Traffic Lee

Life has no linear path to success and growth, it ebbs and flows – it offers you challenges and successes – but at the end of the day, you’re in the driver seat and ultimately in control of your destination. Our next guest has taken the road less traveled and has come out on the other side with passion, drive, and determination to not only be the best he can for himself, but to be the best and inspire the community of which he holds so closely to his heart.

Please welcome, Traffic.

What You Need To Know

  • Born and raised in Austin.
  • Official SXSW artist in 2023
  • Operates a non-profit to help underprivileged families and youth.
Connect with Traffic at — @traffic_lee

Traffic and I snagged time together one afternoon and got into it.

“I’m from Austin originally, I moved to Philly briefly but essentially came back when I was 9 or so.” Traffic explained. “I’m a born and raised east-sider, from 12th street where our studio is now. But yeah man as a kid I went to all the local schools – my parents didn’t have much as it came to finances so shit got rough and I moved around a lot.”

The east side of Austin Traffic remembers isn’t like how the east side is to us today. For Traffic, he had to grow up fast to make ends meet for himself, and for his family.

“As a kid, you didn’t know you were in poverty you just knew fun – but eventually I did become aware and led me to hustling and doing what I could to make ends meet. I started hanging out with people that led me into the streets, which started for me around age 10. My upbringing was me trying to figure shit out. I started off mowing lawns, then gravitated towards returning luggage carts at the airport for .25 cents a pop – all the money I made I was just giving to my parents. I knew we didn’t have a lot and that’s really where hustling started for me.”

When talking to Traffic, you can hear in his voice that the guy has a lot of life experience. But, he wants you to know that the street life stigma isn’t always what you think.

“That’s how street life started for me – I always made straight A’s in school and never skipped, but people always think street people, are bad people. Most things are done out of desperation, and many don’t have a choice.” Traffic described. “It’s not that they are bad people, it’s just that they are trying to figure everything out – coming from one place and trying to get to another – but it did lead to my wakeup call.”

Traffic pauses for a moment, leans forward and continues.

“My turn around came when I went to prison. I got 20 years, ended up doing 7. I spent most of my time reading and learning about what else was out there for me. I started to self-educate myself on the person I wanted to be, I never wanted to be a criminal – it’s a miracle that I’m here to be honest, it could have gone 100 different ways – I’m very blessed.”

We pivot to talk about where he is at now, and where he is focused on going.

“I’m really focused now on building that mogul mentality. I have a ton of information to connect people with. That’s why we built the eastside complex. Austin really doesn’t have a hip-hop scene and music is in my soul and how I express myself.”

The eastside complex is a recording studio and event space that I’ve personally visited and attended some events. It’s welcoming and open – and just one of many interest areas Traffic is exploring.

“American Pie clothing company is another project I’m working on – it’s a clothing brand inspired off the idea that everyone is coming to America, chasing a dream. Whatever your dream or business is – we each get up every day and chase it. Then I also have a non-profit called Let Us Dream, which focuses on planting seeds in the local youth. We want to inspire kids and show them that they can be anything they want to be – and manifestation is real. We started it about eight or nine years ago and help out around Christmas time and other holidays – it’s been great, the local fire department has come out, we’ve collaborated with Austin FC and UT too.”

Traffic’s desire to connect people goes deeper than his projects, however.

“I really love bringing all different types of people together and explain to them one by one that – this is where I come from. There’s a version people know and a version I know. There are still many people in our community who are struggling, and I try my best to blend together people from West Lake and people from the east side – it’s my passion to be the bridge between.”

Traffic stops for a moment, thinks – leans in and continues.

“There are kids still doing bad shit – I was doing shit so young that wasn’t good – but now I have influence and tell people you CAN make it out of this, and this is how you can do it. I’m focused on being a mentor for the youth on how to live, how to act and that if you never think to look what’s in door number 3, you’ll just keep living in door 1 and 2.” Traffic explains. “People see me coming out on the other side and though I have a long way to go, I’ve come a long way – and so can others.”

Traffic and his growth are all energy based – it’s a progression, he is true to who he is, what he believes and where he envisions his life’s purpose taking him.

“The name Traffic is the free flow of energy through good thoughts and good deeds” Traffic explains with a smile. “This is who I was the entire time I just now have the opportunity. People are human and want to understand and I have music as my microphone to relate with the world. With music, I hope to shed light on situation and Austin as a city. I’m just authentically myself, I am those kids that don’t or never had anything.”

We close, in typical fashion – advice.

“Take the time out to love yourself and everyone you come into contact with. Everybody is someone. We are all misunderstood and trying to figure out why we are here. We love everyone because that’s how we are blessed.

Who you are is what comes to you. You’re going to need a blessing from someone along the way. If you do things from the heart – when your time to ask for something, it’s just going to fall out of the sky and into your lap. Karma is real – if you put out good things, you can expect good things.”

Traffic again leans forward, with some more words of wisdom.

“Question and challenge everything – not in a negative way but in a way to see what it is. There are hidden things and gems in everything that surrounds us. Questions bring solutions and answers – that’s what pushes the culture forward. Don’t accept what the news tells you, you must figure life out for yourself. Trusting your gut and dreams and dreaming big – there’s a reason that thought is coming to you, follow it, seek it – and of course, have fun along the way, after all – life is a journey.”

As we end our talk and go our separate ways – I can’t help but have respect for Traffic and what he stands for. The man has lived through things that most people will never experience and has done so with a smile on his face. His energy is tangible, his inspiration is contagious.

Traffic truly embodies the transfer of energy between himself, and everyone he meets. Though some pages of his past have already been written, books have many chapters – and his future writings will not only change the Austin community but change the world – for better.

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