This interview was conducted and transcribed by Eunice Juice
In the aftermath of Afro Punk, I dropped in the studio with rapper/songwriter Telli, where he was equally working hard and playing hard to finish an untitled track off his new solo album, #2LEGIT. Known as the “hood’er half” of Ninjasonik, Telli shares his thoughts on Afro Punk, the future of Ninjasonik, and the inner workings of his musical mastermind.
So y’all (Ninjasonik) just performed at Afro Punk. What do you think about its progression?
When Ninjasonik first started we stayed away from that shit ’cause they was niggas at Afro Punk that were doing too much to be, like, different. These niggas were weirdos. I hated that extra shit. I was like “what are you doing?!”. But when they came to us, we did it. It was still kinda sketch. But what we did, not even just us, other bands and them other niggas got involved, and different people started showing it’s cool to be different, so now when this shit is in full swing, it’s more of a mixture and a cool thing.
How did you feel about the performance and the setup at the skate ramp?
I need room, man. I need a stage, man, like every other artist, I need a stage. This is not my first rodeo, I know festivals internationally. ‘Cause it’s Ninjasonik, man, and it’s not about me, Telli. But that shit was amazing, people loved it. We killed it. It was fun, but I didn’t wear $600 sneakers to be performing at a skate park (laughs). Maybe I should’ve played the ramp and then again. Don’t get it twisted–we did our whole set, they gave us extra time, they treated me like a king… alright maybe I’m just being a bitch. That shit was dope!
Ha, yeah, and the fans thought it was dope too, so…
Yeah, it was early, but people came, I’m not even gonna front. Saturday was amazing. You kidding me? We killed it. It was dope. All my friends didn’t see me play, but the fans, the kids did. It was for the kids…
But you’re coming out solo now. Tell me about this new album you’re working on. Is it for the kids?
Whoa whoa whoa. I’m not coming out solo. I’m Ninjasonik ’til they put me in the casket. I love Ninjasonik; it’s my heart and soul.
Okay, fine! So what’s up with Ninjasonik?
I have, we have, the fucking album “Peter Pan Syndrome” coming out. The video is gonna be a boomer. The album, we choosing from like 50 tracks right now… this magnificent album. Ninjasonik is never going anywhere. It’s bigger than me and Jah. It’s a fucking…
It’s just like, a way of life. It’s a thing that the universe created, not us. We just tools… not like foolish tools, but tools created to do that. Me and Jah are family so it don’t matter how we feel about it or what’s going on, Ninjasonik has to go on… it’s a way of life.
Yeah, so back to your solo project… So far, it doesn’t sound or feel anything like Ninjasonik. Why did you decide to do it?
I am just… I rap. The songs that I’m doing, these things that I’m doing now, is not Ninajasonik. If I came out and said this is Ninjasonik, nah, this is not what Ninjasonik represents. Ninjasonik represents like a way of life, a freedom, expressing yourself through art… and youthfulness.
These records are just me being a real nigga from the street rapping, and in the same token, Jah Jah is putting up “Ben Robey – Die for Your Sins Be a Hardcore Punk Project”, which I am not a hardcore punk nigga so I can’t give you that. I can give niggas this. I’m a street nigga from the hood. I rap. I want to rap, ya know? I can’t sleep at night sometimes, I have dreams of me rapping. Like I’m a real nigga, I have to rap. If this stays inside me, I’ll lose sleep. I have to get this out.
And you are. It’s obvious you’re in your element right now. So how did you go about making this album?
I write the melodies all the way through… That’s how all my big records are getting wrote now, like a strong melody, then I break them apart, put raps in between and fix them up later. It’s a song, it’s a baby. I’m only concerned about the track. I don’t need no one to tell me what needs to be done, you can never really rely on no one else to do what needs to be done with your record, ya know what I’m sayin’? And when I feel like “fuck people”, I play this album.
So you must play this album all day long…
(Laughs) I ain’t never met a Korean that wasn’t funny. If I ever do, I’d be like “yo, you are a fucking shame to the Korean race, you non-funny motherfucker”, I swear to God!
But it’s true! You’re known for having that type of attitude and making trouble, no? Um, I think they call it Peter Pan Syndrome…
What I did? (Laughs) Look at me yes, thank you mommy and daddy… for being horrible parents but for having beautiful features. I wanna thank my parents for being horrible but for having beautiful features! Put that in the interview, but don’t put it on Facebook. My mom’s is on Facebook! (Laughs)
Ha, I won’t… as long as you tell us what kind of soap you use.
(Laughs) Different ones, I like girl stuff.
Like what? I need some tips…
I like female products… the red flower shit from that store on the same block as Outpost. When you wash up, it just smells better… smells better, feels better. Nigga shit is too dude and gross and aggressive. It’s just like, too much, like what the fuck am I doing? Fighting? Like I’m a viking? Like I don’t even wear nigga deodorant, like Old Spice and all that shit. What the fuck is that? Secret, I like women’s deodorant. It just smells better. Baby powder, and then a scrub… all women’s shit, everything. Women’s shit just feels better, smells better. I’m not a brute, I’m not a gladiator. Nah nigga, I like fly shit, fly shit, man. I like fly shit. I like to smell good, feel good. I like my skin to be soft… I appreciate my body.
And we do, too! Special thanks to Telli for his candor and for entertaining me for an evening. Check out his new track “Red Cups”, and don’t forget to peep his solo album #2LEGIT, dropping this Fall.