#WestCoastWednesdays presents TEC.

As someone who finds a great sense of meaning, emotion, and connection through music, it can be difficult to wrap my mind around the reality that my relationship to music is secondary, or possibly even tertiary. While many artists thrive off of their audience’s response to their music, there is certainly a level of fulfillment that each artist gets from the process of creating and recording his/her art. A small percentage of artists only do it for the process, and get little to nothing out of releasing their music. This means that much of the greatest music ever released may be sitting on ADAT tapes, zip drives, hard drives, or other audio recording/storage devices in creative spaces all over the globe. Prince’s untimely death brought this discussion to the forefront, and keeps it there as his estate and his collaborators wage legal battles over if, how, and when to release the hundreds of songs in the vault. There may be a plethora of reasons Prince has such a large catalogue of unreleased music, but regardless of the reason, some of his greatest music is yet to be heard. San Diego’s TEC., emcee, producer, curator, and more, finds himself among the camp of musicians and creators who get more out of the process than the product. This really comes as no surprise if you’ve ever seen or interacted with TEC. – his demeanor, posture, infectious smile, and generally jovial disposition each demonstrate that hip hop is not a platform for posturing or finding shallow praise and adoration, rather the culture is a place where he has found a home. As we all know, home ought to be the place where we are most comfortable. While comfort is a blessing, it can also be a curse, as is the case for TEC. in regard to his music. TEC. has gotten comfortable creating amazing music and stopping there, filling his vault with over 300 tracks, leaving collaborators and eager fans and friends anything but comfortable. TEC.’s love of the process and Prince-like perfectionism have kept his music at bay, but it seems as if the levee will give way in 2018 and we can expect at least a trickle of what’s in his musical reservoir. Please take some time out of your busy day to slow down with Nate and The Earth Child to learn of where he’s been, where he’s at, and where he’s going. Read. Enjoy. Share.

NW: Who is TEC.?

TEC.: I’m just a lover of good music & good times. Vinyl enthusiast. Lyricist. Musician. Curator of Park & Wreck Collective’s runnings. I’m a student of it all.

NW: Can you tell us a story about how hip hop has changed your life?

TEC.: All the support & opportunities that have been offered since coming into the [hip hop] scene & the inspiration that comes along with it is pretty life-changing. All the different connections you make that lead to endless possibilities. Being able to open up for some of the bigger names that I have, rocking stages that you never thought you would, having records & cassettes with your name on them being funded & released for you, having someone interested enough in your life to interview you, lol. The people who support you is what’s crazy & life changing. You start to realize how limitless & full circle things really are. Humbling most def.

NW: You are a man of many hats, but I want to start with you as a producer since that’s how I first learned of L-TEC., now just “TEC.”. Okay, let me take a step back now that I just remembered that. Why the name change?

TEC.: I guess it was a combination of a few things ultimately. The first moniker I ever made for myself was Lethargik The Haggard when I was like 15-16 & then switched that to Lethargik The Earth Child, soon after. I was big on ‘titles’ in rapper’s aliases at that time like, “Slick Rick The Ruler”, “Apathy The Alien Tongue” etc. Eventually, I started using the acronym L-TEC. instead, but when homies would say TEC. for short, I just liked the ring of that better & eventually changed it. That just rolls off the tongue easiest, but I guess it’s all one & the same.

NW: Okay, TEC. the producer. How did you get into making beats? Who is one producer that caught your ear coming up in hip hop? Who is a producer that inspires you to continue growing and evolving? And finally, which San Diego-based producer’s beats make you want to rap?

TEC.: I think it was summer of 2012 when the homie Bob V. let me borrow his SP-303. I had been collecting records for a few years at that point & had a lot of potential samples written down but didn’t really have the means or know-how to turn them into beats up until then. Growing up, I was honestly more into trip-hop producers before I got to know some of the hip-hop greats. I could say that Blockhead & RJD2 were easily some of my favorite producers in high school. They definitely made me want to start painting my own pictures with sound. Although watching videos of 9th Wonder make beats makes me feel like he’s my spirit animal, I couldn’t say there’s one producer that does it for me nowadays. There’s an overload of dope content out there so I just like to find new stuff constantly & draw inspiration from it all. As far as San Diego producers that make me want to rap, the list is long! Bonita Basics, Veks, Marques Lattin, Gabo, Dunga, [Ralph Quasar, fka] 18sense, Tall,Drk, Kendall Carter to name a few. I could go on.

NW: That’s dope, and a great segue and I want to come back to the whole you rappin’ thing, but let’s linger in the realm of production for a bit. How would you describe your ‘sound’?

TEC.: Eclectic, haha. I feel like my main inspiration for making beats didn’t stem from boom bap, which kinda pulls my sound all over the place. I grew up playing guitar & piano & listening to all different types of music, so it’s usually more about experimentation & challenging myself for me. I was actually chillin’ with the homie Loki a couple weeks ago, playing random beats on my computer & he said I was probably the only producer he knows who can show him 4 different beats & he would think they all came from 4 different people, haha. I still feel pretty novice to it all though & think I still have a lot to learn about production, but it’s cool that people still vibe to what I’ve had to offer thus far. I just like to make trippy stuff to smoke to honestly. Whatever gets me into that zone.

