(I interviewed Tef Poe this past summer, shortly after the release of his album War Machine 2. Poe is an independent artist from St. Louis, MO. He was BET’s freestyle friday champion four weeks in a row before being retired earlier this month, and will be performing at SXSW in Austin next month.Since STL Mag didn’t run this, I figured I’d share it here.)
You recently released WM2, how has the response been to that?
It’s been great man, I’ve been on the road since the day after we released it. It’s doing numbers that none of my other mixtapes have done. I’m doing other things concerning media outreach. I did an interview with a radio show in the UK and I got booked to do a show in Memphis off of the strength of the mixtape. It’s been cool. It’s been a really good experience so far.
There are a number of features on the album, most notably Killer Mike and Royce da 5’9”. How did those come about?
I’ve been working with Koko from Basement Beats for a very long time, and he’s actually close with a lot of people in the industry. Royce just happens to be one of them. Koko set it up, and he actually got the verse from Royce. He called me over to the studio, and played it, and I was like, ‘Wow how’d you do that?’ And I recorded my verse that then and there.
I hate saying and doing stupid shit. The problem is when your mouth is as big as mine and you’ve been through some of the things I’ve been through you simply don’t care about being politically or socially correct sometimes. My entire persona within the music lies within the fact that I’m pretty much not faking anything concerning my opinions and my life. This weekend I was railroaded into a situation that I’m not proud to speak about. I was billed to participate in the Rakim show in Saint Louis. Long story short my name is all over the flyers and promo materials. I helped push the show and I ended up doing one record when it was planned that I would do an entire set and was billed as a headlining act alongside the God emcee. From the jump this promoter set us up for failure by not returning my phone calls, no set list, adding extra acts to the bill. Every attempt from my management to handle this situation in a professional manner was treated with total disregard.
I was approached 5 minutes prior to touching the stage and told I would have to perform “after” Rakims set. There is no way a virtually unknown local emcee like myself in the process of making a name for his self can perform after the greatest rapper of all time. There were some miscommunications with the promoters crew concerning each other and somehow I was thrown in the middle of it. I was booked to do a full set and suddenly my set was reduced to 3 minutes. Myself and my band mates spent weeks rehearsing and preparing for this show. All night long we were asking the promoter when would our set start and no one had any answers. We were originally told to be there at 10:15. We arrived right around this time, prepared to do our set and were told that we were being pushed back but no one knew what time we would hit the stage. We continually asked what was going on and people associated with the promoter basically avoided talking to us. I’m on the side of the stage prepping to go on and they send the owner of the club (who happens to be a friend of mine) to tell me I might be performing after Rakim.
We learned this 5 minutes prior to going onstage.I said theres no way I can do that and this wasn’t our original agreement. The promoter then tells me you have 3 minutes. No way around it I was used and thrown away like so many other local artists in my position when dealing with record execs, and promotional companies that honestly don’t care about anything but making a dollar. The promoters also attempted to charge members of my band such as my DJ, Drummer, Hypeman, and managers, to enter the show.The ticket price of the show was $30 and they attempted to charge us all to enter the show after they booked us to perform and appear at the venue. We sat at sound check for two hours waiting for someone to show up. They told us to sound check at 5pm and no one arrived until 7pm. We sat in this venue for 2 hours completely clueless.
Long story short myself and my entire team were treated horribly.It seems like the only thing this promoter cared about was getting bodies in the building to make a profit.We were asked to be apart of this bill but the treatment was less than anything professional. I’m not even revealing the full extent of the story in this blog because there are things I can’t say due to my desire to not completely come off sounding overly aggressive and angry.
I came in peace and attempted to settle the many issues we were having with this promoter behind the scenes prior to the show. I was billed and used to help draw bodies to the venue but I was treated like pure dog shit by this promoter on the day of the show. I didn’t ask to be there, they booked me, added my name to the flyer and basically it was all down hill from there.
By the time I got on stage the crowd was extremely pissed with the quality of the show prior to myself and Rakim.I was so upset with the way we were being treated I was simply overflowing with anger. I had no clarity on who was affiliated or associated with the promoters because none was offered to me.Every question we asked was constantly ignored or overlooked. From my perspective everyone on the stage was working w/ the promoters. 12-6 Movement performed prior to the moment I touched the stage. I was contacted by certain members from 12-6 about doing this show prior to joining the bill.They were reaching out to me attempting to help the promoter book me or place me in contact w/ the people that desired to book me. So for all I knew at that very moment 12-6 was just as guilty as the promoter. I went on a rant and said some hurtful things that I later regretted.
I called Just Time from 12-6 and explained to him my position. I apologized for anything I might’ve said that offended them. However no one from the promoters company has contacted me or offered any type of compensation for the foul treatment we experienced at this show.I’m not even certain who the promoters actually are because everyone that claimed to be a point man passed the blame on to the next person.I later learned that 12-6 were basically thrown into the same situation as myself.So I did the right thing, placed a phone call to one of their members and sincerely apologized for my rant. Over the years we’ve had our differences but my spirit felt unresolved and couldn’t rest until I made this right. I don’t care about looking crazy onstage that comes with the territory of being me and believing the things I believe.Sometimes you have to take a stand even when people don’t fully understand why you’re taking this stand. I feel as if some deflecting on some level is indeed going on since 12-6 does have a personal relationship w/ Archfront Media.I respect this but I feel like my side of the story just isn’t being told in certain circles of people.
