Ep 03: Train Hustle

Lyricist Timothy ‘The Traineater’ Little spits truth on the subway for pay

The New York City subways are crawling with people who want to somehow get your dollar into their pocket, but few do it with such panache as ‘The Traineater’. A Brooklyn-born rhymer and a rapper, whose real name is Timothy Little, he carries a microphone in his hand and a portable speaker on his back. His mission is to make folks smile and think and hand over cash all at the same time. And he’s very good at it. 

“I feel like I share the same feelings as everybody else in this unique era of history that’s passing us right now, but I have the gift of speaking for the people,” Timothy said. “Everybody feels the same way, but I just have a certain way of getting it out through my brain. I don’t care about the money anymore, it’s more about getting the knowledge out there, and inspiring others as well.” 

The Traineater’s routine always starts roughly the same way. He enters a train carriage as stealthily as possible and waits until the doors close and the train starts to move. Putting the mic to his mouth, he does his best impression of a train conductor, making a false announcement about the train skipping all stops due to a giraffe being stuck on the tracks. The reactions he gets range from amused to confused. But before most passengers have a chance to process what’s happening, he steps forward and explains that it was just a joke, assuring all that he’s a “professional smile creator”. Now that he has their attention, he hits them between the eyes with thought-provoking self-penned raps. The subway is his soapbox. He denounces the President, rails against racial inequality, calls for unity in the black community, and insists that slave reparations should be paid.

“I always go with the giraffe routine but I switch up the raps,” he said. “The routine is foolproof. If I don’t do the whole routine, the tips slow down and I have to work harder.”

“I kinda stick to certain rhymes because I know they will reach people who are at certain points in their lives. The money is cool, but the feeling of, yo, I feel you and I can speak for you…honestly, I feel like I’m a lawyer for the people.” 

A resident of Canarsie, Brooklyn, Timothy is inspired by motivational speakers he watches on YouTube and believes his lyrics could have similar effects on a listener. I guess you could call him an infotainer. He’s not rapping about how many carats are in his diamonds, how many females are in his hot tub or how much Hennessy is in his system. He’s rapping about how many black lives have been lost at the hands of police, how many illegal immigrants have been torn from their families, how many children have died in school shootings, and how little is being done about it all. 

Of course, not everyone is comfortable hearing it, and the public nature of the forum in which he operates means he’s occasionally subject to abuse.

“This bum lady spit in my face, but I can’t say I have many bad days on the train,” he said. “I’m just going around making people smile and having fun. If I can make 100 people smile a day, get one dollar from 100 people, it’s a pretty cool job. 

“A bad day would be me not making any tips at all and coming home hungry and not being able to feed myself as The Traineater.”

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