Producer Sultan Banks created the hymns for Bay Area Hyphy
The start of the new year has brought disheartening news that Sultan Banks, better known as producer Traxamillion, passed away on January 2 in Santa Clara after a battle with nasopharyngeal cancer. He was 42 years old and according to KQED, will be sadly missed by his 19 year old son and his father. Over the past four days, the hip-hop community has mourned the death of Banks, the most recent loss of a rap icon before its time.
On numerous hip-hop records, Traxamillion has helped create a unique sound that made the people of the Bay Area proud, distinguishing the music scene from the East Coast, Southern and Southern California region. . The many people who have shared their memories and grief over the past few days remind us that Traxamillion was not only one of the most important innovators of the Bay’s unique musical sounds, but above all he was someone that people knew as a friend.
In his interview with KMEL in 2016, Traxamillion said that making music is “A blessing. âThe ideas came to him as a feeling, and the listeners were swayed to keep the energy going.
His 2006 album The Slapp Addict featuring other giants of the Bay Area hip-hop community, including a collaboration with Zion I for the song From top to bottom. Like Sultan, Stephen “Zumbi” Gaines of Sion I died very young last year. Sultan also brought together San Quinn from San Francisco, Mistah FAB from Oakland and Turf Talk from Vallejo to Grown Man (remix). Would we even “get dumb at the sideshow” if it hadn’t been for another production of Traxamillion, the song by Mistah FAB and Too Short? The Sideshow?
Longtime friend and producer Marqus “DJ Fresh” Brown met Banks when he started his album series. Tonite’s show in 2006. The duo held online dj battles years before the popular musical series Verzuz entertained the masses on Instagram. They also collaborated by producing the mixtape for Mistah FAB Year 2006 (2018).
âMusically, he was always up for trying new things,â Brown said. âHe was a pioneer. He helped usher in a new sound everywhere, all over the world. ”
Traxamillion was also the pioneer behind Keak Da Sneak’s distinctive bass beat. Super Hyphy, the namesake of a movement. Hyphy wasn’t all music. Those who knew the sounds Traxamillion and others created called it the Hyphy movement, an artistic and cultural shift symbolized by shaking locks, grates, 808 sounds, and performances.
âHe provided the soundtrack for the era, taking energy from the streets and putting it into a musical space,â said Kev Choice, musician and member of the Oakland Cultural Commission. “Letting the world hear what it looked like, he was an integral part of that aspect.”
As the Hyphy movement won national attention, The Bay Area slang had an unmistakable soundtrack. Every song is a reminder of that summer, that party, that first date, or that taco truck. “Going dumb” was rhythmic.
âIt’s something about the basic, recognizable melodies,â Choice said. âIt’s nostalgic for us because it takes us back to a certain period. It reminds us of our culture, our neighborhood, our community and takes us to certain spaces. Hyphy’s music was the inspiration for Choice’s live shows featuring his band with the Oakland Symphony in 2019.
Traxamillion’s discography shows a range of its production capacity and highlights different community identities. Technological boom (2016) was his way of representing these from the south bay and his hometown of San JosÃ©. In 2020, he produced an entirely instrumental album, Super Beat Fighter, based on the sounds of the Street Fighter video game. His most recent work, Sirens, featured all the female artists, including the one from San Francisco Qing Qi, who in an interview with KQED said Traxamillion has broken down gender barriers in an industry dominated by men.
” These songs [Hyphy music] are now the Anthem of the Bay. said artist Jorge BÃ©jarano, who created a 13-foot canvas painting for Traxamillion’s house, connecting San Jose and Oakland, two cities he loved. âThe hyphy movement grabbed me in high school and was the top of the shows for us,â Bejarano said. “It cut everything else and it was just hyphy movement for a while.”
Oakland R&B Artist Netta Brielle, also present on Sirens, recalled that Banks enjoyed experimenting with different sounds, including 80s pop music. It was Sultan’s production on Brielle’s mixtapes that earned him a recording contract with Atlantic Records.
âHe was so excited to be a part of something that was influenced by R&B, that had vocals and bridges and harmonies, things outside of what he normally did,â Brielle said. “He’s not just the hyphy sound, that sound he was locked into. He was so much more.”
Behind the music there was a man who was cherished by the people he met. Her passing was accompanied by a wave of appreciation and love. Friends shared that Banks had maintained an even temper and a positive outlook even before he began to face his challenges with cancer.
Whenever Bejarano went to work on the mural in Banks’ house, the two had conversations about music and life in Oakland.
âI admired this peace he had everywhere we went,â Bejarano said. “There was nothing that turned him on too much, or that turned him on too much.”
Brown described Banks as “a warm guy” and mostly introverted. Banks didn’t have a big entourage and enjoyed spending time alone, which he explained was common for a producer. âI never saw him angry,â Brown said. âWhen we had conversations about playing music, he would express his frustrations. But I never saw him angry.
âHe was just a classy guy and such an honor to work with,â Brielle said. Outside the studio, Brielle said Banks gave her confidence, encouraging her artistry. A few weeks before her passing, Banks called Brielle to express her gratitude for the opportunity to experiment musically and continued to share her new music tracks with her.
âIt wasn’t just a working relationship. It was like a partnership, a friendship and a family, âshe said. “It’s not something that is popular when you think of the music industry.”
The interlude My angels, from Brielle’s 2015 album 580, was a song Banks told her reminded her of her mother, Tina Banks, who passed away in 2020. âNow that song for me close my eyes and see it,â Brielle said. “I never finished [the song]. But maybe I will now.
Kind words and shared love were not lacking for the man who helped usher in a new sound to represent the Bay Area. Traxamillion’s love for the Bay Area has created a sound memory for its community.
âHe’s been at peace, and that’s a clichÃ© to say, but he’s at peace now,â Brown said.