In this city artists are constantly taken advantage of unjustifiably and at that very moment I was simply fed up. My words were not the kindest and I was misinformed about who was truly the blame. I don’t desire to further the negative energy or throw these guys under the bus. But no one from Archfront Media has contacted my team to explain exactly what happened. I was bamboozled , hoodwinked and used. We were told we were being booked as a headlining act.At the time I was booked for the show I was on television every week so It kind of feels like I was booked because I have high visibility at the moment. I usually charge a set fee for this type of performance. Whenever we attempted to discuss this with them they dodged us and even added my name to the Rakim show flyer without actually speaking to myself or my management verbally.My fan’s and supporters saw the flyer before I actually saw it and it was too late to tell them that I was not actually booked at that current moment.We tried to handle it behind the scenes but never Archfront never got back to us until the day of the show when we approached them at the venue during sound check.I only knew about sound check because I called the venue and spoke to the sound engineer personally myself.
I’m simply explaining things from my side of the story. My spirit can’t rest with ppl assuming I randomly decided to have a hot headed moment out the clear blue. For the people claiming my rant showcases “racial” tension. The one song I actually did perform was “Coming Outta Missouri” I’m bigging up people of the opposite race that live the same exact lifestyle of disparity which minorities live daily on this record —go listen to the lyrics.I have a rapper named Whiteout jumping around onstage with me.
Hip hop was designed by poor blacks and latino’s.At that very moment I felt like I was being taken advantage of by people that didn’t completely understand the culture.I apologize sincerely to the friends I have in the scene that may have been affected by my rant but I was simply attempting to defend myself in a moment of extreme confusion. I respect everyone despite the petty differences we may have. I have one of the most diverse rap crews in Saint Louis, we’re comprised black guys, white guys, a psycho white DJ, and a few Jewish dudes.I encourage other rap groups in Saint Louis to partake in this form of diversity when building your crew. Behind the scenes things were taking place that the average person didn’t see and I honestly was under the impression that the group onstage prior to me was working with the promoters.I later learned they weren’t and I apologized. I primarily function off of respect. If you respect me as a man then I will in return do the exact same. Since I was contacted by a few members of 12-6 about doing the show, I was sincerely under the impression that they were tag teaming on this showcase with the promoters.
I learned a few lessons from this experience.The most important one being the importance of contracts when doing a show of this magnitude.The importance of staying relaxed and controlling your passion. I do feel we were mistreated. I do feel as if I was screwed in the anus with zero lubrication. So many artists are powerless in this industry and even on a local level theres only so much we can truthfully do to fix this problem. I had a special set prepared for this show. I invited Black Spade to come up mid set and do all new material. Spade agreed to do this for free since he understood the scenario. Due to this promoters mistreatment Spade sat there on the side of the stage and was mistreated with me.He didn’t perform and came out for nothing since we were reduced to 3 minutes of stage time. I invited special background vocalists to partake in this show. All of these people were charged by the promoter to enter the show even after they told them they were apart of my set. We were taken advantage of on all levels and my feelings were sincerely hurt. My music is really all I have. My live performances are a chance for me to connect with the fans and give them something special. I was trained by some of the best emcee’s in our cities history to take this art form serious. I apologize to 12-6 Movement for throwing them under the bus and unknowingly aiming my aggression at the wrong people. I would love to have an open conversation with Archfront Media about exactly what happened on this night. I don’t desire to damage their reputation or perpetuate any negative energy.I wish them much success in the future, I would simply like to know why we were put in this position by their company. Things like this happen all the time when the people in the position of power in our community come from foreign communities. I respect everyone and I think Hip Hop deserves to be respected as our legitimate culture. Our lives are at stake with this art form on a daily basis. I know the pressure attached to promoting a show as I have also worn this same exact hat. Something went wrong and I have no idea who is the blame.
Once again I am indeed sorry for my behavior and I hope people read this and honestly put yourself in my shoes. I come from a segregated city. I am knee deep in the hip hop community and I live to stand up for minority artists being raped by the industry. This has always been something that is true to my character. I was put into a situation where I assumed everyone affiliated with the environment was working together. This is how this particular show was presented to me so it’s also what I assumed was taking place.My rant may have been wrongfully aimed at the wrong people. I may have used language that was over the top and offensive. But the greater point is, both parties were taken advantage of and there was no one there advocate for what was right on our behalves. Aside from this a bunch of old schoolers got to witness a Tef Poe rant next week I’ll look back and laugh at such a thought. This is my position hate or love it, I’m just being upfront and honest about it. I don’t hate 12-6, and I have nothing personal against them. Spark1duh is an amazing performer.I consider their partner DJ Who to be a very respectable comrade of mine in the hip hop community.Their entire crew is actually closely connected to my cousin DJ Uptown. They have some solid production from some of the area’s best producers. I assumed they were working with the suits since they reached out to me on their behalf on a few occasions. People look at it like he was just upset with the white guys. I was also upset with the black guys hence the fight that nearly broke out backstage between myself and a overly aggressive bouncer attempting to defend the promoters but lacking total complete info about the fact that I was booked by them to perform and jerked off at the end of it all.Like I said before from my perspective at that time everyone involved was using me until I later learned the complete breakdown of what was actually taking place. I have apologized to Just Time and his crew. I have no ill intentions towards them.I could not rest my mind, and spirit, until I made some sort of attempt to explain myself and also apologize to the proper people. I wish all parties involved the best but I deserve the right to explain myself. I was attempting to defend myself and even still after the smoke has settled no one has attempted to reach out to me in the name of correcting their wrong.All while a few people have attempted to throw me under the bus for having a Kanye moment, no one has acknowledged the greater fact that I was the artist placed in a vulnerable position and being taken advantage of by a far more powerful conglomerate. I’ll fight this fight every time rather I look crazy or not I refuse to be taken advantage of without speaking my mind about it. I am very depressed about this situation, because I feel defenseless. My anger was misdirected by the intention was purposeful.