For Those Who Can't Sleep On Hip Hop

Gabriel Teodros (of Abyssinian Creole) – interview by Todd E. Jones

December 19, 2006

“Gabriel Teodros Loves His Work”

Gabriel Teodros of Abyssinian Creole has proved to the world that you can work doing what you love and love your work. Even though Gabriel is an artist, he is speaking to and for the ones who are struggling to survive.

Gabriel Teodros is ½ of the duo, Abyssinian Creole. The emcees of the group, Khingz Makoma and Gabriel Teodros met in Seattle. An unlikely hip-hop breeding ground, Seattle has been home to other artists like Oldominion and Boom Bap Project. Released in 2005, Abyssinian Creole’s debut album, “Sexy Beast” earned them critical acclaim.
As a solo artist, Gabriel Teodros has released, “Lovework” (on Massline Media). A majority of the production of “Lovework” is handled by Amos Miller, but Moka Only, Specs-One, and Kitone produce some tracks too.
The words “work” and “love” are rarely used together. When a human being loves their work, they a truly lucky. Their productivity and final results are woven with pride and care. The work of Gabriel Teodros is hip-hop and he loves his work.

TODD E. JONES: “What goes on?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “What it gwan?”

TODD E. JONES: “The new Gabriel Teodros album, ‘Lovework’ was just released on Massline Media. Tell us about the album.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “‘Lovework’. It was a moment that got captured between February & May of 2006. Amos Miller and myself, just doing music because it was medicine for our spirits. To start, I got to take you back to what we were doing the fall and winter of ’05. Khingz Makoma and myself had just released the first Abyssinian Creole LP. ‘Sexy Beast’. We were able to do some shows as Ab Creole, but it was hard because we never had a plan of how we were going to push our album. Our plan was more like ‘Hey, we got an album!’. Khingz was living in the bay area, so a lot of show opportunities were missed. Soon after the release of the album, my father was doing a roofing job. Something happened with the ladder and he fell 2 stories, fracturing his spine in 4 places. So for a couple months, my life stopped. In the time I should have been working on a solo record and really pushing the Ab Creole project, I was doing everything I could to take care of him and looking out for my Grandma as well. Family drama. I also had homies overcoming addictions that needed support. Long story short, there was a good half a year there where I wasn’t making music. For a minute, it didn’t seem like I ever would again. Meanwhile, Amos Miller was going through the worst of it as well. My guy has been making beats for 10+ years and spends all his days working with youth in the Seattle Public School system, doing creative writing workshops, recording albums with his students and just helping them find their voice and get it out there. Along with all his collabs with the vets of our scene, somebody came in this man’s house and stole all his equipment. Plus most of the files for projects he was working on at the time, got jacked too. So, basically, we both entered 2006 feeling low. A brother named Lawrence Norman, who was familiar with what Amos had been doing in the town, heard about what happened and decided to help out. Lawrence owns an amazing studio and an indie label in Seattle. He basically gave Amos a key to the studio and said, ‘Make music’. Now up to this point, me & Amos knew each other but had never worked together. Amos was in this new pace, able to create whatever he wanted, but everything was brand new since files had been stolen, albums were lost. A mutual friend brought us together. Amos wanted to do a series of 12” singles and I guess I was the first person he reached out to that came through. After the feeling we got from the first song we did together, we knew there was chemistry and a full-length album needed to happen. Everything we put into that music, was a healing process, I think for both of us. I can say it was the most intentional album I ever worked on, the most revealing. I feel like it really captured some personal transformation, having nothing and then suddenly given a space to do what you feel and just say whatever you want. That’s the moment we were in, Spring of ’06 in the 206.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is the meaning behind the title, ‘Lovework’?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I realized the music I’ve always been drawn to, is music that makes you feel loved. Whether it’s Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Makings Of You’ or Mystic’s ‘Cuts For Luck & Scars For Freedom’, the sad thing is most of the songs out now that are supposed to be about love make you feel like shit. This is true for music in many different genres and I think it has a lot to do with our understanding of love. Even the word ‘love’ triggers so many different responses and it’s hard to find a group that can even agree on a definition for the word. So, I took some notes from bell hooks, and I agree with her. We need to redefine ‘love’ to really know it, and to really grow. One of my favorite quotes from Khalil Gibran says, ‘Work is love made visible’ the title ‘Lovework’ reminds me of all these things. Also, to know true love, I feel like we got a lot of Work to do as a people, to undo every system of domination that stops people from loving, and this was also a work created in Love, and if I never get paid from it at least I love my work.”

