*Featured image by @contemporary_flex (Instagram)
South London based hip-hop rapper, events producer and all around talented creator of words, Lil Trubz, has narrated the idea of taking South London’s effervescent hip-hop scene and has made a showcase of talented up-and-comers like himself at Streatham Space Project, and it has catapulted him into opportunity and dedication to his talent. Upon discovering Lil’ Trubz, his passion and his talent, he shares that he got into music “during school, through a music workshop. I wasn’t musical at all, but we got randomly selected and just kind of went with it. I knew that I couldn’t sing, because I think you’re aware if you can sing or not. Although I feel with rapping, anyone is able to do it – it’s just actually writing it and then doing it.”
He continues with “my friend was rapping, so I was thinking, “Alright, I’m gonna do a rap.” Then I wrote and rapped a verse, which was seriously high-pitched compared to now. I didn’t take it seriously back then. When we’re in school, we don’t see the possibility of making a career or a living from music. It’s just the mentality of wanting to do it because you like it. When I first started it was just for fun and school, and it was “cool” basically. I feel like now, at this point, coming from a situation where it’s easy to go one way or the other, I’m using this as a tool to try and change my life and the lives of others around me. I just wish we were shown that we could do this from earlier, because a lot of us aren’t, and end up getting caught up on different paths. When we do get it right, however, I feel like a lot of us end up with a drive to help other people, because we know how easy it is for someone to go left or right. I feel like with just a little bit of help, many people can do a lot better, and so it’s almost on us to help each other. I try to carry the importance of that over everything. I like to think I inspire others, and if people are inspired by what I’m doing then hopefully they will go on to inspire others too. It feels good to empower people. I’m inspired and empowered by a lot of people around me, so if I can have that same effect on them, then that’s a great thing. And it works both ways – especially when there’s a common goal. And a lot of it is just creating a support network and giving back, understanding the struggle of being an up-and-coming artist.”
The development and inspiration behind his open-mic night “Tracks on Tap” came from “Literally, I was at home, and for a while I wanted to make some kind of Instagram account, and I used to just think of making it about anything; like cars or whatever, and making a BIG page out of it. Then I began thinking, there’s quite a lot of music pages over here, which are big in the UK – some which have millions of followers and some only have a couple of hundred followers. All of us up-and-comers try to get on the bigger pages/platforms, but the big platforms are always posting artists who are already established, because that helps boosts their pages even more. Which then leads to us up-and-comers having to pay to get on the channels because we’re not benefitting them by being on there, they’re just offering us a service. So basically, there’s no big platforms out there strictly supporting upcoming artists – that’s where the gap for Tracks On Tap was.
I realised that there are hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of up-and-coming musicians – and potentially a similar number of people who would follow these artists. So why not make a platform for us up-and-comers, which can be as big as the other platforms, but will strictly be supporting us. So, it was a long time coming, but for a while I wasn’t exactly set on what I was going to do. Then I started Tracks On Tap, and people took to it way more than I expected. It’s an interesting process because starting off, most of the artists we post have more followers than us, but that’s slowly changing round as the platform itself is ‘up-and-coming’. It’s not like it’s some huge thing right now, but I’m proud of the progress since starting up. I created the Instagram account on October 26th (2018), just starting up the page, re-posting artists and trying to get people to follow and support each other. Just over 3 months later, on February 7th (2019), we had successfully set up and run our first event at Streatham Space Project.”
He shares that the venue Streatham Space Project was a venue he had performed at for a friend’s event (called SouthSounds) who were running occasional music events at the venue. He explains “in December, I spoke to SSP about possibly do my EP launch there for Busy Doing Nothing. Then they saw what I was doing with Tracks on Tap, called me down for a meeting, and asked if I wanted to run a night there for it, where I’d bring the artists from the page down to perform and practically bring the page to life for one night every month. They told me about a Regulars Week they were planning to run, where on the first week of every month at the venue, they’ll have regular fixtures. And they offered the opportunity for Tracks On Tap to be one of them. Honestly, I didn’t expect to do events for a long time, I just thought I would build the page, and then once it’s got a few thousand followers, and was doing well online, we could eventually move on to events. This wasn’t part of the early plan, but when the opportunity was there, and I couldn’t say no to it, so I figured “Why not?” The worst thing that could happen is if it didn’t go well, and if that was the case – I would learn from what I done and then come back with a better plan and more knowledge, knowing how to continue in a better way.”
Trubz continues his passion with music by working with South London music charity School Ground Sounds, and “SGS started off in schools, doing studio sessions which were put onto the youtube channel, producing work for young people and musicians who didn’t have the access to studios or to cameras. I was a participant at SGS for a while, taking part in plenty of different music courses/workshops and performance opportunities – including performances at TedTalks, Brixton Jamm and one show at O’Meara London where we performed with the legendary Newton Faulkner. Eventually, I started working for them to help other people who were basically doing what I was doing for the previous couple years. I help facilitate studio sessions, along with workshops in performance/songwriting/musicianship and I also help mentor younger artists through SGS. I really enjoy the work and genuinely take pride in helping others.” He also collaborates with more youth work through a charity “called Spiral, which isn’t music-based, but it focuses on people in tough situations, or those who’ve been kicked out of school, or in low-income areas where there’s high crime rates.”
