How Tek wrote over 70 songs in prison
St. Paul rapper and producer Tek was released from prison in June, and dropped a brand new solo album just a month later, handling production and recording duties himself. ...Like I Never Left is Tek's first fully individual musical statement since his collaborative effort with JessListen.
Gimme Noise caught up with Tek to ask about jumping back into music, and how he created so much material without any beats to listen to.
Gimme Noise: Very quickly after your release you dropped the full-length album ...Like I Never Left. Seems like since you got out you've just been jumping back into it.
Tek: That was the plan, man. I feel like I was missing out on everything; I wanted to make sure that when I finally got out I was gonna just be working harder than I've ever worked before. I'm just trying to keep my days filled with stuff, trying to further what I'm trying to do, whether it's being in the studio making beats or putting shows together or something, collaborating with other artists.... I've just been trying to be as busy as possible. I just felt like when I have this momentum of being out and people generally being happy that I'm here and that I'm back, I could just drop a project and have people listening to some new stuff that they ain't heard yet.
There was a lot of build even while you were gone, with the #FreeTek hashtag and things like that.
Lotta love, man. When you're in an unfortunate situation like that, it just feels humbling to know you got love out here like that. I can't even explain how I felt knowing that people were doing that for me. I built these relationships with these artists right before I got locked up, I had a lot of momentum going and I had the feeling something was about to happen, and then the situation happened where I got locked up, but people kept my name out here. That's love, man. I really appreciate some of these artists out here. A lot of cats out here show so much love, that's why I'm so willing to work with everybody and do things like that.
What were the charges exactly?
In 2009, I got an aggravated robbery charge. I got a downward departure, which means I got a whole bunch of probation and time over my head, [and] if I violated my probation I'd have to serve my prison time. I ended up violating my probation for missing a court date for something that had nothing to do with my charge, so the judge was like, "You missed court, and we gave you this break when we should've sent you to prison in the first place and didn't." It's kind of like a zero tolerance thing where the first mess-up you get you have to go do your time. I had to go sit out 24 months. With the little bit of time I already served in the workhouse, it came up to 21, so I had to do damn near two years for missing court, basically.
The aggravated robbery charge was basically a fight that turned into "Gimme your phone," that type of situation. Just being with a whole bunch of knuckleheads that I had no business being with, and it just bit me in the ass. It really showed me that you gotta watch who you hang around with and you gotta put things in perspective. Is it worth everything that you're working on to be doing some little stupid bullshit that you had no business doing? It's nothing I'm proud of but it's definitely an experience that I learned from. It's taught me a lot. Who's your friend, who's the type of people you're supposed to be around. Just showed me that I've got a lot more to lose and a lot of people I hang around with, those aren't the type of people I need to be around. It was nothing I'm proud of but it's also nothing I'm ashamed to tell anybody about. It was raw, that's life. Life will kick you in the ass sometimes. All I got is another year on parole and then everything is behind me.
Were you able to get writing done while you were away?
Oh yeah, which is crazy because I was gone for two years. I went away in 2012, and the first rap that I wrote when I was in there was last December of 2013. I went almost a year and a couple months without writing anything. I just wasn't inspired. I wasn't even telling the cats who didn't know who I was that I rap or anything like that, because I just didn't have the mind for it. Out of the blue, I just started writing, and it came so naturally and it felt like I was in a whole different place that I've never wrote from before. I started getting a lot of stuff off my chest that I've never found myself rapping about. Real life, my childhood, past relationships, a whole bunch of stuff that was just super real. A place I hardly ever tap into.
I'm always on party records and vibing type of stuff, I hardly ever write some real, true-life story type of shit, so that's what I found myself writing a lot of when I was in there. Then when I had so much of that, I was trying this type of record and this type of record, and before you knew it I had 70 to 75 whole songs written. I still am sitting on them right now. Out of all those songs I wrote I probably recorded eight or nine of them. So I still have so much material that I'm looking forward to recording this fall, probably this winter.