One of the realest rappers out there TEF XL drops another banger single with “Deuces,” a powerful track full of character and wisdom. The Florida-native has been making a name for himself as one of the most authentic rappers of his generation and his latest song proves just that. We sat down with the talented musician for an exclusive talk so enjoy it!
Tell us a bit about your latest single “Deuces”! How did the track come along and how did you pick the title?
We knew Deuces was a banger when Mactrakz (our producer) first sent the track to me. We were remixing some other songs for my upcoming album “Code Switch” and Mac just tossed this one in the files he emailed over for me to review. As soon as the track came on, I found my head bopping to the track, then the hook just came to me, and the rest of the song was a no brainer. I think I arrived at the title “Deuces” by reflecting on how often we use the term when parting ways or when expressing peace to someone. Then I started thinking about how often I see others use the deuces sign when taking photos, or whatever. After all, twenty-two is a master number “I chuck two twos, like twenty twos’….”
How would you describe yourself as an artist and what makes you different from your peers?
Out of all the press I’ve received, a recent comment in a music mag resonated the most. It stated “TEF brings back the realness of rap music.” Man, to hear how the music community validated what I want to achieve with my music was a pivotal moment for me. I grew up in the adolescence era of hip hop where beats, rhymes, and metaphors have always been used to speak truth to power and challenge the status quo. As hip-hop music has evolved, it seems like we’ve lost some of the true elements of rap. My style of rap bridges the gap between the art of storytelling and challenging social norms while integrating aspects of current music. As an artist I’m constantly learning, growing, pushing past boundaries to explore new ways to express myself. I want my music to move listeners to be assertive about what they want and go get it.
Are you planning on diving into different genres or focus more on rapping and Hip-Hop?
Music has always moved organically through me. I enjoy all music. I have dabbled in R&B, Neo-soul, Pop, and Rock. I really enjoy live instrumentation and would like to eventually do a full album with live instrumentation. While my immediate plans are to dominate the hip hop, and R&B/Neo-Soul space I remain open to opportunities to collaborate with other artists and expand my horizons.
As someone who’s been in the game for so long, what are some of your favorite memories or interactions in the music industry?
The memories are extensive, however I think my favorite memory in the music industry is touring with major artists that I was co-promoting at the same time. As a promoter I’ve had my hands in the promotion of some of the hottest names in the game over the years from Notorious Big to Lil Wayne. One night I was performing with TI on the King of the South tour in Knoxville, TN. I was promoting a single titled “Bounce.” In every city I felt crowd engagement, but I always knew why the crowd was there and who they wanted to see. However, that night the crowd was lit and my set was right before TI came on stage. I’m not sure if it was the energy in the room or the energy I projected, but that night the crowd embraced TEF. It’s a memory and feeling I will never forget plus it was special because Knoxville is the birthplace of my biological mother who I lost when I was 12. Big ups to Knoxville, TN.
An innovative and versatile artist, what would you say is your strongest suit in making music?
I’d have to say my ability to blend in with the music and let my voice become an instrument. The way I flow is based on the rpms and instrumentation of the music, I always flow with the music and let my style become one with the track. It allows me to be free and one with any type/style of music regardless of the genre.
What event or experience in your life made you want to commit to making music? Or was it always natural for you to be a musical artist?
You know, I’ve written and made music since I was a teen coming up in the streets – I used rap to voice the things I saw and experienced. It also provided me a way of connecting with the ladies (wink). I put down my pen for a while when I committed to a professional leadership journey and arrived in the healthcare business. The stereotypes associated with rap do not fit with the image expected of a business executive, so it felt like a risk. A few years ago, I was in an executive training program and picked up two books Mastery by Robert Greene, and Mastering Leadership by Anderson and Adams. In both books the authors speak about levels of personal growth and how to truly become a master of anything you must embrace “every” aspect of yourself including your shadow self. In that moment, I realized I had tucked away aspects of me (my shadow self) when it wasn’t necessary. So here I am, penning the experiences I had tucked to conform. That’s why I call my album Code Switch. It’s the process you go through to conform to societal norms, in exchange for authentic existence. In the album I take you on my journey through socioeconomic circumstances, social justice experiences, and complex relationships to arrive at a new beginning. My life today is a savory recipe of authenticity, intention, and freedom.
Would you like to collaborate with other artists? If so, who would you like to work with?
I love working with other creatives. I especially love collaborating with producers and artist that push me to stretch beyond my comfort space. That said, I’d love to collaborate with J-Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Ro James, Anderson Paak, SZA, Ari Lennox, Chris Stapleton, Kirk Whalum, Melanie Fiona, Mac Ayres; the list goes on and on. I got some connections to make sure. I think they would be a great compliment to my style of music and push me to stretch beyond my current artistic expression. I’m open though to what the Universe serves me.
What are your desired milestones as a musician?
Ah, I submit my mind to stay grounded in my here and now knowing that anything is possible.