Trevor Sales grew up 70 miles from Chicago in La Porte, Ind., but in some ways, especially when it comes to his musical tastes, it’s as if he was born in the heart of the Windy City.
The 6-foot-2, 327-pound University at Buffalo center may be college football’s biggest rapper. He rhymes under the name “Big T’ and creates mix tapes and live shows. While white rappers tend to draw comparisons to Eminem and Macklemore, Sales and his group, “Big T & the Lab Rats,” is styled after the wide-ranging hip-hop/neo soul band The Roots. Two videos can be found on YouTube, “Funknasty Funk” and “Can You Feel Me,” which was shot in a junk yard in LaPorte.
He drops couplets like this:
I’m from Indiana small town (umm, forget) the glamour;
Right next to Chi-town but we ain’t got the twanky grammar;
Whack rappers crack me up like they’re Adam Sandler;
If you’re blessed enough to meet my mom you better mind your manners.
“One of the things about me is that I’m not just into one genre,” said Sales, a junior whose team is on a bye week. “You can find me playing anything from old school and classic rock to rap and hip hop to the blues to jazz. It all starts there.”
Sales jotted down rhymes in class in sixth grade, influenced by the sounds of Chicago’s WGCI, long billed as the city’s No. 1 radio station for hip hop and R&B. Sales listened and arned as WGCI cranked out his favorites like Kanye West, Common, Ludacris and Nelly, old school artists like Ice-T and Run DMC.
“I was kind of all over the map there with who I was listening to,” Sales said.
As a high school freshman, Sales met local DJ Joe Ault, who loved hip hop and creating beats.
“Ever since then it’s been a passion in my life, if not the biggest,” Sales said. “Besides playing football, of course.”
Sales and Ault went on the hunt for anything soulful on vinyl – like Earl Klugh, O’Jays and the Supremes – tossed them on the turntables and created beats.
“It was a real vintage approach, to say the least,” Sales said. “Real good old school stuff like. It really didn’t matter what it was, just anything that had a nice groove to it, some soul in it, some funk in it. That’s kind of what it was all about.”
Last year he ventured into music videos and shot “Funknasty Funk” and “Can You Feel Me” with the help of a friend.
“I know a girl who I went to high school with who is very tech savvy,” Sales said. “We just decided, ‘What the heck?’ I said, ‘you have a nice camera, I’ve got nice flows and I got some buddies who are down with me so we were like let’s do it.’ She did that for free and it kind of took off from there.’’
He garnered positive comments on YouTube, such as: “Damn Idk who this dude is but his rhymes are ill,” and “Glad I caught this track! Big T you sound like some of the great ones from days gone by.”
He was recruited out of LaPorte by Adam Shorter, now the offensive line coach at UB, to attend Delaware State, a historically black college in Dover. Sales fit right in.
“That was definitely a cool thing,” Sales said. “It was a very short, short span in my life being there for one full semester, but just being there and being close to the culture it was a great thing for me to experience. It was great seeing a different part of the county and it helped shape me a little bit.”
After a coaching change, Sales reached out to Shorter at UB, where he’s started the last 15 games at center.
“Before I got to Del State he got the job here at Buffalo but I still went to Del State,” Sales said. “I came out for a visit during winter break and the rest is history I guess.”
Sales is noncommittal about seeking a music career. Heard of broke rappers? Sales doesn’t want to be one.
“It’s definitely a big passion but the fact of the matter is there’s not a lot of cash in it,” said Sales, a business management major with a focus on finance. “I’m trying to leave it open. I’m not going to say 100 percent yes but I’m not saying no, either. I’m going to do what I can with it.”