"I'm trying my best to introduce a new Tef Poe sound every time I release something. My goal is to make some of my misplaced aggression sound beautiful," says Tef Poe. His undiluted honesty and clarity of vision have always made Tef one of the most arresting rappers in St. Louis. The first song to emerge from his upcoming full-length, War Machine 2, is characteristically unfiltered. "I want the listeners to observe the artistic value of violence and social protest," he says. "I'm hoping this body of music will help me calm down a few of my own insecurities."
His career outside the city got a boost when Chicago rapper GLC, who is singed to Kanye West's G.O.O.D. label, jumped on the remix of Tef's burner "Out The Kitchen." He's now hard at work on the aforementioned full-length, and its first single is here. "Satallite" was produced by Tech Supreme (like "Out The Kitchen"), and features Theresa Payne on the hook. It's a spacious song, with plenty of room between lonesome synth swells for Tef to introspect. Listen below, and read the rest of our interview, with more details on War Machine 2 and Tef's assessment of the St. Louis music scene.
"Satellite" by Tef Poe featuring Theresa Payne (produced by Tech Supreme)
Kiernan Maletsky: Did anything in particular inspire "Satellite"?
Tef Poe: Right now I'm making music with an overload of realism. My musical buzz right now as a rapper is extremely high. My name is circulating in many different places. I'm travelling to different cities meeting small pockets of people that are fans of mine. I'm fighting to break myself in other markets outside of St.Louis. I can turn on the radio and hear my voice at random sometimes.
But at the end of the day I have very little money. I'm frustrated, and I don't have any answers. I'm meeting different people left and right claiming they have the answers. I'm praying on the daily asking for help from somewhere. I just want to be honest with the listeners. I made this song simply to remind myself of the mission statement. I think everyone is going through something behind closed doors.
The beauty of Tef Poe is that you get to witness my self-destruction right before your very eyes. [Laughs]
Life is hard, Everyone has problems, yet at the end of the day if you believe in yourself you will eventually overcome all obstacles. So I made this song for anyone that may be able to relate. I have a special relationship with Theresa Payne. I honestly don't think my music would be the same without her.
Were you looking to show the people who found out about you through "Out The Kitchen" a different side of your style?
I didn't necessarily think about the range of the audience when I wrote this song. I wasn't really thinking about single material, radio spins or blog postings. I wrote the verses the day before I wrote the hook.
I was excited about the beat because it sounds like it has its own spirit. Tech has been on me a lot lately to make sure I'm not making "Out The Kitchen Part 2." OTK has quickly become a classic - I remember telling Tech we had something special the day we recorded it. I talked to GLC last week and told him he changed my life by reaching out to us for the remix. The process behind "Satellite" was a bit more simplistic. Theresa Payne is currently working on her solo project. I wrote the hook in a matter of maybe five to ten minutes. Theresa took over from there and added her touch to it. Tech debated whether or not the hook worked, and as usual I made him eat those word with the response the record has received. [Laughs]
Who else are you working with on War Machine 2?
Well, right now I'm still reaching out to different artists, but of course I have my core collaborators Rockwell Knuckles and Theresa Payne. Rocky and I are currently working our EP together, so the journey has been rough. I was hoping I'd have the War Machine 2 project completed by June. Honestly, my creative juices haven't started flowing properly until recently. As of right now the War Machine 2 cast is Tech Supreme, Rockwell Knuckles, Theresa Payne, GLC, Urban Legendz, Black Spade, Adult Fur with vocals on the intro and a few new producers. I don't want to let the names of the new producers out at this moment - truth be told every rapper reading this article will get on Twitter and hound them for beats. [Laughs]
I'm trying my best to introduce a new Tef Poe sound every time I release something. My goal is to make some of my misplaced aggression sound beautiful. I want the listeners to observe the artistic value of violence and social protest. I'm hoping this body of music will help me calm down a few of my own insecurities.
How is the St. Louis music scene different now than it was when you were just starting?
I think the scene is becoming more global. As indie artist we have to remember it takes a lot of endurance to get goals accomplished. But we have battle rappers making national headlines in the world of hip-hop. Last week Rockwell Knuckles had the song of the day on NPR. We have artist like Vandalyzm releasing high quality projects to national fan bases.
I'm hoping in the upcoming year the genres will mesh more. I'd like to see the indie rock hipsters hangout with the artsy-fartsy part time hip-hop hipsters. [Laughs] I'd like to see the London Calling guys and gals at more hip-hop events and vice versa. We live in a very segregated city and hip-hop is helping us break down those barriers. Stupidity and racism have cheated our city for far too many years. I think the music scene is finally stepping into its own light while correcting this problem.
Dear St. Louis: it's not 1961. The Jim Crowe era is over. I think the hip-hop community is currently fighting to prove we can compete with the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Jay Cole, Curren$y, and Jay Electronica. In the hip-hop world our city is known more so for club/party music. There's nothing wrong with that, but people are starting finally realize there can only be one Nelly.
What is still missing from the scene?
Ummm, Good question. Here's my answer: A Universal/ Def Jam, Interscope/Shady Records, Good Music, Fool's Gold or Bad Boy Records building conveniently located on Market or Locust. [Laughs]
My next project, War Machine 2, will teach babies how to fly.