Patience is most virtuous in Hip-Hop. Today’s rapper wants his recognition yesterday for what he promises he’ll do tomorrow. The result is rarely something that sticks to the ribs of the fans. Teflon, though his name is ironic, is lodged between the heart and the ribs of Hip-Hop. He has no intention of getting out.
The Brownsville, Brooklyn native has been grinding for over a decade. From a rare release in the 90’s, to acclaimed work with Das EFX and M.O.P., Tef has paid every due imaginable. As he exits a botched deal with Def Jam, Teflon prepares to deliver his Contraband outside the walls of a major, but within the Headquarterz of DJ Premier’s Works of Mart. In celebration of the oncoming album and recent mixtape with Big Mike, Teflon and AllHipHop.com admire his patient career, trace his First Family ties, and revisit the magic of D&D Studios. Teflon’s words are as sharp as his trademark raspy battle-cry. Read on…
AllHipHop.com: What have you been up to in 2005?
Teflon: Mostly studio work, prep time type thing. We wrapping this album up, it’s called Contraband – myself and DJ Premier, we been workin’ on it for a little minute. But we ran into some technical difficulties with Def Jam, behind the scenes stuff. So we had to get all the back structure right. Now, we just layin’ the groundwork and gettin’ this album ready for the street.
AllHipHop.com: So this Big Mike mixtape serves as a way to educate fans on your background?
Teflon: Yeah, it’s just kinda like an appetizer for the streets. It gets the people reacquainted with Teflon, let ’em know that I got some new s**t about to drop. We got like 23 joints on there, the name is “Bad News Volume 1” – freestyles, old joints.
AllHipHop.com: I think the average fan might lump you in with your work with M.O.P. I want to stray away from that, but at the same time, tell me how your bond with the First Family came about?
Teflon: I came up in Brownsville, [Brooklyn] – the same part of town as M.O.P. They put me on and all of that. My main thing is, from way back, I always had a love for the artform. People like Rakim, G Rap and Kane, they inspired me to get into the business. I had a lil’ knack for it when I was younger. I played with [rap] a lil’ bit. I never really took it serious ’cause there was so many other things going on in my life that took precedence over it. I never really looked at it as something serious to get into. As time went on, I started becoming a little sharper and began to realize that I may be able to pull this s**t off. Now, it’s just about me establishing my own ground and showin’ people what Tef’s all about.
AllHipHop.com: Brownsville is a densely populated region. Smoothe and Trigga are from there. What was it about you that shined to Danz and Fame?
Teflon: Before the whole music s**t started, I knew Billy, I knew Fame, I knew Fame’s brother. I used to be on the block, hangin’ out, gettin’ money on the block. Them other dudes wasn’t comin’ on the block, they wasn’t really allowed on the block. When the whole music started happening, I was gettin’ into my thing, [ M.O.P.] was gettin’ into they thing, Smoothe and them was gettin’ into they thing, and they was kinda like from a couple blocks away and never really hung out with dudes. [M.O.P.] done seen me do dirt, they know how I get it in. They might not felt like that ’bout everybody. Even though they musical dudes, they are from the street – so they are real high on principle and respect. If you ain’t do it, they ain’t gonna cosign. So if you runnin’ with ’em, you gotta be dope and you gotta be about what you talk about.
AllHipHop.com: So when did they know you were dope?
Teflon: One time my man had set me up to do a lil’ show in Tompkins Park in Bed Stuy. At the time, Fame and them had “How About Some Hardcore?” out. I asked Fame to DJ for me at the joint, ’cause he knows how to. He came to the show and DJ’d for me, and Bill [Danz] was there. Everything just started gettin’ so good that they wound up gettin’ hyped, and wantin’ to perform. After that, I went to a club with them that night and performed. We went to the studio, the radio station. I started opening up shows for them. Unofficially, I just kinda became they hype-man or whateva.
AllHipHop.com: “Ante Up” and Pharaohe’s “Simon Says” were one of the last times street records just were undeniable to the radio. Both M.O.P. and Monch used those opportunities to put on great MC’s on the remix. What did the remix do for your career?
Teflon: It definitely brought about more of an awareness of who Tef was, as well as M.O.P. When they did that joint, it gave the world an opportunity to see. It gave me a platform to follow-up. There started bein’ interest in places there probably wasn’t before.
AllHipHop.com: Last question regarding them. But as somebody from the block with these dudes, how have you felt the affects of the G-Unit deal?
