by Tef Poe
Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from St. Louis City. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His project The Hero Killer was released on January 21st and will followed up by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For The Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get The Hero Killer here.
Every week with my column I try to give a voice to the voiceless. The hip-hop producers of our city are the men and women behind the curtain keeping the culture alive but almost never getting the credit they deserve. I decided I wanted to do something special by interviewing some of the biggest Saint Louis hip-hop producers alive. This week we spoke with the prolific Tech Supreme.
Tef Poe: Whats the biggest record you've produced?
Tech Supreme: My first big record was in the summer of 2009 with Corey Black, called "Finger In My Nose." Although I was already garnering a reputation for hot beats, that was the first time that I heard consistent radio play. Also the amount of fans and support was unreal that year -- a lot of good came of that record. That record I'm not sure was ever eclipsed, but the closest record I have had after that was "Showstealers" and then "Out The Kitchen"...which basically became a cult classic...Someone just last week tweeted me, saying they had no idea I did that track. [Disclosure: "Out the Kitchen" is a Tef Poe track and this high praise was unexpected.]
"Out the Kitchen" seems to be a crowd favorite when I catch a performance of it, and that's always a great indicator of how a record is received. The remix to that record featured Chicago's GLC, which was an absolute honor to have one of the dopest artists that Kanye West worked with on one of my productions. That was a pretty awesome moment when I first heard that record. GLC says "Out The Kitchen" is one of his favorite collaborations point blank period. I think this is crazy because the art of collaboration has became GLC's bread and butter over the course of time.
What other artists have you worked with and what artists would you like to work w/ in the future?
In the future I really want to work on some pop records with Mai Lee and Vega, respectively. I also want to work with Potzee and Murphy Lee on some tracks. I am a huge fan of their work. Also I would like to collaborate with Keem (formerly Hakeem the Dream). I think we could come up with some really dope records. Nationally I would love to work with Black Hippy. Those guys are the natural progression of the future of music. I pretty much want to work with anyone that is talented and making good music. I am focused on making pop records right now. When I put out Supremacy 2 later this year, it's gonna sound different from what I normally sound like. I also look forward to working with artists that are serious about their craft and willing to invest in their own projects.
Corey Black - "Finger In My Nose"
I started producing in 1997 for a group I was in with Young Thunder (then Sci-Fi) and a few other high school friends. From then I went on to produce for Thunder as he went solo. From there I began doing work with people associated with Thunder in a group called The 87 Billion Dollar Click. The group consisted of Thunder, Tef Poe, Family Affair, Gotta Be Karim, I think Rockwell Knuckles was affiliated and a few more. After doing some records here and there for them I made a compilation called Slightly Beneath the Surface. I pretty much sat in my apartment and wrote down the names of every artist in the city that was popping, and set out a plan to do a song with them. It featured Ebony Eyez at the height of her newly signed recording deal, Rockwell Knuckles, Family Affair, Ruka Puff, D-Mac, Da Slu Cru, Spade R.I.P.P.E.R., Nato Caliph, and more. That was around 2007-2008. After that I came up with a plan to release a project a month in the beginning of 2009. I did a rap EP for myself, then a compilation with producer/engineer Dro called Subwoofer.
After that I started working with Corey Black and we dropped The Blackout, which had the aforementioned "Finger In My Nose" track... I worked with Nato Caliph on his R.E.A.C.H. EP. I also dropped another compilation in 2010 called Supremacy. This compilation featured new collaborations with January Ellh, Whiteout, Theresa Payne, Legend Camp, Erich "E-Rich" Richardson, The ChalkBoyz, M.C, Kyjuan, Murphy Lee, Chingy, Gangsta Gritz, William H, Indiana Rome, and others. Currently I am working with Nick "Whiteout" Menn, and Ramel "RT-FaQ" Prince on a collaboration album. I produced a few tracks for Whiteout on his debut album The Good which was just released, as well as a track on RT-FaQ's album that was also recently released I have had the opportunity to have national artists appear on my work such as Killer Mike, GLC, XV, Travis Porter, I-20 and a few others.
What have you personally contributed to the expansion of the St. Louis sound?
That's a difficult question because I can't describe my own legacy. Who can? To some I am completely unknown, but to others I am their favorite producer, locally or nationally. I've had strangers come up to me and tell me I am their favorite. That means the world to me... It takes hard work, dedication, and time, but you can live out your dreams. Whether it's music, my graphic design company Illustrious Vision or my weight loss (100+ pounds), you can do what you set out in your mind. I want producers to sit down at that keyboard and try to be as innovative as possible. Anyone can do a trap beat, it takes five minutes, but lets make some dope chord progressions. Let's make something that sounds like a sample. RT-FaQ told me recently that he loves my tracks because he can't tell if it's a sample or not. That's one of the dopest compliments I've gotten.
Rockwell Knuckles - "Government Name"
Who are you favorite producers?
First and foremost I am my favorite producer. I come up with the illest shit out of nowhere. I don't do drugs, and I barely drink. All of my music comes from my mind, and I love it. Outside of myself one of my favorite producers is Trifeckta. He has such an original sound and he pushes himself every time he makes something. Hands down he is super dope at what he does. When him and Rockwell Knuckles connect it's magic every time -- ask me later about the story of how I introduced them to each other. DJ Needles is one of my favorites too. He can chop up a sample better than anyone I know. He doesn't get enough credit for his production. Then there is Adult Fur. I've had the pleasure of mixing down some records he did with Rockwell Knuckles. Specifically "Wonderful Face" from Take Me to Your Leader. Just listening to what he did to create that track, I was sold. That man is a musical genius. I am a huge fan of Da Band Camp. I don't know all of the members but I know Jackpot and Wolfgang are idiots on them beats. Seriously since the first time I've heard one of their beats, they have consistently amazed me.
Nationally I have been heavily influenced by Timbo the King aka Timbaland. His music is the reason why I started creating music in the late '90s. The uniqueness that he has brought to music for years has been completely inspiring. My goal is to be able to have an impact half as powerful as Timbalands. I am also heavily influenced by the Neptunes. They make music. Amazing chord progression and instrumentation and song writing ability. I have had a taste of song writing, specifically hook writing, and that desire to write definitely was influenced by the Neptunes. My other favorites are Boi-1da, T-Minus, Mike Will, Drumma Boy and so on.
What local hip-hop record do you wish you produced?
For me the mark of a good beat is how envious I get that I didn't make it. The ultimate local record for me that I wish I did (in a total good way) would be Trifeckta's beat for Rockwell Knuckles' "Government Name." That beat is a monster. Plain and simple. Ugly face everytime it comes on. That beat is still one of my favorites to this day. There are only a few beats that I feel like that about rather locally or nationally because as a producer you have to have that confidence that you can do anything musically. When you hear something like "Government Name" and then you get that ugly face, and you focus on those amazing strings -- how do you not get inspired? Easily that record shouldn't be on this list of local records. That should have been a world record. Still could be.