Issue 6 (2003)
“When you hear a Tes song it stands out and singles him out from regular cats. No one comes with his vibe. He entertains with ill concepts, rhymeschemes, flows, beats and arrangements. Tes is known to bob and weave seamlessly in and out of the track with an ill off beat style. His beats are melodic and his production has a dark aura.” – Vast Aire of Cannibal Ox
With his new album, “x2,” Tes shares experiences true to his heart ranging from the harsh reality of New York life since the 9/11 tragedy to the 9-5 mentality that permeates our society. Take some time to learn more about the man Vast Aire speaks so highly of.
Prince Paul put it pretty accurately on his new album when he called a lot of stuff being released today fast food music. Most critics and fans of your music acknowledge multiple listens are required before being able to fully digest each track. Is that something you take pride in or are you consciously adapting your sound to be more accessible to the hiphop head that doesn’t have a lot of patience?
I don’t really think about it too much. It’s funny that you mentioned Prince Paul because that was one of my big influences growing up listening to De La. It was appealing to me because I wasn’t really listening for content at first, I was listening for the sound of it and the sound intrigued me and then by the third or fourth listen I was finding other things about it so I feel like that naturally rubbed off. I like to do double meanings and have more than what’s on the surface and when you put the whole verse together there is more to it. On the new record there is definitely stuff that is more accessible than on the first record. The first record was for the hardcore rap listener, people who like to hear lyrics fast and intense, but on this one I felt I slowed down a bit. It’s not as intense either, I felt like I stepped back. I don’t scream as much. I used to scream more because I was young and amped, but now I’m more [concerned with] having people hear my words. In terms of making accessible for more sales I ain’t with that.
Since the late nineties the NYC underground has been flooded with new emcees causing the overall scene to become diluted, with so many different artists and styles floating around where do you see yourself fitting in the New York independent scene?
To tell you the truth I’m trying to branch off and be known for overall music where people who don’t even listen to rap might get into it. I’m not really trying to fit in with it. I’m working with some heads that are cool like this group Babbletron, but mostly I’m just rollin, with cats that I have been rollin’ with for ten years. My man Afra’s a beatboxer, I handle production, and I have a DJ now so it’s more like a crew thing and we’re not too worried about what’s going on in New York.
I’m glad you mentioned beatboxing because that was my next question. Coming into hiphop through beatboxing is not the norm these days. What got you into it and what do you think has happened where that craft isn’t really practice much anymore?
Beatboxing is like graffiti. It’s become a thing you can only get respect for and people don’t really make careers out of it. I got into beatboxing listening to Red Alert and when I heard “La Di Da Di” my first thought was to emulate that. I wasn’t thinking about rap at that point it was just something to do when I was bored. Years later it evolved into the rap thing.
What drew you into taking emceeing more seriously to the point of considering it as a legitimate career option?
I had a car accident my senior year of high school. I had a lot of time on my hands and basically spent a lot of time playing video games and listening to music. One of the tapes that I listened to that year was X-Clan “To The East, Blackwards.” I felt a real close connection to the flows, the wordplay and the images. I had thoughts in my head about expressing myself and that really made it tangible.
It’s an increasing trend these days for a lot of artists to play the dual role of emcee and producer. With that becoming such a norm what do you feel is a unique quality that you have that sets you apart from the crowd?
I think I can draw from a lot of sources of music in terms of sampling and chopping up and I get a lot of ideas from music that people might not normally dig into. I’m not scared of trying something new, that’s my biggest asset.
What projects are you working on that fans can look out for in the future?
Lex is putting out a remix album to “x2.” There’s three remixes, a “New New York” remix, I did a ”Say When” remix and this group Experimental Noise did something on it. The A-side is straight ahead songs with some beat boxes on there from Afra. I’m also starting to work on a full length. The remix record should be out in September and I’m also doing some stuff with Embedded Records. I have a full length already recorded, but I probably won’t put it out until 2004.