Tray “Tray Bien” Okoth (born December 4, 1987) is a Kenyan-American hip-hop artist, poet and author.
Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Tray grew up as the youngest of three children to parents Simon and
In 2003, Tray and his family made the 7,500 mile move from Nairobi to Richmond, VA, where he quickly
made a name for himself in the local high school basketball scene. His natural ability and hard work
ethic on the court was recognized by college scouts, and he graciously went on to accept a full athletic
scholarship to Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, TN. While in college, Tray capitalized on an
opportunity to channel his creative talents off the court, declaring art as his major.
In the summer of 2010, a prestigious offer was presented to Tray to play basketball in Europe, but due
to problems in obtaining travel documents, he was forced to cancel his travel plans and remain in the
states. Though devastated by the situation, Tray refused to let this setback define the direction of his
life. He decided to embrace it as an opportunity for him to return home and pursue another passion of
his, making music.
Music had always played a prominent role in Tray’s life. While growing up in Kenya, he gravitated
towards the soulful styles of artists like Billy Holliday and Nina Simone, in addition to drawing inspiration
from many unique regional acts in the area. Ayub Ogada, a traditional Kenyan singer, and Bamboo,
a Kenyan rapper, were both major contributors to his personal music style. For Tray, music was far
more than just a form of entertainment. He connected with musicians on a distinctively personal level,
immersing himself within the thoughts and emotions of their songs.
Tray began recording in October 2010, and despite having no previous musical experience, the process
for him turned out to be completely organic. Because Tray was already used to writing poetry as a
means of expression, he found a natural fit in the lyric-friendly style of hip-hop. He writes all of his own
lyrics, so each of his songs serves as a personal narrative about his life and experiences. Tray considers
his style of music as distinct, inimitable and revolutionary, referring to it as “world music” due to its
Tray sites among his musical influences artists such as Nas, The Fugees, Damian Marley, Bamboo, Jay-
Z, Common, Eryka Badu, Tupac and The Beatles. While he draws inspiration from multiple disciplines of
music, he does not feel as though a specific genre exists that could accurately categorize his art or the
message that he portrays in his music.
With recurring themes of positivity and self-awareness throughout his songs, Tray hopes to reshape the
image of contemporary rap and reintroduce hip hop as an art form. He understands that art is a very
genuine and intimate form of expression, a concept that is noticeably absent from rap music today. He
feels as though hip hop can be a useful mechanism for promoting education, inspiration and positive
influence. Through stories he shares and lessons he conveys, Tray wants to change the world, and he
hopes that his music inspires the same.