Interview: Trama

Trama (Minneapolis)By Kandis Knight

Minneapolis boasts some of the most intelligent hood rappers in the country, like emcee Trama who is patiently waiting for the day when he will be in the studio alone with NAS and Rakim. “I'm a self employed film Editor/Director,” explains the extremely driven emcee. “I've edited everything from Burger King to BMW commercials to promos for Bad Boy and Def Jam to the Incubus’ "Drive" video.”

If you didn’t know any better, you may dismiss Trama for a neighborhood dope boy because he is always clean, fresh to death, platinum chains and all. “I'm getting more into directing now because I'm real visual and conceptual. I've been seeing other director’s visions and techniques for years so I've been studying for a while.” Trama has been busy shooting a music video for Minnesota's Urban World Management, r & b artist, Auburn, entitled "Mii Hood/Hop Scotch." Taking one look at Trama and you realize you are looking at the modern day paradox of Hip-Hop grown up. He is a corporate thug we can admire.

This multi dimensional, multi talented artist really “gets it” so industry eyes are firmly fixed on his every move. With so much talent, Trama is his very own record label, from the top executive to the street team. “I physically bring my posters, flyers, stickers and albums to the stores and monitor sales. I also sell my music via Cd Baby which has been working out extremely well for me because now I get to touch people in Germany, Japan etc. I am also co-founder of K.E.P Inc., my record label.”

Since relocating to South Minneapolis from Queens New York (East Elmhurst) in 1999, Trama quickly rose to the top of the ranks in Minnesota. His fans are usually in awe of his marketing expertise. This is an emcee who is known to put his logo on the napkins at his cd release parties and his stickers are collectors items as soon as they hit the streets. He does his own graphic design.

Another reason why he is able to captivate the market is because there is a distinct concept for every album he releases so the name Trama is burned into your brain. “Putting "TRAMA" in all of my album titles was actually inspired by EPMD. They always had the word "business" in their album titles and I always dug that concept.” Check all of his albums. "Menage-A-Tram" 2002, "TRAMA-SUTRA" 2004, "Tramagnum" 2005, "TRAMA-DUSA" 2006. “When I make music all I concentrate on is the project as a whole from concepting songs, marketing, art etc.” All Trama needs to do now is start selling TRAMA-CASES (ya know, specially designed, cd case to hold all of your TRAMA albums in).

The rumor has long been that there is some hidden meaning behind his album titles. “Yeah there is but if I tell you it wouldn’t be hidden anymore. I'm gonna let everyone’s imaginations go wild and read their thoughts on various message boards,” he laughs.

Trama’s artistry goes beyond where he is from or where he is at. He is so well put together that you can see where he is heading. He uses songs that are diverse and can speak to everyone on different levels. His fan base has been growing at a steady rate every year. “I see my base growing right in front of my eyes from the record sales to the album release parties I've thrown every project has been more successful than the previous.”

So where did it all begin? Trama is a product of the game, music is in his blood. Reggae, Soca and Calypso could be heard ringing out of the windows of his family’s Queens home when he was young. A testament to their Trinidadian roots, Trama’s family is very tight. “I feel like I was blessed in my home life - growing up was all about family. My sister, cousin and my parents; through good times and bad times it was always about family, love and support and it's the same to this day.”

With a solid foundation Trama slipped further into Hip-Hop culture however Reggae, Soca and Calypso will always be his original musical building blocks. “We used to break out the card board put it on the concrete, put socks on our hands to practice handspins, make routines and battle other crews in the neighborhood. I think those days made me addicted and dedicated to the culture. I lived Hip-Hop because it was more of a lifestyle than just music at the time.”

Break dancing eventually turned to writing rhymes when he was thirteen-years-old then two years later he earned his respect as an emcee. “Growing up in Queens NY in the 80's was dope especially in my hood because like Eric B lived around the corner from me so I used to see him and Rakim alot growing up. Also Kid-n-Play, Salt-n-Pepa, Kwame, Herbie Luv Bug they was all from my hood so seeing them when I was younger was inspirational because they weren’t just rapping they owned businesses, threw park jams and shot videos in the hood so we all felt like we was part of their success.”

