Travis PorterDate of Interview: 01/26/2010

Travis Porter is a hip-hop trio hailing from Atlanta, Georgia. Since October 2008, the group has received more than 60 million views on their YouTube channel, and become digital pioneers on social media outlets, like Twitter, for their personal approach to “meeting” and “greeting” fans. Due to their massive online success, the group signed with Jive Records in November 2010, as they prepared for the release of Porterland, their debut album.

During a promotional campaign for their eighth mixtape, Music, Money and Magnums, Harold “Strap” Duncan, Lakeem “Ali” Mattox and Donquez “Quez” Woods managed to squeeze some time out of their busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on the viral video for “Make It Rain,” their standard Waffle House orders, and the steps they are taking to build the Porter House brand.

Clayton Perry: You are often referenced as “digital pioneers” in the music landscape. And I must admit: when I go online, you guys seem to be everywhere. Talk about an accomplishment that you are really proud of achieving, as well as the benefits you have seen on the music end.

Quez: Yeah, when we speak about the digital game, we do that all “personal.” With Twitter, our presence is “personal.” And with our website, we put pictures on there “personally.” So when somebody sees something on the Travis Porter page, believe that it’s from Quez, Strap or Ali.

Clayton Perry: What made you take on this “personal” approach? Was this an intuitive approach, or was this the byproduct of a strategic decision?

Strap: That’s the way our team move. Like some people they stay on the computer, and others you can catch them in the streets at a flea market or wherever you at, they get you right from there. But for some people, you’ve got to stay on the net. That’s what they want, so that’s what we do. It’s really like a big text message. It makes them feel like they know you.

Quez: Yeah, we won’t be at home sitting around bored. We do like out and about. We got it on our phones and stuff.

Ali: We’re on the bus. We’re on the airplane. Sending messages all  the time.

Strap: And people want to feel like they’re a part of the experience, so we got to let them know what’s going on.

Clayton Perry: I had a Twitter exchange with all of you, not too long ago, during Lauryn Hill’s concert. When the DJ played “Make it Rain,” during the pre-show, the crowd went crazy. Mind you: I was in Atlanta, at the time, and several ladies were doing the video dance in the aisles! [laughing] So it’s nice to have those types of personal exchanges. And I am sure your fans appreciate them as well. As a trio, I know  it is  hard  for your individual personalities to shine through. If you had to describe each other, what would you say?

Strap: Man, I am the head. Ali, what are you to Travis Porter?

Ali: I am the heart. Quez, what are you to Travis Porter?

Quez: I am the nuts of Travis Porter! [laughing] No, but for real: I’m the sacks of Travis Porter! [laughing continues] I hang low, bro-bro.

Clayton Perry: In your biopic, Proud to Be a Problem, there are several life events that all of you reference as motivating factors for jumping into the music game. Ali, during your vignette, you briefly touch on the importance of securing your mother’s computer. Why was this a really big thing for you?

Ali: That helped out a lot, because we were able to figure out how to do a lot of things on our own, instead of going to someone else to record and pay them to record. We figured out our own way to do it. And we did it, and that’s how were able to make songs. That’s how I was able to learn to how to get better at what we were doing. Like everybody, the dudes in the neighborhood, they had their own studio. And I was just like: “How do they do this?” So then my mama, she bought a computer, and I tried to figure it out myself. And once we just figured it out, we started recording.

Clayton Perry: Halfway through the video, there’s a funny snippet of the group sneaking into a strip club, in order to perform. Early on, what kind of tips did you learn, in regards to performance and interacting with people?

Quez: We got in there because we snuck in the back door. We had been to the strip club approximately five times before we were eighteen.

Ali: We weren’t old enough.

Quez: We wasn’t even old enough to get in there.

Ali: We’re still not old enough to get in there.

Quez: We’re still ain’t old enough, but we have been there the most times now, so talk to Ali. That’s how we got in. We were just about the music, and the strip club is a good place to get your music played, especially in Atlanta. We’re very popular in strip clubs, and there are a lot of them. They’re like regular clubs. People are always in there, so you just got to show some love to the DJs.

Strap: That’s really big. You got to know the DJs. Know them personally. Give them a drink. Just kick it with them.

Clayton Perry: In one of the most memorable lines in the film, as you were making your way through the backdoor of the club, Ali was reminded to focus on the business – not the girls! [laughing] As you have been doing this professionally for some time, what are some things that you  had to sacrifice, or what are some lessons you have learned along the way as you have been expanding your brand?

Quez: Oh, stay humble. Stay humble. Nobody loves a cockhead. Don’t be a dickhead.

Ali: Or an asshole.

Quez: You can be an asshole. Don’t be a dickhead! [laughing]

Strap: There aren’t any handouts. You’ve got to fire your guns. You’ve got to build a solid team, make goals, and go get it. Go get it yourself.

