Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to TROY NōKA. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Alright, TROY thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. We’d love to hear about a project that you’ve worked on that’s meant a lot to you.
The most meaningful projects I’ve worked on lately have been Doja Cat’s “Planet Her” and just 3 weeks ago Beyonce & Madonna’s Queens Remix of “Break My Soul”.
I’ve been working with Doja Cat since 2013, right around the time she released her first EP. I was honored to be a part of developing her writing as an artist and experimenting with new sounds. The journey was full of ups and downs. Sometimes time felt slow and sometimes things flew by in a blink of an eye. To be a part of something as great as her journey is amazing. I produced a song called “Mooo!” which was originally a sample I sent to her for her to do an interlude for my album, but she later asked if she could keep it and I was happy to give it to her especially after it opened up doors for her after going viral. Things came full circle when her latest album was recently nominated for the most prestigious Grammy, “Album of the Year”. This is so meaningful because it’s the story of faith. It’s the story of persistence and teamwork. Doja Cat is one of the hardest working most deserving artists I’ve ever known and seeing her shine is a testament to that.
I’ve been fortunate to work with great people on multiple projects. Yeti Beats has been someone who has been a huge part of many meaningful projects. He was the person who introduced me to Doja Cat. We’ve had a wild and blessed ride.
Yeti, WondaGurl and I just produced the Queens Remix for “Break My Soul” with Madonna and Beyonce. We were all in the studio creating and I put on my headphones for a moment and when there was a break I played them the Madonna “Vogue” sample I had chopped up. WondaGurl took it and did some cool patterns on the drums and Yeti started arranging it. We had great chemistry, it was crazy to see that days later the song became Beyoncé and Madonna’s first collaboration. The significance is, I was just telling my wife days before that I wanted to work with Beyonce. We had a whole conversation about it, manifesting it and it happened days later. My wife just had our first child, our daughter Aria Legacy Collins, and it seems she is bringing me so much good fortune. So the timing is also meaningful to me. She was born 8/22/22.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
I got into the music industry as an audio engineer first. I drove to Los Angeles at 18 years old from Kansas City where my parents were stationed at the time because of their service in the Army.
I didn’t know much, I just had the passion. I dropped out of college after two years of studying computer information systems to 100% commit myself to music. Which is key to being successful in anything, you can’t half ass it, any form of real progression requires real commitment.
It wasn’t easy because I didn’t know anyone or have family in L.A., which led me to depression, coupled with the hike in cost of living. I started reading self help literature like “Principle Centered Leadership” by Stephen Covey, which helped me understand how to process and adjust to my new environment. I quickly got a job at Radio Shack, the first thing I could find using my natural knack for computers and technology. On my downtime from work I was also reading books about how to mix songs and audio engineering and if I wasn’t doing that I was making beats.
I started rapping when I was 15 after my cousin sparked the music bug for me by constantly asking me to freestyle with him when he would do it over instrumentals. Which led me to wanting to rap over everything and eventually my own beats. I started producing on a video game called “MTV music generator” for Playstation, it was kinda like what a lot of beat makers use today for production, similar to Fruity Loops. I made beats everyday on that game, obsessed. I would throw parties in high school just to perform and play the music I made. I’d get a few chaperones to watch all of the kids and rent out the local youth center and charge at the door, creating a fun environment for my neighborhood. But let me get back to LA…
Reading led me to inquire about interning for established engineers and I was introduced to Brad Gilderman at the Little Big Room Recording Studios. I watched him and got him coffee and occasionally asked questions on how to mix when I felt it was a good time. I next got an assistant engineering gig with an engineer named Chris Spilfogel who took me in to work with The Underdogs. The Underdogs were the top R&B producers at the time around 2005. A guy named J. Valentine, a budding star on J Records, walked in and played The Underdogs some records and one of them was a beat I produced. Harvey Mason Jr. and Damon Thomas were the two producers going by this moniker and they were impressed by the beat asking “who did this one!?” J, let them know it was the engineer sitting right in front of them, and they still were in question, confused like “this guy?”. Immediately after that session they asked to sign me. I let them know the beats were made by my myself and my friend Brian Kennedy. So they signed us both.
