V Records recently released the debut Liquid LP by US MC T.R.A.C (To Rule And Conquer) titled “Life In Motion“. He is no stranger to releasing music having previously recorded an album for the legendary disco, soul and hip hop label B.B.E Records who have been responsible for classic releases from DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Spinna and J Dilla.
“Life In Motion” features productions by a range of highly respected Liquid producers including Calibre, Paul SG and Submorphics.
We caught up with T.R.A.C to talk Hip Hop, influences and working with V Records.
Stream: T.R.A.C – Pursuit (Featuring Paul SG and MC Conrad)
Before we get into the album and Hip Hop influenced Drum and Bass can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how an MC from Brooklyn got involved in the Liquid scene?
It’s the million dollar question nowadays. I’ve always been open to different styles of music, be it popular or underground. DJ I-CUE, a good friend of mine who I met through Hip Hop, was already deep into the breaks and breakbeat culture putting out some singles before I even knew what it was. He always wanted to do a Jungle/DnB tune with me and it finally happened on a label called Liquid Sky. Next thing you know I’m putting out singles and getting a little travel time in. Once I understood it, I pretty much embraced it.
Whats the Drum and Bass scene like in the States?
Well, it’s not as big when compared to what’s been going on in the UK and the rest of Europe but its been around for a pretty long time here in the States. I’ve been to (and have been part of) plenty of amazing DnB events. Kind of like soccer here. It’s a smaller market in the States but a very exciting one. Just to add, there may have been moments where people may have been liking the Drum and Bass vibe at an event but they were never aware of what they were listening to. I even saw that happen at EDM events. Funny but true.
How do your Hip Hop fans react to the Drum and Bass stuff?
Everyone’s been positive. It’s always crazy when I see someone who I know is from a Hip Hop background say they had fun at an event or they like a certain tune I did. Plenty daps to go around in that case.
You’ve just released your latest album Life In Motion on the legendary V Records. How did you originally connect with those guys and what can people expect from the LP?
I met V Boss Bryan Gee through the shopping of tunes. Paul SG from Vienna and I had sent out some demos which got into Bryan’s hand. He liked what he heard and eventually put a tune on one of his “Club Sessions” compilations. I ended up hosting for a few of those. Then later on a visit to Brooklyn we finally linked up and did a few gigs together. It’s been good ever since.
You’ve previously made a string of singles for V, how is the process of working on an LP different?
The difference with the album is I’m trying to tell a story of sorts, an underlying one about whats been going on with me and life. Most of the journey I’m talking to myself and trying to figure things out. Even the current favorite “Step Tune” has a third person perspective about it. Not enough guts to dance with the girl but he tries anyway. There are some funny and some serious moments along the way but all of it is drawn from experiences, it’s well thought out. That being said, doing the singles was a great way of getting some added exposure and creating a buzz.
The album is a real tight blend of Hip Hop and Liquid. Am I right in saying the first track features a subtle homage to “Supa Star” by Group Home? How did you approach fusing these two genres?
On the nail! That tune is one of many double-entendres on the album. It’s a song of new beginnings and getting ready for whats in store, as well as a way of sending a quiet salute to Group Home and DJ Premier (waddup Jeru!). When it comes to me doing these kind of records I just stay in my Hip Hop lane and drive. In my opinion music needs to be natural and consistent so that’s usually my approach.
The album features a range of guests including Calibre, Conrad and Lenzman. Can you run us through the process of collaborating across genres and countries?
Man! It was a humbling thing to get all of the artists involved in this project. I’ve been around for quite a while so I had some established relationships with some of the producers I reached out to. Lots of back forth talking ideas, going thru emails and such. Bryan also reached out to some artists I’ve been wanting to work with, we then brought all our marbles to the table and did what we could. In the end it feels like we completed Mission Impossible or something. I mean, this album has twenty one different artists (producers and vocalists) from three continents and seven countries. It was two years in the making but the end result was worth it.
