Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tef Poe Says He's a 'True-to-Life,' 'Living and Breathing Artist' on New Album 'Black Julian 2'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tef Poe Says He's a 'True-to-Life,' 'Living and Breathing Artist' on New Album 'Black Julian 2'

Article excerpt

In approaching "Black Julian 2: Never Satisfied," St. Louis hip-hop artist Tef Poe says he wanted to make a record that people would be proud of.

"I looked at what was going on with the culture, with Donald Glover (Childish Gambino), J. Cole and, not to sound cliché, but Kendrick Lamar," he says. "And I looked at our city and what the actual sound is right now and how do we modernize that? We had a sound that existed 15 years ago."

"Black Julian 2," released Christmas Day, is the sequel to his 2017 album, "Black Julian." Tef Poe (aka Kareem Jackson) says listeners will notice he's in a different space.

"I'm not really angry," he says. "I feel like, the first half of my career, I was like the St. Louis Ice Cube, in a sense. I was the intellectual hood dude with a bit of nerd in me. I wrote about things I saw happening in the city and in society that I don't agree with and wanted to talk about in my music."

But as he got older, he says he no longer was in the business of "grandstanding."

"I just want to make music and transform into an actual, true-to-life, everyday living and breathing artist. I feel a liberation."

It was on the first "Black Julian" that Tef Poe headed toward the music he really wanted to make .

"I don't always want to talk about one thing or work with one producer," he says. "I was always jumping all over the place. But I walked into it with the original 'Black Julian' with more R&B hooks, more singing, and I didn't run to use Auto-tune a lot."

The album is heavily influenced by opportunities that have come his way, including a pair of fellowships: the Warren Center's American Democracy Project and the Hip-Hop Archive & Research Institute/W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute's Nasir Jones (Nas) Hip-Hop Fellowship, both at Harvard University.

"I've just been having a great time, to be honest," Tef Poe says. "I've met all types of people, he says, naming Nas, LL Cool J, 9th Wonder, Ava Duvernay, Henry Louis Gates and Cornel West.

Tef Poe opens with "Inspire," which features narration by West. "I'm still a working-class artist but at a different plateau with access to different relationships," Tef Poe says. …

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