Brian Livingstone @blivingst
Donning a multicolored windbreaker reminiscent of the 90’s, a backwards hat, slacks, and a backpack, Randy doesn’t look a day over 18. He’s 21, in fact, so not far off, but his energy, brightness, and easy laugh, constantly remind you of his youth. And not in a patronizing, naïve way, but in a refreshing way. Randy has the fucklessness of a certain generation, without the pretentiousness of a hipster. He’s genuinely nice, invested in conversation and visceral in his reactions—and he’s talented. Listening to his music, I have to ease in – it’s not comfortable –it’s experimental as some might say, until I unconsciously find myself bobbing and swaying. But before I’ve settled into the groove, it switches, whether the tempo has changed, whether it’s a sample coming in or a sample cut out, or maybe, the track has ended.
Randy Maples, a 21 year old Kenyan-American native of Raleigh-Durham, is a producer—he makes beats. He is also a cofounder of the collective and now record label Raund Haus, based in Durham, North Carolina. These days, Randy or Trandle (his artist name) is making moves. With connections to Moogfest, the recent release of his solo project, “high key, low key” and Raund Haus’s first year anniversary, Randy has a lot to celebrate.
I caught up with Randy to discuss his musical influences, Kenyan parties, and what happens after you meet your idols.
Tell me about yourself.
I was born in Kenya. My mom’s Kenyan, my dad’s American and I was raised in Raleigh and Durham– I went to high school in Durham and [grew up] in Raleigh. I’ve been doing production for about four years now but I’ve always been playing music so it’s kinda hard to say…
When did you move to the states?
When I was about 6-months-old.
And have you gone back to Kenya at all?
Not yet. I want to. My mom when I was younger she would use it as a threat, like—”Oh I’m gonna send you back there!”
They always do that.
But now that I’m older I actually wanna go! Like shit, send me! I’m ready.
So how did you get into music and production? Who are your inspirations?
My dad was a musician and [he] would always quiz me like, “Who’s this on the radio?” on every station. Then I started playing piano around 8-years-old…then I stopped and started playing guitar…during this time I wasn’t into hip-hop at all.
What were you into?
(Laughs), Anything but hip-hop! And my mom, she didn’t really understand the culture, she was like “Don’t listen to rap!” She’s mad cool, she just didn’t want me to be affected by it. My dad, selectively got me into hip hop. Like Wu-Tang, and Tribe, and all that stuff. And [as] I got older, I was like “Dang! This is ill.” I actually started listening to Wu-Tang by myself, and listening to Ghostface [Killah] by myself—Tribe by myself, and I started to realize, dang, hip-hop is dope.
After I listened to [J Dilla’s] Donuts, I was like, “I wanna make beats!” I’ve always technically been making beats, because I had one those cheap pianos that you could have on song mode and do rhythms. I would always make my own songs with that and I didn’t realize that I was doing production until my uncle stepped in the room one day, cause it was annoying as shit, and he was like “What do you think you are, a producer?” I was fourteen, and I was like, “What does that even mean?” So I just started looking into it more and now I’m doing it full time.
So who are the people that you listen to? Who’s on rotation for you?
Whenever I’m in the car, I have it on the jazz radio. I hardly listen to anything else. In terms of rappers I like, I’m weird, I like everything. So I like Future, [Young] Thug, Chief Keef, I like all of them, because I look at the creative aspect you know. But I go in on some Wu-Tang heavy, still. I mess with 9th Wonder, Little Brother, you know, Phonte, pretty much everything.
Have you met 9th?
Yeah I met him a few times. One time I was 17, we were at the Rakim show and my friend’s mom, she got us backstage and I saw him and I was like oh shit, that’s 9th Wonder (smiling). Nobody else knew, I went up shook his hand, got a picture and everything. (Leans forward slyly) Then I was like “yo, I make beats—”
This was before I was even good! He gave me his email, I haven’t emailed him yet.
Wow, you haven’t emailed him?
Yeah, I’m sitting on 9th Wonder’s email.
How long ago was that?
I’m 21 now, so that’s about five years ago, I was like 16/17. I see him every once in a while. I still don’t know what to say. I know he’s a busy dude so I don’t wanna be like, “Aye yo, listen to my music!” I don’t know if he’s gonna listen or not.
You have nothing to lose though, you should shoot your shot. 2017—year of possibilities.
(Smiling) Yeah, yeah. I’ve met some of my heroes, like recently, I met Pete Rock, who’s one of my biggest influences. I showed him my SP303, which is a sampler, and he was like “Oh my god! You still got one of those?!” and he sent the picture to one of my favorite producers, Madlib. At that point I was like—I can just pretty much do anything. I met OPN… I met Bon Iver recently—he saw me play. So I don’t really look at that like “Wooahhh,” I look at that like I still gotta work. Like I’m looking at everybody else—they’re just regular people, you know what I’m saying, so I’m a regular person so I just have to keep on working and my image doesn’t really matter, it’s all about my actual work and my art.
Do you think your background, being half-Kenyan, affects your music and creative expression?
Definitely. I look at trap music as kind of giving homage to African drums. Like if you look at the hi-hats and stuff, they’re complex. But if you were to give people who play drums just the rolling hi-hats, it would sound very similar to someone playing on the djembe. I always find myself just looking back like dang, I feel like being Kenyan in a way kinda helps me out cause I’ve always had this sense of rhythm and just going out to my mom’s peoples parties and seeing how they dance and remembering all the stuff my mom used to listen to. Her favorite is Bob Marley. She gets down with some Bob Marley, (smiles) she don’t smoke anything but she loves Bob Marley. Now I’m at the point where I’m doing this by myself, asking my mom, “Yo tell me about some traditional Luo [music]-like I actually wanna know.” It’s crazy, I never would’ve thought that I would’ve ever gone back to that.
What were Kenyan parties like?
(Smiles) It was fun, I was always the little kid hanging out with my friends and stuff. Sometimes dip out of the room and start dancing and my mom would make fun of me like, “You can’t dance!” I would just be doing my little minimal moves, it was always fun to see.
Tell me about Raund Haus’s history.
Well it all started with me and my friend Nick (Gappa). We did our first show and everybody was down for it. And we didn’t think that people would come to our show, we thought it was just gonna be like ten people, five people, but it was a packed room. So then we were like we gotta do more, and from that we just kept going. We put out our first compilation tape with everyone from the area..and from that we kept on doing shows and we always thought about having a record label then we met up with some people and started making that a possibility. And now we’re doing shows and the record label.
Whenever we have a Raund Haus show, it’s like a safe space for people who just love music and who are about the culture. Our mission is just to keep the culture going and to give people something to do that’s not trying to dig into your pockets necessarily, and make sure that somebody younger can see us and be like, “Ok yeah, I don’t feel like giving this up.”
How do you think the music scene in Durham is growing or shaping? Would you call Durham a hub?
I think it’s becoming a hub, it wasn’t quite there a few years ago. Now that we have Moogfest and Art Of Cool, people are really heeding to the fact that we have a lot of art here and we need to support what’s here so we can grow. Because if we’re not supporting each other, nobody is getting anywhere.
Working with Raund Haus showed me, you can’t do everything by yourself, you need a strong team and Durham provides that feeling of camaraderie and family. Four years ago when I was playing shows, I was basically playing to myself. And now I go to my friends shows and there’s a whole bunch of people there, because people want something that’s fresh, that’s new. And we’re not always waiting on the big artists when we could just be looking towards the people who are already working here, because…you never know.