Every now and then, the internet becomes a magical place where some of the most random happenings draw some of the unlikeliest people together.
In its best case scenarios, it can also bestow one-of-a-kind opportunities that alter the whole trajectory of our lives. Such was the case for South Carolina-based producer and finger drummer Tr!zzy Track, who caught the attention of Philly rap icon Meek Mill after a viral video of him producing a beat in a van shook the Twitterverse.
The video resulted in a full-blown collaboration between Meek and Tr!zzy when they linked up within hours of the video’s viral ascent. Before the night was over, Meek shared a snippet of himself rhyming over the viral beat, followed by an announcement that the future track would be titled "Free Meek,” with a possible Rick Ross feature in the works.
As for Tr!zzy, he’s still coming down from cloud nine and trying to wrap his mind around the fact that the whole thing even happened. The last 48 hours have been a whirlwind for him. BET caught up with the 35-year-old producer to see how the twist of fate has changed his life, brought him face-to-face with one of his music idols, and what’s next as hip-hop artists continue to line up to throw bars on a Tr!zzy Track original.
BET: You created that beat inside a van, can you expound a little on what exactly you were up to?
Tr!zzy Track: I was actually working as a delivery driver just picking up freight deliveries. Some people thought I was in a car. I was in a cargo van for work. I was actually in Tennessee at the time when I did that track. I had a freight drop off in Tennessee and I was like ‘Dang, while I’m in Tennessee, I could just go somewhere where I can clear my head and create after I do that.’ So, I just found a random place with a scenic view where I could park, pull out my MPC machine, and create. That particular sample was going through my head all day. In my mind, I make up music as clear as day. What I’m playing, every finger drum, every button that I tap, that is [what’s] in my mind. The sample was just perfect. I love that track. It’s really special.
BET: What is the name of song that you remixed?
TT: “In My Head” by Heather Headley. I’m a big fan of her music. There are a few songs I’ve listened to by Heather Headley back in the day. There’s so much music out right now, it’s almost like you lose track. But there are certain ones that just stick out to you that you can’t get forget. For those that don’t know, that particular song is actually a cover of a song from an R&B artist named Shannon Sanders. It was just a cover song that Heather Headley did of Shannon Sanders’ song called “In My [Mind].”
BET: It seems like you grew up in a very musical household. What inspired you to get into music?
TT: It’s crazy you say that because I used to play cello in the seventh or eighth grade. It was something that I wanted to try out to see if I liked it. I didn’t stick with the cello for long. I found a different avenue as far as what I wanted to do. I started off with piano as well. I was four playing the piano. It feels like I was born playing the piano because of my parents. They had an organ in the house, and my dad taught me how to play the organ. I grew up in the church. When I was going to church, I was looking at the piano players and organ players. There was just something about that that inspired me. It gave me the idea.
BET: What drew you to producing?
TT: I started off with the Fruity Loops [software] and after Fruity Loops, I was introduced to a MP8-1000 by Roland through a friend. It was a real interesting piece of equipment. I was handed that as a gift, kind of like ‘See what you can do with this.’ From that point on, it was pretty much like ‘This is what I want to work with.’ It’s just different. I like to be hands-on with anything but have fun with it. At the end of the day when I create something, it’s a whole lot of love and fire but it’s also real.
I can tell you stories on why I made this track [or] why I made that track. I don’t make music just to make it. Music is based off of emotion. That’s the beauty of it. I was brought up in a household waking up early in the morning on Saturdays to my parents blasting gospel music. Growing up hearing that, it’s still with you. Overall, I like to tap into all genres because it broadens your horizon of ideas, musically.
BET: Are all of your beats freestyles?
TT: Yeah. I usually don’t put any thought process in what I do. I just go in. I have a catalogue of sounds, kits, and samples and what not. It just depends on the vibe and the mood of how I’m feeling. If there’s something that’s stuck in my head, I’m just gonna display that whether it’s on a keyboard or the pad. I just press record on my camera and start going in. Sometimes I go in and do it in one take. Other times, it can take me 10 takes because I want to feel like [a beat] is perfect for me. At the same time, I just love the whole thing of creating in a different way than what some people aren’t familiar with, which is finger-drumming.
BET: For someone who isn’t familiar with the term, what is a finger drummer?
