Billed as the “next big thing to come out of the Carolinas” Troop 41 are Tristian Brown (T-Breezy), Lelynd Darkes (Lil Lee), and Dakare Wilder (Lil Inferno). The trio met in 2005 during middle school in Raleigh, North Carolina and shared a love for rap music and basketball, as well as a real flair for performing. Five years and three albums later, the young rappers have the 98th selling single “Do the John Wall” on iTunes.
I spoke to Troop 41 about their humble beginnings, their famous friend (Washington Wizards’ John Wall) and their hunger to achieve more.
Kristina Villarini: When did you start collaborating musically?
Troop 41: We began to perform and record music back in 2005, when we were in the 7th grade.
KV: What’s the significance of the name “Troop 41?”
T41: When we first started, our ages were 14 , 14, and 13 which equals 41… And we’re soldiers in this rap-game, fighting to get to the top. Put that together, and you get Troop 41. It’s a different name, so it makes people want to learn more about you.
KV: What artists did you guys listen to growing up?
KV: Where did the idea for “Do the John Wall” come from?
T41: John Wall is a neighborhood friend of ours, and as you know, he did his ‘flexing of the arm’ dance at one of his college basketball games. [John Wall played for the Kentucky Wildcats before being drafted by the Wizards.] There was so much talk about the dance here… Everybody was doing it. So, we thought to ourselves, ‘everybody is doing this dance, but there isn’t a song to go along with it.’ We contacted John and he was 100% behind the idea.
KV: Immersed in the lyrics of “Do the John Wall” are some legitimate basketball references. Are you all John Wall and/or Wizards fans?
T41: Of course, we are fans of John Wall! He is from our hometown. Anybody that makes it out of Raleigh, N.C., we are a fans of them. He’s showing everybody that dreams come true. Now it’s our turn to do the same thing.
KV: How difficult has it been to establish yourselves as a group–in a genre where it seems like there’s a new act trying to make a name for themselves every day?
T41: It’s extremely hard. But knowing that there is so much competition, just makes us work ten times harder. You have to work hard to get that top spot. We just try to be different and stand-out from the rest.
KV: That single has become a real hit. Do you think there will always be an audience for a catchy song that encourages dancing and movement?
T41: Yeah, it’s a huge hit right now, but what makes our song different is that it’s not only a catchy dance song. We are actually saying meaningful things in the song. We really have lyrics.
KV: How important is it to get your audience moving when you’re performing or creating a new track?
T41: That’s the most important thing. You want people to be entertained with your music. We try to make our music for all ages. We just want to make ‘feel good’ music. We love to have a good time and get the crowd involved.
KV: Having a huge single, as a new artist, is a tough act to follow. What else do you want to accomplish musically?
T41: What we want to show the world is that we have so much more music to offer. We plan on being around for a long time, making big hits. We want to tour the world and show the world our talent .
KV: What would people be surprised to know about you?
T41: What you would be surprised about Troop 41 is that we also produce most of our music. We make our own beats and write all of our lyrics.
KV: Has recording and performing music changed the way you look at other artists?
T41: Not really. We just really focus on trying to improve ourselves. There are a lot of good artists out and they are all working hard.
KV: What would you say to other artists who are trying to break into the music industry?
T41: Continue to work hard. Do not ever let anybody tell you can’t do something. Nothing comes easy… You have to keep grinding and working hard. Also, network. Networking is very important when it comes to getting your music out.