Teff taking his dreams global
Nicholas Hinkson goes by the stage name Teff – short for Teflon, that tough material that nothing can stick to – and prides himself on being a Bajan rapper who attributes his success to making sacrifices while focusing on a long-term goal.
Teff, 24, grew up around music as his father was a choir director who also played guitar, and he and his brother were in a choir as children.
Teff, on the music scene for the past nine years, recently released his first album Dream World Project.
“I’ve had a few mixed tapes but this is my first serious project. With Minim [his producer at Worrell Bros. Studios] and Revera, we really tried some things and developed a certain sound.
“The world isn’t necessarily used to hearing rapper and Barbados in the same sentence so we had to really work on our sound to make it sound natural, but still very hip hop so I could take it to the world.”
Teff has done singles with Ayana John and Shanghai and has also worked with Buggy, Damian Marvay, Blade, Benz Killa and COA. He has opened for Jamaican artistes Munga, Mr Vegas and Tarrus Riley here and United States artistes Rick Ross, Tyga, Meek Mill and Fabolous.
The Barbados Community College and University of the West Indies graduate has also travelled to Toronto with Jaicko to perform and has been in the United States since last week for debut performances in both New York and Atlanta. Off the strength of Dream World, Teff was invited to the A3C Festival in Atlanta and the CMJ Marathon in New York, which ends tomorrow.
“I’ve performed all over Barbados. I’m at the point now where I’ve got the product I want so now is when you’ll see me everywhere, starting with these shows in New York and Atlanta.
“The right people heard about the project and the interest grew so here I am. These performances are a big deal. I also get to be a part of some panel discussions on the global impact of social media on music and the international hip hop scene in general.
“There are some huge acts at these shows too such as Big Boi (of Outkast), Raekwon [Wu Tang], Asher Roth and more.”
Offstage, Teff is either in the booth or handling the business side of things.
“Over time I have learnt to juggle other interests and my music schedule. I mean, it’s just like how people juggle work with life. I work on striking a balance. It’s still a work in progress. I’m in the studio every other night. When I’m not in the studio, I still work on music on a daily basis. There are so many other aspects involved.”
Teff is branching out and delving more into songwriting for other artistes, having written a pop track for local artiste Danielle.
“I’d like to think I’ve grown as an artiste. That growth has shown me that heavy inspiration comes from your own personal life experiences. Almost everything we go through can be categorized so when you take your situation and put it out there, other people will relate. My favourite part of the process is creating the music from scratch in the studio,” he said.
“I love all types of genres because I’m a fan of music. If you peep at my playlist, you’ll find mainly hip hop, R&B, reggae, soul, a little bit of jazz and then a lot of experimental blends.”
Teff’s biggest challenge is being a hip hop artist from Barbados because “it’s not a regular career here . . . . But it’s great seeing the impact of my music. I do a lot of inspirational stuff. I make it appealing but that’s really the basis.
“Manifesting your dreams is a huge part of the theme of this last project so just hearing people from all over the world hitting me on Twitter about what the music does for them is a big deal to me. Travelling [because of] my career is a great thing too. You learn and gain so much.”
With Dream World on iTunes, Teff is busy working on some new music and has some international shows lined up.
“One of my dreams is opening for Lauryn Hill, but I think I’d have to go with opening for homegirl Ri Ri. She’s done what most people didn’t think could happen. That’s kind of what I’m trying to do so what that represents would mean a lot.”
Spending hours on social media is how Teff stays connected with fans and potential fans and five years from now he sees himself making even better music, impacting the world and having a solid career.
“I want to be a household name around the globe,” he said.