The Trak Starz
|The Trak Starz|
|Origin||St. Louis, Missouri, USA|
|Genres||Hip-Hop, Pop, R&B|
|Occupations||Producer, songwriter, rapper, Music executive, Entrepreneur|
|Labels||Trak Starz Records/Universal Records|
|Associated acts||Chingy, Ludacris, Houston, Usher, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears|
|Members||Alonzo “Zo” Lee Jr.
Shamar “Sham” Daugherty
Credited with helping establish St. Louis in the hip-hop community, The Trak Starz quickly developed a reputation as one of the rap industry's marquee production teams. Prior to forming The Trak Starz in 2000, Sham and Zo had known each other for over 7 years. Zo played in numerous reggae and funk bands including Reggae At Will and Dr. Zhivegas, while Sham was in a group called Out of Order. Zo also utilized his keyboard skills to produce tracks for various regional rappers. After producing a few tracks for Sham's Out of Order group the two began producing together, forming The Trak Starz. Soon after, the newly formed partners produced an album for the Whole 9, a group that was signed to MCA Records. They also received production credits on albums for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Krayzie Bone and Tyrese, as well as producing background music for various MTV shows. After their work with the Whole 9 and other artists, The Trak Starz were managed by Chaka Zulu, whose connections helped them sign former 3 Strikes group member Chingy to Disturbing tha Peace Records. After signing with The Trak Starz production company, the three began working on Chingy's solo album. According to Zo:
|“||We had a two-bedroom apartment in University City, Missouri where one room had a Pro-Tools set up, a bunch of keyboards and a microphone, and the main room was for sleeping. We all just ended up crashing there and that grew into a roommate situation where all three of us shared an apartment.||”|
The first song created in that small apartment was "Right Thurr", the overnight nationwide hit that would launch the relative unknowns to stardom, as well as Chingy's solo career. Their melodic, irresistible, radio-friendly beats spawned numerous hits from Chingy's debut album Jackpot, which would go on to sell over 3 million copies. The overwhelming success of Chingy also propelled The Trak Starz to the forefront of hip-hop production, landing them their own label deal. Zo explains:
|“||After our success with Chingy we started fishing around for a situation, a home to put out the rest of our groups. When it was all said and done we had had talks with EMI, Motown, Jive, and Universal. Barry Hankerson was instrumental in our talks, and we decided to sign with Blackground Records.||”|
After securing a deal with Barry Hankerson's (R. Kelly, Toni Braxton, JoJo, Ginuwine and Aaliyah) Blackground Records, The Trak Starz hoped to develop local artists from their Trak Starz Productions roster including rapper Louie V, female R&B group STL, rap duo 2 Deep, male R&B singer JuJu, and male solo rapper 47. Zo explains:
|“||The next level now is to create a base out of St. Louis. Similar to how Puffy branded Bad Boy, how LA Reid and Babyface branded LaFace. Up until now, Chingy and Nelly had to go to other cities and connect with other established labels to get their shot. We want to create that pipeline out of St. Louis and now we have the chance.||”|
By the end of 2003, The Track Starz had earned production credits on Ludacris' multi-platinum Chicken-n-Beer (“Splash Waterfalls”) and Britney Spears' "Me Against the Music (The Trak Starz Remix)." Their success would continue in 2004 lending their talents on Houston's hit single "I Like That," which they wrote, produced and parlayed into a multi-million dollar advertising campaign. They also earned a Diamond certification and a Grammy Award nomination for Album of the Year with their contributions on Usher's Confessions. However, they would lose to Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company. Additional production credits would also include Chingy's Platinum certified Powerballin' and DreamWorks Shark Tale soundtrack.
Star Studded and side-projects
In 2005 The Trak Starz, now managed by Larry Rudolph (Britney Spears' manager) of ReignDeer Entertainment, announced the release of their debut album titled Star Studded. The album's guest list was extensive, initially including David Banner, Twista, Juvenile, Lil Jon, Timbaland, Chingy, Nate Dogg, Bun B. and Jon B. Recorded in their state-of-the art studio in St. Louis, The Trak Meet, the first official single titled "Take it Off," featured STL and T Deep, the first artists signed to the Trak Starz label. According to Sham:
|“||It’s a mixture. We both do everything so really it’s whatever we feeling. Sometimes Zo can do the drums, I’ll play. Sometimes its the reverse. He’ll do a beat himself, sometimes I’ll do a beat myself. It’s kind of a mystery we have where people try to figure out how we do it, but it’s really what we feel and however we feel going to the studio that day. Trak Starz Records will definitely show what it is we have set out to do in this music business. Our first artists STL and T Deep are both representing where we are from [St. Louis, Missouri] and they are definitely going to make their presence known as they start to make noise.||”|
According to The Trak Starz, one of the most highly anticipated tracks is what the duo referred to as the “Producers’ Anthem,” featuring producers who, like The Trak Starz, are also artists. The concept was simple, each of the album's producer's will rhyme a verse over their own beat, with The Trak Starz molding the different styles into one seamless track. In regards to the album Zo has stated,"
|“||The Trak Starz debut album wont be just a compilation; it will feature them in artist mode one in particular. Sham is kind of The Trak Starz secret weapon. Hes a full fledged artist [and] were going to unleash him. We spittin a little bit but mainly showcasing our acts and guest appearances.||”|
The album was due to be released in November 2005, however it was never released.
In addition to their own album, The Trak Starz were continuously working on numerous projects for artist such as Nas, Ludacris, E-40, Chingy and Janet Jackson, while co-writing with Babyface for Aretha Franklin's Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen. The song was slated for Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé however it was not featured on the album. They were also producing the score for an urban dance movie, called Behind The Groove. In regards to the movie Zo is quoted as saying,
|“||We are just keeping it moving. The music for this movie will not be like that for any film out. The movie is about a 17-year-old dancer and the trials dealing with her life and her dream; and we felt that, so really wanted to set this movie apart from other films. But the music will still be somewhat contemporary.||”|
Release Therapy - present
2007 proved to be another big year for The Trak Starz earning a Grammy Award for their production on Ludacris' 2006 Release Therapy album. Their award for Best Rap Album was achieved for their production on "Do Your Time" featuring Beanie Sigel, C-Murder and the late Pimp C.
After earning their first Grammy Award, The Trak Starz continued to focus on their label and promoting new artists on their Trak Starz Productions roster, including male rapper, Lil Tek and female R&B singer, Darra Dee.
They are also producing Trak Starz Records recording artist and St. Louis native Tydis' new album, Sensation.
Currently, they have sold over 20 million records worldwide.
- "About The Trak Starz-Producers". MySpace. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
- "Trak Starz Get First Place with GC Pro". GC Pro. Retrieved 2008-10-01.[dead link]
- "THE TRAK STARZ READY DEBUT ALBUM: Guest Spots include Lil Jon, Timbaland, Juvenile, David Banner, and more". EURweb.com. 2005-10-05. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
- "Trak Starz Dropping New Album, Scoring Film". Urban Clubbers. 2005-09-23. Retrieved 2008-10-01.