By Tamone Bacon with additional reporting by Joncier "Ms. Boogie" Rienecker
Chicago native, and ASCAP member, Sam Lindley has more than earned his moniker. Better known as "The Legendary Traxster," he has become a prodigy of production by creating Hip-Hop and R&B masterpieces with the likes of Ludacris, Mariah Carey and other stellar artists.
The release of former rap group Do Or Die’s, "Po' Pimp" marked the start of his success as a producer. The classic hit showcased his ability to complement fast rhyming patterns with an opposite sound. His signature slow, bass-driven, and edgy style led to critical acclaim for defining the Midwest rap scene.
Recently, Traxster laid down the truth with Playback about his creative process, the most important lesson that he has learned and his alternative career choice.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
I was listening to a radio show called, Rap House. They played a KRS One song called "Still #1." I was intrigued because of how much sense it made. It showed that music could convey ideas. I would say this is when I realized that I wanted to pursue music.
How did you get your start in the music industry?
I pretty much started going the traditional route; I started in a group and then began to record by myself. I got my big break when I started an independent label - Creator's Way Records - and released a record called, "Po' Pimp" by a group named Do Or Die with rapper Twista in 1996. That became the number one record in the country.
Speaking of "Po' Pimp," what do you remember most about creating that record?
What I remember most about creating that record was that it was a very collaborative effort. I produced and engineered the record. An artist named, "Johnny P" sang on the hook. And then you had Do Or Die and Twista doing the rapping. Funny thing is, to us, it was just another record. They didn't even want to record an edited version because they didn't expect it to do so well. We just wanted to make another dope record.
What is your method to writing and producing records?
For me, it's a simple method: I have to be in a creative environment. Something random may happen. I may be playing around with a sound and one of the lines may inspire the entire track. The goal is to tell a story and bring something new. I like to have fun with the right energy.
You produced the smash "My Chick Bad" by Ludacris. How did you get the opportunity to work with him? And how was your experience working with him?
It was a great experience. Ludacris is one of the most professional and intelligent people I've ever met. I met him one-on-one and played some music for him. One of his A&R people reached out to me. He had been a fan of the stuff I had done with Twista. So I played some songs for him, and the last song I played was "My Chick Bad." It was like a twist of fate/destiny that he chose that record.
What are you working on, currently?
I have a record on Big Sean's Finally Famous album called "I Do It." I produced that record with No I.D. I am also working on the new Twista album. I am working with a new artist named Tia London. She's an amazing artist and has a record out called, "Nothing On You." Plus, No I.D. and myself are working on the launch of our label.
How has Chicago influenced your sound?
I am accredited for creating the Chicago sound. Of course, you have Common and other artists who contributed to that, as well. The sound I created with Twista and Do Or Die was influenced by life and the Chicago gang culture. I wanted to make music that sounded great in the car.
How is the music scene today different from when you first started in the industry?
I was fortunate enough to enter the industry right on the cusp of when digital technology was thriving. Only a hobbyist could get to it. I am grateful that I tapped into it early. Now every kid has a laptop, and it creates more competition. The market is more diluted. People have more tools to create music now, and that has devalued the skill set. The positive thing about it is that people who would have never had a chance now have that chance.
What is one of the most important lessons that you have learned in the music industry thus far?
I've learned that relationships will get you further than talent. It's about sincerely befriending and being of assistance to somebody else. When you're nice to people and you're a genuine person, people like you and give you opportunities.
Beside yourself, which current songwriter(s) and producer(s) do you admire in the industry?
I would say that No I.D. is someone that I admire. We're close friends. I am a fan of everybody who's making good records. I've been studying a lot of timeless music, such as Marvin Gaye. I am becoming a fan of a lot of greats of the past, more so than my contemporaries.
Who is your music mentor and why?
Here are my top three: Marley Marl - because I am such a fan of his producing and sounds, Dr. Dre - because his production is so magical to me, and finally, R. Kelly - because as a songwriter, he's had more hits than anyone.
Which artist(s) would you like to work with that you have not had the chance to do so?
Lots of artists. I am interested in working with people like Jay-Z and 50 Cent and bringing something special to their careers. I'd love to work with Dr. Dre. He's currently working on his Detox record and I would love to contribute to that.
If you could alter one thing in your career, what would it be?
I would have never let anybody tell me what kind of music I could be making. I would have submerged myself sooner in being around great music.
If you could choose a secondary career, what would it be?
I would probably be a scientist or doing something with physics, electronics and computers. I feel like the music was an easy way out for me because it comes natural.