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SJ’s Traxamillion Transitions From Hyphy to Trap

In Music
BOUNCE: Local rapper and producer Traxamillion wants to put himself and his town back on the map.

BOUNCE: Local rapper and producer Traxamillion wants to put himself and his town back on the map.

After laying down beats, hooks and verses for six songs, Traxamillion got tired of his own voice.

So he tapped three friends to feature over his hard-knocking trap tracks. After that, he threw the snack-sized project up on Soundcloud, tweeted it to his 25,000-plus followers and kicked back as the internet distributed the digital tape.

“The future is now,” the 37-year-old San Jose native says, reflecting on how much faster things move these days compared with 10 years ago, when he helped jumpstart the Bay Area’s hyphy movement with his sparse, rumbling production style.

“Back in the day, you used to have to print CDs, stand on the corner, hand it out, then go to the club and hand it to the DJ,” he continues. “Now, you got a little social media network and it blossoms from there.”

His latest blossoming project, “Trapp Addict,” hearkens back to 2006’s “Slapp Addict,” and reflects the transition of San Jose’s foremost producer to trap from hyphy. Back in the mid-2000s, Trax rose to national renown for epitomizing the thoroughly Bay Area brand of hip-hop—a style epitomized by thundering kick drums, uptempo bass lines, 808 plink-plonks and emcees, like E-40 and Mac Dre who sputtered out energetic bars, slathered with uproarious and unique regional slang.

“It’s all about bounce,” he says. “Like slap (Trax’s preferred term for hyphy), the main component is the 808, but trap has a slower bounce. There’s a simplicity, but making it sound simple is really intricate.”

Trap’s best known practitioners—artists like Young Thug and Fetty Wap and producers like Mike Will and Metro Boomin—all hail from the deep South. But the style has infected every realm of modern music. Its minimalist construction and deliberate pace prioritizes novel noises—spawning a sonic arms race among producers who have delved into EDM filtration techniques to extract beat-accessorizing muffles and whines.

Like slap, the style balances humongous bass with electro-influences, but trap artists have pioneered atypical rapping techniques that juxtapose melodic autotuned croons with spazzed-out flows punctuated by propulsive ad-libs that burst free in a schizophrenic call-and-response. 

“The ad-libs are as intricate and as important as the main vocals,” he says. “It’s like two extremely different verses. You’re your own hype man.”

Trap, slang for a destitute neighborhood or crack house, continues the tradition of gangsta rap, but paints layers of nuance into semi-fictitious portraits of perilous extravagance. On “Joogin and Finessin,” Trax growls that “fucking bitches is (his) profession.” At first blush, it’s a crude boast, but when juxtaposed against the lamentation of ignoring his mother’s intervention, it reads more like a desperate deflection—a coping mechanism learned on the mean streets.

He spits, hoots and hollers over quick-hissing hi-hats, spacey wah-wahs and hollow barrel smacks. It’s quintessentially modern—an admirably deft positioning from an artist over a decade into an established career.

“I’ve always been interested in what’s in the club, what particular rhythms get people moving,” he says.

In his early teens, Trax soaked up hip-hop hanging out with college DJs and attending local shows. He started rapping in middle school while also beat-boxing, banging on tables and fiddling with his keyboard—the first suggestions of his knack for beat-making.

In 2005, he produced “Super Hyphy” for Keak da Sneak, laying a hypnotizing bass loop and funky chirps below Keak’s gravelly verses. Soon after, he crafted “Sideshow” for Mistah F.A.B. and Too $hort. The hit rode catchy bloops, deep buzzing synths and womp-womping horns. It became an anthem for the raucous, ghost-riding parties that claimed the Bay’s night time streets.

“Every record I did after that mimicked the same swag and same style,” he says. “The Bay Area has a lot of pride in ourselves. So to get that co-sign made me feel like I earned my place in hip-hop.”

His next project, Tech Boom, is due in June. Trax will leverage his rep to expose San Jose artists like Ziggy, City Shawn and Flammy Marciano while expanding the repertoire of known names like “funky white boy” bassist, Paul de Lisle of Smashmouth.

Trapp Addict | Traxamillion
Out Now
Streaming, iTunes: $4.99

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