Yesterday word came out that seminal Bay producer Traxamillion—who together with rapper Keak Da Sneak and other trailblazers launched the hyphy movement—had passed away at the age of 42 from cancer, at his aunt’s house in Santa Clara. His death capped a year of deep losses for the Bay Area rap community, which included Zumbi of Zion I and Shock G of Digital Underground. In 2006, the SF Bay Guardian recognized Traxamillion’s essential work with a GOLDIE arts award and a profile written by hyphy historian Garrett Caples. You can read it below:
GOLDIES 2006 MUSIC WINNER: TRAXAMILLION
When I met Traxamillion, the young producer-rapper was in the lab with Balance, recording a faithful cover of EPMD’s “You’re a Customer” for a Mind Motion mixtape. Naturally, I would have preferred seeing Trax record an original, but watching him vibe to a classic was perhaps more revelatory. Where many producers insist on their isolation from outside influences, Trax is an unapologetic lover of music.
“Everybody’s a fan,” the musician, born in East Orange, NJ, and raised in San Jose, points out. “Somebody inspired somebody to make a beat, to rap. That’s how I go about my beats. I listen to shit. I get inspired. I appreciate it and harness and learn from it. I’ve always tried to mimic what’s going on, on the radio.”
Despite this unpretentious attitude toward his art, Traxamillion has developed a highly original sound of his own — bright, downright cheerful noises animate his eminently danceable grooves — and he’s already earned a place in Bay Area rap history. In June 2005 he topped the local rap charts as producer of Keak Da Sneak’s infectious independent single “Super Hyphy” (Rah), proving the Yay could hang in the mix with big-label megastars while opening up the airwaves to a long-suppressed flood of local talent.
“The beat was inspired by the youngstas,” Traxamillion says. “My little cousins came through drunk, wildin’ out on a birthday, and started dancin’. I was paying attention to their movements, thinking, ‘I gotta make some music for these cats,’ because the youngstas are really the hyphy movement. When I was making the beat, I was replaying their dancin’ in my head, and ‘Super Hyphy’ came out an hour and a half later.”
Knowing he had a hit on his hands, Trax shot the beat at Keak, who reportedly wrote the song in one session during a drive home from Tahoe. Within a few weeks “Super Hyphy” was all over the radio.
“It took two months to get to number one [on KMEL’s list of most requested tracks in June 2005],” Trax recalls. “But it was fresh, and Keak’s so abstract when he comes with something — people are fiendin’ for it. People loved it, and it still slaps to this day. It’s a big club anthem in the Bay.”
“It was weird because it was my first time on the radio, period, as a producer,” Trax says. “I was, like, ‘Man, this is crazy — all these people are going crazy to my song. This is my shit I made in my mother’s bedroom.’ I be at the club, watching everybody at the peak of the song when they would run it back like three or four times, going, ‘God-damn!’ Nobody knew it was me.”
If Traxamillion’s name wasn’t ringing bells, “Super Hyphy” was, and in short order he was working with the Team, whose “Just Go” earned the producer further spins. But when he returned to the local number one slot on KMEL’s most requested tracks in December 2005, producing “Getz Ya Grown Man On” for East Palo Alto’s then-unknown Dem Hoodstarz, Trax proved his success with Keak was no fluke. The remix — with guests Mistah FAB, San Quinn, Clyde Carson, and Turf Talk — has even picked up national airplay and features prominently on Dem Hoodstarz’s Band-Aide and Scoot (SMC) as well as Trax’s own The Slapp Addict (Slapp Addict).
“The Slapp Addict is the soundtrack to the hyphy movement,” Trax says of the album. Its single-producer, multirapper format has earned it a reputation as a Bay Area Chronic. “It’s basically a Who’s Who of the Bay, produced by me. After ‘Grown Man,’ I was superhot. People were, like, ‘I want to work with you.’ In turn, everybody did songs for me, ’cause game recognize game. Damn near a year’s worth of creativity went into that album.”
In addition to spawning singles like “The Sideshow” (Too Short and FAB) and “Wakin’ ’Em Up” (Turf Talk and Hoodstarz), Slapp Addict has spun off another huge hit collaboration with Keak. “On Citas” demonstrates the producer’s special rapport with the Bay’s hottest rapper.
“When me and Keak get together, we make hits,” Trax says. “When I first met Keak, he told me, ‘Man, your beats and my voice — it’s a marriage.’ Ain’t nothin’ I’m doin’ or nothin’ he doin’ — it’s just his shit plus my shit equals hits.” (Garrett Caples)