TODD E. JONES: “Favorite song on the ‘Lovework’?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “‘Chili Sauce’. I sound like I’m singing in the shower halfway through the song. That song got my personality in 2 minutes, better then anything else ever recorded. I might answer this question differently every time someone asks.”

TODD E. JONES: “Which song took you the longest to do from conception to completion? Why?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “’Beautiful’. There’s an Abyssinian Creole version of this song, a Khingz version, and this is my version. I think the verses in this song were written 2 years before everything else on the album. It was inspired by a message someone left on my voicemail. I wanted to record it for the longest time but never found the right beat till Amos played me this one. Then, I came up with the chorus, the bridge and recorded it right away. ‘Beautiful’, that’s actually the only song on the album that I wrote with no beat in mind.”

TODD E. JONES: “What inspired the song, ‘Sexcapism’? Tell us about that track.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “‘Sexcapism’, that was actually the first song we did for this album. What inspired that track was a pattern of unhealthy relationships I had gotten into, and my desire to break the cycle. You got to acknowledge you have a problem, if your ever going to do something about it, right? This song was an important part of my growth and leaving the past there.”

TODD E. JONES: “Tell us about the collab with Moka Only. How did you hook up with him? How was he different than other artists?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “That’s my cousin! We met in 2001, Victoria B.C. and did a show together and afterwards, stayed up late drinking coffee and playing each other music. At that point, I never heard his music, and I didn’t even have anything out. He had just released a record called ‘Road Life’. ‘Lime Green’ came out a little later. Anyways, a week later, we were both back in Vancouver, which is my second home, and the 2nd time we ever kicked it, we did a track called ‘Liquid Sunshine’, which ended up coming out on his album, ‘Flood’. Ever since then, we’ve been family, not only did he produce ‘No Label’ for this album, he’s been a part of every record I’ve put out. Working with him? It’s just natural. I will tell you Moka O is one of the most prolific producers and emcees on the planet and his beats these days? Classic.”

TODD E. JONES: “Do you do many overdubs while recording?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I usually just do one track of dubs. Some of the songs on this album had more. Amos had me try a lot of things I never did for this record.”

TODD E. JONES: “Do you use many first takes, or do you do multiple?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I usually like the first take. Could you tell?”


TODD E. JONES: “How did you meet the people in Abyssinian Creole and eventually form the group?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I met Khingz in 1999. He was in a live band called Maroon Colony, I was in a live band called 500 Years. We kept getting booked for the same gigs and we started hanging out at different community events around South Seattle. What really brought us together though, was a group called Youth Undoing Institutionalized Racism. We went to some trainings together and a trip to New Orleans. You get to really know people in environments like this and we realized there that we had a lot more in common than just dope music. The concept of our group came from there. Abyssinia is for my peoples, Creole is for his. Together, we represent a bridge from the oldest African nation to the newest African tongue. I also met Kitone in 1999, through his older brother. His beats were ridiculous back then and he was still in middle school! Khingz moved to New York City in 2001, just a little after we formed Ab Creole. I ended up moving to New York as well, in late 2002. But right before I went to the airport, Kitone came back in my life with a beat CD. When we heard these beats, we ended up wanting to use every single beat he ever made. I moved back to Seattle after only a few months. Soon after that, Khingz moved to Oakland, where he would spend 2 more years. Whenever Khingz would come to visit Seattle, whether it for a show or just to visit family, we would record as many tracks as humanly possible. So the whole album was created, and came out, while we were living in different cities.”