Discussing his talented freestyles, Trubz explains that he feels like “I’ve always been pretty good with freestyling as I enjoy words. I was always decent with poetry, but not great at the curriculums English, just ‘cause I didn’t like the idea of having to base my writing off of their structure. It’s like “How is it Creative Writing if I have to follow a structure?” And back in the day, we used to do this thing called ‘Bar For Bar’ where we’ll have a group of however many people want to get involved, we’ll put on a beat, and one person says one line, and then you pass it around, so rather than having to carry it the whole time and just be going by yourself, you have other people in the room, that time to think of a rhyme, and when it’s coming back round to you, you can hear the rhyme that’s coming, and I think that probably trained me with being able to rhyme fluently off the top. And I used to do it more often than now, and I got to a point where I was like “Whoa, I can kind of freestyle.” When I first started learning to freestyle, I used to just chat rubbish, because it’s like whatever just comes to mind…But the more you do it the more that rubbish evolves into actual substance. I always say to people, “Don’t think. Just do it.” I think the struggle with free-styling is worrying about what you’re going to say. I feel like everyone in the room on their own would be able to freestyle because you wouldn’t care what comes out and you’re not worrying what anyone else might think of what you say. But when you’re in a room full of people and it’s coming straight off the top, you could say anything and be like, “Oh, s***!” I feel like it’s kind of just trusting what’s going to come out. I’ve seen Kendrick [Lamar] and them do this thing where they freestyle off the top, and the people in the room give him words to incorporate into the freestyle. And one time I was like “Hmm, I’ve never tried this,” so now I get my friends to give me words while I freestyle sometimes. I’ll just be free-styling about anything and then they say a word, and I have to put it in the next line, or one of the coming lines, and they’d keep saying words, and I’d keep putting them in as they come.”
When talking about his musical inspiration, Trubz reflects that he loves “actual rapping. I would’ve been inspired by a lot of UK artists. I used to listen to a guy called Cashtastic. He was from Peckham in South London. I didn’t realize until later, when I would re-listen to his old stuff that I used to listen to when I first started rapping, how much inspiration I subconsciously must of took from those times. When I hear his old stuff and my more recent stuff I’m like, “I sound a lot like that!” Our voices are different, the flows aren’t the same, but he’s quite continuous with his flow and I’m the same, although I feel like the continuous flow is kind of a gift and a curse. I like to be very continuous with the rapping so I feel like it’s constantly entertaining, but then I struggled because I didn’t understand how effective it could be to leave space for the beat to breathe, basically. But then it’s the crossover of listening back to the old school R&B and rap… I feel like back then they left a bit more space and used the beats more, and people do it now, I don’t myself but I’m trying to get to that point of being able to do it well. Me personally, I came up off of freestyles and just writing BARS rather than songs, and I feel like now, trying to move up as an artist, I’m trying to create actual songs, things people can listen to or go back and replay over and over ’cause it’s got a nice hook that they like or you know, the structure of the song makes them want to listen to the end because of how it might build. Kinda just more feeling and substance rather than saying a whole load of nothing, I guess. Like how I did that political freestyle. It seems ‘political’ but it’s just me speaking about things from a real-life perspective because these ‘politics’ actually effect real people in real life. There aren’t big fancy words, I’m just speaking on a real situation in a real way rather than speaking in a way that is ‘political’ or ‘politically correct’. Hence why the song was originally called ‘Hood Politics’. It’s actually like this is really happening and this is really going on and we need to do something about it.”
A few years back, Trubz did release an EP of his original songs, and when asked if he’ll come out with another set of music, he explains that “it’s so convenient for timing ’cause it’s like everything’s kinda happened all around this last week leading up to our interview. The producer who produced my first EP, all five tracks, Lorcan Moullier, I’ll send you the spelling, ’cause it’s a French name. But yeah he produced the first EP, and he sent me over seven beats for the next EP, but we’ll probably do maybe a five-track EP again, but I think maybe have seven to just kind of have a bit of freedom to pick and choose in case there’s one that we feel that’s a bit weak or doesn’t quite fit or … it’s kind of in the works, I guess. In my head, I’m saying to myself, “Yeah, I hope to put it out soon,” but I shouldn’t really say a date or time just because life isn’t settled enough for me to just have stuff like that set-in place. But I’ve been working on that, and I’ve got three tracks already done, which aren’t from the EP, but I feel like would make sense for me to put them out leading up to the EP, so there’s things happening whilst I’m working on it. Hopefully we can get the EP kind of out there more. ‘Cause the first time it was my first ever actual project. Same for Lorcan, who produced it, first ever project. We recorded wherever we could. He’d produce it straight off the laptop. He was also at uni while we were doing that, so he’s kinda in between trying to do his thing, and trying to be creative. The new EP will also feature more producers, as Lorcan’s been advising me to have a mixture of different styles on a project for a while so this is going to be the one. I’m proper looking forward to putting it out and releasing new music, I’m enjoying what I’ve created so far, and I can at least say it will definitely be out this year.”
With Trubz’ energy, talent and focus, Tracks on Tap, is sure to have continuous success, and just hosted a recent Tracks on Tap event on August 1st with several talented hip-hop and other musicians at their hosting venue, Streatham Space Project. Tracks on Tap also took over the Lambeth Country Show, which is the biggest free festival in the whole of the U.K., with over 100,000 people attending last year over the weekend. There was a #TracksOnTapTakeover on the Livity Inside Out stage from 5 to 5:30, and it was all possible through SchoolGroundSounds.
Tracks On Tap receives funding from a music organization and network called Wired4Music that ran through June, July and August events. The goal is to obtain more funding for the next three events in October, November and December.
Lil Trubz and Tracks On Tap are receiving quite the media love as they have been featured in Britain’s GQ Magazine, referenced in an article about youth music and the great work with SchoolGroundSounds, which can be read here.
Connect with LilTrubz and his music on Instagram.