Editor’s note: In Tweets is Watching, Phillip Mlynar asks local artists questions based solely on the contents of their Twitter timeline.
Earlier in the month, the Brooklyn-based rap duo of Smif N Wessun dropped a slinky, six-track reggae-infused EP. Titled Born and Raised, the project has the venerable Steele and Tek spitting raps over production courtesy of Beatnik and K-Salaam. Following up the release of Born, we checked in with Tek to find out about his dirt-bike hobby, his roll-call of favorite rap producers, and why he won’t be slipping on a Santa hat any time soon.
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You Instagrammed a picture of two girls sitting on Santa’s lap. As a kid did you believe in Santa Claus?
Hell no I ain’t believe in no damn Santa. I already knew my parents was Santa. I grew up in a large household with nine brothers and six sisters so it ain’t no way in hell we was all gonna be in the house sleeping until some fat motherfucker comes down our chimney. Ain’t nobody not waking up and hearing that shit! So from a young age we were put onto the game; you do what you’re supposed to do, you come home, you do your chores, and you get treated like you supposed to.
So what was Christmas day like in your household?
Man, I cried a lot of Christmases. Growing up, we didn’t come from a wealthy background so we had to get what we got and we appreciated it and we made sure we loved it and it lasted, whether it came from a big brother from three Christmases before that or however it came. We appreciate the love and that it came from a special place inside.
Do you celebrate Christmas now?
Nah, I don’t celebrate Christmas — I’m practicing Islam. But I do have a son and I do give gifts and help those I can or who need my help. But I give my loved ones gifts throughout the year — Christmas and Thanksgiving aren’t the only days.
You also Instagram quite a few pictures of dirt-bikes.
Yes sir! Bike life, been doing it! 650s, 350s, Hondas, all of it! Love that! I haven’t been back on a bike to fully ride for like a whole summer for a while. I think the thing that really made me stop riding was I lost a couple of close friends — like literally lost them on highways when they smacked into the wall or decapitated heads or a lot of cabs down here running stop signs — so I put the bike down for a little while. But I jumped on my man’s bike for the video the other day and rode along for a few blocks. Still got it, still got it!
How does it feel when you’re riding along?
Man, it’s exhilarating. It’s a thrill, it’s a thrill-chasing thing. It’s not the speed but it’s the speed you know you shouldn’t go to. Like you’ve got that open road and you hit that throttle. I mean, with my wheelie game, I wasn’t doing no 12, 20 blocks or nothing, but I know how to ride on one wheel for a bit, bring it up, bring it back down then shoot it out.
When did you first become interested in bikes?
One of my older brothers was a mechanic and used to work in a body-shop and used to have bikes and cars strewn all over the place. We used to put bikes together from scratch and just ride all over the place. Like you could hear us from three blocks away but we’re only doing 20-miles-per-hour. It was probably between eight and ten-years-old when I started on peddle bikes and then I moved on.
Is anyone else in the Duck Down family into bikes?
Oh, yeah, Buckshot rides bikes. When I really bought my first dirt-bike, Dru Ha had a motorbike, Buck had a motorbike. Buck actually has two bikes right now, I think, but one has a gear shaft that’s fucked up.
Do you know how to fix a bike?
I mean, I can fix a brake line or something, you know? I’m not too much of a mechanic yet but I can see something and look at it and give a diagnosis real quick. But if I can’t put it back in a couple of hours, that shit’s going back in to the shop.
Where do you usually ride in New York City?
Man, it’s so many places because when you’re riding you might shoot from the Stuy to the ‘Ville to pick up a couple more of your men to ride with you, then shoot to C.I. or Queens and then shoot up to Harlem and ride up the West Side. There’s plenty of places. I never really rode on a dirt track — that’s only when you take it upstate — but we keep it right here in the ‘hood.
— Tek of Smif N Wessun (@TekSmokeeLah) December 17, 2013
Off the back of the EP release, you’ve been tweeting about your top ten favorite hip-hop producers. Who would be at number one?
Ah, that’s too hard, man. I mean, it’s not actually in a specific order, it’s like these are the ten. They’re all dope.
What about the most underrated producers you’ve worked with then?
I would say my man Joe Milly is one of the most underrated, here’s out in Long Island. And my man Ayatollah, it’s a couple of producers that’s out there. I mean, I wouldn’t say Ayatollah is underrated, but he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves when he puts out something hot — for some reason they don’t latch on to it like I think they should. I don’t know why we don’t hear his music on the radio more.
Who’s on your wish-list of producers you’ve not yet worked with?
I would love to get in the studio with Pharrell and just put a couple of songs together, Timbaland too, even my man Ryan Leslie, I think he’s so dope. Also the homie Rico Love, he’s got some joints that I think is super tough. It would be a different lane — or like a different boxing match which is how I like to compare different producers and MCs — and like a different fight in the studio but I know we’d come away with some fire.
How about the producers behind Born and Raised?
Born and Raised is a six-song EP, entirely produced by K-Salaam and Beatnik and it was definitely like a boxing match in the studio, like two of the top names going head-to-head to become champions. Everyone had their input into how the chorus should be and the structure. It was a natural feel; nothing felt rushed and nothing felt forced.