Throughout the late ‘90s and early 2000s, you couldn't turn on urban radio without hearing a song produced by Trackmasters. Comprised of Jean-Claude “Poke” Olivier and Samuel “Tone” Barnes, the New York-based duo started out in the music business in the late ‘80s (back when Tone was a rapper known as Red Hot Lover Tone) and went on an incredible run of hits. Today, their discography speaks for itself.
They worked with everyone from legends like Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, and LL Cool J to pop rappers like Will Smith to commercial darlings like Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., and Nas. Along the way, they also made R&B smashes for the likes of R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, Destiny’s Child, and Mariah Carey. Not to mention the fact that they helped usher in acts like Soul For Real, T.C.F. Crew, and a pre-bullet wound 50 Cent. Needless to say, these guys got hits for days.
They’ve also got an undeniable chemistry—one they possibly honed while spending years playing Run and Gun at local arcades back in the days. Maybe that’s why when we sat down with them at their studio in NYC's SoHo neighborhood, they were able to finish each other's sentences when recalling classics from their catalog. What else would you expect from guys who’ve worked together for over two decades?
In part one of our epic conversation, the duo talked about getting in the game, the last days of Cold Chillin’ Records, and the rise of Bad Boy Records. They had plenty of stories to share, including how Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs (as he was known back in those days) was the master of taking credit and a hilarious story about how Steve Stoute became their manager. They also revealed the secret production technique behind all of their hits and how they were never properly credited for making hip-hop classics like Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya?” and Method Man’s “You're All I Need to Get By” remix. Get ready for your history lesson.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)