Toronto MC & entrepreneur TRA talks SARS Radio & other new projects
Toronto, ON – The SARS Network is one of the most recognized and celebrated hip-hop brands coming out of Toronto. The S.A.R.S. (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak hit Toronto in 2003 and shortly after that the term ‘SARS’ had been borrowed and re-purposed by a local hip-hop king named TRA to serve as the title for a new mixtape series. Sick Artists Runnin’ Shit was born, dozens of projects were released and the Toronto mixtape circuit was buzzing like it had never been before.
Fast forward to 2017 and TRA is even more committed to promoting the SARS brand and rolling out new projects to support it.
Paired with the official SARS DJ, the award-winning DJ Law, the decision was made to launch a new show called SARS Radio. The show is hosted on MaximumFM.ca and is quickly becoming one of the most popular Canadian hip-hop shows online thanks to a strong knowledge of the scene and segments like the Top 5 SARS Radio Countdown. In discussing a partnership with TRA to feature SARS Radio on HipHopCanada regularly, we decided to interview him and provide you with more info on what to expect from the year ahead.
Click the jump link below for an exclusive Q&A with TRA (and a brief cameo from Law) as well as the latest episode of the show
Q&A: TRA (aka Tha Rhyme Animal)
Interview conducted by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett
HipHopCanada: In your opinion, what is it that each of you individually brings to the table that has made SARS RADIO so popular with listeners?
TRA: Well, to tell you honest, Law and I have been doing this for a long time. Only difference now is that we do it every week instead of every so often for a mixtape. DJ Law is my good friend and a multi-Stylus Award winner, DJ Law is the official SARS DJ, from time. He has mixed all my solo mixtapes and many others under the SARS umbrella, and I used to host them. But what makes SARS RADIO so popular to listeners is that we have already tested the Toronto market with hand to hand street hustle way before the internet, and smart phones. But most importantly, people have bought our mixtapes for many years, SARS is a trusted brand in the city for true Toronto music.
HipHopCanada: What were the top / favourite records you guys broke or supported in 2016? Any stand-outs come to mind?
TRA: I can’t necessarily say that we break records, everyone is doing their thing. We’re just paying close attention, I believe everyone should. But artists we play regularly are T Gramz, Dre Barrs, Luu Breeze, Devontée, Asun Eastwood, Daniel Son, Nav, Syph, Blacka Da Don, Sayzee, J.O. Mairs, Pressa, Gangis Khan AKA Camo, K Sizzle, Tory Lanez and of course Drake are the most played on the station, but everyone gets played really.
HipHopCanada: With that said, the show has an actual chart called Top 5 SARS RADIO Countdown. Who’s been dominating the charts? Who do you expect to hold it down in 2017?
TRA: We make sure that the Top 5 countdown is a fair system, so no one really can over dominate it. Everyone deserves a fair chance to hold the spot if the song is good enough and makes enough noise it will chart. We judge what gets played by social media impact and views on YouTube, but sometimes something is so hot it just makes its way in. As of right now Pressa’s “Novacane” is number 1, but its too early to call who’s taking this year.
HipHopCanada: The show itself has a such a diverse range of talent and doesn’t just feature one type of artist or sub-component of hip-hop culture – which is great to see. Can you touch on the “non bias system” a bit more?
TRA: Yeah most shows I see just play strictly the music they like, which is cool, play what you want. But I believe first hand as an artist myself a lot of music gets “swept under the rug” because of that. I feel if it’s good and people like it, why not play it? It may not be my thing, but I can pretty much dig anything I hear when an artist puts talent and effort into their product. If it’s from Toronto, and surrounding areas, and a person has been putting in work, we will play it.
HipHopCanada: Speaking of getting music to you guys. What’s the best way to get new music to you? Are radio edits a requirement for shows on MaximumFM.ca?
TRA: To get music to us, you can send to email@example.com and to get exclusively added to the DJ Law “Infectious Needles Mix”, send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please when you send music, send a DJ PACK with the instrumental and acapella. We play the music as is but if you want to send a clean version that’s fine as well. We broadcast every #SARSSATURDAY from 6-8 p.m. on MaximumFM.ca. If you don’t have the app, make sure you download it from the app store.
HipHopCanada: SARS Radio has been going strong for close to 2 years – the 2 year anniversary being April 4 – but The SARS Network has been around for much longer than that. Are there any new SARS mixtapes in the works?
TRA: Possibly… The music is making a shift, so if it calls for my kind of music, I will deliver. But as for mixtapes, not really. More EPs and albums. SARS has been true to the mixtape game for a very long time, but now it’s time to level up. Do radio, maybe start a label from the talent I discover, it’s all a time thing. When the time is right, I’ll appear.
HipHopCanada: Are there any other projects in the works for The SARS Network?
TRA: The SARS Network is vast group of people. We are all working on new material. But as for myself, I’m working on a project with Acetik from Bangerville that we’re calling Noise Up based from the famous Toronto slang for “shut up” or “I don’t believe you.” There is no release date as of yet, but it’s coming soon.
HipHopCanada: Law, any other projects in the works?
DJ Law: I’m into video/visual mixtapes now. Been doing this for a few years now. Check me out at www.vimeo.com/djlaw3000. I’m also playing local bars in Toronto and most recently DJed the T.I. show.
HipHopCanada: TRA any chance you’ll be releasing some new music in the future?
TRA: Well… funny you say that, I just released a new TRAck with Acetik called “We Ain’t You” produced by Big Tweeze and it’s fire! It’s my first release in about two years, but I’ve been writing and have a lot of new music on the way. I will be very active this year. Here’s the new video:
TRA & Acetik – We Ain’t You (Prod. Big Tweeze)
HipHopCanada: Thanks again, we’ll be tuning in this Saturday to check out the show. Anything you want viewers to know in particular about this upcoming episode?
TRA: Expect nothing but the best in Canadian music, mainly Toronto… But we only play brand new Canadian music on SARS RADIO. So if it came out this week, we are playing it on Saturday, and that’s what makes the show important. We keep you up to date with whatever is brand new and hot or a potential banger that no one has heard yet, we try to keep the show current, and go with the flow of the music that is released. The show is not a one time listen, you need to tune in every week to actually follow the scene, and know who’s who and what’s hot in Toronto. Make sure you tune in every #SARSSATURDAY from 6 to 8 p.m. on MaximumFM.ca or follow our Mixcloud for weekly updates if you miss the show at www.mixcloud.com/SARSRADIO or download the mixcloud app from the app store. Thank you as well HHC, thank you for everything you do! Nuff Respect #SARS!
Interview conducted by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett for HipHopCanada
Twitter: @THESARSNETWORK | @DJLaw3000
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