Thorotracks: Grinding to the Top with DJ Premier and Killah Priest


a producer on the rise, a surefire piece of advice is to be prepared

to pay dues. "There will be many to pay," as the production due of Sam

and Jay will tell you. It’s usually a rough road to travel just to get

a buzz in your own hood, let alone outside of city limits, and you can

double that if you’re from New York.


Queens cronies that make up Thorotracks have grown together by waiting

in long lines, handing out beats for free, and pushing themselves to

make the best music they possibly can. They’ll tell you how it sucks

having to be annoying and putting your beat CD in the hands of that

same rapper 15 times just to get him to listen. But eventually, they

will listen, and if you’ve dedicated an equal combination of blood,

sweat and tears to your product, it will be reflected in the sound of your music.


and Jay are no strangers to the grind of the street, after hustling around

Queens together for the past six years trying to get the Thorotracks

name out. The obstacles were many, and even after catching the ear of

DJ Premier and scoring joints on his latest project, their hustle is

far from over. As a testament to that, they gave a few

courtesy minutes while pulled over on the side of a busy New York boulevard,

in what’s just another day in the life of two producers who don’t

know the meaning of the word ‘stop.’ You were on

the way to Killah Priest’s album signing yesterday. How’d that go? 

Sam: That was dope man. It

was really like his in-store with ours, 'cause we just put out a street

album/mixtape too at the same time. So it was cool, we was in Long Island,

he performed with Hellrazah. It was a good vibe. Nice. So you

guys dropped a street album? 

Jay: Yeah, it’s called The

Saga Begins. What’s the

response been like to it so far? 

Sam: It’s pretty good, we

got it all over the place already. We’re goin' hard with it, and we

got J-Love to host it for us. So since you’ve

been getting with artists like Priest and everyone, have you been forging

some good relationships? 

Sam: Yeah, you know some people

we’ll do joints with for them, and they’ll do something for us.

A couple of people we’ve got real good relationships with, like Killah

Priest, Shabaam Shadeeq, Killa Sha. A couple people we’re real close

to. It must have

been dope to get with the NYGz for their project, since that’s the

first one dropping on Premier’s new imprint right? 

Jay: Yeah, word. We were glad

to do it. How long ago did you do those songs? 

Sam: We did those songs like

two years ago probably. Two years and change. But they’re like family

to us though man. Did you get

to jump in the studio for those sessions, or do you usually just shop

the beats and hear the final product? 

Jay: A little of both man.

With the NYGz project, we were in the studio with them. 

Sam: They’re like fam, so

yeah. We’re about to go to the video shoot too today, right after we

do this with you. I can’t imagine

what it’s like for you guys having tracks alongside someone like Premier,

and you guys really did your thing on Welcome 2 G-Dom. Did you feel

any pressure working on that? 

Jay: Naw man, no pressure.

It’s respect just to be alongside Premier. 

Sam: Yeah, and Preem showed

us a lot of love. Like he wore our shirt in London at a press conference. 

Jay: Yeah he showed love, and

it was originally through Blaq Poet back in the day cause we had something

with him and that’s how we met. We did something for Poet, and it

was supposed to be for our album, but Preem was like “Naw, we keeping

it for the album.” So I was just like “Yeah go ahead man,” just

happy to a part of anything that he was doing, you know? Now a lot of

up-and-coming producers like yourselves end up signing in-house production

deals with labels. Have you ever considered that avenue, or been approached

with that type of offer? 

Sam: I mean, we’ve been approached,

but it was all labels that wasn’t really worthwhile like that. So

we never did, but if the numbers are right, and the people are right

we’d definitely do it. But we’re so independent, we do everything

ourselves. No manager, no nothing, we just grind. 

Jay: That’s just it. Most

of the labels out there making us offers, they weren’t doing anything

for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves. You know what I’m sayin'?

So why do it? Right. I like

a good come-up story, so tell me a little about the origination of Thorotracks

coming together and creating music. 

Sam: Oh damn. How do we…wow.

I don’t know, we just met one day. Jay started doing the beats before

me, and I ended up buying the MP[C], but I ain’t really know how to rock

it. My man was from Kelona, and he was a DJ and he introduced me to

Jay, and we clicked instantly. And that’s really how it started. So it’s been

a while since you came together. 

Jay: ’01, ’02. Something

like that. As a duo, how

do your attributes mesh together to form the team? 

Sam: Well we’re both well

rounded, and we criticize each other. Sometimes if you’re by yourself,

it’s harder because you don’t have someone to go “Aww, that’s

wack.” And whoever is feeling stronger about it one way or the other

is how we decide how the joint goes out. What was the

first situation you guys got in where you felt like you were on your

way up with your foot in the door? 

Sam: Maybe the stuff we did

with Poet? Probably the Royal Flush projects we worked on with him. And what was

your mindstate like back then working on those projects? 

Sam: It was real cool man,

we were rollin' around with him a lot and we just met a whole lot of

people. Everybody in the game knew who he was so, he showed a lot of

love and brought us through to everybody. 

Jay: Any and everybody. It

was like family, we spent every day together for like two or three years

and that was our whole crew at that time. Poet seems like

a pretty crazy dude, and you guys must be pretty heavy in the streets

too if you were rollin with him like that. 

Sam: (Laughs) Yeah, there’s

been plenty of crazy times, but it is what it is and we were from the

streets anyway. We did what we had to do, but we’re just really positive

right now with the music, cause we ain’t trying to do any of that

other s**t anymore. That’s good.

What’s the current state of affairs in New York right now, particularly

in Queens with you guys having your fingers on the pulse of the underground


Sam: It’s cool, but you know,

New York is just New York and there’s not that much love over here

man. You’ll go to shows and it’ll be big shows with big rappers,

and there’ll be 30 or 40 people there. If that was out of state, there’ll

be tons of people there. It used to trendsetters in New York, but now

it’s a bunch of followers. They ain’t really doing New York music

out here, but it’s coming back now, little by little. You guys have

a chance to get out of town at all? 

Sam: Yeah we’ve hit Boston,

Detroit, Los Angeles, Houston… 

Jay: We’ve gone other places

to spread our music out a little bit more, but you know how it is. People

ain’t being receptive to underground Hip-Hop right now. But we’re

not gonna change what we do, so it’s like you either love the underground

or you don’t. That’s as simple as it is now. So in terms

of the artists you’ve worked with to this point, do either of you

have a favorite project you’ve been able to work on thus far?Sam: We’ve got a real crazy

joint with Killah Priest that’ll be coming out for his next album,

and we’re a good six joints deep in with him already. 

Jay: And with Shabaam Shadeeq,

he’ll be dropping his mixtape/street album and we did a lot of joints

on there with different artists on there. 

Sam: Connect Four was real

crazy too, I don’t know if you heard that one but it was on Sean P’s

Master P album too. And we’re about to do Connect Four Part 2, he

said he’s down, ready to go. Alright, I know

you guys endorse the phrase “Hip-Hops not dead, it’s on life support.”

Can you get into where you’re coming with that a little bit? 

Jay: Realistically, Hip-Hop

is never gonna die cause there’s too many people out there that love

it. But I look at the type of Hip-Hop that we make, and it’s on life

support man. A lot of people aren’t showing it the respect how it

used to get maybe eight to ten years ago. The hard Hip-Hop, what I grew

up on and what I love, I feel it’s on life support. It’s not dead,

but it’s not fully alive like in the mid to late ‘90s. 

Sam: They call it underground

now, but then that wasn’t underground, that was just Hip-Hop man.

What made it underground? I don’t know. Maybe it’s not as commercial

as the other stuff that’s right now. But me, I don’t see it as underground

I just see it as Hip-Hop. You guys will

be trying to bring that mentality back to New York? 

Sam: Yeah, there’s a lot

of people that’s part of that movement. These older rappers are coming

back out. MC Shan is coming back out of nowhere. Marley Marl coming

back with that project with KRS One. A lot of people are coming back

right now, so hopefully it will turn around. I mean how much more can

people take of the bulls**t that’s out now? These rappers aren’t

saying anything, you can’t relate to it.