by Dan O
On Teller’s birthday (3 days after mine!) the Des Moines, Iowa MC dropped 5 albums of new content. No compilations, no EP’s, no mixtapes. Over and over again I’ve called Teller the Ja Morant of rap. Listening to him snap on guest features is like watching Ja fly over a big and dunk while the crowd holds their faces. While his work with Ed Glorious elevated his profile I was always aware of the other Teller. Ed’s production pushes MC’s into a very personal place, the samples cry out in pain wound so tightly you can’t escape. I was repping those projects to anyone who would listen. Anyone who loves rap should be able to love That Part & Parcel and The Grotesque & Beautiful. Jaxkie Brown was the first time I was rocking with the other Teller; autotuned and singing over dazzling hi hats on songs like Pull Up you could hear how free he was. Putting down the obligation to tell character stories (The Grotesque & Beautiful) over soulful sounds, he was moving at a completely different pace. You could hear the Wayne influence and Teller speaking to it, asking, what if Weezy had always been free? If Weezy could have developed as an indie rapper how would he have balanced his talents?
The answer to the title of this article is to teach you what he can do. If you loved That Part & Parcel you might expect to keep getting that. New fans need to understand your not listening to someone who is going to hammer and chisel one direction for twenty years. Within these 5 albums underground rap fans get exactly what they want but they also get introduced to the Teller Bank$ that could easily be a Pop star. Here is how the albums break down:
On 777 you can hear how much he loves barring out with fellow wild voice all stars Pro Zay and Sekwence on Rocket Science. You can feel the comfort and respect Aakeem Eshu and Teller share on The Maharishi Menace. Underground Teller is a great decision maker pulling in Sovren, Blaq Knight, Killer Kane & Flashius Clayton on the production side. 777 is one of the best albums of 2022. Re-Rock and Dissonance he just plain snaps in a way very few can. 666 is about leveraging anger into the music. That’s why it starts with WAR and ends with Dead Man Walking. 13 songs only 2 vocal features (Vin on Thinkin Bout It and Ponderosa Moe on Wildboy) its an album you need to hear to know that the adrenaline built into this mans flow comes at least partially from vengeance. An internal stimulant that must be acknowledged. This album is entirely produced by Teller and you can hear the impact in beats like Stick and how the production pushes his vocal viciousness on Shooter.
Some people are underground rappers because they hate pop rap, its completely healthy to be driven to your best place by that which you can’t stand but Teller’s not one of those cats. He wants to paint with all the colors and beyond that… I’ll let him say it.
To add to this point, he’d likely rather allow his music to entertain him. The trauma market can be lucrative but it takes a toll and can feel like being used. Teller wants the freedom to make music that’s fun, seductive, opulent, and lots of other things that Skullface: 777 can’t do (as great as it is). 777 is one of my favorite albums of the year but I don’t think I like it as much as Skullface: 357. If Rick Ross heard Steppin’ to Brought It Back to Strip Joint TB$ would be on Maybach Music right now. These are still great rap songs with full bars, vivid imagery but the hooks are simple and repeatable. The melodies are deeper entrenched which allows for a bounce that could live on the radio easily. Strip Joint is an earnestly seductive song where he talks to women with a natural charisma a lot of rappers work years to achieve. That song feeds right into Panther which puts him back in his mind again, moving with dealers, getting off his @$$, mobilizing himself in the right direction. As unbelievable as Saint Christopher Freestyle is (I will not spoil or go in detail) my favorite song is Talmbout. In a few seconds he says “I’m good long as my Momma up, I’m good long as my B_’s love me. I could give a F_ bout who she F_’s long as she listen to me. I could give a F_ bout who she F_’s long as she getting money.” He says it with so much swagger it sounds like he’s making fun of anyone who would worry about sexual monogamy, and it’s an earworm. 357 is my favorite because we get a full look into how good he could be without any expectations and brighter sonics. 333 is 9 songs and a little darker. Still pop but in that Moneybagg Yo part of the field. Kitchen and Same Thing (featuring Chico McGee & Space) are examples. 1123 is a lyrical standout. San Andreas is probably the best warning for what is to come at the highest level.
The Real Skullface isn’t even a rap album. Which sounds insane when you know how great he is at rapping. What is full on R&B Teller like? Well, picture 1980 Gentleman Ruffin era David Ruffin in a post-Pluto universe. It’s not TB$ best album but it’s his greatest experiment by a lot. It is very likely Ruffin post-Future is not your wheelhouse but you need this album even if that’s the case. The run on this from Blue Magik (song 4) through Medication (song 6) is magical. It has two interludes (She-Devil Interlude, L Word Interlude) that are too long to be such things but they don’t really feel like songs either. They exist in some magical vamping grey area created by a mind with too much in it. I’m not sure how you would hear this album if you didn’t know what else he could do but once you know this is the final level it’s staggering. Prototype sent me into flashbacks watching Wayne’s Single For The Night video and thinking…oh this is what makes him different. He can play around and do this and people that rap as good as him could work years and never make this. The bandcamp description says of The Real Skullface “My favorite album of all time.” It’s not mine but if I had made it successfully I’d be just as proud of it. It shows a complete mastery of a worlds worth of skills. Go on the journey, I think your finally ready.
Open your wallet and cop Teller Bank$ music below: