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Trackademicks: Bay Area Badass

It's tempting to pigeonhole Trackademicks (a.k.a. Jason Valerio) as just another one of the Bay Area's hyphy beatmakers. He produced a third of Mistah F.A.B.'s Son of a Pimp LP and his (re)mix tapes–Trackademicks: The Remixes and Spring Progress Report (the latter of which finds him rhyming on half the tracks)–feature his reinterpretations of songs by hyphy heavyweights E-40 and Keak Da Sneak.

"Hyphy is basically one piece of the puzzle," says Valerio. "[Growing up], I bumped 3X Krazy and Hobo Junction, felt Souls of Mischief and Get Low Playas. Before all of that, I was into '80s music like Tears for Fears and Wham! After I had my revelation [while] listening to Esthero's Breath from Another, [thanks to Whiz Kid, Valerio's co-MC and right-hand man], I got into electronic music. Breath... was a perfect blend of rock, hip-hop, drum & bass, reggae, and Afro-Latin sounds. I want to bridge a lot of the sounds that I grew up on as successfully as that album did."

Trackademicks isn't from Oakland. He's from Alameda, the town next to the town, and his sound is damn near its own movement. On Trackademicks: The Remixes, he takes Keak's midtempo slumper "White T-Shirt, Blue Jeans and Nikes" and transforms it into 120 bpms of broken beat heat that mix seamlessly with his deft reworking of Jill Scott's "Golden." On his insane remix of Yummy Bingham's "Come Get It"–an ingenious journey through a relentless array of time signatures–he rhymes: "So if you don't cut class like Matthew Broderick/I might pop ya collar with an honor roll scholarship."

In a playful jab at the "Go dumb" sentiment currently ruling the Bay airwaves, Valerio refers to his own style as "dumb intelligence." "It's not to say that there's anything wrong with going dumb," he explains. "[Dumb intelligence] just refers to me as an artist and how I choose to make my music. I don't just make beats; I try to bridge gaps, connect cultures–whether ethnic, regional, or musical."

When asked who he'd like to work with, the Cool Collar Scholar rattles off: "Raphael Saadiq, The Neptunes, Kenna, M.I.A., Bloc Party, Loose Ends, Tears for Fears, Teedra Moses, E-40, Outkast--hella too many to name." But he's not content with idle wishing–he's on his grind. He's currently working on tracks for Mistah F.A.B.'s next album, The Yellow Bus Rydah, recently completed work with Lyrics Born and Joyo Velarde, and is putting together another (re)mix tape to be released via his website, while working on his own album. He's also creating a buzz with his slick remix of E-40's "Tell Me When To Go," which scraps the original's dark thump in favor of a playful melody complete with a women's choir.

"I want to make music like me," he explains. "I'm half-black/half-Filipino, with a bunch of other stuff. I've never been able to kick it with just one group of people. My style comes from the fact that I want to bring all those folks together and party."

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