By Percy Crawford (@MrLouis1ana)
(AllHipHop Features) Tsu Surf has stepped on the battle grounds for many years battling some of the top battle rappers in the game. He eventually emerged to becoming one of the top battle rappers himself. After a successful run on the battle field and after dropping several mixtapes, the Newark, New Jersey native has emerged to a full-fledged emcee and his latest project, “Seven 25” exhibits his ability to stand with the best in the game when it comes to producing a quality studio album. Unfortunately, the more fame the more problems as, Surf experienced first hand when he was shot 5-times while sitting in his car back in July. In fact, the title of his album, “Seven 25” was named after the date and time he was shot. “Seven 25” is laced with several top collaborations like, “Reflections” which features “The Broad Street Bully” himself, Beanie Sigel. Tsu, slows it down on “What Changed” which features vocals from fellow, New Jersey artist, “Cascio. Heavy spitter, Mozzy, Benny The Butcher, Tokyo Jetz and Luccie Fontane rounds out the guest appearances. It appears the shooting only made, Surf more passionate about his craft and hungrier than ever. Having already removed the stigma of the “battle rapper,” label, sky seems to be the limit for, Jersey’s own, Tsu Surf.
I recently caught up with, Tsu Surf who elaborates on his controversial interview on, Vlad TV, he talks about being in the studio 2-weeks after being shot 5-times and explains friendships with, Kevin Durant and James Harden.
AllHipHop: First things first, I definitely want to give you the opportunity to shout out the fallen soldier, Tech 9.
Tsu Surf: We definitely need a moment for, Tech 9. Rest in peace to, Tech 9. That’s a big loss in the battle culture honestly. It’s so fucked up, man. Tech was so young. Tech wasn’t 50-60 years old. The shit is a little spooky being amongst that. I’ve actually spoke with him, shook hands with him and been around him. That shit fucked a nigga up.
AllHipHop: No doubt. The album is out, “Seven 25.” It’s a really hot album. You named it after the day you were shot 5-times. Why did you go that route with it?
Tsu Surf: That’s just the mood I was in. That’s just how I was feeling at the time. I got shot on July 25th and that’s the zone I was in, bro. That’s how I was feeling honestly. That was the mood and the mindset. I’m that type of artist. I like to give what I’m going through and what I’m feeling and shit like that. That’s the state I was in. I was in a dark place. I’m in hospitals, I smelled blood, I smelled hospital beds, I had bullets still in me; shit like that.
AllHipHop: Although you were in a dark place, the album isn’t dark. It’s a variety of moods and melodies on the album, but it’s more upbeat than I think some expected considering what you been through.
Tsu Surf: I definitely wouldn’t call it dark. If I could make my own genre it’s like some emo gangsta rap. If I could freestyle and just randomly make up a genre, it would be that. I don’t see it as dark though. I think it’s just the reality of life. Everybody wanna rap about their chain. I got a $20,000 chain on my neck right now, it’s not that cool. Once you get it it’s not that cool. Some of the baddest bitches in the world are in my DM’s. I’m okay, I’m doing alright for myself to be coming from where I’m coming from. When I calculate where I’m coming from and who I am, it’s way more people like me that came from where I’m from than where I am right now. I could rap about this chain, I could rap about these, “Yeezy’s,” these didn’t even come out yet. They don’t come out until… but who the fuck got em?
AllHipHop: Did you have to pull yourself out of that dark place to do the album?
Tsu Surf: I did that shit in the dark. I didn’t pull myself out. I did that shit in the dark, my nigga. I had a shit bag while I was recorded, I had bullets in me while I was recording, I was still in a cast and still had stitches in my stomach while I was recording. At no point was I okay when I made this tape. I was still going through back to back surgeries. I was in and out of surgery, I had stitches in me… shit my wrist still broke. So, at no point was I out of the space I was in when I made this tape.
AllHipHop: Anytime you go through an ordeal like that, if you survive, they tell you that rest is the key. Yet, you pushed on with the album. Did anyone try to advise you to push the project back?
Tsu Surf: To me I was handling it like a mixtape anyways. It was never a whole album thing to me in the first place. Nah, my management team and the people behind me was obviously more concerned about my health, telling me to slow down and wonder where I’m going and where I’m at.
(Cutting in) Manager Greg Keller: If I could interject, I’m going to throw my two cents in. Percy, he heals like Wolverine. Even when he took those shots, he walked himself to the hospital. It looked way worse than he ever portrayed it. We were the ones trying to tell him to dial it back a little bit. He was back in the studio the week he got out of the hospital. In regard to that, to his credit, he is probably one of the hardest working artists in the game.
AllHipHop: He shares a birthday with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so he gotta be strong.
