BY WILL LAMPLEY
Very rarely does one listen to music from a local artist and end up being left surprised, enlightened and entertained. The surplus of Twitter rappers have created a cesspool in many a user’s mentions, and the idea of using social media to promote yourself to everyone within your reach has become less of a great tactic and more of a caricature. Cleveland rapper/singer/producer Tae Miles is only a few miles away from me, and I found his music through Twitter. After listening to him, I became entranced. He was one of the new guys that employed the Bone Thug cadence and delivery, but instead of biting it and letting St. Clair Avenue (a famous Cleveland street that Tae mentions on his latest single ‘Forfeit’) drip from his teeth, he transformed it into his own style, along with his other influences. He bleeds creative energy, charisma and humor in interviews. He has big aspirations and a clear vision, and he’s determined.
In an interview with The Addicts Podcast, Tae mentioned his plans to move to Los Angeles with his manager, making a film to accompany his last full length project Throadie, as well as his upcoming album The Adventures of the Wahoo Village Warrior. After doing more investigating on Tae’s previous releases, it’s obvious that he’s been a roll for quite some time. His last project was the ONE2MANY EP, which featured woozy reworks of classic records by Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Anthony Hamilton. I felt like I had uncovered some hidden gem deep in the depths of Soundcloud’s treasure chest while listening to ONE2MANY for the first time. Tae’s vocals are pitched down until he sounds like a mix between Kid Cudi and some other things I can’t find the words to correctly describe. I consider Tae to be one of my favorite artists releasing music these days. The hard part about this is that Tae isn’t famous (or at least internet famous) just yet. Fame isn’t the determining factor of quality, but it definitely is the determining factor in many a consumer’s decision of whether an artist should rank near or among the ones we listen to everyday and see on television. It’s not everyday that you listen to an artist that’s from the same area as you, has less than 1,000 twitter followers and isn’t just an attention hungry piece of garbage. Listening to Tae Miles and watching him rise feels like watching Tyler, the Creator upload self-directed YouTube videos in 2010, or seeing the late great A$AP Yams promote a Harlem kid with braids and a penchant for high fashion and Houston classics on Tumblr in 2011. You’re seeing a star in the making, and that’s an abnormal (but beautiful) sight.
His newest release is ‘Forfeit‘, the first single from his new album. I had a chance to talk to Tae about his album, soul in music, his upcoming show with Curren$y (buy tickets here) and what made him into the artist he is today. I believe in Tae Miles, and you should too.
So your latest release was the ONE2MANY EP. What inspired you to go over those neo-soul classics and make them your own?
Unfortunately an old relationship inspired those songs. (laughs) They were made back in 2012. I didn’t wanna release them because I wasn’t mature enough at the time. Over time, I was like “Man it’s just music. We need good music to get us through”, So I created a new story around the songs. I made it as if all these song lyrics were coming out because I’m intoxicated. That’s where the title comes from “One too many” = “ONE2MANY”.
That’s really interesting. Was that the reason the mixing and slowing down of the songs created a more intoxicated feel? Sonically the project has a lot of depth and it gives the listener an opportunity to visualize the stories.
Yes. The screw comes from the intoxication. I like to set moods perfectly in my music as much as I can. I live through writing stories mostly because you can make them as broad or as narrow as you want.
Do you believe that popular hip-hop is returning to a more soulful sound? One of the things I really appreciated about your EP was the choice of beats. I grew up hearing a lot of these records on 93.1 (an Old School R&B radio station in the Cleveland area) in my mom’s car. Hearing them in your music makes them hit me in a certain type of way.
Well, soul never left hip-hop. Hip-hop is nothing BUT soul. The shit that you hear that’s NOT soul is just other shit to me. (laughs) I’m nothing but soul man. I can find soul in a lot of things. If I can’t find soul in it, it’s not for me. Anything that moves you is soulful.
