I just want to make good music and represent where I’m from. I’m just one of the up-n-coming young cats trying to establish myself. Me, Droop E and a few others are trying to get where the Rick Rocks’, E A Skis’, Sean Ts’, and Shock Gs’ of the world have already been.
After listening to your album, “The Slap Addict”, you really show the spectrum of what Hyphy music has become. A lot of songs I have heard make Hyphy seem like it is one sound.
I definitely don't want to be boxed in or labeled for music that people outside of the Bay don't understand. I've been making beats for years and I can do anything. Hyphy is an energy, so it can be whatever you make it if you are hyphy. The music can be as diverse as the people; just make sure it slaps.
What was your big break as far as production? Because you are one of the young lions that we didn't know about since most of the O.G.s still dominate the scene.
I'd say when I did "Super Hyphy" with Keak the Sneak. That was my first big look. That was on MTV2 and the first national outlet where people heard my music.
When did you start producing records?
I've always fooled around with making beats because I was a beatbox and used to bang on tables for a beat. As like a profession I'd say around 1998. That's when I got serious and bought some equipment. I started on a cheap ass Casio and did the whole pause-edit method of recording. Funny thing is, even on that shitty equipment I had a very professional sound. People were coming to me for a commercial sound on the b.s. equipment. That's crazy.
Did you produce for homies around the way or...?
I would do four or five song demos for some people. For cats around my hood I would charge $50 a beat. Niggaz used to try and beat me down to $30, but I didn't care I just wanted people to hear my music. It was good while it lasted and I grew from there.
What was your first hood album production?
It was for my group that we had out here in San Jose when we was younger. The group was called Thaight and it was me and my homeboys Izz Thizz and Smitty Grand—both of them are on “The Slap Addict”. Anyway, we were on a local label that a friend started but that never came out. Then we did another album called “Crowd Control” in 2004 with a cat named Sam Seven. That album was like Hip Hop, Neo-soul and clubby. It worked and it was cool.
You are also rapping on the new album. Balance told me you like to play down the fact that you can really bust.
I started off rapping, but I just wanted to showcase my musical abilities. I mean I can hold down a sixteen, but I'm not trying to profile myself as a rapper. I put a few verses out there to see what people think. If people say they want to hear an album of me rapping I'll go with it. If not, I'm cool to just keep my productions moving.
Why did you stop rapping?
Honestly? It was a childhood dream to be in the forefront, in the spotlight and get all the girls. Then the reality of that seemed to fade as I got older and saw the difficulties of making it as a rapper. I learned to deal with it. When I started making beats and learning more about music I started looking at how people like Jermaine Dupri, Timbaland and Lil Jon worked their way into the game. They just did the music and when it came time, they gave you their personality, but the music came first and they had that spotlight. That's what I'm looking at, let my music thrust me there.
Are you one of those cats like Prince or E-A-Ski that dreams about music or can hear an odd sound from anything and immediately go in the studio and work?
It's funny that you say that. Yeah, that's me all day. I have beats in my head all the time. I think that comes from beatboxing and banging on lunch tables in ciphers. Rhythm is just in me. Once I got equipment I was able to translate what was flowing through me into tunes that everyone can hear. I won't say I'm like Prince, but I'll say that I'm pregnant with music. My high school music program showed me how to construct sound and organize it. So I can zone out and make beats and know how to organize my arrangements and whatnot.
How did you and Keak hook up to do “Super Hyphy”?
The actual beat for “Super Hyphy” was done a month before Keak recorded it. I let my man Smitty Grand ride with it and he couldn't feel it, a couple of other cats passed on it. Then me and Keak ended up coming together through Rah Records in Los Angeles. We both had business through that distributor. I had sold them some beats for Bonecrusher and Keak. When the people got in contact with me they set-up a meeting for me to meet Keak. I turned on the beat CD and just watched him listen to my music. It was weird because I have been a fan of his since 3XKrazy's “Stackin Chips”, and here I am trying not to be a fan so I can get him to see me as a producer. Anyway, I had the track on the disc labeled Super Hyphie which was the one he ended up selecting. He recorded it and it just blew from there.
How did you handle to success of having a local smash?
After the song came out and was blowing up, I laid low for a minute. About five or six months living like recluse. After a while I started to stick out my chest a little bit and was like, "Fuck it, I'm Traxamillion. Go meet some people." Then I started hanging out at the clubs to watch people react to the song. It was crazy to see DJ’s pin the shit back to back, and to watch people groove to the song. Then I started going to The Ambassador's Lounge, which was E-40's club based in San Jose, when I met Dem Hoodstarz. We ended up doing "Grown Man" together. One night I finally worked up the nerve and introduced myself to E-40 as the cat that produced "Super Hyphy". I started doing that for about a month with a lot of people like Dem Hoodstarz, Big Von, Chuy Gomez. When the Hoodstarz heard some tracks we went into the studio and laid it down. That was six months after “Super Hyphy” came out.
What’s the format of your album “The Slap Addict”?
Basically, the album is just a vehicle to showcase my talent as a producer and the young hot niggas rapping in the Bay. It’s like a soundtrack to Hyphy. You have all these artists who represent a different areas of the Bay telling you how they get down and interpret Hyphy and slappin ass music. “Slap Addict” is like my “Chronic 2001” or Neptunes’ “Clones”. Everybody who is hot is on the album. It’s a who’s who of young Bay cats.