Tsu Surf: It’s something right. I know it’s something. These numbers are so weird to me. Same birthday as, Dr. King. I got shot at 7:25 on 7/25. That’s weird to me. It’s gotta be something. The police report says I was shot at 7:25 pm and the date was 7/25. That’s spooky. There was no way I could not name my shit, “Seven 25.” I was healing up a little spooky fast. Obviously, I was hurting and going through shit. I was more emotionally going through shit than I was actually hurting. I was out of the hospital in 4 or 5-days and I was recording in 2-weeks.
AllHipHop: I’m a huge, Beanie Sigel fan, so “Reflections” is probably my favorite joint off of the album. Is being a “Beans” fan what made you reach out?
Tsu Surf: Yeah, that’s the GOAT. It’s only a handful of people that I respect prior to me; on the come up. Jada Kiss is a God to me, Beanie Sigel is a God to me Jay-Z is a God to me, 50 Cent is a God to me. For your idols to treat you like their peers is a next level. It’s a feeling that… you really can’t recreate that shit. Being in the studio with, Beanie Sigel. This nigga breathing down your fucking neck and rapping to you and shit. The shit is amazing.
AllHipHop: I read where, “Beans” said it took him some time to get used to his voice sounding the way it is now. Did that take some getting used to being in the booth with him or was that just, “Beans” to you?
Tsu Surf: To me he’s, “Beans.” I would never disrespect. I’m very humble guy when it comes to my elders. He’s Beanie Sigel. I could see why, with him getting hit in the lung his voice is different. I don’t know what he went through, but I know what he went through, you know what I mean. I went through the same situation. The same thing with, 50 Cent. He shows me hella love. 50, see me in the club, all smiles, man. Hug me for like 5-minutes like I’m his fucking nephew or something. It’s crazy the type of love you get. But even with, 50, when he got his, his voice changed. Things happen, but that didn’t take nothing away from him being, Beanie Sigel to me. That’s the “Broad Street Bully.”
AllHipHop: Sometimes battle rappers can’t translate to be an emcee in terms of making great studio albums. You have succeeded in doing this. Did it take some major adjustments in your style or did you just run with the style and it all came together?
Tsu Surf: This “Seven 25” was just a better version of what I already had in me. I don’t think I really did nothing different. The beats are beats I would’ve rapped on when I was 17. Those beats are just in my soul. That’s not an evolution. The concepts of what I’m talking about is what I live. You’re never going to hear, Surf rap about some doors going up until I’m in a car with the doors going up. I’m not going to rap about fucking that million follower Instagram model until I fuck her. Nothing really changed I’m just growing. My life is just growing. I figure maybe the way I catch beats in my pocket, I learned that from, Joe Budden; being on tour with him and living with him. He got me more locked in on the artist part. The actual in the studio focus on what the fuck you got to do part. But the rest of that shit is just life; going to jail, getting shot, trying to raise a kid, having a bunch of people that believe in me and having 100-niggas behind me. I’m fucking, Moses to my guys. I gotta lead, so I’m just learning as I go and I’m trying to grow up.
AllHipHop: When you see 3.2 million hits on the, “I-95” freestyle and 5.8 million hits on the, “Hitman” battle, what does that mean to you? Does that solidify any status in your mind?
Tsu Surf: Nothing! Nothing really honestly. My numbers is just to talk shit. I only bring up numbers when it’s time to argue and talk shit. That’s what makes my craft fun to me. We can talk shit. I can rap better than you… it’s not fun if we can’t talk shit. It’s like “2K” or something with the guys, but the numbers really don’t mean anything to me because this was expected from me. I don’t mean expected like people know I’m going to do it, but I mean personally, I feel as though these numbers are what I’m supposed to be doing. When I sat down with “Bars On I-95 Freestyle,” you could ask them, the very first thing I said was, “Have anybody ever had a million views on here.” He said, “No.” I shook his hand and said, “Don’t worry I got you,” and I did it 3-times over. I said that to him prior to that. There is nothing remotely close a million views on that website. He had 700- subscribers on that channel when I rapped up there. I said, “I got you.” What? Because I know what I’m capable of. I know the results of what could happen when I decide to turn the fuck up; you know what I mean.
AllHipHop: Me personally, I’m not a, Vlad guy. I think his interviews come off as interrogations, but I don’t cast dispersions on anyone. That being said, I think you become somewhat of an overnight legend because you said what a lot of people have felt for years. I wanted to let you elaborate on saying, his interviews get people indicted.
Tsu Surf: My thing is this; I didn’t really get to elaborate on it. I’m catching a few people saying, “Well, if he’s a cop or whatever, why did you go up there?” first and foremost, Vlad is one of the bigger platforms in the world, period. Let’s not take away from the fact that it’s a huge platform, that’s one. Two, I’m not saying that my people or anybody can’t go up there. That’s not what I’m saying, it’s what you say and how you say it. It’s watch what you say. My reason for going on, Vlad, man, I have been trying to get as big as I could since the day I wanted to rap. I couldn’t wait to get on, Vlad to tell him that I thought he was a walking fucking indictment. Again, like I said, my people, my culture and the people that I’m around. My type of people, where I come from, my place, whether it be Newark, New Jersey or fucking Houston, Texas or in L.A. There is a hood everywhere. There is a block everywhere. When you think about, Vlad you just think, “This is my chance.” So, Vlad will finesse, finagle and bullshit you. Vlad’s second question will be, “So, you got shot right?” “Yeah!” His fifteenth question will be, “Oh, he didn’t have a mask on?” You be like, “Nah, he ain’t have no mask on.” And then his thirty second question will be, “So, you know who shot you?” He does that a lot and to a lot of people that may not pay attention, may not know or catch it. It’s easy to for somebody to say, “We are all adults, just don’t go up there and keep your mouth shut.” But come on, I’m here for an interview, so why should I keep my mouth shut. And then you’re not expecting the interviewer to be trying to fucking railroad you.
AllHipHop: I think he is fascinated by the street life and the street culture, but his fascination stems from never being in it. Because if you have been in it, it’s not as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside and he doesn’t want to find out from being on the inside, he would rather find out from stories of people who have been.
Tsu Surf. And that’s another thing. But listen, off camera, Vlad is a great guy. The thing is this, Vlad TV built their following and everything off of our culture and our lifestyle. So now, Vlad thinks that, when he cuts on a camera, he has to talk about somebody getting shot, he has to talk about somebody selling drugs when there are so many other things that can be talked about. There were so many things that I had going on prior to that interview that could have been talked about. The stuff that I was doing with, Mozzy. I was #2 on iTunes in the country, but maybe in Vlad’s world, this just doesn’t look like a great title as much as, “Tsu Surf talked about being up for attempted murder.” This is some type of method to his madness though because the numbers are ridiculous. Vlad TV’s numbers are crazy. My thing is this, people should watch what they say and how they say it and I also think that, Vlad knows exactly what he’s doing.
AllHipHop: For sure. And listen, even though it was for personal gain because people love drama, he didn’t have to post the video of you saying he gets people indicted, so at least he doesn’t have a problem with that being said about him.
Tsu Surf: Exactly! And that’s why I respected him. That right there solidifies to people that, he’s just doing his job. Again, at no point in there did I say you’re not doing your job. I’m not saying he is, but if your job is to be an officer, of course we want to be mad at cops, “Fuck 12,” but realistically they just doing their job. If you’re in the bed and there is fucking noise outside because somebody is doing construction. You’re not going to go outside and shoot the fucking construction site up cause why? They are just doing their job. So realistically, we’re not mad at, Vlad for doing his job, but come on. Surf talked about his dad, he talked about his daughter, about being a victim, he talked about jail and lawyers and how to stay out of jail. How much you need lawyers. I talked about a lot of things. You want to know how he titled it, “Tsu Surf talks about being a member of the Rolling 60 Crips.” That’s what they do. They set us up. They set the narrative who what they want us to look like. So now just say I had other business endeavors. Gatorade wanted to sign me or fucking Spalding or Nike or something, but now when they look me up it says, “Tsu Surf talks about joining a gang.” But realistically when you meet me, you wouldn’t know what I was in. That’s not how I carry myself. You look at some of these titles, “Tsu Surf talks about a shooting or murder,” or blah blah blah, you don’t know that situation. Somebody could’ve been trying to jack my mom and I had to do whatever I had to do or whatever the case may be. Why does that have to be the title for us to get the point across that we are trying to get across? That’s my biggest thing with, Vlad. There is no respect level for my people or my culture. Even this, you gotta think about it, if this isn’t the title a motherfucking cop might not even want to look at it.
AllHipHop: Exactly. Well his defense of, my name isn’t on anyone’s paperwork and I have never stood in court doesn’t hold weight with me because when 911 is called, we don’t necessarily know who called them. We know it’s a nosy neighbor, but their name doesn’t have to be tracked and they don’t have to show up to court, but they are definitely the ones that brought the authorities to the block.
Tsu Surf: Exactly. And the cops mat not even want to look at it, but you title the shit… “Blank blank blank, talks about moving a hundred keys.” What? What federal agent doesn’t look this up? You talk to a famous rapper and whatever famous rapper that have been on there, look at the titles. Type in Vlad TV and look at some of the titles on our people. First of all, when is the last time a white person went up to that motherfucker?
AllHipHop: That’s an excellent point.
Tsu Surf: When was the last time a white person been up to that motherfucker and what was the title on that?
AllHipHop: My man had, Afroman on there who is primarily known for the weed song. When the song dropped marijuana wasn’t legal anywhere, but now it is. You would think that could be the focal point of the interview. He had my man on there talking about being an Eight Tray Crip (laughing).
Tsu Surf: Think about that. We talking about the, “Because I Got High,” man. That’s all anybody in my age group know him from, “Because I got high, because I got high ladaaa.” That was a hit. He could have spent more time talking about how did it feel to make that song or like you said, the legalization of marijuana, but the title was, “Afroman is a Tray and he was beefing with the 60’s.” Come on! Come on my nigga! Again, there is a method to his madness that’s why the parts come out separately. That’s why they get as many views as they do, but I think he could really just tone it down because he is really trashing my people more than he’s helping. Vlad is a huge platform, but if he toned it down a little bit, he would be helping more than he’s harming. I’m not going to name nobody that got indicted, but it’s about 4 or 5 motherfuckers that was on there. I know they play these interviews. If I’m a rapper and I’m doing an interview about how my career is going and shit like that, I’m just not expecting for my interview to be in a fucking courtroom. For a fucking prosecutor to pull up a fucking, Vlad TV interview.
AllHipHop: Ambush journalism.
Tsu Surf: Exactly! You might be talking to a prosecutor. I would advise anyone… that’s another thing, if your case is not beat. I saw a couple of comments. I try not to read the comments, but I will speak on some things that should be spoken on. I’m not fool. I left high school with a 3. something GPA. I’m no dummy. My case is closed. You can’t double jeopardy me. I don’t already copped out. Right hand on the bible, “I did this. This is what I did.” I copped out to it; I got my time I can talk about this. I could talk about my shit as much as I want. Motherfuckers don’t know that. Motherfuckers got an open case or they out on bail, those are not closed cases. You out on bail, you can say the one thing that a motherfucking prosecutor need to put you away. If you are out on bail this is fully open. So, whatever your lawyer trying to kick to them, “It was four of us in the car, I was chillin with my niggas,” but that ain’t what the alibi said on Vlad. You don’t think this is a conflict of interest? No, motherfucker you crazy.
AllHipHop: You are really tapped in with some NBA players. You had, Kevin Durant on the mixtape and you’re out in Houston right now with, James Harden. How did those relationships form?
Tsu Surf: I just think it’s a respect level for my work just like I respect what they do. I’m a big basketball… you know how it is, basketball players want to be rappers and rappers want to be basketball players. If you give me 3-inches and take me back to 15-years old, I would take basketball way more serious. I’m just a basketball fanatic. Everybody knows I’m a die-hard basketball fan. So, you follow these athletes and ya’ll liking each other pictures. You know social media brings everything close. I was battling, “Hollow” and Drake must have took up for, “Hollow,” like, “Yo, “Hollow” beat “Surf.” And “KD” jumped in like, “You buggin. “Surf” beat him.” Me and “KD” got to talking and shit and I was like, “I gotta come to a game.” He was like, “Man nah, I’ll bring you to a game, but you gotta put me on your mixtape.” “Shit that’s easy.” Flew a nigga out to, Oklahoma. He just showed love. The nigga know my raps like I know his stats and his game. It’s just a respect level. “H” too. Harden, that’s my man. I’m out here right now for the game a little later. It just be love. Being from where you from, everything seems so much bigger than you or so much above you, but sometimes you just gotta go. This world is here for us too. I mean that for every kid in any hood. You get caught up in your lil project or your little 10-mile radius around your hood and you just forget that this world is big enough for you also. Now I’m flying and jumping on planes. It takes me 7- minutes to get through the average airport now. Now they see me and it’s like, “Yeah, come on.” But until you step out here in this world and see… unless I flew to Oklahoma to meet, Kevin Durant or if I came to Houston to hang out with, James Harden, you won’t know. It’s a big world, my nigga and people going to respect you like you respect them. I’m humble enough to say that I have had the pleasure for people to actually be able to hear me with these different platforms and I’m just trying to take advantage of it.
AllHipHop: I had to let you address that. Before wrapping this one up, what’s your favorite track on the, “Seven 25” album?
Tsu Surf: I’m a moody motherfucker, man. I’m super moody. That’s how my music come about anyways. I may have that mood where the “Seven 25” Interlude” is just how I’m feeling. Then I may have that mood where, “What’s Changed” is my jam. Or sometimes I’m on my “Consignment” shit with me and, Benny [The Butcher]. A nigga never know. I like the whole tape though. Everybody go get that “Seven 25” out now.
AllHipHop: Let them know where they can find you.
Tsu Surf: I appreciate you. You already know, @tsu_surf and that’s on Instagram and Twitter.