Teeto Ceemos and Rae Slick recently released their collaborative album ”Lataaro”, and in this exclusive interview with Pulse, they address the inspiration behind the songs and how it has been working together.
Stepping out of the office to see Teeto dressed in an all white traditional outfit was a sight that I could have never pictured. This was not the look you expected from a 90s schooled rapper, but this was Teeto and there is a reason he calls himself the ‘Fresh Boy.’
As we exchanged pleasantries while awaiting the arrival of Rae, who he refers to as a brother, he tells stories of his journey and how his love for the art has kept him coming back for more.
”I loved rap when I started listening to Biggie and Bone Thugs N Harmony, then I heard Jay Z and my life changed.
I remember when ‘Won Beri’ was released, Fam, you couldn’t tell me anything, I had blown,” he tells me.
In 2009, Production house Knighthouse released the project, ”Street Scriptures Vol 1” and its lead single, ‘The Finest’ which featured rappers Sinzu and Teeto alongside singer Mo Cheddah became an instant hit nationwide.
”Knighthouse had reached out to me that they were working on a song, that is where I met Ex-O, Sinzu just came back to town and his family house is in Jones [Adeniyi Jones], so I told them I will get him on the joint and by the time, he heard the instrumental, we wrote our verses on the spot and within the next 24 hours, it was already mixed and mastered.
He however confirmed to me that he was never officially signed to Knighthouse at any point, ”No, they didn’t offer me a contract.”
For Rae Slick, he is quick to dispel every notion that he is a new comer on the scene.
”I have actually been on the scene for a long time. I started rapping properly in 2007 when I got out of high school, but I was always scared of stepping into the studio.”
From their aggressive love for rap, and an infectious sense of humor, we talked about ‘Lataaro’ and more.
Read below the full interview Pulse had with Teeto and Rae Slick
How did you meet each other?
Rae: ”One day I was walking to link up with my guys, like Jones [Adeniyi Jones] is the place for music, we had Harry Moscow, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Teeto, Sauce, the whole of LOS, Beazy.
So I was walking to go link up a friend then Teeto comes through and taps me up like ”Slam, where you been, I have been looking for you”, he mistook me for his younger brother and I was like who is Slam?
That is how we met and I started spitting bars to him and he introduced me to the Knighthouse family. I was even supposed to be on the song ‘Swagger Like Us’ [Off Terry Tha Rapman‘s ”Joe Spazm” mixtape] but my verse was too weak to make the cut. That was my first time in the studio and I was nervous.
I had people like Ice Prince around looking at me. The experience was dope, it just showed me that you had to come harder. I and Wizkid were like the only kids in the studio.”
Before ‘The Finest’ happened, who was Teeto?
Teeto: ”Back then I was just a hot-head person who loved rap and always wanted to battle. Ikon is one of the few people I have lost a battle to. I came up in the battle rap scene, where you can’t outrap me.
The day I knew my life was over I was in front row at a lecture and someone came to whisper in my ear, that one guy came from Canada, he says Lagos people can’t rap, they say you should show, I felt like someone insulted my parents, immediately I called my friends and we left the lecture to go battle this person.”
Even though they are not directly related by blood, the passion for the genre is one that has made their experiences similar and when it comes to battle rap, Rae is another that never backs down;
”I remember this one time I was on the Island and Teeto called me that there are these kids saying they can rap, they say they can take you.
So I got in the car, was doing like 170 on the Third Mainland bridge back to his house like who are those trying to battle me? Those guys were Zamir and Bridge [LOS].
We went from like trying to fight for the crown of Jones to respecting each other, these guys were like 14/15 at the time.”
He also recalls battling the likes of Ghetto P and Maximum of the group, 4th Republic, when he was 18.
From when ‘The Finest’ was released, you were expected to hit greater heights, what happened?
Teeto: ”Back then, I probably shuffled CDs around trying to get a proper label to help take things off but it didn’t work out, so I decided to push things myself. After ‘Oshamo’, I had a joint with Wizkid, it had some buzz but it died fast.
I put all my resources into that so it was a bit of a struggle to push all my singles at the same time. There was this single I had with Shank in 2012, ‘Go Down’, you know when you do a song and you are sure you have blown, we did the radio rounds and nothing happened.
I put out a couple of singles that didn’t also work out, then I released a small body of work in 2014, it was called ”4play”, after that I got tired.
I decided to pause, focus on other things, live life a little and I even tried to walk away at some point but after a while, I will hear some stuff and be like, what is this, is this rap? After that I started this mixtape spree, which I called the ”Put A Rap on it” series, then he [Rae] came back in 2017 and we decided to do this.”
What was your mental state at this point?
Teeto: ”I found my happiness elsewhere, I just knew that at the end of the day music or not, I will be fine. I understand the curse of the creative which hovers around depression and the need to be accepted, but there is more to life than that.”
Why did you decide on a collaborative album?
Teeto: ”Outside the music, this is my brother, he was always around. I felt he was ready and people need to hear him, He has had the hunger for 10 years or more and by the time we recorded the first song, I knew he was ready.”
How did you get to this point, when you decided to become a rapper?
Rae: ”I had to go to University, my Dad asked me what I wanted to do and I told him I wanted to rap.
My Dad was in this group back, a band called Ofege, he and Femi Kuti were close, my cousin’s dad was Harry Moscow, I was surrounded by music 24/7. So I am sure that is why my decision didn’t shock my Dad, then I left for Dubai in 09 and didn’t come back till 2017.
Tomi [Thomas] came out to meet me, Santi too, we lived together and we were always recording. ”
How do you feel when you hear people say there are no rappers in Nigeria?
”Offended” [They both echoed]. Rae continues, ”That is what actually triggered the ”Lataaro” album.
Like everyone was on that Alte cruise, which is a wave on its own, then you have the Afrobeats and the Streets, then we felt rappers have to also come through and support the movement. We could have done the album in less than 2/3 months, but we took our time with it and it took us a year.”
How much would you say you guys have influenced one another?
Teeto: ”A lot. Like I wouldn’t have rapped on a trap beat three or four years ago, the only reason I am doing it is because of him. At some point, I was trying to show him the ropes, that it is all about bars and you have to come with the lyrics but he comes with the flow.”
Rae: ”If you noticed, tracks like ‘Genesis’ or ‘Elevator Flow’ on the album, I just left that to Teeto, when it comes to that conscious records, when you got to tell a story, men I ain’t got to story to tell, I have not suffered like him [Laughs], that is him, he is the deep guy with plenty to say.”
What are your thoughts on the Trap movement?
Teeto: ”As much as you try to fight it, once the number of people behind it are behind it, adapt or die. It is a force and you can’t say you want to stay in the Wu-Tang or Dr Dre era, it evolves and it is either you get with it or you get lost.”
Let’s do a breakdown of the album itself, what is the story behind ‘Genesis?’
Teeto: ”After I dropped an EP in 2014, I was set to drop another full project called ”Late Night Updates”, so I wrote Genesis in 2015.
I was going to relegate it, then I felt this story is still valid and I went to Dicey [Dammy Krane‘s producer] and he was able to exert the appropriate emotions that I wanted on the record.”
Rae: ”That day I was going to finish another track in the studio and Tomi was with me, so we get to the studio and Ex-O was messing around on the keys and I hopped on the mic and everything just blended.
My speed dial verse was not even the initial one I wanted. I wrote this amazing verse, which I felt was fire and Teeto just disregarded it and when he is angry, he does this thing where he starts a group chat and all of a sudden you have people close to you calling to consider changing the verse.
”At first I usually feel offended,” he admits, ”then it is always a push to come back with fire verses.”
What inspired ‘Elevator Flow’ and ‘Sacrifice?’
Teeto: ”I walked into an elevator and I was having a bad day and the first line just came to my head, so I kept on going and I felt like I had more to say.”
‘Sacrifice’ is a very personal record, I tried to get him [Rae] to rap on it, but he said it is all me.
I started writing ‘Sacrifice’ three years ago and just stopped halfway. The song is from my heart. My younger brother died not too long ago and that just transcended into my verse and other things I have been through.”
Teeto, you were on the scene in 09, here you are in 2019, what has changed in the industry?
”The radio monopoly has disappeared, it is still important but it is not as hectic as it was.
Then if you couldn’t get physical copies across to the stations, nobody will hear what you are doing. Now, everyone has an opportunity for their voice to be heard.”
Outside yourselves, who are your top three favorite Nigerian rappers, current and retired?
Teeto: ”I am a huge eLDee fan. I don’t think people actually got to hear eLDee rap. He is like the ultimate rapper.
From Trybesmen, then you hear eLDee spit verses like on ‘Super Sun’ or ‘I’m Leaving’, I still go back to his songs, he spits nice and his delivery is insane.
Then Modenine, I was in MC Africa in 2008 representing Nigeria and Mode was a judge, I have wanted to get on a record with him so bad. I still remember my reaction when I first heard ”It’s about to get ugly”, Modenine is a legend. At the time, he and the Thorobred movement gave me the belief that I could do this.
Then lastly, Naeto, he found the balance which we are trying to achieve.
Currently, pen game, I say Ghost. Then M.I, he opened the floodgates and Ghetto P. For honorary mention, I have to add Reminisce.”
Rae: ”From back then, we have iLLBliss, there is Beazy, wordplay, he got bars, growing up I used to look up to him and then Sinzu.
For this era, M.I Abaga, Bridge [L.O.S] is top five bar for bar any Nigerian rapper. If I were to pick a line-up for a cypher, Bridge will be top on my list and then Falz, he may sound funny but he can rap. He will use his jokes to play with you and people may not know this but he is always ready to go.”
LISTEN TO ‘LATAARO’ HERE
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity