The relationship between rappers and producers is akin to cereal and milk, one needing the other to complete the meal. In some cases, however, the combination spans beyond that, entering a chemistry only defined by classic records. Snoop Dogg had Dr. Dre. Missy Elliott had Timbaland. Juvenile, Lil Wayne, Turk, B.G. and Birdman had Mannie Fresh. Guru had Premier. And T.I. is forever linked to DJ Toomp, a bond the man born Aldrin Davis reveals he understood was special from the first time they shared the same studio space together long before the Grammys and chart-topping hits came calling.
Tip’s sophomore album, Trap Muzik, turns a decade old today. It’s also a project whose impact grew to become more significant than anyone involved during the days of 2003 when T.I.’s career was still very much cloudy.
“For the amount of work we put in, we really didn’t know we were carving out a lane like that. It just ended up catching on,” says Toomp.
The lane he speaks of involves “the trap.” The area of life where, in its most explicit form, is the lone job many of the “have-nots” have conditioned themselves is they lone position they qualify for. The same area that can serve as both an office and fitting room for a casket, occasionally on the same day. It was this walk of life T.I. and Toomp – who oversaw the project as executive producer – desperately wanted to bring to the forefront of Hip-Hop.
I had a nearly 90-minute conversation with Toomp earlier this month as he drove around Atlanta (in his BMW 750, of course), one that saw him with no shortage of words in regards to the artist, the project and the nurturing procedure it took to bring everything to fruition. As the man behind the boards, he has always understood the person breathing air over his instrumentals will continually receive the brunt of the praise. It’s an agreement he’s comfortable with and one, in turn, which has made him a living legend in the process. Having worked with the likes of names spanning back to 2 Live Crew to still-relevant personalities like Jay Z, Toomp’s most groundbreaking connection has come with T.I.
With the success of songs like “Be Easy” (which he says Shawty Redd coined as his biggest inspiration as he created his own brand of trap music), “24’s,” “Rubberband Man” and “Bezzle,” the mission was accomplished and seeds were planted. Tip brought the trap to the forefront of mainstream Hip-Hop. It’s a trend that has since carried over to the present day; a blessing Toomp sees equally as a gift and curse.
“It’s a little bit of both. You’ve got some cats who’re really just rapping it because it sounds good,” says Toomp. “Then you’ve got some cats who really were apart of that whole trap movement and I’m thankful that they can continue to touch the stage now. There are some decent records, but some of them really are misrepresenting.”