Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from St. Louis City. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His newest project War Machine 2 was released on June 5th and will be followed up by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For The Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get War Machine 2 here.
Tef Poe: Explain to us the origin of the name J-Toth from the Planet of Hoth. Also, briefly talk to us about your indie label the Frozen Food Section and the origin of its name.
J-Toth: I, Jonathan Getzschman, started my rap/poet career as 'J to the Getzschman, the name appearing on my checks and, sticking to your memory like wet sand...' Turned out I was wrong, so I pushed 'to the' into 'tothe' as in 'J-Tothe', but that didn't sound right, so I took off the 'e. J-Toth was at that time , living in Summit County Colorado, working and snowboarding in the mountains. Being a Star Wars child, Colorado felt very much like the planet Hoth from the movie Empire Strikes Back, and it rhymed...so J-Toth from Hoth sounded like a rap nerd's dream name. Turned out I was right.
When I began conceiving my record label in 1999, Nelly had just gone platinum, and I was one of the few dissenters who couldn't stand Country Grammar (just my ears, I respect Nelly for his craft). By the time he released his second album, "Hot in Herre" filled the radio waves, and as a competing artist, instead of being hot, I decided I'd rather be cold as hell. So the Frozen Food Section was born with the release of my first album Brainwashing: The Art of Hiphopera and vinyl 12" Chaos and Cannibalism in June of 2002. Aside from being a record label, Frozen Foods is also an artist collective for some of the hip hop, rock, folk and soul of St. Louis. Personally, I rap, sing and make beats, but I also record, mix and master everything that comes out of "The Cooler," our studio.
Exactly what type of music do you create?
I make a mix of hip hop, soul, rock and poetry twisted into a rap format, depending upon which project I'm working on at the time. My first album was 'sci-fi/nerd rap', my second was 'emo rap', my third was 'children's rap', my fourth was 'revolutionary rap', etc. I try to embrace different styles and play with them my way as often as possible.
Most of your projects are concept albums -- have you ever came up with a concept that you felt was pushing the bar too far? Tell us about a time that a particular concept you developed for a song or album was shelved by you for possibly being too extreme or over the top creatively.
The big issue for me, being a white boy is usually race. When I first began, I noticed new listeners could really feel me, or were immediately turned off. Because I don't mask my accent, it often clashes with the expectations of most hip hop fans who are used to hearing rappers 'sound black'. Vanilla Ice fooled many people into going platinum, but once his mask fell off, he fell off. I didn't (and still don't) feel that 'keeping it real' really means, 'front your ASS off.' I'd rather just be me (except when I want to play with alter egos). As far as shelving projects, sure, I have experimented with how to debunk racism and homophobia, by proving how ridiculous they are in music, but it's difficult to do it tastefully without offending somebody. I never officially released 'Do the Whiteboy', but it pokes at some of things people don't like to talk about:
"why ever bother doing stuff that sucks, 'Do What You Like,' (right?) like Humpty Hump, and that's just what we white boys do, so don't try to stop me, or I'll find a way to sue, no dumb shit (true), we learned to stay above it, what we really love to do is run shit like you, so...(Do the Whiteboy)" http://jonathantothfromhoth.bandcamp.com/track/do-the-whiteboy-feat-tucker-booth-and-abe-tha-babe
Which of your albums is your personal favorite and which is the most critically acclaimed?
My favorite album of mine is probably SICK BOYS with DJ Crucial. We've been skateboarding each for 26 years, so we made a collabo for the ages. My most critically acclaimed would be The Lovecycle because I got MF DOOM and Serengeti on it...but I love that one too.
Any last words?
Last words? Yeah, I'm still sitting on an album Tef and I did in 2006...holla.
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