TT: A finger drummer is a producer because he is crafting together a beat, [but] they also take sounds from an MPC pad, whether it is an MPC machine or Ableton, and [solely] create off the 16 pads. With one hand, you’re working the hi-hats. With the other hand, you’re working your kick and snare. At the same time, you’re also just adding the hits off the sample. The beat pad is like your drums. It’s like a drum set on steroids because a drum set doesn’t have samples on it. Shout out to my brother, Beats by Jay Black (@beatsbyjblack). He is a very close friend of mine. I consider him my brother. I grew up watching him up to now with his success. Last but not least, I got to hand it to AraabMuzik. He was the main one that pretty much inspired me to do this finger-drumming thing. I tip my hat off to him. He’s a legend.
BET: Is there anyone else in that circle you want to work with?
TT: There’s so many finger drummers that’s on the come up right now that need to be noticed and deserve their recognition from the hard work they’ve been putting in. A lot of people aren’t aware of what finger drummers are. I was at the car wash getting my car washed earlier today and I had my MPC machine with me. I was outside and a guy came up to me like ‘Hey, how you doing? What’s that you got there?’ I can be at a restaurant getting something to eat and people are always wondering what it is. I feel like this is the new wave of producing.
Finger-drumming itself is key to me because I feel like with me doing it, I can get a lot done in a real short time. The last time I was on Fruity Loops was, I want to say, a good 10 years ago. I strayed away from it and went straight to the MPC world. I started off with an MPC Studio and went from there. I started finger-drumming off of that.
BET: So you always carry an MPC with you?
TT: Yeah. It’s always with me because you never know when you get that call like ‘Can you pull up?’ Like I said, you can create anything. I was a meat butcher before that delivery job. Before I would go into work, I was literally late clocking in because it’s like I’m on time, but I was in the parking lot making beats before I clocked in. It’s just something about music that takes me away.
BET: When you were doing the delivery, what inspired you then?
TT: You know when you have that feeling where you’re just having a casual ride and something just hits you like a reminiscent moment? There can be something that just pops up that happened to you in the past, whether it’s good or bad. Things like that trigger my hunger to create. It just certain things that happen in my mind. It forces me to create that emotion. When I play, I got to feel it as I’m playing it.
BET: What were you thinking and feeling, specifically, while crafting that beat?
TT: It was so much running through my head in general. Like having a nine-to-five and working, but then I have music on the side, which is my passion. In my mind, I feel like music is what makes me who I am. It’s not just a job and my passion, it’s bigger than a job. Clocking in everyday is cool, but in my mind I know that there’s much more to life.
I’m not knocking anybody with a nine-to-five, but I’ve worked really hard to come to this point. There were times where I was trying to figure out how to get bills paid even though I got a job. I’m working my ass off. I come from a small town in South Carolina, the same town where Chadwick Boseman come from. The same place where the movie Radio was filmed. I went to that same high school. There has been many times where I wanted to give up because things were not going my way like I planned it. It’s so much possibility that you just have to apply yourself and believe.
BET: And then the whole situation with Meek Mill happened, which was totally unplanned. Meek reached out to you himself, even. Can you talk a little bit about that?
TT: What I can tell you is we had a brief conversation. We talked. That’s all I can say at this point. He does have the track. I haven’t heard the full version of it yet, but I’m sure that it’s going to be special in hindsight. Other than that, there’s a lot of people at this point that reached out to me wanting to work. I’m still in the process of handling that. Right now, my main focus is putting out content. Just putting out content.
BET: What was the conversation between you and Meek like?
TT: I sent him a little ‘ole snack pack of beats. [Laughs]. It was a good many. I’ll say that. Meek is a busy guy. When I say brief, it was brief. It was like two sentences between the two of us. I know he’s a busy guy. I get that. But you know, in time, things should pan out the way they’re intended to pan out. That’s the way I see it.
BET: Meek dropped a snippet of himself rapping over your beat. What did you think of it?
TT: Fire. [Laughs]. It’s crazy. I’m still processing it. I’m still numb to it. I’m still trying to register this in my brain. Just the whole thing of everybody reaching out to me. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m just fired for this. I don’t play with what I do. I’m very passionate about what I do.
BET: With the beat that Meek hopped on, how many takes did you do before you got that one take that went viral?