NW: Are there any emcees in San Diego who are on your bucket list to work with? What about her/his style make a collaboration feel right?

TEC.: To be honest, as a producer, not really. I tend to fill a lot my beats out with a lot of random vocal clips & whatnot so that they tell their own story. If anything, I tend to gravitate towards singers. Without a doubt, there’s some emcees in SD who definitely deserve honorable mention, but I just don’t really go looking for people to rap on them too often. I usually struggle to leave a beat simple enough to allow a rapper to get on it; I tend to have to tell myself to leave it alone before I do too much, haha.

NW: As a producer, who have you already worked with? Any projects stand out as ‘favorites’? Why?

TEC.: My first project I ever produced was with the homie Ricky Gutz. We probably put that out like a year after I had first started making beats & I was still pretty novice in the line of production & engineering. I probably still ain’t too much better lol, but that whole experience definitely taught me a lot. Other than that, I’ve had a handful of other homies from the PWC camp hop on some beats, 18sense has rapped on a beat or two & Ric Scales & Tall Can both have some beats from me, that’s about it though. One of my childhood homies Kam & I are wrapping up our second EP that’s sounding pretty solid & I also have this project with the homegirl Becx that I’ve been lagging to put the finishing touches on. She’s a dope vocalist & definitely does the beats I gave her justice.

NW: Staying busy. Let’s transition to TEC. the emcee. My fanship was solidified the night I saw you rap a whole set at Hip Hop House SD, at the AC Lounge a while back. Super dope. When did you first start writing raps? What got you into writing?

TEC.: Much appreciated! I’ve definitely been a lyricist longer than I’ve been a producer. I probably started writing when I was about 16, just messing around over random beats with the homie Grant in high school. He was taking music a lot more serious than I was at the time & had recording equipment & all that. He’s the one I penned my first verse with. After my first one, I felt like I had a little knack for it & just continued to sharpen the sword with the homies, watching conspiracy documentaries, smoking bowls, kickin freestyles & whatnot. What I assume is typical teenage hip-hop shxt, haha.

NW: Just because I always gotta get to this in some way, let’s talk favorite rappers. Favorite West Coast rapper? Favorite East Coast Rapper? Favorite SD rapper? Favorite storyteller? Favorite lyricist? That’s probably enough of that, haha.

TEC.: Ah man I’m the worst with that, partially because I’m a music nerd so there’s too many to choose from & partially because I have a horrible memory. I feel like there’s so many different things to take from a person’s rap style, but if I HAVE to choose, off the top of my head, I’ll say Black Thought or Pharoahe Monch for east coast, just based on raw ass delivery. Grand Puba has always had hella flavor too though. West Coast, I’ll go with Blu. For storytelling, I’ll say Nas. My favorite when it comes to straight up lyricism is Aesop Rock, hands down. I don’t think I have one favorite rapper in SD, but if I had to list some favorites then I’d say Ricky Gutz, Skelly, Emphasize, Piff (PCH), Mathias Kruse, Absent Acclaim, Dre Trav, 18[sense aka Ralph Quasar] & Ric [Scales]. There’s definitely more, but all those dudes got bars for sure.

NW: So, I began my usual process, got into my down-the-rabbit-hole headspace, and began digging for your music. All I found was some of your production from 3 years ago. Why aren’t any of your new beats up? Why can’t fans and friends get their ears on your raps?

TEC.: A few years ago, I felt like I was putting anything & everything I created out just to get that instant gratification. A lot of times, things that weren’t ready or had no home other than as a random one-off single. I wanted to take some time away to sharpen my sword, as well as better formulate how I wanted to present my music & make everything feel more timeless for both myself & the listener, & then I admittedly got comfortable within that hiatus. I haven’t stopped making music by any means, but I just started creating & archiving like crazy. Creating a lot of content with no intent other than feeding my creative needs, not really much intent to ever release any of it. There’s probably literally a good 300+ unreleased beats & recorded tracks on my hard drive that have piled up over the past few years. I’ve been in a good place as of late though & have been getting asked about future releases A LOT this past year, so 2018 should see at least a couple drops from me. It’s about time, haha.

NW: While there is obviously joy in the process itself, I can only guess that a move like that is to provide a backdrop against which the new music will really pop. Is that accurate? What are you working on right now?

