It feels wrong to categorise New York artist Teddy as a rapper. The 21-year-old is the epitome of the internet-age musician: who detractors would dismiss as mallcore, and stans would defend as a genre-bending pioneer, using adventurous production and unusual combinations to create a sound that is infectious and widely appealing. Both are correct, though the former should not be seen as an insult, for it is precisely this musical and thematic repackaging of genres gone by that places Teddy and his peers at such a unique and exciting position in the industry.
The music gathers themes about the human condition that are characteristic of hard rock and metal — depression, anxiety, “life and that real shit” — and repatriates them amongst a fuzzy melange of trap beats, catchy hooks, and roughly muffled guitar riffs. In the middle of it all, Teddy acts as a front man as well as a conductor, his voice quietly roaring over the instrumental, placing him at the centre of this messy, wonderful Venn-diagram of styles and genres. His latest project, September’s “Castle With No Light” EP, is very much a product of this refusal to conform, drawing from all corners of the musical landscape to create something adventurous and new.
“It hits a lot of categories”, he agrees. “For some reason I just like the sound of trap drums with guitar. As soon as I heard people start mixing that shit together, I was like, ‘Yo, I’ve got to make something like that.’” This personal, “introspective” output may be surprising coming from a vibrantly blonde kid who grew up listening to SOJA and Bob Marley, and who would otherwise be a professional surfer. In fact, Teddy rejects the critic’s favoured definition of ‘dark’ to describe his sound: “I don’t really find any of my music dark… I try and be honest, you know?” This is important. While the description of such themes as “dark” reinforces the stereotypical notion of negativity and otherness that has unfortunately plagued the mental health discussion, Teddy simply sees his music as a universal expression of emotions, or “feelings that all people feel”, as he puts it.
Any purists still questioning the tangible integrity of his fluid songs would have to ignore the legions of fans that loyally turn up at every show, like the sold-out night in Portland a few weeks ago. “They knew every lyric of every song,” he gushes proudly, “they turned up the whole time… I’ll never forget that shit. Seeing people react like that, it changed my life to be honest with you.” The same can inevitably be said in reverse, with daily messages from his die hards flooding the artist’s phone, recounting the various ways in which his songs have helped them.This disciple-level adoration has caused no messiah-complex in Teddy. “It motivates me so much,” he says earnestly. “As soon as you feel that you are changing someone through something you are making, it’s another world. It’s a whole different game. It makes me never want to put down the mic.” And with a sound that is — excitingly — yet to be fully formed, we hope he never does.
Taken from the Winter 2018/19 issue; out now and available to buy here.