It’s rare to hear a song and immediately understand that this is a fresh new voice in hip-hop, but Ta’East manages to achieve that with this single “WithTheShit,” which has been in steady rotation on BBC’s Radio 1 for several months now. His aggressive delivery, introduced by an eerie sample from film Under the Skin, commands attention in part because the life story that hardened his flow is a movie in itself. Ta’East is a twenty-something artist whose time is now—with co-signs from some of hip-hop’s most sophisticated tastemakers including No I.D and Virgil Abloh, who told the rapper “I’m a 1000% fan of everything you’ve done so far. I fuck with it.”
Ta’East was born in the South, in a small town in Kentucky, but was raised in Oceanside, California, a surf town with no real hip-hop scene to speak of. His favorite artist growing up was Jay Z. “Life and Times of S. Carter album, I think that was the turning point,” he recalls. “That was when I was like, I think I can rap. The stories he was telling, the sound he made with Timbaland.” The album’s influence is echoed in Ta’s music both lyrically and sonically, having worked with the same producer Cairo for almost ten years, building towards what he describes as a timeless, stadium-esque sound. The rapper moved the underground for years as a respected force—with projects like 2012’s The Popular Stranger and 2013’s Sonata, and by working with artists such as Travis Scott, Hit-Boy, and B.J. The Chicago Kid—while holding down a 9-to-5 job the entire time. “It was frustrating,” he said. “70 percent of my life was at work, and then I would try and come home, sit in front of the computer and work on music that wasn’t getting the response we wanted.”
“I just quit my job,” Ta says. “I was like, I’ll fucking figure it out. And then two weeks later, we got evicted.” But the artist never lost faith. “I had a really, really hard two-and-a-half years. At one point, I was just broke. I would look at my account and I would have 13 dollars to my name, and I wouldn’t get paid until next Wednesday…that’s why I think I sound so aggressive in my music, that comes from a place of frustration. Being an underdog, getting out of that valley, and climbing to the top.” Now, Ta’East is finally getting the recognition he has worked for his entire life. “People are like, you never gave up,” he says. “You have to understand, I come from nothing. And I think by showing face, if I open my mouth and tell you my story, you’re going to look at me, and be like ‘I can do that.’ The same way I looked at Hov and thought, ‘I can do that too.” The artist is currently readying an EP for a Fall 2016 release under BBC’s Benji B’s newly-formed Deviation label, with a fitting title—Okay I’m Ready.