TEC.: Yeah, that’s about right. I have a couple weird beat/remix tapes that are basically done, but I just haven’t really decided on when to put them out. Then I have like 2 or 3 albums worth of raps that I’ve been piecing together into cohesive projects. Really looking forward to dropping those. Then the homie Bob V. & I have a 2-piece indie rock band called “t h w r s t k n d” which is probably the most eclectic project I’ve ever worked on, completely different than anything else I’ve ever released. It’s straight dancey/synthy/emotional/rock music. Our second demo/EP has been recorded & more or less done for like 2 years, but I can be a bit too much of a perfectionist at times, haha. Then I have those other collaborative production projects with Kam & Becx I had mentioned earlier. This is all stuff that has been compiling in my computer over the past few years & everyone’s mad at me cuz I take forever to put it out lol, but it’s definitely coming to a head now. I feel like once it’s all out, I’ll feel more comfortable about creating new content with a clean slate. Coming soon!

NW: Not only do you create music, but you also create platforms where others can share their music via the Park & Wreck Collective. What is P&WC? Who else is in the collective and how and why was it created?

TEC.: Park & Wreck Collective was originally formulated in like 2013 between me & a good 7 or 8 other homies. We used to just link up in our little creative space every night & record tracks & ended up putting out a good 3 or 4 compilations that ultimately ended up being archived. Over time, life & responsibilities & whatnot caused a lot of us to drift our separate ways, but Loki & I pretty much held the title down as a name to attach to our movements. Kam & Dan represent too, no doubt. Basically, it went from a super group of rappers to more of a music/arts collective.

NW: One of the mainstays of P&WC is the Cypher at the Hostel. Can you break down C.a.t.H. for us?

TEC.: Man, the cyphers are a blessing. Basically, the hostel started hosting music events about 3 years ago & had originally started with the homies at Sensori Collective. After a couple events, they started doing the all ages cyphers & basically threw Loki & I the reigns to it. The first handful of them, we were struggling to get people out there & would be hyped if we even saw that 15 people made it. We honestly almost gave up on it, but instead, decided to really try to spread the word & promote it ahead of time & that’s all it took. Just a little extra dedication. After that, the events basically started promoting themselves, people literally show up whether we promote it or not. They just know that every first Sunday of the month, you can come listen to some dope hip-hop in a good atmosphere & pass a mic around with like minds. There’s always good vibes, always connections being made & rarely any negativity. If there is any bad vibes, the regulars usually squash it before we even need to step in & do so. I’ve seen so many heads come through & progress as both MCs & producers. From youngsters to OGs in the scene, we’ve had so many people tell us how thankful they are for what we’re doing. It’s a beautiful thing, man. Cypher At The Hostel. Every first Sunday of the month at Hostelling International (Downtown SD) from 5-10pm. Come find out!

NW: You have a, like, mystique about you, which has only been emphasized throughout the interview. There is a peaceful and humble confidence about you. Why do you think that is? Because of this, it feels very much like your music comes from a very pure, organic place. Why do you create music?

TEC.: I appreciate that man, I couldn’t really say why that is though. I guess it’s just because I’m honestly not out to impress anyone. I mean, of course everyone wants their craft & efforts to be respected/appreciated, but that’s really about as far as it goes for me. Whatever pride & ego I do have is far removed from my music. I’m confident in who I am & what I have to offer. Confidence is always key, but I’m not one for vanity or being full of myself. No matter what compliments I receive, I’m always humble due to the fact that there’s people out there just as dope as myself, if not even more so, & I’m just striving to be better than I was yesterday. Like they say, “be humble or be humbled.”

NW: As we begin wrapping up, what’s something you’d like to share with San Diego’s hip hop scene?

TEC.: I don’t know, all in all, I feel like SD is on a slow but certain rise, but if I had anything to say it would be back to my last statement; “Be humble or be humbled.” There’s a crazy amount of dope artists in SD & I honestly feel like the scene is more unified now than I’ve ever seen it, so don’t get me wrong when I say this. I just think the one thing people should remember is to be humble. Mainly to the older heads who are bitter towards the younger generation on the come up, the people in my generation that are too high & mighty to realize that every dog has its day, & to the younger heads who don’t realize that they still have work to put in & dues to pay. No matter how talented you are or what your social media numbers are lookin’ like, or how much you play the part, nobody wants to work with an asshole, haha. Plain & simple.

NW: One emphasis of these interviews is to see a heightened level of unity in the San Diego hip hop community. Can you point to some other artists who you see as comrades and who you guys also see as helping to progress the scene?

TEC.: The way I see it, pretty much everyone out here making movements are progressing the scene as long as they’re doing it for the right reasons. If it’s purely for monetary or status purposes, I feel like people can usually see through that & the success ends up being short lived. Those out there doing it for the love of hip-hop & spreading the vibe & culture will see longevity. All the homies reppin Hip Hop Wednesdays at AC Lounge & the No Sucker DJs crew are some the first to come to mind though. They hold it down properly. Our local record stores have been active as hell too. Shout out Beat Box Records, Fivespace & M-Theory!

NW: Finally, where should readers go to connect with you?

TEC.: The best place to connect with me would be via instagram; @just_TEC. Or find the collective at @parkandwreckcollective. Other than that cruise out to a show & link up first hand! Much love!

Peace, Love & Hip Hop,

-Nate Whitsell