Teflon: Listen, I’m coming down the block and I just heard “How About Some Hardcore?” on the radio, and I saw Fame. They just had a cassette tape of To The Death which wasn’t even out yet. He gave it to me. When I put that joint on and I was walkin’ down the hill at the time, I was fresh home from just doin’ some time in jail. I couldn’t really be out and about like that. But man, when I listened to that, all I could say was, “These n***as are gonna blow!” I knew these n***as had it. When I look at their situation, it’s like gettin’ a diploma after you done went to school seven or eight years. They earned it! I felt like that in ’94, I feel like that now.
AllHipHop.com: As a true blue New Yorker, why is the South so successful right now?
Teflon: Point blank, it’s like this: you started off with these dudes down South sellin’ s**t out the trunk of they car. Now, you might have one dude who might be like the absolute dude in his town, and the town will get behind him. So this will move 50-100,000 [dollars] from the trunk of his car. By the time the majors come to these dudes, they gotta spend 15-20 million to even holla at these n***as. [laughs] “And if not, no problem. We just dropped a mixtape that’ll do another $100,000! So you ain’t really said nothin’ slick. Unfortunately, New York is cluttered with 1,000’s of f**kin’ rappers. Even if you got a dude that’d be considered “that n***a”, dudes ain’t really gettin’ behind him because everybody else wanna be chief. What ends up happenin’ is all the hagglin’, the bulls**t, the beefs – all that silly s**t, meanwhile these dudes down South, they eatin’, organized. Their strength is more than New York.
AllHipHop.com: Right, right. You mentioned Def Jam earlier. You’re no longer there?
Teflon: We got the deal with Def Jam in 2001. I signed to Def Jam through Premier’s production label which is called Works of Mart. When I got there, as an honorable gesture, I tried to bring awareness back to the Def Jam I grew up [by recording] “Tef’s Def Jam”. We was supposed to have been puttin’ together an album. After the TVT [Records lawsuit], Kevin Liles left. Unfortunately, Kevin was the one handling our project. When they left, the whole administration broke down. When they had Jay-Z come in, we thought s**t was gonna be sweet. “Oh, Jay came in. I know him and Preem go back, whateva.” I don’t know what happened…
AllHipHop.com: So your Contraband project is coming out independently, not Def Jam?
Teflon: Nah, I don’t consider it Def Jam. Them mothaf**kas ain’t done nothin’ for me. Right now, we open agents. We got our own destiny.
AllHipHop.com: Little known fact is that you had an album, My Will released on Relativity in 1997. That had to mean a lot to you. What does it mean to you now?
Teflon: The experience was a good experience for me. I had to pretty much do the album in three weeks. I did it kinda quick, a lil’ rushed. I wasn’t as crazy about the production. At the time, just comin’ into the game, there was a lot of technicalities of the game that I didn’t understand. One being that – all dopes ain’t necessarily the beats for you. I couldn’t distinguish that. This is where Premier came in. Because after releasing that, nobody [still] knew who Tef was. They might’ve heard me do a verse on an M.O.P. album, they still ain’t know how to address me, as far as production. It was a good opportunity for me to let industry and street people know that I do got potential. It was raw at the time. Now I got a clear perspective.
AllHipHop.com: I would probably guess that much of your career is defined by patience. Every studio has a couch with hungry cats waitin’ their turn. Being that dude, what advice do you offer today’s restless young talents that don’t wanna wait?
Teflon: Nothing has taught me patience in this world like dealin’ with this business. When I started off, occassionally, I’d be able to get on a track here, or a track there. For the most part, when it became time for Teflon to put Teflon’s album together, it was a whole different story. It was hard for me to get into the studio, hard for me to book times – it wasn’t goin’ down like that. I had to be patient on that note. Somebody once told me that, “Nobody is ever gonna pay more attention to your s**t than you are.” If other people see that you’re not working hard, it’s not gonna bare much importance to them. But when they see you working, that’s when they get the ball moving a lil’ more. You gonna have to work out times, you gonna have to work out a mix engineer, you gonna have to get the joint pressed up. You tellin’ somebody the picture ain’t always gonna do it, they gotta see it.
AllHipHop.com: You were a mainstay at D&D Studios, I’m sure…
Teflon: That was home! No bulls**tin’, that was like a clubhouse. You shoot pool, you get your smoke on, your drink on. You got Jay-Z in this room. You got Biggie in that room. Come on, n***a, you couldn’t ask no better place to be at. It was a competive atmosphere because you had all these bangin’ artists comin’ through. When they laid down what they had to lay down, you didn’t wanna look stupid before them or after them. I gotta make sure I’m on-point when I come!
AllHipHop.com: I can remember that pool table. Who was the best pool shot? Who was Eddie Kane?
Teflon: Jay had a good game. I whooped him, he won’t admit it. He whooped me the next time. There were others, but he was the most known guy I can remember playin’.