Gabriel Teodros is the smooth, uber-thoughtful Seattle rapper. He has come a long way from being one of the early cats on the Seattle hip-hop scene – and he recently completed a North American tour to share his music. Gabriel's next album, Evidence Of Things Not Seen, features SoulChef on production, and comes out on October 28. We caught up with him recently to ask about his inspirations, his history in this town and much more.
You have this great line in a Hitek Lowlives song that goes, "The killer dies twice every time he kill". I think it's a line that works to define both the history of violence and the history of art experience in mankind, but would you tell me what that line means to you?
The thought behind that line is that I believe all life is inextricably linked, and in taking another person's life, I believe the killer feels that loss, and loses a piece of themselves in the process too. It's connected to the thought in the overall verse which is how in patriarchy, men give up connection with their own sensuality and huge parts of their humanity when choosing to hold on to a system of male domination. It's like becoming a robot... humanoid void.Do you aim, with your work, to re-fill those voids you’ve felt in yourself and felt in others? Was there a single moment or a series of moments that put you on this path?
Absolutely. It's a process of unlearning and remembering what makes us human, and I think of the music as a way of healing in public. Definitely was more of a series of moments... going back to my teenage years and realizing so much of what I was taught about being a man was harmful. If I had to pin-point a single moment then that put me on this path it would have to be getting called out by a woman who I crossed a boundary with, that shouldn't of been crossed. It was her asking me, and me continuing to ask myself "why did I think that was ok?" that pushed me and continues to push me to want to redefine masculinity in ways that are anti-patriarchal.
What might be some of those anti-patriarchal masculine traits, do you think?
One that I always think of is vulnerability as a source of strength, and not a weakness as we are often taught. Also recognizing feelings as something that happen to us and through us, for a reason, and not something we need to judge and try not to experience. The greater your capacity to feel, the greater your capacity to love.
Can you give a little background on yourself? How long have you lived in Seattle? What about the city inspires you and your music? Does the rain affect you much?
Yeah. I was born and raised in Seattle, an 80's baby from Columbia City that grew up mostly on Beacon Hill, and always went to school in the Central District. I've lived lots of other places now, but I always come back to Seattle. This might sound funny, but everything inspires something in my music, I tell my close friends all the time that at some point, something that happens between us will show up in my music. My lyrics have tons of inside jokes. The clouds definitely have an affect, as does being surrounded by water and trees. I think Seattle was a great place to grow as an artist in the time that I did because when I was coming up Seattle Hip Hop didn't have a lot of support, or an industry. I know that might sound like a negative thing, but what it meant was we had a community of artists here that all worked together and supported each other, and made music because it was genuinely the music they wanted to make, and not because there was the hopes of making it big in an industry one day.
And now, as we chat, you're traveling in Toronto. What for? What have you seen today that may enter a song?
I'm on tour right now! I did a series of things in Detroit for the Allied Media Conference, and performed in Montreal, Brooklyn, and Washington, DC... along with a few little surprise things on the way. I tried to set something up for Toronto as well (since it is the halfway point between Detroit and Montreal) but it didn't come together, so I've just been visiting friends. I wouldn't be surprised if parts of this interview end up in a song some day, and the person sitting across the table from me in the coffee shop will definitely be in some songs!
If you could build a band from anyone in history to perform one set for one night, who would you pick and what song would you close with?
I'd want to see Curtis Mayfield, Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder on stage together. I know in real life they all had an influence on each other. The closing song is a harder question. I think they would end with "Jammin" since it's high energy, and Bob and Stevie both have versions of that song, but I'd be sad if at some point they didn't do songs like "The Makings Of You" and "Visions".
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you back from tour?
I'm gonna see my family, get some sleep, wake up and keep running this marathon!
You can pick up Gabriel Teodros & SoulChef's album, Evidence Of Things Not Seen, on October 28. They recently debuted a short film for "Black Love", featuring Sarah MK, as a preview of the new album on okayafrica.com. Watch it here:
And check out the video for the Hitek Lowlives song we began the interview:
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