When I first heard that Buffalo emcees Tr38cho and Ajent O consider Buffalo as “one of the most overlooked underground hip-hop scenes in the nation,” despite significant contributions from both artists, I felt that it was time to shed some light on their recent collaboration, ‘Project Mayhem’. Following is an interview with Tr38cho (pronounced /trā/-oh-choh):
Where does your inspiration come from?
There is a long list of people, bands, artists, books, ideas and natural wonders that would prompt personal reflection that I could reference to no end. Most of the individuals behind many of the artistic works I’ve consumed have become rabbit holes to other artists and their inspirations. Generally speaking this is how my artistic eyes and ears work. What is difficult is knowing that the largest majority of these artists are problematic in one way or another. Humans are flawed, yes, but it is not my place to forgive people who haven’t, personally, done anything to me. Instead, a lot of times I contemplate the better of anyone’s ideas or visions and compare and contrast them with my own. As I get older it just really becomes much easier to draw my inspiration from nature as a whole. More often than not my songs become what I witnessed from human nature.
What did you grow up listening to?
My parents were born in the late-fifties/early-sixties. That being said, what they listened to in the seventies and eighties became the base for what I was into. On one side my mom was into Soul, R&B and Funk and, on the other side, my dad was into a lot of smooth jazz. By the time I was able to have, at the very least, a radio in my room I, in some sense of rebellion, took to 103.3 The Edge and sought out ominous sounding punk and grunge. I was initially into Run DMC, Michael Jackson, Madonna, A Tribe Called Quest, Prince, Paula Abdul, Slick Rick and Sade and transitioned to Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, The Beastie Boys, Rage Against The Machine, Nirvana, Jewel, Mazzy Star, The Stooges and Nine Inch Nails by the time I was ten. As I got deeper into my preteens I was often called “the white boy” in my neighborhood for what I listened to. I loved Deftones, Slayer, Pantera, Black Flag, Black Sabbath, Bad Brains and System of A Down, but I also loved Wu-Tang and Bone Thugs. With there being nine members of Wu-Tang, Method Man being my favorite at the time, all of them had collaborations with other rappers. This was how I really got into Hip Hop, I was a full-fledged fan at the age of thirteen. Soon I would become a big fan of Redman, DMX, Jay-Z, Big Pun, Eminem, Non-Phixion, Cage, Aesop Rock, OutKast and The Roots.
How did you come to put together such a range of sounds, including trip hop, punk, rock, spaghetti western scores, and hardcore hip hop?
Soon after I began rapping, sometime around my eighth grade year, I started rapping over everything. Any music I was a fan of I rapped over. Before I started rapping I was musically inclined, but not necessarily great at any instrument. I played sax, piano, drums, the violin and the guitar. As far as what I was hearing being sampled in Hip Hop, even before I touched a sampler, I was sure I was going to coalesce Post-Punk, New Wave and Hip Hop. This drive to try to substantiate the sounds in my head came out in all types of different ways.
Where did you meet Ajent O? He’s fairly prolific in the Buffalo music scene?
I was in a constant transition from Buffalo to Virginia Beach to New York City. Whenever I was in Buffalo my younger brother would give me CDs featuring local rappers. Pseudo Intellectuals, Mad Dukes, Nerdy Nate, Essential Vitamins Crew and Ajent O. It was weird how I met Ajent O because I was making music with his long-time girlfriend, Crystal Rose, who became like a sister to me. Ajent O would occasionally stop into The Nickel City Garage, where Crystal and I recorded, and he’d often give advice or simply exchange ideas.
How long have you been working together on projects?
In 2019, my previous groups Rap And Destroy (a punk/Hip-Hop four-piece) and PLT (a reggae band) disbanded. I was new to producing that year and would later produce and rap over a few tracks I created to reconstruct my overall sound. Later this year, I noticed Ajent O was starting to get back into writing verse and I saw this as an opportunity to utilize his talents. We recorded one song called Fire in The Hole that I didn’t necessarily know what to do with. My wife and I were on a flight to Japan when I released the video for Fire In The Hole and, while only an hour into the air, Ajent O suggested making a whole project and sent me two instrumentals. I wrote two verses on the way to Tokyo. When I got back from overseas we put together more beats and settled on the Project Mayhem after expressing our admiration for the 1999 film Fight Club. This was in 2020, we sat on the project for a year before being able to record it.
