most people hear about MC's from Virginia, they say "From Where?"
Showing that Virginia has skills and is more than a spot for lovers, Fam-Lay,
the Def Jam-Star Trak MC, is doing all of that and more as he continues
to blaze the airwaves in preparation for his first album, "Traintogo."
The Norfolk native never envisioned himself being an MC. "I used
to do it for a joke, we all used to joke around when I was a kid. I grew
up on Hip Hop, my friend was a DJ and when he'd have a party to do, he'd
be over at my house practicing, and I'd be soaking it all up. I started
rhyming, and got better and better at it." As he got better, Pharrell
Williams of the Neptunes started to catch on. "Pharrell's brother
and him used to come out and we'd talk about music and how he's doing
beats for Teddy (Riley). At that time he was a longshot from Virginia.
Pharrell said he heard I rhymed, so he asked me to rhyme, we were in a
club and I was drunk. I kicked a rhyme for him and he was like, 'man you
need to come around the studio more and see how things work.' He was shopping
me around, calling different labels trying to get me on, and as he was
doing this he kept getting bigger and bigger. Finally him and Chad got
a label, and I just rolled with him."
There's no question how much it helped Fam-Lay to link up with the Neptunes.
A normal day in the studio with Chad and Pharrell is hard work. "We
work from two to twelve. Two o'clock, I'm in the studio, around 2:30 or
three Pharrell and Chad are coming in. We have no ideas or nothing, but
I got my book and all my rhymes written down. Then they'll play the beat
and be like 'check this out, what do you hear from it?' So I check the
song, and I write to it. they'll leave me in the studio with the beat
constantly playing. They kind of taught me to write that way. That's how
we make songs. I did my whole album like that."
album, titled "Traintogo," is slated for a March release. For
those not familiar with the title, Fam-Lay explains, "'Traintogo'
is a slang we use up in Norfolk, like "he traintogo, or she's traintogo.'
I knew when I named it that that the people would automatically know what
I was talking about." The line-up of guest spots is very impressive.
"The Neptunes did about 80% of the beats, I got Lil Jon and the Eastside
Boys, David Banner did a track, T.I, Jae Millz, Slim Thug, Lil Flip, and
Bubonic from Philly's Most Wanted. He's like extended family with Star
Trak. Plus the whole Star Trak family." Heads can expect a variety
of songs on the album as well, as the topics range from "from drive-by's
to love songs." Fam-Lay's mother was a bootlegger back in Norfolk.
"Our house was like an after-hours spot. She sold liquor and dinners
and I would be hanging with the grown-ups, listening to their stories.
I tried to capture a lot of that on the track 'Young N****.'"
Through this, Fam-Lay was also exposed to a lot of music. "I think
that's where I got most of my real soul music background from. She'd be
playing Bobby Womack, Lou Rawls, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye. I still listen
to it and I appreciate it. I got this song called "Wake Up"
and we made the song and beat and the hook called for a singer, and the
first name that came to my mind was Lou Rawls, and people were like 'what
do you know about Lou Rawls?' It kind of threw people off. It would have
been crazy if we could have gotten him, but we got Anthony Hamilton, which
Currently, "Rock and Roll" is making a lot of noise. "For
me, 'Rock and Roll' is my throwback song. It's a perfect anthem for hip-hop
wild boys. The Neptunes have real vision, so, when they told me to take
it back, I did. We even got PMD and K-Solo to be in the video."
The Virginia MC is never slow to show his pride for VA. "We got an
untouched area. I love it here. I don't think I'll ever move. I think
I'm blessed that I have the opportunity to be one of the first people
to come from my city and be able to do it.
By Brian Kayser