Sound studio

Remember Traxamillion, whose rhythms defined the Bay Area Sound

In Bay Area hip-hop, where San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond and Vallejo reign supreme, a producer from San José united the region and became the key architect of one of its most influential musical movements. : hyphy. The party-centric subgenre became the iconic Bay Area sound in the 2000s, and wouldn’t have been possible without Traxamillion’s fast, bass-heavy production on essential tracks like Keak’s “Super Hyphy” Da Sneak, “Glamorous Lifestyle” by The Jacka and Traxamillion’s own “Sideshow”, with Too $ hort and Mistah FAB

Traxamillion, born Sultan Banks, died at the age of 42 on January 2 at his aunt’s home in Santa Clara, where he was receiving home care for nasopharyngeal cancer. He is survived by his 19-year-old son, Elijah Banks, his father Darryl Cudgel and countless friends and collaborators in the Bay Area hip-hop community, where he was a key figure.

“It’s my loss — it’s every rapper, it’s everyone in the bay — it’s all our loss,” Too $ hort said. “It’s a family, it goes for generations. And he was a real member of that family.

“He really left his impact on the culture, on the music we listen to, what we love, our style of music. You know, the whole hyphy movement, ”says Keak Da Sneak.

“Rest in heaven, man, Trax, we love you,” he continues. “You will always be in our hearts, you will never be forgotten. We wrote history together.

Traxamillion. (Kevin Allen)

A prodigy from San José

Born in Newark, New Jersey and raised in San Jose at the age of nine, Traxamillion began making beats at the age of 12 on a keyboard his grandmother gave him for Christmas. “I listened to the radio all the time and just played the songs on the radio,” he said in 2016 during a youth music workshop at the San Jose Public Library. “That’s how I really learned to make beats. I felt like I got to peek inside [the artists’] mind and how they did it.

Traxamillion was just 14 when he showed up at a backyard MC battle in San Jose and quickly blew the competition up, according to Demone Carter, now co-host of the rap podcast. Papa Bod Rap Pod. Soon after, Traxamillion recorded a diss track in his bedroom to another rapper in town, then showed up to school with hand-dubbed tapes of the song and handed out the 20 or 30. to his classmates.

“I know he’s famous as a producer, but his rap chops are amazing. He had the beat, the cadence and the voice, ”Carter says. “You could hear the musicality of his raps.”

Soon after, Traxamillion was producing and rapping alongside Carter and Jesse Jones in a band called Lackadaisical, heavily inspired by Souls of Mischief from Oakland and band The Dereliks from San Jose. One of the few hip-hop groups in San José at the time, Lackadaisical performed in downtown gatherings, galleries and clubs, and recorded an EP that Traxamillion co-produced.

“We were super young, we didn’t have any production equipment and he was doing break loop tapes that we rapped on,” Carter says. “Even then he had a vision. He wanted to go somewhere with the music, like we all did back then, but you could tell internally that he had it and wasn’t afraid to own it.

After the dissolution of Lackadaisical, Traxamillion set its sights on the underground scene. In preparation for the millennial success of producers like The Neptunes, Traxamillion purchased new equipment and evolved his style of production, combining the high-energy Latin freestyle he had heard growing up among San Jose’s immigrant communities with the futuristic shot from Timbaland.

“Back in the hyphy movement, one of the main conversations going on was, ‘We have to be able to compete at the national level.’ A lot of other areas had their producers, and we had ours, but there was a lull in the Bay Area, ”recalls fellow hip-hop producer Trackademicks, who started Traxamillion in the early 2000s. It was time for new people. … Traxamillion was sort of the big breakthrough of the hyphy movement.

A key architect of Hyphy

One evening at a party in San José, Traxamillion watched people do a new dance with special manic energy. “So I was trying to find a rhythm to go with it while they were in the room dancing” Traxamillion said Papa Bod Rap Pod podcast in 2018.