TT: It took me four takes. The first take, I was cool with. I feel like a perfectionist in a sense so it could be one little thing that messes me up. I can be going good for like two minutes and then something happens to where I got to start over. That’s what happened. Out of those four takes, take three was the one I stuck with. I was just listening back and forth comparing them and posted that one. [It took] like 20 minutes, if that. Every time I screwed up, I started over. If I mess up, I might do one take in 10 seconds or I might do it for 2 minutes and mess up. I did four takes and that third take was about three minutes, which is the one I stuck with. I was like ‘Yeah, I’m cool with that. I’ma ride with that one.’ [Laughs].
BET: Have any other artists reached out to you since?
TT: There’s so many [direct messages] right now that I’m still following through. I would average and say it’s over 300 requests plus other requests I haven’t responded to yet. There’s a few people I’ve talked to. I’ve responded to French Montana. Wale, which shout out to Wale because he was on me about the whole thing of keep posting. Even Shaquille O’Neal, you know Big Shaq, hit me up.
BET: Has someone reached out to you that’s shocked you?
TT: It’s crazy you say that because I do music. This is what I do and what I love so in my mind I know what to expect and who’s gonna come knocking on the door. But me and Timbaland had a conversation. We talked. That’s one of my idols that I look up to.
BET: Okay, so Wale and French hit you up. What about some producers or music labels?
TT: Cam’ron also hit me up. He showed love. I’m a big fan of the whole Dip Set. Shout out to Rsonist of the Heat Makerz as well, which I’m a big fan of. He liked a few of my posts back then before of all of this. Just Blaze. I’ve spoken to Chopsquad DJ to meet up with him. I set up some records to collaborate with him on.
BET: So, how big is your catalogue?
TT: [Laughs]. Stupid long. Thousands upon thousands. I got a catalogue where I could pull out beats I made in 2003, 2004, 2010, or 2008.
BET: It’s insane the reach that social media has had in terms of people being able to break into the industry outside of traditional means. You started making music before social media was even a thing, so how does it feel know to see your music blowing up because of that?
TT: I started the social media thing when SoundClick and Myspace was around. I was posting music on SoundClick on Myspace. From there, the Facebook thing happened and then Instagram happened. I didn’t gain much traction as I felt I should back then because I guess it wasn’t as much resources compared to now, where people can access somebody quickly and efficiently. Instagram is pretty much my stomping ground. My followers have shot up dramatically.
Before Meek, I was at 10,000 followers in December. Time goes on. One video on Instagram that went viral was a video that Spice Adams had shared of me. That took off. I was up to about 40,000 followers. This Wednesday, I woke up and my followers had jumped to 150,000 in one day [then] almost another hundred thousand the day after. Now I am at 378,000 followers. But I’m really not focused on the whole numbers thing. My whole focus is on creating. I don’t want to get sidetracked. I want to focus on what I’ve always been doing before all this happened which is just to put out content. I’ll connect with the people I need to connect with.
BET: Will you quit your job with all this attention coming your way to manage your burgeoning career?
TT: I actually put in my two weeks on my birthday, January 16, this year. At the time, I felt like ‘Okay, I’m done.’ Mentally and spiritually, it was draining. I’m just speaking of my personal experience. I love what I do but at the same time it’s like I love music too, so I got to make that sacrifice and take it upon myself, whether it means trying to figure things out if music doesn’t work out. From then until now, there was a few bumps and things that happened to me like ‘How am I going to get this paid?’
BET: And now you’re flourishing a few months later. It seems like you have a lot on your plate. What’s next for you?
TT: I have a show in New York on August 1 at Bowery Electric. I will be performing there live. That particular beat will be on my Practice 2 album, which is dropping real soon. This is my second album. My first was called #Practice. I dropped it on the 1st of New Year this year. What’s crazy about that album is I worked on it the day before I dropped it on New Years, like at the last minute. I was pushing myself like ‘I got to release this project.’ It’s times where personal things come into play and you get discouraged and all that, then something just wakes you up like ‘You got this.’ I felt that. On December 31st, I woke up like ‘I’m gonna drop this project.”
This Practice 2 album is going to be in a similar aspect because there’s a lot of people who want to hear it. The project will pretty much consist of a majority of my posts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for the fans that requested to hear it. It’s not about me at the end of the day.
[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]
(Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)