TODD E. JONES: “Will you work together again?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “We’re working together right now. This time, we live on the same block. In fact, we just put out 2 mix-tapes.”

TODD E. JONES: “Besides the obvious difference (the number of people), how is ‘Lovework’ different from the music of Abyssinian Creole?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “It’s also, obviously, a lot more personal, more autobiographical, and just cause of the time, you could say it’s grown up. There are still a few songs featuring Khingz and a track produced by Kitone. The difference in production is probably what stands out the most.”

TODD E. JONES: “How are the fans responding to this solo album?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Too early to say. The album isn’t being released until February 27th, 2007! So far, the feedback has been really positive though.”

TODD E. JONES: “Why did you choose your real name, Gabriel Teodros as opposed to a pseudonym?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “You know, I could never think of a name that was doper then what my mom blessed me with!”

TODD E. JONES: “When creating a track, do you have a set theme or idea first or the music first?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Usually, it’s music first. I write to whatever the beat is telling me. I still free-write as much as possible and there are songs that get written with no beat. Sometimes, a beat gets found for it later. I always have song ideas, I just never stick to the script in my head when I hear music. It’s working through me.”

TODD E. JONES: “What was the recording process like for the new album? How was it different from other times?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “It was dope, working with Amos made it different because he was so involved during the whole recording process. He was good at giving constructive feedback and suggesting things I wouldn’t of thought of. Some of his ideas worked really well, some didn’t. I just loved the group dynamic of working with him because most producers will give you a beat and that’s it. I’ve engineered myself a lot, but Amos was involved from production, to engineering, to post-production. It was just a true collaboration.”

TODD E. JONES: “Musically, what else have you been working on?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I just put out a mix-tape called ‘Westlake: Class Of 1999’. It’s a collection of songs recorded between 3 cities, pre-‘Lovework’. All original beats by Moka Only, Kitone, Ian Head, EarDrumz, DJ T-Bone Steak, Khazm, Brotha Thomas, DJ Moves, Jeff Spec & Sichuan. It’s got featured vocals from Moka Only, Khingz, Manik, SistaHailStorm, Toni Hill, Belladonna, Xololanxinxo, Rise & Shine, Ishkan, Jeff Spec, Ndidi Cascade and hell of more people. In addition to that, Khingz just released his mix-tape ‘Hillionaire Boys Club’. We’re also working right now on this group project called Good Medicine. That’s Geologic, Khingz, Macklemore and myself, a MassLine mix-tape, and a few other things.”

TODD E. JONES: “What are some of your favorite drum machines / samplers?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I’m strong believer in the theory, ‘It ain’t what you got, but how you freak it.’ That being said, I don’t make too many beats. I like whatever Moka, Amos, Kitone, Sabzi, Vitamin D, and Specs-One have been using. And everything J Dilla ever used.”

TODD E. JONES: “On Guru’s ‘The Street Scriptures’ album, Talib Kweli mentions that Pro-Tools made producers lazy. Do you agree?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Again, it all depends on how it’s being used. Lazy-ass producers come with all kinds of equipment.”

TODD E. JONES: “Around what time in your career did you start financially surviving form music?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Oh, I’m not surviving from it now. In 2001, when my first solo album came out, I was paying rent and eating food just off CD sales and classroom workshops, but really it was those schools that were making it possible. I’ve worked several odd jobs since then and the last year, you could say I’ve been living off music. But I’ve just been getting more in debt. Maybe I’ll have a better answer for you next year, or another job.”

TODD E. JONES: “Do you think that success and credibility are mutually exclusive?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I think if you love what you are doing, than your already successful.”

TODD E. JONES: “What song / album are you most proud of?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “This whole ‘Lovework’ project is pretty cool.”

