Born in the Ivory Coast, producers Tee and Tank moved to London as children, quickly settling into sprawling, urban life in the city and ‘adopting grime and garage’ through their school friends. “We were already very familiar with French rap”, they explain, “but grime, dubstep and even garage were so different to us, both musically but also as scenes.”
After starting to dig more, Tee began borrowing tape packs from friends, quickly becoming acquainted with names like Dizzee Rascal and N.A.S.T.Y Crew, of whom Kano was a founding member. Inspired, Tee and Tank (with the help of Tank’s older brother) decided to form their own group, The Heavytrackerz, and started writing beats and sending them out to MCs they knew of.
“It didn’t catch on at first, but we did the usual standing outside raves handing out CDs thing”, the pair recall, “but we were making songs. Back then, grime wasn’t structured say verse-chorus-verse-chorus, it was all 8-bar loops — producers wrote beats to have MCs club together and rally on a track. We knew it’d take time for grime, and our way of writing, to become an art form.”
Tee and Tank had borrowed money and even used their student loans to buy their own studio and production equipment, moving studios regularly, before seeking the help of a new business scheme to set up their own space in 2014. It was from here, just after they’d been kicked out of their last studio, that they were able to navigate their remarkable breakthrough, which came via Meridian Dan’s cult single, ‘German Whip’.
Over the next two years, they’d work on producing singles for Dizzee Rascal, Solo 45, Fekky, P Money, C Biz and most notably, Stormzy — The Heavytrackerz produced his 2015 single, ‘Standard’ — but such were their own ambitions, Tee and Tank weren’t content with stopping there.
“We’d looked at Rudimental, Disclosure, Daft Punk, people like that and thought, ‘why can’t we do that but in a grime context’? We wanted to pioneer that idea”, they explain. True to form, the pair had already written an intro for a prospective album project in 2014 — three years on and ‘Odyssey: A Musical Journey’, the debut Heavytrackerz LP, will mark the defining moment of their career so far.
Written and A&R’d independently over the course of two years, ‘Odyssey: A Musical Journey’ is an 18-track trip through the trials and tribulations of the music industry and the various hurdles the duo have overcome to realise their goals. “We had to use other people’s voices to voice our thoughts and feelings, but we wrote the album to help people understand what it takes to survive in this industry”, Tee explains.
Features from some of grime’s most recognisable voices in Ghetts, Lethal Bizzle, P Money, JME and D Double E acknowledge the lived-in narratives the album functions around, while surprise voices like Raleigh Ritchie, Shola Ama and Mikkil Pane nod to the esteem The Heavytrackerz are held in by the wider industry. In essence, it marks their transition from studio producers to artists in their own right.
Keen to also branch out into the live circuit — “We’re not trying to be DJs, we wanna entertain” the pair insist — The Heavytrackerz remain one of the most ambitious but quietly understated outfits in the UK.