Producer Series Mix #10: The TrackBoyz

1. J-Kwon - "Hood Hop"
2. Nelly f/ St. Lunatics - "Air Force Ones"
3. D12 - "40 Oz."
4. YoungBloodZ f/ Backbone - "Lean Low"
5. Nappy Roots f/ Anthony Hamilton - "Po' Folks"
6. Ali f/ St. Lunatics - "Breathe In, Breathe Out" (mp3)
7. Ebony Eyez f/ Trina - "In Ya Face (Remix)"
8. J-Kwon f/ Petey Pablo and Ebony Eyez - "Get XXX'd"
9. J-Kwon - "Tipsy"
10. O'Ryan f/ J-Kwon - "Shorty"
11. SunN.Y. - "The Introduction"
12. Shawnna - "Weight A Minute" (mp3)
13. Comp - "Eye Problem" (mp3)
14. Comp - "Strip Down"
15. Gunnz - "Janky" (mp3)
16. 112 - "My Mistakes"
17. Ebony Eyez - "Act Like A Bitch" (mp3)
18. J-Kwon - "Underwear" (mp3)
19. J-Kwon f/ Sadiyyah - "You & Me"

In this space, I tend to spotlight hip hop producers from the past 10 years that could be considered both overrated and underrated: guys that maybe had a couple hits, but are far from household names, or even considered cool in an underground way. The St. Louis duo the TrackBoyz really epitomize that kind of uncomfortable middle ground, and I'd really planned to do one of my first posts in this series about them, back a couple years ago when I first started it, when they still had a little bit of buzz. Now that I'm finally getting around to it, though, it's been years since their last major label placement and it feels like the TrackBoyz' moment of relevance is ancient history already, which, in a way, is a more interesting vantage point from which to go back and look at what I liked so much about their beats to begin with.

The TrackBoyz have the kind of chaotic, noisy approach to synth-driven beats that you don't hear too often in the simplified 808 environment of post-Lil Jon southern rap, other than sometimes Swizz Beats and arguably Soulja Boy's production. I never much liked their breakthrough hit "Tipsy," but I still thought it was way off when most people seemed to regard it as a bite of the Clipse's "Grindin'"; both songs had loud, abrasive drum sounds, but the TrackBoyz used those sounds as the basic snare and kick sounds of their beat, where Pharrell used that sound as more of an accent or hi-hat kind of counterpoint to the main drums. Plus the sounds weren't actually that similar. But it wasn't until J-Kwon's follow-up single, and the realization that they'd done a random St. Lunatics soundtrack joint in '02 that got totally overshadowed by "Hot In Herre," that I really started to check for the TrackBoyz. In my opinion, "Hood Hop" and "Breathe In, Breathe Out" are two of the sickest beats of the decade, and it's a shame the rappers that got them happen to be corny as hell. "Po' Folks" proved they could so something kind of gentle and mellow, but even "You & Me" (which is kind of to "Tipsy" what "Soulja Girl" was to "Crank That") has a bunch of skronky weirdness thrown in over the guitar strumming and R&B hook.

Every time a St. Louis rapper blows up, they seem to have an in-house producer or team that produces their first hit, but eventually that rapper becomes a big star and ends up working with more established producers, as was the case with Nelly and "Country Grammar" producer Jay E. Or the rapper's career kind of drops off and as they get cold, so do their producers, as was the case with Chingy and the Trackstarz, Huey and The Bakery, and Jibbs and the Beatstaz (incidentally, what is in the water in STL that all the teen rappers from there look twice their age? J-Kwon, Jibbs and Huey were all ostensibly 15-17 but they each looked 22 and had 3 kids, shit was weird). After launching J-Kwon fairly successfully, the TrackBoyz got another shot at releasing a 2nd St. Louis artist on a major label, the female rapper Ebony Eyez. I still get shit from Ethan Padgett for putting her album on a year-end list in '05, and in retrospect, Shawnna murders her beat on "Weight A Minute" more than EE did any of the TrackBoyz beats she got, but her album still had some jams. In the years since she flopped, TrackBoyz have fallen farther off the map and have nurtured the careers of some more no-names like Gunnz, and did some tracks for my homeboy Comp, and as far as I can tell are still making good tracks, shame they're just not on the radar anymore. Why couldn't Cool & Dre have disappeared after a couple years instead of them?

Previously in the Producer Series:
#1: Shondrae "Bangladesh" Crawford
#2: Rich Harrison
#3: Kevin "Khao" Cates
#4: Chad Wes Hamilton
#5: Neo Da Matrix
#6: Carl "Chucky" Thompson
#7: Polow Da Don
#8: No I.D.
#9: Bink!
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i haven't heard a few of these, but i'm glad to see you upping "breathe in, breathe out", one of the best 3 or 4 singles ever to come out of st. louis. i was always disappointed that it never caught on.
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