Trading Real Estate for Solid State
TroyBoi talks about his album "Left is Right"
TroyBoi with freshly bleached hair is late and apologizes profusely as he settles into the interview chair at the W Hotel in Hollywood. You wouldn’t know from his energy and charm that TroyBoi is jetlagged from a gig in Bali just days earlier. The London born, Miami based DJ is in Los Angeles to promote his first album, Left is Right which drops on Friday August 25th, 2017.
TroyBoi’s previous releases were on SoundCloud where he gained recognition for his eclectic, grimy, yet melodic style. His music is often categorized as trap or dance, yet it’s too layered to fit into a single genre. Inspired by his mixed heritage, the self-taught producer combines various sounds and worldly instruments to create an extension of his own identity in each track. TroyBoi will be on tour in September.
By Natalie Mark
Photos and Video by George Ko. Music by TroyBoi.
GR: Introduce yourself and tell us about your background. What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
TroyBoi: I listened to a lot of music growing up especially world music, which I have to credit my parents for introducing to me because of my cultural background. My mom is Indian, Chinese, and Portuguese mixed, and my dad is Nigerian. I used to watch a lot of Bollywood movies with my mom. As you can imagine within three hours in one movie, there are about fifteen odd songs ranging from extremely happy, expressive Indian music to really emotional vibes. I especially absorbed Indian culture and music along with African rhythms, which my dad used to play at the house. I wanted to modernize it. I was born and raised in London where there is a huge electronic music scene. It goes all the way to grime, house music, drum and bass. There are so many different genres that come out of London and wherever else in the world, I just blend everything together. I try to anyways.
GR: Was there somebody who inspired you to join the music industry like a mentor or was it just a personal interest of yours?
TB: It was definitely a personal interest of mine. But I grew up listening to Michael Jackson who is my number one guy. Along the way of me understanding production, I took a liking to Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, Scott Storch, Dr. Dre, and Quincy Jones of course. They were my biggest producer inspirations. There are so many varieties, and I think for all these years of listening and absorbing I just created my own genre or my own style of production.
GR: How did you enter the music industry?
TB: It was mainly just by putting out my music as a hobby. I put my first song on Soundcloud maybe four or five years ago. It caught like wildfire. From a hobby it tended into a profession, and it’s a dream to be able to do that.
GR: Soundcloud has come through for so many people.
TB: It definitely has. I take my invisible hat off to Soundcloud. They were definitely one of the main platforms my music was able to first spread on.
GR: I was just at the Soulection Experience.
TB: How was it?
GR: It was incredible!
TB: They were one of the earliest squads and movements I actually discovered on Soundcloud.
GR: Me too, and the Experience was just absolutely incredible. It was all my favorite DJs all together and Sango headlined!
TB: I saw the videos it looked crazy, so shout out to them!
GR: Going back to your background, what did your parents say when you wanted to pursue music as a career?
TB: They were extremely supportive because prior to telling them I wanted to do music, I was working in real estate for eight years from like 18 to 25 years old. I had to already prove to them that I was able to make a good living and that I had something if music failed. I said, “Listen guys, I’m going to quit my job and pursue music.” They said, “You know what son? Just do it. You’ve proved to us when you were 18 that you could go out into the world without going to university and make something of yourself, so I’m sure you can do it.” And they believe in my music and me. That also greatly helps, that’s why subconsciously, I’ve always referred back to my heritage. It’s almost like an homage to them too.
GR: That’s remarkable that your parents were so supportive. I’ve heard of several DJs who pursue a different field initially and then went into music, and their parents were completely supportive. It’s good to know that parents have their backs.
TB: Thanks mom, thanks dad.
GR: You mentioned you were born and raised in London, and even though you don’t live in London anymore, you attribute so much influence to the city for shaping your style and music. How do you think the London music scene has changed since you’ve started making music?
TB: Honestly, in London, there is such a small scene for the music that I do. Grime, for example, is the number one urban music coming out of London. Because we’re so proud of grime, anything else has to really push hard through it. House music is also huge. The music scene in London is always thriving. It heavily influences my production. It’s constantly growing; there are people who are always experimenting. I’ve always tried to let the people know that I’m here. It’s always vibin’, always bubbling, I’m always reppin’ London.