Trama earned respect from legends when he was fifteen-years-old, he was finally allowed to get in the studio. “Back then Hip-Hop was more about earning your stripes. You had to be considered dope by your peers before the thought of a studio even entered your mind, I started going to the studio when I was fifteen,” explains the business savvy emcee.

"Rap is something you do, Hip-Hop is something you live," Trama quotes KRS-ONE. “That statement is real. I live this, I grew up in this, when there was no money in it I was associated with Hip-Hop and it was natural it became my culture. It is my culture, from the music, fashion, art, dance, well some of the dances,” he laughs. “Feel me?”

As far as dancing, Trama’s music will definitely make you do that, he is from the islands. “I like beats that bring something out of me. Beats that put me in a different state of mind, feel me? I like beats that push me and make me push back.” Trama is known to work with producers, Megha Maan, Joey Hustle and Sketchman. “Those dudes have been lacing me with some incredible production.”

Although he likes his current production team, Trama is open to work with anyone. “I work with pretty much everyone on the scene out here but as far as MC’s, I work with TRAM-UNIT on a regular basis.” The Tram-Unit is comprised of Trama, N.I.G and TREEZ, and Trama is also a part of a unique collective of Minnesotan emcees called The Chosen Few. The Chosen Few consists of Guardians of Balance (Slim and Mastermind), The C.O.R.E. (Toki Wright and Adonis “AD” Frasier), Illuminous 3 (Freeze, and Mavin), DJ Snuggles, Mazta I, Fiction a.k.a. F.I.C, King Karnov and Reggie Reg. “The Chosen Few came together because we all respected each others individual grind and music. When I look at us as a crew I don't see any weak links.”

Trama despises weak links, just as much as he despises wack music. “I hate wack music disguised as Hip-Hop because they shove it down the youth’s eardrums, minds and souls. That makes it hard for the music and the culture to grow.”

So what can we expect? “Well I have a mixtape, my first mixtape that I'm going to drop in mid February 07 is entitled "HCMC" which stands for Hennepin County Master of Ceremonies. For people outside of Minnesota that don’t know about Hennepin County I'm gonna break it down on that mixtape. For people in Minnesota who do know about Hennepin County you gonna hear it repped like it has never been repped before.”

Why the name HCMC? “It's kind of wild how the name "HCMC" came about for the mixtape. My crew is called the TRAMA-UNIT and one day I was driving and I saw an ambulance next to me and it read 'HCMC Hennepin County Medical Center Level 1 Trauma". So it already had my name TRAMA minus the "u" in it and as soon as I saw the MC part of HCMC the idea clicked.”

Although he only has two collaborations with local artists on HCMC, Trama promises the mix cd will introduce everyone to Hennepin County as a whole. “I only got 2 collabos on there one with one of the illest females in Minnesota KATANA and another with my homie TREEZ who just did a Sandstone bid (and for those that don't know that's Fed time, ya dig?)”

Trama feels that since he has established a fan base in Minnesota the time is now to start speaking on some of the issues the city faces. “I feel I've been here long enough and have been accepted by people specifically the Hip-Hop community so I can speak on issues and topics that reflect Minnesota and Hennepin County to the fullest.”

Trama will also be releasing his fifth studio album in July 2007, entitled "G.O.A.T" (Greatest Of All TRAMA). “That album will include my favorite songs and features from each of my previous albums including songs with Sadat X, Littles, Nature, Tragedy Khadafi, Royal Flush and it will also include 6 new bonus tracks.”

In addition to Trama’s projects, N.I.G's album is out now entitlted "Show and Prove.” “TREEZ just came home from prison so he is gonna be on my mixtape and we gonna start working on his album tentatively titled "From the PEN to the PEN".

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