By Charlie Malcolm-Mckay
Local to the city of Leeds and gaining increasing recognition TJ Tucker is a progressive artiste with a unique sound that is both experimental and part of a larger movement transforming the U.K’s hip-hop scene. His explosive, passionate and at times melodic lyrics combined with his fiercely energetic performances highlight the multiple dimensions that TJ has to offer as a forthcoming artiste.
To this date he has released 3 EPs, two solo and one collaborative, the latest being the five-track experience Flame Camp; a collection of interconnected tracks that showcase a distinctive use of auto-tuned cadence and timbre and explore various sonic progressions. Available exclusively on Soundcloud his latest work brings together themes of introversion, enlightenment and rage in a somewhat paradoxical but simultaneously artistically effective way.
After just coming back from his first performance overseas in Verona, Italy I was able to catch up with TJ in his studio where we sat down and had an insightful discussion that can be read below.
TJ. Firstly, it’s great to too see you. Could you briefly describe yourself as an artiste what your all about? For me as an artiste it’s all about feelings, it’s about making people feel something. I want my music to be motivating for me as much as it is people listening to it.
At what point did you realise that making music was for you and what did you think caused this realisation? That’s a mad question. I remember when I was younger, I never wanted to get on the mic and was just writing all the time. I used to want to do hella things. I wanted to be a postman at one point. But I think the first time I realised was when I first I performed live with my boy Sainty in London in New Cross Inn’s basement with no stage. To get people’s attention we jumped on the tables and brought mad energy, that was crazy, it started everything.
You’re an independent artiste but your also part of a larger movement in VIBESONLY. Describe the essence of this group and how you came together. Firstly, I’ve got to mention everyone’s names otherwise I know they’ll kill me so, PRCL Productions, FORTYTWOSOUND, Kid Sainty, Lucid Mike, Houseless Hills, C.A.M.P Caesar. Basically, it’s a family. It’s a collection of uber creative people, who are more than just about music. It came about when I first came to uni with my boy Sainty and got to vibe with different people. This word vibe just kept coming up and we were like fam we should actually come together and make this into something. Obviously, were based in the U.K and at the moment I just feel like it’s really closed minded when it comes to music, you know? We don’t have any Travis Scotts or Jadens who explore and experiment with different sounds. VIBESONLY do this, we are very out there, we’re loud, colourful and all love, it’s just vibes man. We want to bring the energy of groups like ODD FUTURE and ASAP MOB.
One project that came out of VIBESONLY is the smoke boy’s series what inspired this? And will we be getting a re-instalment. It started when I got mad into Jazz and old 70’s films like the style and sound-tracks. It really began with me, C.A.M.P Caesar and PRCL just vibing to Jazz in our sessions, where we were making a different type of sound to what we normally do. It was after we finished making the track GUAVA when I rang up PRCL and was like yo we should make a bunch of these and put it into a tape. I took us two months before the full EP was out, which was sick because it dropped on my birthday in April. There will be more, 110%, Smoke boys is going to carry on until I can’t smoke no more.
You often collaborate with other artistes, what is the power of doing this? Collaboration opens you up to whole new worlds, whether that be another artiste’s world like what is going in their head and what they’ve been through, you know? Everyone comes from different places so it’s cool to connect with someone. I can’t do a collaboration with someone if there’s no connection there. You got to keep it real.
Flame Camp is your latest EP. You’ve called it a ‘5 track experience’, What is the essential concept behind it and how does it differ from your other Eps. I really believe Flame Camp is an experience. Me and FORTYTWOSOUND came together and just camped out in the studio for five days. Everything was done in five days, Everything, was fresh, every beat, every lyric, everything. I put a lot of emotion into it. At the time I was feeling very frustrated and angry at my job. I was literally burning inside because I don’t believe in doing anything that you don’t enjoy, especially for money. I wanted to vent all my energy into Flame Camp, I let the music speak the facts.
Personally, one of my favourite tracks on flame camp is UFO. I think as a track it shows your versatility as an artist, as it is the first time, we hear you stretch yourself vocally. Is this something we're going to be seeing more of in your music? Hell yeah. Its mad I actually have quite a few tracks like that, but it’s just about polishing them up and this was the most polished. But definitely there’s going to be more man.
You have a tattoo HND, what does this stand for? HND is actually something that I’ve been working on for a while. It stands for ‘Heroes Never Die’. It’s a project I’ve been working on and this is the first time it will ever been spoken about. I am quite introverted as a person so for me being able to make music is like a super-power. I’ve lost people in my family before their time and I say HND instead of RIP. They were heroes to me and will live on with me, this project is something I will be happy leaving on this earth. It’s also about those that are gone before there time like Mac Miller, Lil Peep, Michael Jackson, but are immortal in their music and I want the same. It’s me saying I can be whatever I want to be.
Let’s talk about your live performances, your shows are distinguished by the energy that you bring. You often self-identify as a ‘rager’, what does this mean?
For me, my shows are when my music comes alive. Everything I was feeling when I was writing, and recording can now come out. It’s my time to let loose and I want the audience from the front to the back to do that too. It’s a time to scream and to be honest I just love going wild. I’ve broken many speakers and I am sorry.
You’ve just got back from your first performance overseas in Italy. Tell me how that came about and what you gained from the experience. Yeah that was amazing. It came about when I met another artist in Leeds called Blackson. through an event Peculiar Dialect held (Flavourz) at LS6 café. Blackson was going back home to Verona and he wanted to hold a show in his hometown and asked myself and Peculiar Dialect to join him. We wanted to show case what is going on here (in Leeds) other there. It was a learning experience, good energy, beautiful place and beautiful people, we got a lot of love out there. There’s defiantly going to be more overseas shows to come, for sure.
Do you feel that you have established yourself as an artiste, in what was do you want to grow? I feel I’ve 100% established myself as an artist yeah. There’s still more that people need to know about me. The next step for me is putting more out whether that be videos, content or interviews just like this. It’s about making them know the name and growing the base.
You can listen to TJ Tucker’s latest EP Flame Camp on Soundcloud and expect his newest single on November 13th, as part of his forthcoming HND project.