Within a year I had production on major artists like, Chris Brown, Tyrese and Ciara to name a few.
On the way up a lot of my peers were future icons and superstars and I worked with them from the beginning, just friends making music and creating together. One of them was Frank Ocean. I had a good situation at the Underdogs and he had just moved from New Orleans. He would come by and get in the mix as a songwriter. We developed a good friendship and we ended up creating his first placement on an artist named Noel Gourdin. Later he decided he no longer wanted to write for other people and wanted to focus on his artistry. I always helped where I could whether it was a photoshoot plug or a studio or just simply some beats. That’s my nature and what I’ve learned I bring to the game. I am a natural nurturer, if an artist is next to me I’ll do all I can to give them resources, let them use my studio, give them my songs, help them flush out the sound or find their vision. I’m good at reminding people you can do anything, just don’t limit yourself. To this day this is my message and I live it everyday.
Frank went on to be huge as we know. Miguel was also an artist around on the come up as well, and he’s a superstar in his own right. I started developing Sabrina Claudio in her early stage as well, with my friend Peggy Yen. Then Doja with Yeti and now I’m currently developing a new artist as we speak.
My “you can do anything; put in the work” attitude has now led me to learning how to shoot and edit videos. I learned it over the pandemic and it’s another tool I can use to help artists and maybe I’ll shoot a movie in the future. I produce, write, mix and master all my music and now I shoot my videos too. All of these skills work as service for others as well and makes me a lynchpin in every room I’m in. I feel and believe I’m one of the greatest artists on the planet. I heard Jay-Z say you have to feel like that, but I even before I saw that I just did. Since day one.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
Resilience is a word that best describes how I solve problems. When I first moved to LA I didn’t know how to engineer, or play any instruments, because I was making beats on a video game. After producing songs and having the smallest split on the song (because I only did the drums which in most cases “technically” don’t qualify as publishing), I quickly found out the people making the big bucks played instruments.
I didn’t let that stop me, I got a piano and listened to the radio and tried to play what I heard everyday. I took some lessons on the side as well with a wonderful lady named Sumitra Nanjundan who still teaches in the LA area and a couple years later, I was playing like I had been playing since I was born. Nobody believed I had taught myself and I didn’t believe it really either. I thought I was still trash at it lol.
I ran into situations where I could never get singers to sing on my hooks, so I taught myself to sing. I learned that you can’t let anything stop you from making it happen. Earlier I mentioned how I pushed myself to learn engineering to get in the game instead of making excuses about how I don’t know anyone. Now as I mentioned I learned video editing and filming over the pandemic off of YouTube so I could make my own videos.
I had a lot of video directors charging me $5k a video and I wasn’t happy with the work or they would take forever so adding that to the arsenal has been a game changer for me. So when I run into a problem I just face it. You can’t change anything without facing it first. History and my experience has made me more resilient, showing me nothing can stop me but me.
Is there a mission driving your creative journey?
The goal that drives me with music and creating is to remind people that they can do anything, to inspire people to chase their dreams because we are taught to reach for the low hanging fruit. We are taught that there’s a formula to the American dream. That’s not true. You can do whatever you think you can do. There’s no formula because you’re unique and everybody has their own road to success and happiness. So I just encourage people to tap into their uniqueness, look inside, instead of outside or instead of watching what everyone else is doing. Do what you feel and love and that’s special. Instead of copying, contribute. My mission is to bring me to the table and remind you to do the same at the highest level. Some useful reminders I picked up along the way from my journey so far are to keep God first, constantly learn, do your taxes lol, connect with people who feed your soul, your gifts and encourage you. Find mentors who believe in you, do your best, keep going, work on knowing yourself better, trust yourself, keep your life in order, stay diligent, and be mindful we are all connected.
- Website: troynoka.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/troynoka
- Facebook: facebook.com/troynoka
- Twitter: twitter.com/troynoka
- Youtube: youtube.com/troynokaofficial
- Others: https://www.troynoka.com/bio/, Noah’s Ark (Music Video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-f0TTPn2xGo
1-4 Photos by IIRONIC 5 Photo by Jahmel Holden 6 Photo by Rashad White 7-8 Photos by Frankie Leal