But listening to your freestyle over ‘OG Bobby Johnson’, I felt that you brought soul to the record. Would you say that? Or is the soul nowadays more so in the lyrics (with ‘OG Bobby Johnson’ being about crime in the black community) and less in the music? Because the chords move me.
I brought my own source of soul into that joint, yes. Que brought his soul onto the original version as well. He painted a picture that made you either hype or scared (laughs).
Who are some of your favorite artists that influenced you coming up?
Kendrick. I look at him as competition. I ain’t scared to say he’s about to be today’s Tupac. I remembered when I first heard his music, I thought to myself “he’s doing exactly what I’m doing but a lot better. I got so much to do” (laughs). That nigga is a monster.
I first got into him before Section.80 dropped. His new album feels like his older material but on crack. Are you inspired by it?
Man I heard two tracks illegally. I felt something great coming from it so I stopped listening. I’m gonna wait till I buy it to hear it. Same way I did his first joint.
Cool. On to other things, you have a show coming up with Curren$y. Can you tell me about what’s going on with that?
Being able to do the House of Blues was a long term goal of mine. This shit is a dream come true. I never take any of this for granted. Just with that said, this show will be amazing.
In your interview with The Addicts Podcast, you spoke about how you’ve been planning as far as into 2016. Do you think a Cleveland uprising with young artists-similar to Chicago and LA recently-is possible? We see you coming with an album, Ezzy freestyling on Sway In The Morning, 16yrold connecting with Tezo and Robb Banks… the city seems to be headed somewhere.
Anything is possible. I hope something like that could happen for my city. If everybody get[s] that work ethic together, it will happen.
What’s your work ethic? How do you write your records?
Man. Honestly, making the music is the hardest part of this business to me (laughs). I’m what you would call a perfectionist so it’s a long process sometimes for making music. My work ethic is definitely there though.
Will your upcoming project be as long as your previous full length, Throadie?
Not quite as long as Throedie. Throedie was a deep project of which I was determined to get the point across with it. I’m hardheaded with my music and I won’t be told what to do with it but sometimes I gotta discipline myself and say “nigga stop!” (laughs) I get carried away a lot with this gift I was blessed with. I don’t think I can’t be held back as far as creativity. TAOWVW won’t be that.
By progressing as an artist, have you developed the ability to tell a story without making the project as long? Or is that a part of the ride?
Long but it will be amazing. AMAZING.
What’s the concept?
The concept… All I can say is Cleveland. Haha can’t say too much.
Listening to your single ‘Forfeit’, proves that you’re a perfectionist. The adlibs are animated, the beat cuts are calculated, the mix is attention grabbing. Where does the record serve in the context of the album?
It’s the good part of the album. If that makes sense. When you hear it, it’ll make sense (laughs).
How did you get this level? How did you get into the Cleveland music scene? If such a scene exists…
Man, I’ve been making music forever. I don’t even really know when I got on the scene. Honestly when I create, I don’t think about a scene. I’ll be on afterwards.
There are plenty of artists that are more attached to being in the scene and being on than they are at perfecting their music. The complete opposite of you. How do you avoid being connected to the wrong people?
I do. I’m gonna be honest. But if the music is great, I can’t help it. (laughs) I love good music.
Who are some artists that you look forward to working with in the future?
Jasmine Sullivan, Missy Elliot and Pharrell.
What’s the sound of your next album? Will it be in the same vein as Throadie and ONE2MANY?
It’s a good feeling. That’s all I’ll say. Aaaand it’s not like Throedie,nor ONE2MANY.
What do you hope to add to the game as an artist from Cleveland, an artist with a distinct sound? What mark do you plan to leave?
I just wanna add some more feel good. Some more “that shit ahead of its time.” I plan to leave a deep gash from Tae Miles in the game.
Will Lampley is on Twitter some times. Follow him @willcDPR.
You can stream Tae Miles’ single ‘Forfeit’ below, and follow him on @TaeMilesCLE on Twitter.