Tell us about your latest project, Project Mayhem?
Project Mayhem is an ode to the 1999 classic film Fight Club featuring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. On one hand, one could look at this project as an eight track, twenty-three minute sparring between Ajent O and Tr38cho. On the other hand we can take quotes from the film like “We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need,” and taking that idea and showing some of the same flaws and humanizing black men in America. Spoilers: in the film Edward Norton and Brad Pitt’s characters are one in the same and despite the many differences between us artistically, we are essentially two sides of the same coin.
Project Mayhem is the second single off the album of the same name, released on December 5th. Assistance by vocal contributions from Noodles, Michael Farrow, TallyHood, and Crystal Rose.
To be honest we just went into this project with very few expectations. I made half the instrumentals, Ajent O made the other half. After that, we decided on what we were rapping on and just went in. The overall theme came along about halfway through.
You are currently recording as a vocalist in the Hardcore Punk bands Bulls of Lascaux, Indentured, and the Hip Hop infused Punk collaborative Old City? It seems like you like to spread yourself out. What is the biggest upside to that? Is there a downside?
On the upside if I have an idea that doesn’t fit one project, I can use it for the other. If neither group is feeling an idea, I can do it myself. Also, if you don’t like rap, I got this for you. If you don’t like Hardcore, I rap. If you don’t like either, even my mom REALLY loves my instrumental album. I get a lot of love for a lot of different reasons and I am so appreciative of that.
The downside is that there is hardly time for anything else at all. I have real life problems. I have a wife who is pregnant right now and a brother in Attica. My best writing requires solitude and that is not always the best for relationships. Also, timing between each project and sorting out what is most appropriate for which group is dizzying.
You both feel that Buffalo is “one of the most overlooked underground hip-hop scenes in the nation”? What has got to change?
Westside Gunn and Griselda Records is making it a little easier. My thing is, I start looking for the types of music I’m into within my city first. People love to wear their favorite local sports apparel to show love for their city, why can’t it be the same with music? The only way I’ve ever seen anyone make it was collecting all that love from every other city and bringing it back to Buffalo.
What is Buffalo good at? What does it lack?
I think Buffalo is really good at producing events that generate a large draw, unfortunately not much for Punk or Hip Hop. Overall I feel like Buffalo lacks follow-through. I’ve seen projects have an amazing release and that seems to be where it stays.
Is there a united front in Buffalo?
I’ve seen things rise and fall. There are often whispers of a revival. I’m here for it, either way it goes.
Does Buffalo have a sound?
Some of the best Buffalo Hip Hop is a revitalised version of the nineties. I’ve been to different cities that often joked that we sound twenty sum-odd years outdated but not only is it working for Westside Gunn, Benny The Butcher, and Conway The Machine, but it’s now started to be emulated.
Tr38cho is a Emcee, vocalist, poet and producer from Buffalo, NY. His musical career teaming with sparKmatiK, naming themselves The Greys. This would draw the attention of Nicholas Morgan Anderson, who used the projec to found Dead Trash Mob Records, finance their project and release it as Project Grey Matter.
In 2015 Tr38cho would release his full length solo album titled Trécubessence, a 27 Club-themed project almost entirely produced by sparKmatiK which was also released under Dead Trash Mob.
Tr38cho, sparKmatiK alongside two other local emcees OLMEC and Ideal formed a punk minded rap group under the name Rap And Destroy. Rap And Destroy would grow to have a nationwide cult-following with their 2016 self-titled release and even furthermore with their 2017 release titled R.A.D AdVice, which featured production from local producer/emcee VISEVERSA.
In 2018, Tr38cho joined local Reggae/Funk band “I” with whom he’d release their first full length album Last Call.
In addition to his solo projects, Tr38cho currently records as a vocalist in the Hardcore Punk bands Bulls of Lascaux, Indentured, and the Hip Hop infused Punk collaborative Old City.
Ajent O has been a significant presence on the Buffalo NY hip-hop scene and is locally held as being an integral factor in creating one of the most overlooked underground hip-hop scenes in the nation. His style as an MC came to fruition during the late golden age of hip-hop and maintains its timeless appeal with its versatility. Ajent O is armed to the teeth with production styles ranging from jazz to metal from blues to jungle and stands out with clever wordplay and an almost mathematically precise delivery.