Welcome to Sui Generis!
Nikke Stiletto: Thanks for coming on the show, Tela. I know the last time we spoke was on our interview with you on Blasturthoughts Radio. And you’ve been pretty busy since then!
Tela: Yeah, thanks for having me again!
NS: Of course!
So, I, personally, have been a Tela fan for a long time, but for the younger crowd and those who may not know who you are, let everyone know about Tela.
T: Well my first album dropped in ’96, my debut album “Piece of Mind” on Suave House [Records]. I’m a cat out of Memphis, by way of H-town. Did that thang with Tony Draper; it went Gold. I was introduced to Draper through EightBall and MJG who I knew from back in the town in the ‘M’. We used to frequent the same studio, OPS, and that’s how that connection was made. [My first album] could have been more [than Gold] but it was during the time when ‘Mom and Pop’ stores weren’t [working with] SoundScan and we used to sell the bulk of our records out of the mom and pop stores. So it’s safe to say that I am one of the pioneers and trailblazers of Southern Hip Hop. It’s been a blessing and I’m fortunate to have been in the company of the greats that laid down these Southern hip hop bricks. You know like Eightball & MJG, Scarface, Devin the Dude, the list goes on and on from a South perspective. Big Mike…you name it! In that earlier southern movement I was a part of it.
NS: I definitely remember all of that when you came out with Eightball and MJG. That was “trailblazing” because everybody knew who Suave House was…
T: Right! Crime Boss was over there, Mr. Mike, South Circle, Nola, The Scientists, Psycho Drama, you know, even Rick Ross was a tenant for a bit.
NS: Right! And a lot of people don’t remember that about Rick Ross…
T: Yeah! He was there for a short period of time. But you know Drape did some incredible things with that label. So, shouts out to Tony Draper for having a vision and making it happen.
NS: Right after you left Suave House and went to Rap-A-Lot, you said you started using a lot of live instrumentation in the studio when you were recording. Has that become a permanent practice for you on all of your tracks or do you use it every now and then?
T: I love live instrumentation. I am a percussionist myself. So I love live instrumentation; however, I do understand that sometimes it’s not necessary. So I try to keep it organic as much as possible. I know we are in the computer age and a more synthesized generation, but if I do use, say, a symbol crash, I’ll try to sneak a live drummer in there. I’ll try to put a little bit of a live guitar in there. But it’s not really necessary now. I use it when its appropriate. But I’m a big fan of it and I come from that. I try to keep my roots in tact with what I’m doing. But, you know, sometimes, you gotta let it go. And for those genres of music where they can still use live instruments, hey, I dig it! I check for it! I’m a fan of somebody that can sit in front of a piano like John Legend and get it in [or] somebody that can sit with an acoustic guitar. One thing we still do is that we go out [and perform] with a live band from time to time. If the acoustics are right for a live band, I bring them out with me. But if we’re at a club and they’re ready to Turn Up, I wouldn’t suggest coming in with a live band.
NS: [Laughter] True!
As far as you being a veteran in the music industry, what do you feel is the most important thing to know or to remember for up and coming entertainers?
T: There are a lot of important things, but for one, what are your expectations? What are you really doing this for? Are you doing it for fame? Money? To get ass?
NS: Right, what’s your purpose..
T: Right! I think that’s something to establish early on and that can kinda tell you what your career is going to be like. So if you’re one of those who are doing it just because you feel insecure and you think this is going to build up your security…wrong! That’s not gonna work. Forget about it. But if you’re one of those who are doing it because you feel like this is your purpose and your intentions are to do it well and to do it with excellence, you’re going to have a fortunate career. And I’m not saying necessarily from a monetary standpoint but you’re gonna have peace about what you’re doing. You’re going to have a joyful career. And that’s important. Because you can get in this and you can have a career and you can lose your mind and you can lose who you are. I know in this rap thing, it’s a popular thing now to talk shit but it was established from [something deeper than that]. This was a language where we could communicate with one another without everyone getting in our business if you know what I’m talking about. And we were able to do it over rhythms and frequencies that touched the soul. I haven’t been perfect in this walk. I keep it 100. I got jammed up and lost my way few times. However, I know why I started this race. So I suggest to the younger generation that’s in it to know what their intentions are. I don’t have a crystal ball but I can pretty much tell you how its going to turn out just off of your intentions.
NS: So would you say you have any regrets in your music career?
T: No, because it made me who I am….but you know…I have to say I do have one. In my heart I’m grateful, but in my actions [I’m not]. I feel like at times I’ve felt like I was taking it for granted. And that’s the only thing I would change. I’d give my career even more time. And I have kids, and not to take away from them, but when I say more time and more of me, I mean my full attention. Sometimes you could be [making] music and at the same time doing other things. But I would give the music more of me. Other than that I wouldn’t change anything. It’s been a cool ride. It’s what I love to do.
NS: Speaking of giving it more of you, you’re song “Still A Man” was a pretty personal song for you. Should your fans look forward to hearing more personal songs like that on your future albums?
T: Yeah! I’ve got “We Can Make It Back”; that’s more of a personal record. “Lights In LA” is a personal record. And I’ve always been like that. There’s layers to me. I’ll do a record about a relationship I’ve been in or about what I’m experiencing or what I’m going through as far as trying to grow as a human being. I think some of the people who support me haven’t gotten a chance to really get all the layers of Tela. Some people say, “How are you going to come back?” or “How are you even going to exist in this game? You’re old! You aint relevant! How are you going to make yourself relevant?” And that’s the thing. There are layers that people don’t know about me. I’m very in tune. So I know how to reinvent myself musically.
NS: That’s very important too!
Are there any plans on putting out a Greatest Hits album?
T: Well, it will be 20 years in 2016. What I’m planning to do is have that “Piece of Mind” documentary/show/how it was all put together with a whole cast of characters. Fortunately, everybody is still up and kicking on this earth so hopefully we can put it together where I can go back into Memphis and film at The House of Blues and actually have a live performance at the House of Blues. We’ll be cutting back and forth from the studio, pulling out the reel-to-reel, the two-inch tapes, and showing how the development occurred; showing Slice Tee, Jazzy Pha, Drummer Boy, Insane Wayne, everybody who was involved in putting that album together. So they’ll do their spiel about their experiences on that and in between we’ll go to the live performance with the band and we’re going to do it all at the House of Blues because that’s where the album was recorded. So its funny you mentioned that! I’m trying to put that together for the 20th anniversary album.
NS: That is going to be incredible and I know your fans will definitely be looking forward to that!
T: Yeah I’m gonna make it real good and I’m going to try to add an app perspective so it can be more personal and more interactive. [When “Piece of Mind” came out] that was an era when you didn’t have Instagram and you didn’t have Twitter, so any old pictures and footage that didn’t get a chance to get exposed, you’ll have access to that as well.
NS: Ok! Well keep me posted on that!
T: It’s gonna be right!
NS: “Been Ballin” is your latest single, right?
NS: How are your fans responding to this track? How do you feel the song is doing so far?
T: When you say “singles” now, you just don’t know. I’m not locked in to just one record. What we’re doing is we’ll be releasing records whenever we feel the need and let the people be the judge of what they like. But the reaction from “Been Ballin” has been pretty good. I’m currently working with Black Elvis, Jazzy, Drummer Boy, Zaytovan; just working with my producers. What I’ll do from time to time is throw something out there to let the fans know that we’re still working and get their reaction from it. So I’m not just sticking to one record right now. Who knows, in a couple of weeks you might look up and there will be an entire Tela project out there. The game has changed. Ever since I have been in the game I’ve had a home as far as a label and now I’m doing this on my own and we have to come up with creative ways to get people’s attention. Right now I’m just releasing good music. The fans deserve to hear the music and I’m not sitting on records right now. The people deserve to hear it. You can definitely look forward to hearing a lot more Tela than usual with this good summer time coming up! I come alive in that sun, I’m a June baby!
NS: I am sure the fans will be happy to hear a consistent flow of music from Tela! And speaking of the fans, if you could tell them anything, what’s something you would want to leave them with? What would you say to your fans?
T: I would perform “We Could Make It Back”! That’s what I would do! There’s one thing that I say on that record and that’s we need more light. And I really mean that. We need light. We need to co-exist, to understand love again. I mean, I like a** and beautiful women as much as the next man. But I’m not talking about that right now. I’m talking about a deeper love. A love where people need to appreciate each other [and the fact] that we are alive and blessed to be here. “We Can Make It Back” says that for me. Let’s quit tearing down each other, quit with the “All the ni***s hatin” and “Sucka a** this” and “B***h this and that”. I understand how you feel, but you gotta understand when you put that out there you’re going to get that back magnetized! We gotta have that Jesus perspective. Like, forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing! That would be my thing right now. If you’re a person that likes to be in the dark, that’s cool because you do what you do, but I’m light and I need more light!
NS: Definitely about that light!
So where can your fans find you online?
T: Everything is @TelaOfficial. And know that I’m in that lab and I’m working! I know my fans are looking for me to produce!
*This interview is brought to you courtesy of Nikke Stiletto, LLC and is for entertainment purposes only*