The artwork of the album is pretty fantastic, laid out like a Rap magazine. You and Balance really put a lot of thought into the presentation.
I’m trying to get cats to step their art game up. There are too many albums out there with unappealing artwork. That is a representation of you just like the music. I want my shit to look as professional as possible even if it is a mixtape. I want people to feel they got their money’s worth when they purchase something with my brand on it. Plus, it gives people something else to look at and study when you have fly artwork. Did you hear the hidden tracks on the album?
No. I didn’t know there were hidden tracks.
If you look closely at the treasure chest on the third or fourth page, you’ll see the secret message and code about where to locate the hidden tracks on the album. I like little shit like that to keep people thinking. I peeped that out on one of Missy Elliott’s albums. It’s an experience and I’m one of those cats to pay attention to detail. If I’m the king of anything, it will be presentation.
What was your favorite moment recording this album?
Probably doing the remix to Dem Hoodstarz “Grown Man”. That’s become a Bay anthem and a club anthem. Even though most people recorded separately instead of one session, it was a great project to be a part of. Then to witness the reaction of people when they heard the song. People were going crazy. That made me proud.
What's next after “Slap Addict”?
I’m gonna keep pushing and promoting the album, but I want to sink my teeth deep into the production game. What I’m trying to do is stay consistent with the quality of my music and stay on the radio. I appreciate all the love I get from my people in the Bay Area, but I want to start fielding projects outside of here as well. I want to land a nationwide hit with as many artists as possible. Like Rick Rock did with E-40, Jay Z, Fabulous and several others. He’s had smashes that have traveled the globe. I have submitted a remix for Brooke Hogan [pro wrestler Hulk Hogan’s daughter]. Her song, “Whatchu Know About Us” has a remix with me doing that track and a verse from E-40. If that gets green-lighted and picked up by stations, man… would that be a look for your boy right there or what?
So you want to branch out and do Pop as well as Hip Hip and R&B?
I want to do whatever I can to make a career for myself doing good music. I have a song with Turf Talk and Mistah FAB that is on the video game NBA 07 for the Playstation2. I’ll possibly be doing another for College Hoops on PS2. I missed out on doing a song for NBA 2K multi-system games.
You want your music to be used in multi-formats like Blackalicious and Hieroglyphics from the Bay Area.
Exactly! I want to network and keep relationships with people so that my music can be used in car commercials, video games, Satellite Radio, soundtracks and movie scores. All that, plus what I’m doing for whatever artist I’m working with. Hip Hop has taken this world by storm and I want to make sure my talents can be a part of that, you feel me?
That is real ambitious. I haven’t heard that from a West Coast producer since my last Shock G/DJ Quik feature story ten years ago!
Man, I had an epiphany. I was visualizing the Hyphy sound taking over the country. Because it’s really how people take to it. Lil’ Jon makes Crunk music, but when we listened to it we get hyphy and go dumb. I want to produce music that is so hyphy that when people in ATL listen to it they get crunk. When people in New Orleans listen to it they do whatever dances come to them, same thing with Miami, or New York. If the kids want to Chicken Noodle Soup to a Hyphy song that’s cool. It’s all how people take it.
What’s next for you in terms of working artists and continuing to evangelize the Bay Area sound?
I just finished doing a song with Turf Talk last night. We were in the studio just vibing and we just got real creative and started working. We came up with a song that is similar to “Push It” by Salt-n-Pepa. Shit is hot! Other than that I’ll hopefully be doing some stuff on Turf’s new album, FAB’s new album. I’ll start working on “Slap Addict 2” pretty soon. I’ve been nominated for “Producer of the Year” at the BARS awards, so that would be a good look if I captured that. I’m just trying to “go”. Your boy is trying to do it, man.
Now that Clyde Carson and Ya Boy are on Game’s Black Wall Street label, will you be doing any collaboration there?
I’m trying to get on that whenever they start working. I need to reach out to both of them. That would be a real good look. I’m just trying to make hot music, that is my mission and possibly do a Slap Addict Tour. That would have us bring this Hyphy thing to cities all over the country: Portland, Houston, Dallas, Arizona, Chicago, Australia, all over.
How has the San Jose scene changed since you have been heavy on your grind? That city used to be a mere tour stop, now it is the spot to make things happen.
San Jose, that is my home and it is in the South Bay. It’s just south of San Francisco and southwest of the Oakland in the East Bay. San Jose was a hard market to crack before because we really didn’t have our own scene. Our scene was primarily Oakland and San Francisco, because that is where all the action was at for years. At first I had to work from outside of San Jose to get recognized in the city. Now it’s a bit different. We have great college radio down here, and as the third largest city in California behind Los Angeles and San Diego, all the money is starting to come here. Now we have people of all races raised on Hip Hop music, we have the best club scene in the area down here. I’d say over the last eight years we’ve slowly been breaking that barrier. Now San Jose kids raised on the music believe in the local scene and support what is happening. But also San Jose’s growth has brought the Bay Area closer. With our nightlife and the concert and comedy shows, now people from Vallejo, Oakland, Frisco and the entire Bay come to San Jose like we used to jet up the highway to Frisco. It’s the place to be.