TODD E. JONES: “Who are some artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “In addition to what we’re already working on, I’d love to do a full-length album with Moka Only on production. I’d like to see what would happen on tracks with K’Naan, Mystic, Medusa, Native Guns, One Self, Xperience, Silent Lambs Project, Yirim Seck, and Pep Love. Getting Abyssinian Creole and Of Mexican Descent on a track together. We could call ourselves Of African Descent for that one track.”

TODD E. JONES: “Who are some producers you would like to collaborate with in the future?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Vitamin D, Specs-One, plus everybody I’m already working with like Kitone, Moka, Amos, Sabzi, Budo, Eardrumz, T-Bone Steak, Ian Head, Mr. Hill, and Sativa Green.”

TODD E. JONES: “How did you get the deal with Massline Media?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “We actually all started the label together, Sabzi, Geologic, RA-Scion and myself, around the same time I was working on ‘Lovework’ with Amos. It seemed like a natural move to put the album out with MassLine.”

TODD E. JONES: “What LPs have you been listening to in the last couple of days?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “K-Salaam’s ‘The World Is Ours’, Khingz ‘Hillionare Boys Club’ Mix-Tape, Bambu’s ‘.38 Revolver’ Mix-Tape, Moka Only’s ‘Desired Effect’, Skim’s ‘For Every Tear’, Curtis Mayfield’s Live Album and Zap Mama’s ‘Seven’.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is your favorite part of your live show?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “The part where Khingz starts a mosh-pit or the song ‘Warriors’.”

TODD E. JONES: “How has your live show evolved?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “It’s gone through so many phases, from rocking with the live band to doing spoken word theater kind of sets with no music at all, to where we’re at now, 2 emcees and 1 DJ. We think more about rock concerts than hip hop shows when we’re approaching our sets, still focused on the message in our music. Freestyles are a real important part of every show and I still roll by myself sometimes depending on the place and time. Every show is a little different.”

TODD E. JONES: “What do you think about U.S. and the Middle East?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “The U.S. needs to stop tripping and we here within the U.S. need to seriously unplug our televisions and stop buying newspapers that are feeding us distractions instead of what’s really going on. Support independent media. Be your own media because it’s been 3 years and the U.S. is still in Iraq? Over 650,000 lives have been lost and we act like nothings happening. It’s sick.”

TODD E. JONES: “Abortion. Pro-choice or pro-life?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “See Digable Planets, ‘La Femme Fetal’.”

TODD E. JONES: “Euthanasia, for or against?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “At first I thought you were talking about my home girl from Living Mechanizm. Man, I’m pro-choice.”

TODD E. JONES: “What was the last incident of racism you experienced?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I don’t know. There are little things that happen in Seattle everyday. It’s more subtle here because Seattle’s supposed to be PC, but really everyone is just passive-aggressive. I appreciate the more overt in your face kind of racism that happens in New York. At least then I know who I’m talking to.”

TODD E. JONES: “You are a political minded emcee. With the myriad of issues that we face these days, which are the top 3 that you think are the priority?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “That’s a hard question and I can’t just give you 3 issues. I will say look at who you are, where you are at, and how your life is affected by shit that keeps us from being human. There are different forms of oppression that all work together, that we are all affected by, from race, gender to class. Just by living in this country, we all benefit from oppression, the price we pay for our food and clothes, people in the third world are being forced to make for little to no money. So recognizing we got problems and seeing that a little girl on the other side of the planet, who works her fingers to the bone instead of going to school, is our problem too. And men? Seeing that 1 in 4 women right here will be raped in their lifetime, is our problem too. Seeing that all those lives lost in Iraq is our problem too. Taking accountability, recognizing our privilege, and just doing something about it. Starting at home. That’s real important.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is your opinion on MySpace?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “It was cool for like a year or so. It definitely helped me get my music out there and I didn’t have to spam nobody. Stop copying and pasting messages, jerks! I was blessed to meet some amazing people through there. I was in everyone’s top 8 for minute just cause I signed on to that shit so early. I don’t think it’s going to be around for too much longer though with Rupert-Murdoch now controlling it and all the censorship and profiles being deleted. I think it’s on its way out.”

