Houston Hip Hop is still hot, but the heat wave beams a bit differently these days. While the chopped and screwed daze clearly remains visible in the shade, what shines more brightly on the scenes are Trae the Truth and Kirko Bangz. Adding Christian insight – a needed truth that’s still bangin’ – are fellow Texas talents Lecrae and Tedashii, the latter of whom is the subject of this Pure DOPE exclusive.

Tedashii’s respected catalogue of three heavenly hit albums in Kingdom People, Identity Crisis, and Blacklight, has amassed an impressive fan-base for the highly intelligent yet humble star artist. But it’s his latest project, Below Paradise, which ranks as one of raps best of 2014.  Released in May, Below Paradise landed on Billboard’s Top 200 at #17, #1 on the Gospel charts, and #2 on the Rap, Independent, and Christian charts. The real talker with the right records talks new music, next moves, why he digs the “real lifestyle” music of Big K.R.I.T. and Kendrick Lamar, and why there’s nothing he can’t do, with editor ToneSwep.

written by Tone Swep

Read the Full Length Interview

(ToneSwep: TS) How does the Houston Hip Hop sound fit in today’s rap world?

(Tedashii) I think it’s in a reforming phase. You know Kirko has a new single. A that’s a new moment for the city. There’s a lot of people doing stuff, but it’s hard because there’s a culture to the sound here. Kirko has a best of both worlds sound to me, where he sounds H-Town but then can make those crossover records too. But, of course, the staples will do what they do. Chamillionaire, Bun B, and Paul Wall all continue to make good music that sounds like and represents the city.

(TS) How are Houston’s streets affected by this ongoing economic downturn in comparison with other chocolate cities like Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Philly, and Oakland?

(Tedashii) It hit us hard. Hit us real hard. There is definitely evidence of it. When you see relatives trying to get into the music scene in an effort to make ends meet, you know there is a struggle. But the theme of this city is stay on your grind. I mean, dudes hustle in Houston. When you come from nothing you really have to work to get it. And for a lot of dudes, that hustle was a 9-to-5 job. Or even two full-time jobs. Now, it’s challenging land even one. So, whether legal or illegal (Laughs!) guys are working where and however they can. You tend to see everyone affected, though. Texas as a whole was on a better end of the economic crash though. I feel other states were hit even harder than we were.

(TS) Where are you with rap today? Especially, rappers from the south?

(Tedashii) I’m in a place of hope. I want things to grow more and I believe they are starting to. I’m a fan of Big K.R.I.T. and guys like that who make real lifestyle music in a sense. He discusses the world beyond the flash. He’s talking more about the struggle and the culture around him. People are starting to veer in that direction more and more I think. Kendrick Lamar’s whole album was about who he is and where he’s from. I want dudes to do that more.

(TS) Is Christian rap, and music with a Christian foundation in general, more important now than ever?

(Tedashii) I approach everything first and foremost from being a believer. But I also approach everything from an artist perspective. From the mindset of an artist who makes art based on the culture. I have a duty to be informative. I try to do my part to be as real and honest as possible when I speak to our society, to our culture, and to people in general. My vantage point as a Christian provides rap music from the observations of a believer.

(TS) You may have anticipated Below Paradise being the number one Gospel record, but did you anticipate the project fairing so well on the Billboard and Rap radio charts?

(Tedashii) No, not at all. I did expect for there to be some love. But I’m grateful to the people who have been riding with me for years. It’s an album with a completely different sound from my earlier work. I am both surprised and pleased that it is being embraced like this.

(TS) Share with the readers the true meaning of “Below Paradise”.

(Tedashii) My goal was to be as direct and straight forward as possible with the title. Our life is sub-standard to the life that is promised to us. The life ahead.

(TS) How does Below Paradise differ from your earlier solo projects: Kingdom People, Identity Crisis, and Blacklight?