GR: I’m also mixed—
TB: What’s your mix?
GR: I’m half Japanese-American and half Romanian.
TB: Mix and blend! Sick! That’s crazy awesome.
GR: Thank you! One thing I love about your music is how you incorporate your identity into it. I think being mixed is so complex and even sometimes frustrating. But I also think identity is always changing, so how do you think your identity has changed in conjunction with your music?
TB: I always try to remain myself. When I’ve made tracks, I’ve always wanted to give people the feeling that my music is a real extension of myself. It kind of comes naturally, to be honest.
GR: That’s great!
TB: I think it’s a blessing that it does come naturally. A lesson I’ve learned from Michael Jackson is to never force music, let the music write itself. Using that as my identity and as my main mantra, I think that really helps with me just being me in my music.
GR: Speaking of writing, what does the music writing process look like for you? Do you just hear a sound and think, “That would be dope. I’m going to use it.”
TB: Usually, I tend to start off with drums. I love drum programming. I played the drums for five and a half years when I was in school. It naturally comes to me and I build from the rhythms. But also, there are occasions where I might be out in the street for example, and I hear a guy playing the flute and it might give me an idea to make a song. I hear random noises. I don’t know! It’s strange, it works in a weird way.
GR: Do you feel like you pull a lot of the sounds from memory?
TB: I think so. I have done that a few times. I remember I was in Berlin, and there was an amazing violinist. I remember saying I wanted to make a dope-ass, classical vibe track. There’s a track called “Voyager” I made which was heavily string influenced, and that was off the back of remembering the violinist playing in Berlin these amazing melodies.
GR: Are you classically trained or did you teach yourself?
TB: I taught myself. I play by ear. I can’t read a single note of music, but I just know what sits right.
GR: What kind of emotions do you hope to elicit through your music?
TB: Every single one. From extremely happy to down because I like to create music for every emotion. It’s never just, “Let’s just make bangers.” I don’t ever want to do that. For my upcoming album, Left is Right, you’ll definitely hear what I mean by that.
GR: Is that inspired by your own emotions?
TB: It’s my own emotions, and again just what I feel through the music and what I was feeling at the time. I love to experiment. I love to do weird and quirky stuff. It’s a range of everything.
TB: I met icekream in 2012 and he is my absolute brother. Icekream, I want to say how much I love you. Thank you. He’s an incredible human being. I was a bedroom producer during this time when I was working in real estate. At the time, he had a record label and one of his artists introduced me to him. The day that we met, we hit it off straight away. Icekream is an incredible producer. His mom is from California and his dad is from Lebanon. He’s got an interesting mix to and he applies that into his music as well. When he heard my music he said, “Dude, you need to do this full time.” I said, “I can’t, I’m working real estate.” I was working crazy hours every day. After we became friends for a while, he said, “How about if you quit your job, and I help you financially.”
GR: So he really spearheaded your career.
TB: Absolutely. He gave me the kickstart. When I was 25, I was at this turning point where I asked myself, “What do I do? Do I continue being an estate agent?” I was about to start my own company, “Or do I pursue music?” I thought, “What’s the worst that could happen? If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just go back to real estate.” So at 25, I quit my job and he basically helped me out for two years, which is amazing. God bless him. That whole time when I was making music, I was in my room every single day from 9 am until 11 pm. I could release so much music because I had that free time and I said, “I’m going to give this my absolute everything.” Thank god, the music I was putting out really resonated with people and it just grew and grew. On top of that, while I was doing music for myself, we were making tracks together for Soundsnobz. We are about to drop an incredible project after my new project Left is Right is out. I’m really excited for all of that to come because we’ve wanted to do this for such a long time and we’ve been waiting extremely patiently for it. It’s going to be a good time.
GR: So have I! You mentioned you were putting out music all at once. What did the time frame look like from when you started making tracks to releasing them all at once?
TB: In regards to producing music, I was always producing music when I was working in real estate. I would start my daily work at eight, get back at 10 pm, make a ton of beats until three o’clock in the morning, and then do it again. I made my first beat at 14 years old. In regards to when I was not in a job and just making music as TroyBoi, I would literally put out music maybe two or three songs a week at one point. I was flooding the market with my tracks. I wanted to give it my all. I wasn’t going in half-heartedly. If I was going to do this, I told myself, “I’m going to do this.” The plan seems to be working. At the same time, icekream and I were making music together. I’d be putting out my music, Soundsnobz would be putting out our music, and then icekream himself would be putting out his music. It was all coming out of the same area. We’d all repost each other’s stuff. It was allowed to grow.
GR: If you could do a collab with anybody dead or alive, who would it be? Michael Jackson?
TB: For sure.
GR: It would be flame.
TB: I always imagine Michael Jackson dancing to my music, which is a secret way I produce. I have a certain groove to my tracks so I imagine him doing a little something. But alive, I would love to see what I can do with a few of the current rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Eminem, and Pharrell Williams, I’d love to do something with him. That would be a dream.
GR: Let’s make it happen.
TB: Yes! Come on guys, please!
GR: My next question is about your tour in India. How was it and had you been before?
TB: It was the first time I’d been to India since I was five years old. It was basically a new experience for me. It was unbelievable. Probably one of the craziest receptions I have probably had. I really felt like I came home. It was an incredible experience for me.
GR: Were you able to visit any sites while you were there?
TB: It was quick. I would do the show, next flight, do the show, next flight. But where we were staying, the hotels were really nice and the hospitality out there is just incredible. India, much love.
GR: Do you plan on going back for tourism or another tour?
TB: For both. I’d love to explore, see some of the sites, and I 100% am going back to tour again. This past time was crazy. At every show, there were 100s of people outside who couldn’t get in but wanted to. It was surreal. I had never been there before but people met me outside the airports! It was crazy.
GR: The fan base must be incredible. Do you have any wild fan stories?
TB: Not really.
TB: No. There are no wild fan stories.
GR: Not yet, at least.
TB: Hopefully not any. I think I have a really incredible fan base. They’re super respectful, and I don’t think I’ve given them any reason to be crazy with me.
GR: Since you’re constantly on the go touring from one city to the next and one country to the next, how do you find community in the music industry? It seems like the DJ scene is pretty isolating at times. Do you find community at festivals?
TB: It’s incredible. Every country, every city has such a unique community to it. Every time I’m doing festivals in the U.S., it’s like, “Hold on a second.” It’s very surreal. What I have noticed in the U.S. is that the festivals out here, the people go super wild. You go to a festival in Europe and they’re very snooty. There are different vibes in different communities in that sense.
GR: What do you do for self-care? Do you do anything for downtime or to relax?
TB: Whenever I can, I try to get a deep-tissue massage because I’m quite tall. Sometimes flights can be a bit long. Other than that, just relax and get as much sleep as possible. Drink plenty of water and stretch. I like playing a bit of PlayStation when I have down time. At one time— well I’m still pretty good— at StreetFighter. At one point, I think I was the 321st best player in Europe. I play FIFA as well. I also play Uncharted, if that’s what it’s called here. That is an incredible game. Icekream and I are addicted. Anyone who is on PS4 and sees “TroyBoi” and “ImMrKream” on there, that’s it. Challenge us. We’re ready.
GR: What can listeners expect from Left is Right?
TB: You can expect to be taken on a journey. For me, this is my first complete body of work, I’ve never done an EP before, I’ve never done an album. I really wanted to take people on a musical journey and showcase what I can do, and show people I can produce many varieties and infuse new sounds. It’s definitely a graduation and definitely an evolution. I think it’s my proudest and best work yet.
GR: I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to seeing it live since I’ve never been to one of your shows.
TB: Oh yes, absolutely. The live experience of it is going to be incredible. I’ve been working very hard on it.
GR: Slumberjack is going to be your opening act. Was that a personal choice?
TB: Shout out to the boys. Yes, absolutely. Of course we all have options, there are a lot of people who submit. But I was just like, “Yeah, the homies.” I like their music, so they should definitely come on tour.
GR: My last question is about being mixed. Do you have any advice for mixed people who are exploring their identity?
TB: Be yourself. There is nothing wrong with being who you are. You should be proud of who you are. I’m super proud of who I am. I have amazing parents. I love the cultures and countries I am associated with and it’s running through my veins. We are all beautiful people.