Clayton Perry: I know you were related on certain ends, but when did you all officially come together and just say, “You know, we really want to take this music thing seriously?” A lot of people love music, but a lot of people can’t actually make music their living. When did all of you work out that aspect?

Quez: It really just came like that. It all came together in a matter of a year. We were just like everybody was just on the same page. We want to do music, nothing else. That’s it. So, I don’t know how we came to that decision together, but it just happened.

Strap: Did we ever talk about it?

Quez: No, we didn’t. We all were just like: “Yo, this is what we want to do.” Like most of the time we even missed school for this. All the time we even missed school for music in the house. We would be in my house at all times of the day doing music.

Clayton Perry: My first introduction to you was the viral video of “Make It Rain.” What decisions did you make between the viral video and the first video? What did you want to present to the world, since many people had already seen the first video?

Strap: We made a fun video, then we made a video for the kids. Something real colorful.

Ali: We wanted a cleaner look.

Quez: Yeah, we wanted it clean. Like the first, the viral “Make It Rain” video was like the rough video, the one that you, your homey, like everybody of age, that’s their favorite. Everybody talk about the naked chick! But for the younger crowd, we had to do a clean, active, vibrant video.

Clayton Perry: There were a couple of cultural references that I was able to pull out. I saw elements of like The Wiz. I saw a little bit of The Color Purple in there. Are there any other things that people might not have been able to pull from the video?

Quez: Well, the video is really based around a farm, in a town that hasn’t had rain in probably a year or so. So the old man who runs the farm, he sees our  commercial, where we can come to your city and make it rain. So he calls us up, and we go out there to his city. Ali played the role of scientist.

Ali: I was trying to do something! [laughing]

Quez: Yeah. But you weren’t trying to make it rain! [laughing]

Strap: It was like a scam. We had it over on the farmer, and at the end, we had a party in his shed.

Quez: Yup. We invited all the shorties.

Strap: And we took his money.

Quez: And we still didn’t make it rain! [laughing]

Clayton Perry: With you latest mixtape, Music, Money and Magnums, you continue to give your fans a taste of what to expect from your official release. Are you ever concerned about giving too much away?

Strap: We really don’t like to hold onto nothing. We got music ready for the album, and we’re not releasing the dates yet, but the music that we’re dropping on the mixtape is definitely going to keep people ready for more music.

Quez: Yeah, man, every time we drop, it just adds to the anticipation. Anticipation is everything. You come on stage looking like the man, then you’re the man. And we’re acting like we’re putting out an album, so that’s what it’s going to be.

Strap: The mixtape is the album. We treat it like an album. That’s how we see it.

Clayton Perry: All of you are from the Atlanta area. And one thing I guess I can give Jermaine Dupri credit for is shouting out the “Waffle House” in songs and whatnot. In your mixtape track of the same name, I know you always got the sausage biscuits lined up, but when you do go to the Waffle House, what do you really get? I always get a waffle with hash browns scattered all the way! [laughing]

Strap: I always get a double chicken melt. I have to ask them to make it, because some people don’t like making it there.  It’s not on the menu.

Ali: I usually do the All Star with bacon, grits and eggs.

Quez: I always get the Texas Cheesesteak.

Ali: And bacon on there.

Quez: With bacon on top of it! [laughing] I want bacon everywhere. Bacon on every side. And cheese! [laughing continues]

Clayton Perry: Although you have released several mixtapes, many people are unaware that you have been making music independently for years. Why was Jive Records the perfect home for you? I heard a rumor floating around that Gucci Mane was trying to sign you to his label.

Ali: It feels more comfortable. Like we really didn’t want to be under another artist. We wanted to start our own brand. Like Porter House, we have a label. And so we were trying to build our brand.

Strap: Yeah, we were trying to start our own label. We didn’t want to be like Travis Porter, signed under Brick Squad.

Clayton Perry: So with Porter House, I am sure that there have been some issues that you have struggled with, as far as trial-and-error in your business deals. What are some of the major professional lessons that you have learned along the way?

Strap: Oh, man, we’ve definitely become young businessmen.

Ali: One thing I’ve learned: don’t be scared to make money with the money.

Quez: Don’t be missing a lot of flights.

Ali: Those flights. They go crazy on the credit card. Man, we’ll be extra sky high.

Quez: Stay on time.

Strap: You’ve got to stay on time. On time!

Quez: Time is money.

Strap: Time is money, baby, even if that clock is wrong.

Clayton Perry: And from a marketing standpoint, how do you navigate through all the confusion surrounding your name? Are you surprised that some people think “Travis Porter” is one person? When you came up with the name, was it a marketing move, where you wanted to be “left of center” and do something different?

Strap: Everything we do is a marketing move, but at the same time, we knew that our name would keep people talking. We’re in the business of entertaining people, so we just did it the smart way.

For more information on Travis Porter, visit the group’s official website: http://wearetravisporter.com


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