The young man sitting across from me is soft-spoken and polite. Few would guess he’s the musical genius behind power soca hits like 2018’s Road March ‘Soca Kingdom,’ which features local legends, Machel Montano and Super Blue, and swept the nation within hours of its release. Since then, 23-year-old DJ and music producer, Travis Hosein—known in the industry as Travis World—has successfully crossed a few other dream artists off his professional bucket list. In 2019, he worked with Kees Dieffenthaller and Kes The Band on ‘Pepper’; with Lyrikal on crowd favourite ‘Zig Zag’; and with Grammy award-winning R&B singer Ashanti on what he says is his Road March ‘The Road’, which also features Machel Montano. By now, Hosein’s tracklist is longer than the number of years he has been alive.
“I grew up in the heart of Carnival. In San Fernando, on Carib Street,” he says, laughing. He describes a childhood home located at the intersection of four steelpan yards and mas camps; the noise alone was enough to drive the average person mad. But not him. With no real interest in playing an instrument, young Hosein watched the music trucks go by, wanting to know how to outfit a music truck and how to create and mix their music.
Travis’ tracklist is longer than the number of years he has been alive.
His first professional DJ gig was for an audience of 500 at the San Fernando Creative Arts Centre when he was 13. Not long after, he performed at a birthday party, where he met Joel “Signal To Noise” Morris, who went on to give Hosein his first regular radio gig at SLAM 100.5 FM. Although he still DJs at SLAM from time to time, his goal is to rival the likes of Calvin Harris and Major Lazer—DJs so skilled that their names appear on the songs they produce rather than the names of the vocalists—but in soca music. With a recent hour-long soca set on the BBC Radio 1’s Diplo and Friends under his belt, Hosein is on his way.
“I looked up YouTube tutorials, downloaded amateur programs, and started doing my own mixes. They were not good.” He chuckles. “I listen to some of my old mixes now and wonder why people still play them.” But his reaction is proof of how far he has come.
In 2014, he met songwriter Jovan James, responsible for 2016’s ‘Temperature’ by Machel, on which Hosein also worked, and 2018’s ‘Sweet Fuh Days’ by Patrice Roberts. James became a mentor and partner. The pair worked on Hosein’s first ever released project and his first title-winning song: ‘Mash Up International’ by Skinny Fabulous, St. Vincent’s 2015 Power Soca Monarch winner.
Looking back, the young producer says, “Fifteen-year-old Travis didn’t have a lot of confidence, so if I could tell him anything, it would be to believe in himself.” Knowing other people in the industry believe in him has helped. It was Ashanti’s DJ, DJ Smooth City, who reached out to Hosein to work on a Carnival project for her. ‘The Road’ had been written by Jovan James and produced a year earlier, but both he and Montano were waiting for the right time and opportunity to record a final version. Hosein ran the idea of an Ashanti collaboration by Montano and sent the song off to DJ Smooth City shortly after. Ashanti loved it. She and Montano recorded the song in one night at a studio in Brooklyn in 2018.
Most of his projects have the same organic ease and flow. The first minute of his biggest hit, ‘Soca Kingdom,’ came together in a matter of hours in the studio, with a writer even younger than he is, Prince Pronto. The finished track was one of three songs (including 2018’s ‘Doh Play Dat’ and 2019’s ‘The Road’) that Hosein sent to Montano for consideration in 2017. On the second day of recording in early 2018, Montano had a chance meeting with Super Blue and decided he might be just what the song was missing. The two had never recorded together. It was the first time Hosein was unable to keep up with the media attention and audience frenzy one of his songs had received.
Hosein does chaos well. “In this industry, success and money fluctuate,” he says, explaining that as an expectant father, he worried about how he would provide for his son, but always had the support of his parents. It wasn’t until his ‘Soca Kingdom’ Road March win, during his son’s first year, that Hosein felt confident in his ability to maintain his livelihood as a DJ and a producer.
This year, he will travel to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Miami, London, and Berlin to perform. Now, when he sends beats to vocalists and writers he hopes to work with, the response is overwhelming. About his latest rhythm ‘Yard Jam,’ which he already has 16 songs lined up for artistes including Machel Montano, Sekon Sta, Beenie Man, and his second Grammy award-winning R&B singer, Mya, he says, “It’s like I was shooting for the stars and the stars shot back at me.” But from the sound of it, Hosein isn’t just among the stars. He’s a star, too.