Tracey Lee Drops ‘The Theme (It’s Party Time)’ – Today in Hip-Hop
XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
Feb. 4, 1997: Twenty-six years ago, Tracey Lee had the clubs popping when he dropped his debut single, “The Theme (It’s Party Time).” On this day in 1997, the celebratory track was the kick-off single for his first album, Many Facez, and became Tracey’s signature hit.
Tracey Lee was born in Buffalo, N.Y., but was raised primarily in Philadelphia, Pa. Growing up, he learned how to rap by studying the Philly greats like Schoolly D, Steady B, Fesh Prince (aka Will Smith) and others. While a college student at D.C.’s Howard University, Tracey connected with Deric “D-Dot” Angellitie and Ronald “Amen-Ra” Lawrence, who would later emerge as members of Bad Boy Entertainment’s in-house production team, The Hitmen.
After graduating from Howard University with a degree in Communications, Tracey went to New York to pursue a rap career and eventually signed with Mike Pitts’ Bystorm Entertainment imprint. Once he got put on, the Philly-based rhymer enlisted D-Dot and Amen-Ra to create some upbeat music for his debut album, Many Facez.
The result was the club banger “The Theme (It’s Party Time),” produced by D-Dot, which sampled Pieces of a Dream’s 1982 song “Mt. Airy Groove” and Malcolm McLaren’s classic 1983 tune “World’s Famous.” The call-and-response hook borrows a melody from the sing-along Schoolhouse Rock jingle, “A Noun Is a Person, Place or Thing.”
“It’s Party Time” spent 37 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs chart (peaking at No. 55) and peaking at No. 6 on the Hot Rap Songs chart for the week ending on March 29, 1997. Additionally, an official remix was released called “The After Party (The Theme II),” featuring Pirate and Busta Rhymes.
After his short-lived rap career, Tracey Lee went to law school and graduated with a Juris Doctor from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. He currently practices as an entertainment attorney. Outside of being a lawyer, Tracey is an independent artist releasing his albums through his imprint, LLeft Entertainment. His latest project, Glory, dropped in September 2021.
On Jan. 1, 2023, Tracey Lee dropped a video for the reboot of “Party Time” called “Party Time XXV,” featuring producer Ojizz, which commemorated the 25th anniversary of the song in 2022. The visual was directed by Don Trunk, along with Lee’s longtime friend, and engineer, Young Guru.