(Tedashii) I’m more focused as a person. I shifted my focus to all about who I am with the writing. The music selection took a back seat to the direct ideas of who I am and what I’m talking about. Then, I knew the music needed to come in an accompany that thinking and writing, so I found music that did.

(TS) Finding balance between rapping for career, and the rapper lifestyle, and your religious conviction and living a spiritual life – you’ve accepted and perhaps even sought out that challenge. I commend you on that.

(Tedashii) Thank you, man. It’s the reality of who I am in essence. It’s the meeting point of my love of music, and hip hop culture, but also to whom I am as a person. My raps are a world view informed by Christianity. What I am and how I am wired. I’m forming an understanding with people who don’t understand who I am, you know. They can now relate to who I am or what I’ve been through. I can have them take note and so on. What this album accomplished for me is for people to better understand who I am as a communicator and artist. And also as a person. I make an effort to be as honest as possible with everything I’ve gone through without robbing them of the enjoyment that music brings. And it was received. People are singing the lyrics at concerts and then coming up to me and telling me what those lyrics meant to them. When I used to listen to ‘Pac, UGK, Scarface, I could relate to the struggle even though I wasn’t the guy on the block slangin’ or thuggin’. I could relate their lives and their struggle, and to the choices they may have been forced to make.

(TS) We’ve had these tidal waves in urban music: NY hip-hop, Cali gangsta rap, Houston’s chopped and screwed, A-Town’s trap and snap, Miami base. Now its seemingly about cliques like TDE, MMG, Roc Nation, Young Money, G.O.O.D., etc. What do you foresee as being the next movement in urban music?

(Tedashii) Honestly, I think cliques are here to stay for a minute (Laughs!). Then, too, I think the individual artists will arrive next. Because right now people are wired to look for and search for heroes. And they are finding that in cliques. For example, I don’t hear Tyga as much right now, but I hear Wayne and Drake and Nicki. So I still hear Tyga’s clique doing things. The things happening within the cliques. One thing I’ve started to notice in Hip Hop and music in general, even rock music, is dudes are now making albums just to tour off of. They may not even anticipate sales. It’s all about going on the road and doing shows. I think albums, recording really great albums that sell, will be a new wave as well.

(TS) What does your name, Tedashii, mean? Not just by birth or definition, but what does it mean in your life and career – what do you think your name stands for today? How have you defined yourself?

(Tedashii) Tedashii is a Japanese word that means “Riser”, “True”, or “Believer”. A Black professor in Houston once said it would mean – “Do The Right Thing” (Laughs!). And at first I was like: “Man, I don’t know if I can always be the Do The Right Thing guy.” But then, I thought: “I can roll with that.” It’s been a life effort for me, because even in Menace II Society, no one wanted Sharif around (Laughs!). I don’t want to be that dude who kills the fun. But I do want to continue to communicate my passion for Christianity, art, music, and culture to the people.

(TS) What’s next for you?

(Tedashii) I just started doing radio. The 99.3 Serium Show on NGEN Radio is my radio show. That’s the next move. The hope for me is to cause people to think critically and see the world differently. Growing up, I had the local people in my community who were all about empowerment and encouraging people. Tavis Smiley has always been an inspiration for me. Whether we’re speaking from a Christian or cultural perspective, critical thinking has been on the decline. Schools are about testing over raising intellectuals. Colleges are more about numbers and grad rates. How do we grow as a people? As a human race? Without critical thinking and creativity. Consider the life you live. That’s the focus of it. Plus it’s a Hip Hop show, so I play Christian hip-hop, classics, and some popular new music. But, outside of radio, I feel like I’m a person of many talents that I have been encouraged by many friends to pursue. I love to do voice work. And acting is something I will get into soon. Music-wise, that is something I am going to continue to pursue. So I’m working on new music and another album.

Follow Tedashii on Twitter & IG 

Watch Tedashii‘s Hit Video “Nothing I Can’t Do”

Purchase Tedashii‘s Billboard Top 20 Album “Below Paradise”

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