Students of music, Trackademicks and 1-O.A.K. stay on the honor roll, but it’s not the scholarly hierarchy system you’re thinking of. They’re a part of the Bay Area’s Honor Roll Crew, a collective of rappers, musicians, DJs, singers, who came together in the name of music. Trackademicks doubles as the crew’s predominant production force, as well as the most publicly recognized of the set; he’s produced remixes and songs for E-40 (Tell Me When To Go Remix), Zero 7 (Medicine Man), and Montreal’s Chromeo (100%). 1-O.A.K. basks in the spotlight as the crew’s only singer. They recently stepped out together on their new EP Lovelorn: 2 Player Co-Op, a set of covers done in a fresh, new way. The two checked in with Singersroom, solidifying their Honor Roll status and earning a diploma as artists to watch.
Singersroom: You two are a part of the Honor Roll Crew. How did the group begin?
Trackademicks: All of us in the HNRL came together as friends first before transitioning into an official crew. Most of us have known each other since high school, some since elementary. As I started getting better at making beats and getting music out there, we started to organize the crew. Since then, we’ve been MOBBIN’. Crest Over Everything.
1-O.A.K.: I always call myself the freshman of the HNRL cause I came into the fold later on. I was producing already and they pulled me to the side one night like “We want you to be down?” I literally got recruited on some Fraternity type shit! I was the young recruit and they were my big brothers. They would sneak me into clubs before I was of age and put me up on a lot of different genres allowing me to find my way through this game my way.
Singersroom: The Honor Roll Crew has been compared to the Wu Tang Clan. Would that be accurate?
Trackademicks: We’ve had all the references; Wu, Hieroglyphics, Dungeon Family. As far as the accuracy of these comparisons, I don’t feel that we’re like them beyond being a group of individuals united with common interests. I appreciate all the comparisons. Means we’re bringing something to the table that the people appreciate. Something progressive, yet nostalgic at the same time.
1-O.A.K.: We look up to Wu! I can see where that would make sense because we are all making music and none of us are in each other’s lane. I’d say one difference though is that hip hop is the foundation and the medium for Wu and that isn’t necessarily so with us. I think that’s what Lovelorn is hinting at.
Singersroom: In such a large crew, is it mostly all love, or do arguments pop off sometimes?
Trackademicks: Haaaaa. I feel like this is my chance to start some internal controversy in the name of publicity. The HNRL is family. Love is a foundation in the equation. We’re always around each other, in the trenches, so while we have a lot in common, things can get real. I wouldn’t argue with someone I didn’t care about! When you have a room full of folks passionate about something, energy runs strong. The trick is utilizing that energy in tandem. When that happens, we win awards. True story. Crest Over Everything!
1-O.A.K.: There is no head of the crew so everyone’s opinion must be taken into account when we make moves. So arguments do come up. Guarantee that I’ll be the first one cracking funnies when I feel tensions are too high.
Singersroom: Who do you musically admire?
Trackademicks: There’s always too many to name. I enjoy artists with “hybrid” signature sounds. Those who creatively push to expand music with pop sensibility. N.E.R.D., Sade, Outkast, Little Dragon, Todd Rundgren, Prefab Sprout, Tears For Fears, Soul II Soul to name a few. As far as newer, stuff, I’m definitely feeling everything Kendrick, ASAP… Cardo’s productions are dope as well. The Beat Goes On…
1-O.A.K.: I’m a big fan of singers and vocal production. Stevie Wonder is my biggest inspiration. Marvin Gaye, Take 6, Michael McDonald. Artists like BJ the Chicago Kid, KING and Jeremih are inspiring in a competitive way.
Singersroom: What’s the concept behind “Lovelorn: 2 Player Co-Op?”
Trackademicks: 1-O.A.K. and I have been collaborating for over 7 years, in EVERY aspect of this game. Individually, we’re very strong players. But sometimes, in order to get to the next level you have to solidify a cooperative partnership and whip some ass. We’re about to go Double Dragon on folks as 2 Player Co-Op.
1-O.A.K.: With Lovelorn, all the music was done first. We didn’t have a name for it. Our HNRL homie Whiz was actually the one who named it ‘Lovelorn’… I was like, “Uhhh Duuhhh.” It was a perfect title. In more ways than one. A Fresh Perspective, Player’s Choice!
Singersroom: The EP covers mostly 80s pop and they sound even more vintage than the originals! How did you guys manage to do that? Was that the plan?
Trackademicks: It’s not a secret that I’m a huge fan of British music. The legacy runs so deep. For this project, I chose the majority of songs to cover. I didn’t have to go too deep with it, as there’s so much there. The idea was to take songs that weren’t in the r&b/soul genre and present them through our lenses. It’s funny because there’s a subtle element of melancholy that weaves the project together. It wasn’t intentional by any means. This project definitely shows that I gravitate to music of a certain temperament.
1-O.A.K.: There have been numerous requests to remake tunes. Given each of our strong suits, Tracks production and my vocals, these are the ones that chose us. We just aimed to keep the feeling of the songs while making a whole other arrangement. Tracks would usually have the beat or a skeleton of the beat. I would take the proper time to understand the original piece, which was usually a few days. Then I would just go in.
Singersroom: Any upcoming performances?
Trackademicks: Always… Check out http://honorrollcrew.com.
Singersroom: What’s the significance of your stage monikers?
Trackademicks: Trackademicks is just me, one person. My name stems from when I was in class in college and the professor was talking about “the realm of academia”. The word was awesome. I made it MORE awesome! And yes, I study this. I strive for excellence. And the learning doesn’t ever stop.
1-O.A.K.: I made my own name in class too. But I wasn’t paying attention though. I was doodling looking for a way to represent the town; Oakland, California. I have a lot of home pride. That doesn’t mean I can only make what I think my partners are going to listen too. I’m going to make whatever music comes out of me and at the end of the day I want my jersey hung up on my home field for being great at what I do. And that’s doing me. 1-O.A.K. One of a kind.
Singersroom: What’s next for Trackademicks & 1-O.A.K.?
Trackademicks: MUSICAL MADNESS. I have like 2-3 projects on deck as we speak. I can never work on any one thing at a time, so I end up having crazy amounts of slap. All kinds. From Mobbin’ to Tender. I have the last installment of my Fresh Coastin’ trilogy and another EP ready to drop early next year. I’m also working on another instrumental project, like last year’s Cherry 2000. And as far as 2 Player Co-Op? We have some amazing things in the works. Expect that to surface shortly as well.
1-O.A.K.: I’m doing a lot of writing with Tracks now for my next album. Still pushing my debut album Special Request. I’m focused on performing live whether it be with my band the High Rollers or just me and HNRL DJ Tap10. Live performance is my element so I always have my mind on giving the people something special.
Singersroom: What are each of your favorite songs from “Lovelorn” and why?
Trackademicks: My favorite song constantly changes. Over all, I’d have to say “Someone Great”. That’s the only song that is from the 2000s. And at the time we made it, I was going through an “unofficial” break up. This song is like medicine to me. Catharsis for the Lovelorn. All of them are. It’s crazy because I believe James Murphy was actually writing about the death, not just the loss of love…
1-O.A.K.: Has to be the Smiths “How Soon Is Now”. I remember hearing it one night while we were out. That was one song that Trackademicks and I both were already familiar with. The lyrical sentiment is desperate, honest, and without machismo.