For me the stand out tracks are the hip hop ones. I’ve not kept up with V over the years but I was a massive fan of the early Krush and Roni Size releases when they where breaking the mold of what was considered Drum and Bass, they didn’t seem afraid to take a few risks. I never thought I’d see the day the label would release hip hop though… Whose idea was this?
Ha! I think it’s the V way of letting the artist be who they are. Let’s not forget that both Jungle and DnB are just as close relatives to Hip Hop as they are Reggae. It’s all in the DNA if you really look at it.
As much as it’s a Drum and Bass album with Hip Hop lyrics it’s also a Hip Hop LP crafted by Drum and Bass producers. There’s an amazing little downtempo EP hidden away on the album that deserves to be heard by the hip hop crowd, are they any plans to release the hip hop tracks separately?
We’re looking for a way to bounce and balance within the different genres. It feels new to be in this kind of thing. A Hip Hop EP idea would have been nice but I would still want everyone to check it all out. I’m glad I did a good job with the records, especially with the style of rap I like to do. In all, I want people to get away for a sec, from all the labeling and terms out there, and just take the album in as a good plate of music.
Your debut album “The Network” on BBE records was produced by Marc Mac from Reinforced Records a label I have a lot of love for. How did you guys meet and start working together?
I knew of his collaborative 4hero works for a while, and even knew some of the stuff they had done in the early days, but I was never really aware of the aliases and pseudonyms he used over the years. Eventually a friend of mine got me to listen to the first Visioneers album. I was so encouraged by the music at the time that I sought and reached out to Marc back when Myspace was the thing. The rest is history…. I’m grateful.
4hero were one of the original pioneers of Hip Hop fusion with their remixes for DJ Krush and Scarface. What’s it like working with the original Dollis Hill Crew?
The memories I have working with Marc are simple. It was partly an internet thing which is how we came up with the name of The Network. He’d let me check the vaults of his in the works instrumentals and I had the privilege of picking and choosing what worked for me. Due to the fact we live countries apart we chatted mostly online. This year I got the chance of meeting him and his lovely family, as well as part of the Reinforced team, right where the Dollis studio use to be. To say the least it’s a day I wont forget anytime soon.
Can you name any other Hip Hop/Drum and Bass fusions you love or have been inspired by? A few others have tried it in the past, people like Goldie and DJ Crystl.
There are some obscure joints that I’d love for heads to check such as “Elevation” of the Zion I’s “Mind Over Matter” album. Another record that was an influence and maybe hard to find is a Choclair remix for “Just A Second”. Both of those came out mid to late 90’s so were a bit ahead of their time. Add Goldies “Inner City Life”, Roni Size “Brown Paper Bag”, and Shy FX’s album “Diary of Mad Soundbwoy” to the list and you’ll get an idea of where “Life In Motion” is coming from musically.
You got the chance to work with probably my all time favourite Drum and Bass MC on “Pursuit” produced by Paul SG. What was it like working with MC Conrad and can you tell us a bit about that track?
Conrad is a good friend. He is very intricate and meticulous when it comes to music. On “Pursuit” I got to experience all the workings firsthand as the vibe he brought felt like a dream come true. There were certain things I had a hard time explaining and yet somehow he understood. It’s a proper compliment and one of my favorites as well.
Did his album “The Vocalist” influence you whilst making “Life In Motion”? It’s the closet thing I can think of comparing it to!
Pardon my ignorance but I have never heard it in it’s entirety. I was too stuck on “Soul Patrol” and “Golden Girl.” Hoping he doesn’t freak out when he sees this! Haha…
Going forward what does the future look like for T.R.A.C? What’s next?
It never stops man. Some surprising features on DnB tunes and a new Hip Hop album in the works with Marc once again.
Anything you’d like to mention or anyone you want to give a shout to?
Thanks for the interview and a big up to all for the love and support.