Four hundred pieces of music. It’s the amount of work Trobiz, AKA Tremayne Howe, has developed since he got serious about his music six years ago. It’s also music he created without releasing an album of his own. After an extended period of honing his craft, the R&B/hip-hop artist is finally launching his long-awaited debut The Beginning, officially revealing it to his Halifax fans this Saturday at the Seahorse.
“It wasn’t that I was afraid,” says Howe. “I just didn’t know how. I had an idea of how, but I have a family that I have to answer to. I have to answer for what I invest my time and money into. I’ve been really trying to be very sharp with where I stand and how serious I take what I put out.”
A son to two legendary performers, Coleman Howe and Muzz Marshall, Howe grew up in the community predominately made up of east coast ex-pats in Montreal known as Little Scotia. He returned to his roots to play basketball for Dalhousie in the late ’90s. It was then that the music he grew up with started to show in his own life. Howe ran into local DJ JoRun Bombay who invited him to learn how to make beats in the studio with a young Classified.
His burgeoning interest led him to perform at hip-hop shows and he often organized concerts to raise funds for gear. For a time in Halifax one couldn’t walk down the street without seeing the Trobiz name on posters taped to lampposts. Howe began to produce his own music, selling some of his pieces to television along the way. Since then he’s worked with local artists such as Shy Luv and Dammien Alexander, more recently with Jordan Croucher and Littles the General. After receiving much encouragement from his peers, Howe set to making his first full-length.
“I started developing my own sound and I thought, ‘You know what, I could probably do this,’” says Howe, who owns the Up Close Barbershop on Gottingen. “People have influenced me around here. Guys like Classified said, ‘Man, things are starting to kick off, why don’t you put your stuff out.’ I’d be like, ‘I’m doing this for fun right now, but we’ll see.’”
It’s obvious from the way he talks about his past and present projects that Trobiz likes to keep things a little old school. He is a man influenced by his upbringing and heritage. He uses original instrumentation on The Beginning, and worked on many of the tracks with his father, who he says is often his harshest critic.
“My father is an extreme high-end perfectionist,” Howe says. “I’m way down in the moderate-low, I kind of want to get things going. He definitely helps me balance that out. But definitely I have that guidance to be high-end, be on top of your game, super-sharp.”
The Beginning is an extension of his roots, recalling the sounds of a household filled with funk and soul musicians. The disc also mixes the styles of contemporary R&B and hip-hop, incorporating party tracks with slow jams. But rather than sing about the stereotypical cars and bling, Howe prefers to tackle the deeper issues, while maintaining a sense of fun.
“A track like ‘Power’ is political and it talks about what’s going on in our city, that there are better days,” he says. “But then I go all the way to a song like ‘No Hook’ and be a bragging MC. I do different styles of music because I believe there’s no such thing as fake hip-hop and I don’t think there’s such a thing as real hip-hop. Music to me is music; it’s as real as you hear. I embrace everybody’s style.”
Coming from an area that’s not known for its R&B artists, Howe knows this is his chance to break new ground for the east coast. He admits his desire to represent his peers was part of what forced him to take his time with the music, rather than rush to force mediocre records on the public. Now that he’s ready, he’s not backing away from what lies ahead.
“I think there’s no limit to what this stuff can do,” he says. “Why? Because I have music that can sit up there with your commercial artists and I also have some gritty stuff. So that being said, I don’t really see a cap on what I can do.”
Trobiz cd release w/Muzz Marshall, Ian Janes, Dammien Alexander and Uncle Fester, December 9 at The Seahorse, 1659 Argyle, 10pm, $12, 423-7200.