TODD E. JONES: “Word association. When I say a name, you say the first word that pops into your head. So, if I said, ‘Public Enemy’, you may say ‘Revolution’ or ‘Chuck D’. Okay?”

TODD E. JONES: “Atmosphere.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Slugs everywhere.”

TODD E. JONES: “Dead Prez.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “It’s bigger than hip hop.”

TODD E. JONES: “Happy Mondays.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Who?”

TODD E. JONES: “Kool Keith.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Mr. Hill.”

TODD E. JONES: “Necro.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “That package you sent to the house wasn’t cool homie.”

TODD E. JONES: “Wu-Tang Clan.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Ain’t Nothin Ta F*ck With.”

TODD E. JONES: “Eminem.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Slady Shim.”

TODD E. JONES: “Public Enemy.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “On tour with X-Clan this week!”

TODD E. JONES: “Little Brother.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “The Listening.”

TODD E. JONES: “Phife Dawg.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Is In The House.”


TODD E. JONES: “MF Doom.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “MMmm… Food.”

TODD E. JONES: “De La Soul.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Is Dead.”

TODD E. JONES: “Serengeti.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “The plains?”

TODD E. JONES: “Spank Rock.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Is that a new genre? Like a slowed-down speed metal?”

TODD E. JONES: “Curtis Mayfield.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Almost impossible to do.”

TODD E. JONES: “Billy Holiday.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Strange Fruit.”

TODD E. JONES: “Gil-Scott Heron.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Pieces Of A Man.”

TODD E. JONES: “George Bush.”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Is a dipsh*t.”

TODD E. JONES: “Who are your biggest influences?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “My mom, little cousins, everyone I ever made music with. It’s a long list, like everyone I shouted out inside the liner notes.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Follow your heart and not what anybody else says or thinks about it. Practice is even more important then god-given talent.”

TODD E. JONES: “These days, what is a typical day like for you?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I’m up too late, so I watch the sunrise and then sleep for a few hours, wake-up, drink coffee, walk or ride the bus, attend to whatever business the day calls for, whether it’s record label stuff, recording or engineering people at my house, internet stuff, promotional work, booking shows for people. I do the programming for a radio show every week, sometimes two. I’m also performing somewhere every week, the random workshops and school appearances. There always seems to be somebody from out of town, spending the night at my house too. I try to spend time with the homies who keep me grounded and feeling like a regular person. Sometimes, I flake and feelings get hurt. I drink more coffee. Sometimes, I eat food. Before you know it, I’m up till the sun rises again.”

TODD E. JONES: “What are some major misconceptions do you think people have of you?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “That I’m really serious.”

TODD E. JONES: “Did you get along with your parents? What do they think about your music?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Yeah I get along with my parents. You really get personal don’t you? I grew up at my mom’s house and really got to know my father as an adult. My mother is one of the most supportive people in my life. There have been times when her faith in me was stronger then my faith in self. It’s really because of her love and support that I’m still here, able to make music. My pops, what he thinks about my music, is a mystery. He says sh*t like ‘Music is a pipe-dream’. He’ll encourage me to work at a fast-food restaurant before acknowledging that I’m already working full-time. I don’t know if he knows I made up my mind before I even got to know him.”

TODD E. JONES: “When you pass away, would you like to be buried or cremated?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I’ve never been asked that before.”

TODD E. JONES: “What would you want on your epitaph?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “I’ll have to get back to you on that one. That’s like asking me to decide on a tattoo. I know I want some, just haven’t decided what to get yet.”


TODD E. JONES: “Are there any collaborations fans should look out for?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Good Medicine, Abyssinian Creole. More songs with Blue Scholars & Common Market. There’s a feature on Moka Only’s next album ‘Vermilion’. DJ T-Bone Steak’s project, out of Japan. Toni Hill’s solo project, