For our latest First Look Friday, we talked with the enigmatic Teezo Touchdown about the importance of being an artist that also world builds and the story of his bass guitar.
At the start of the 20th century, the Spindletop, an oil field in Beaumont, Texas, exploded, shooting oil 100 feet in the air for nine days. As a result, the little lumber town between Houston and Louisiana quickly became a boomtown in every sense of the word. By the 1940s, the wartime shipbuilding industry turned it into a thriving Texas city. One full of jobs, humidity, and racism. In 1943, a race riot resulted in the destruction of several Black homes and businesses by white rioters. The town of Vidor, just 15 minutes outside of Beaumont, was known as a haven for Ku Klux Klan members and remains a sundown town to this day.
In many ways, the city has since been forgotten, but there’s still a magic that exists in Beaumont. It’s in the link sandwiches from Broussard’s, the empty railroad tracks, the pecan trees, and the thick, green St. Augustine grass. I see it every time I’m there, but only in glimpses. And yet, Beaumont-native Teezo Touchdown has been able to harness that magic and breathe new life into it.
Somewhere in one of Beaumont’s countless empty lots, he’s posted up with a head full of six-inch nails, a dozen red roses, and a white bass guitar named “Beaumont.” He’s made it into his own world — a place where he offers words of affirmations to his fans (who he endearingly calls his “friends”), puts his own twist on popular songs like Roddy Rich’s “The Box,” and creates his immersive and inventive music videos, as is the case with the recently-released “Bad Enough,” where he transformed the lot into a mini football stadium. His visuals complement his music: an artist who is bringing together sounds from varying genres, and rapping, singing and squealing about growing pains and love in a way that has earned him cosigns from BROCKHAMPTON, Trippie Redd, and Tyler, the Creator.
Despite inviting us into his world, there’s still so much fans don’t know about Teezo. He remains enigmatic, using social media to further build the story of Teezo the artist, without giving too much on Teezo the human. And, in an age where the mystique of an artist isn’t as common as it used to be, it’s refreshing.
Okayplayer spoke with Teezo about being from Beaumont, the importance of being an artist that also world builds, the story of his bass guitar and more.
My dad’s side of the family is from Beaumont, and a large portion of my family still lives there. Every time I’m there I feel like I’m in the past. How would you describe Beaumont to people who know nothing about it?
I always used to say that Beaumont is a great place to raise your family and retire. And I don’t know why I say that because, one, I’ve never raised a family. Two, I don’t plan to retire anytime soon. But Beaumont is like this freaky girl that you had a few encounters with and then you go somewhere and someone’s like, “Yeah, I know Beaumont!” And you’re like, “What? You know Beaumont?” We’re a very small city. I get a kick out of hearing people say it because I’m like, “Wow, OK, they just said it, so it does exist!”
Oh, and on top of Beaumont being a promiscuous woman, she also can cook. I can’t forget that. She can cook.
Talk to me about the garage. How did you land there?
I have my background in film, and I used to just go location scouting. One of my big things was to go on Sundays when the city is closed down. If you find yourself in Beaumont on a Sunday, take a stroll through downtown. It’s so peaceful, like a ghost town with a lot of abandoned buildings and stuff. It’s pretty much all I used to do and that’s how the plot happened.
And now you’re even transforming within it, like with the “Bad Enough” video. You’re getting super creative inside the confines of it. Do you ever think about leaving?
I see how cliche the videos are that we get. Videos are so interchangeable. So that’s just the shooter/director in me. The most important thing ever is the idea. Best idea wins every time. With the DSLR cameras, all you need is a Canon or a Sony and you’re good.
Do you ever think about leaving?
You’ll hear people be like, “Ah bro, don’t leave the garage!” But the best idea wins. I like great content. I put out great content. I think of it like I’m in a service industry.
How would you say you arrived at your style? You started off like a lot of us did: The mall-starter kit of LRG and G-Shocks. But your style has since evolved. How would you describe your look today?
In middle school, we had uniforms: collared shirts, khakis, and whatever shoes you wanted. And they better be some cool shoes because that’s the only way that you could set yourself apart. In high school, we were free to dress however, but no one taught us how to dress, and I feel like that was stunting the growth of individuality for people. It sure did for me. I was for sure a country boy in Dillard’s getting the Polos, the Levis, and all that stuff. Basically, I was following trends for a long time. My parents used to be like, “You ain’t getting all that stuff. It ain’t what you wear, it’s how you wear it.” I didn’t want to hear it then but now I understand it. It’s about how you wear it. It’s about individuality.
If you don’t mind me asking how old are you?
That’s a really good question. Keep going.
So when did you recognize and start to embrace your individuality?
I’ll tell you the last trend that I was on, and where I had to look at myself where I was like, “Is this me?” It was the crossbody [bag]. That was when I was like, “I might stop trying to be like everybody else.” I just started wearing the good ol’ beater. I had my high school friends who weren’t trying to follow trends, and this is just what they wore everyday. I don’t call them “wife beaters” because I’m trying to be PC. I call them “odd beaters,” because I beat the odds in them.
I saw you mentioned Prince and Rick James as idols. They were enigmas in music and also had a way of dealing with the press. Do you think about how to protect yourself and your mystery while interacting with the press?
First of all, I have to nip that Prince and Rick James thing in the bud. It’s way more names out there and it’s way deeper than that. But as far as the mystery, it’s super important. It’s all about doing it tastefully. All I do is watch old interviews to see how these giants in music used to answer these questions. I was watching this Motley Crue interview and they were like, “Who are your influences?” and they were just naming them off. You ask an artist that now, and they’ll be like, “Damn, bro! I’m naked!”
I just have to be mindful of what I put out because it’s so early in my career. That’s always my thing — I have to make sure this interview is really good. I have to make sure I give good content, because content is key. I don’t like to watch new artist interviews because there’s no depth. But now I’m doing them! I hope I’m not giving the same thing.
The visuals of your music have felt like an escape. It feels like its own world and completely removed from the reality that we’re currently in. Throughout the 2010s, a lot of young, great artists as world-builders have come from Texas: Brockhampton, Solange, etc. Why do you think being a world-builder as an artist is so important? And what is it about Texas that maybe makes world-building easier to do?
This is the entertainment business. It’s all about giving. I woke up and decided I’m going to do this. I can’t half ass it. For great artists, that is their life. They go to sleep and wake up doing that. And sometimes, we happen to be from Texas — like Beyoncé. What is it about Texas? I really don’t know. Houston culture is different, Austin is just weird, and Dallas has this dance boogie. Like, that Dallas sound is what’s mainstream right now. KBZO, Thug Boss Nation and those dudes. If you listen to the music now, it’s their influence! I want to give them their flowers while they are here. Shoutout to the boogie movement. Boogie, boogie, boogie all the way to Taco Bell.
Music is becoming more and more genreless and you’ve been referred to as a genre-bending artist. Does fusing all of these different sounds from other genres come easy to you?
I feel like that genre thing is going to be a thing of the past, kind of like how gender is now. Genre keeps things organized, and it’s so funny that it keeps things organized because artists are usually the most unorganized people ever. It’s like, “Oh, we’re going to organize all of this creativity.”
For me, this is trial and error. When I made “100 Drums” it was the first rock thing that I did. It was the first time I made a conscious decision to make a rock song. After that, I saw how my songwriting started changing. Writing to a guitar is a lot easier for me than listening to a beat for four hours straight. I’m not trying to make a rock song or a hip-hop song — I’m trying to make really good art.
Your white bass has become something of a symbol for you. The bass, oftentimes, doesn’t get as much love as it should. What’s the story behind it?
The story of Beaumont is, my dad is always in the pawn shop. He’s really like a supreme thrifter. So, I came back from LA, and he was like, “Come here real quick!” We went to the pawn shop and he went up to the counter and he had this bass, and he was like, “Learn to play that.” That was last October and ever since Beaumont has been on me. The bottom is so important in music, especially with the 808. Bass players who make music, they get that. Rick James, Bootsy Collins, The Brothers Johnson — their bass lines are crazy. Now, it’s the 808. If you’re out here freaking the 808, you’re a bass player. I was a producer, so I look at Beaumont as an 808.
What would you say your favorite bass line from a song is and why?
The baseline from “P-poppin‘” by Ludacris. It’s so good. I catch myself singing that all the time.
“Check on your strong friend” is a sentiment that resonates and I see it online a lot. You’re tapping into what a lot of us are feeling right now.
I think the idea came three years ago. We’re supposed to check on our people, period — it doesn’t have to be a strong friend. But it’s easier said than done. I made “Strong Friend” but I will be sitting next to someone and still not say something. And I made the song! I hope people understand it’s super important to do. It’s a hard thing to do and it’s the most badass thing you could do.
How do you deal with difficult moments? Who or what do you turn to?
I go in my closet and pray. That’s the first thing before I do anything. Then I find a good show to binge, to escape. Self care for sure. I treat myself. Like, “I’m going to make some cereal today, but I’m going to cut some strawberries up and put it in.” But also just creating — I seem to feel the worst when I’m not doing music or stuff like this. I feel like it gets real dark for me. One thing I’m trying to work on right now — I just heard this quote from [keyboardist] Greg Phillinganes. Someone told him, “You’ll never be more of a musician than you are as a human being.” And I heard that and I was like, “Damn!” Because I’m always like, “I’m Teezo! I don’t do regular stuff!” But at the end of the day, it’s impossible to be more of whatever you say you are than a human.
For a lot of people, a way to distract themselves is work. I’m not sure if that’s always the best.
I’m learning that it’s not. I took a deep dive into this artistry because it was an escape. The world I was living in was super crazy, and I hopped into this one. But now, I’m seeing the effects. Now I’m like, “Maybe that wasn’t the healthiest way to do it.” Hopefully, someone will read this right now and see, no matter how fast you think you are, it’s going to catch up with you.
MATCH A B♻️G OR BE A 🍭 pic.twitter.com/GO3daocNCj
— Mr.Mrs (@TeezoTouchdown) January 9, 2020
Talk to me about “Match A Bag.” It’s a great way of taking something that may otherwise be preachy or annoying and saying it in the smoothest way.
When I came back from LA, I went back to Beaumont to really immerse myself in Beaumont — to really breathe, eat, sleep, Beaumont. I can’t drive; my license is suspended. So I would walk everywhere. There was this store on my street and I would walk there to get LifeSaver Sours. One day I went, and it was hella trash everywhere. I just started picking this stuff up. We had just finished something else and we had the camera, so I just freestyled [the video] and posted it.
You’re mentioning this LA trip. How was that? Are you thinking about moving there?
LA was never a place for us to go, so for me to end up there was crazy. But I like being in Texas. I really don’t see myself living in LA unless my career takes me there. Austin is what I have my eyes on. I’m really digging Austin — so weird and cool. There’s scooters everywhere.
It’s November 2020 — the month of the presidential election and 10 months in on Coronavirus. Being young, Black and Texan, how do you feel about the future here?
I’m very optimistic for the future. I feel like right now, it seems like it’s a hypersensitive time. We have to watch what we say; you have to be super politically correct. And I feel like, right now, I don’t mind it because I feel like it’s necessary. If we have to go through this right now to get to a better future. I think if we keep going we will be in a better place.
I talk to my peers, and knowing our influence we can do some crazy stuff. I want to go to [the University of Texas at Austin] and link with the political science majors. The next president is down in Austin getting lit right now, listening to some Teezo. The future is either in school or in the trap. I want to put out a message and try to get to them. Trust me. It’s a very exciting time in music right now. People’s switches are starting to cut on. The consumers are getting smarter. Just like in politics, the artists are being held accountable right now. It’s only going to benefit us all at the end of the day, if you can make it through it.
So, if we’re early right now, when will people be late?
You’re still early if I go somewhere and you don’t know who I am. I just went to my friend’s birthday party and I was in line at the club, standing out. It was like, “Yeah, you ain’t where you think you at Mr. Teezo!” It’s not going to be until everybody — even the babies coming out the womb — know who I am.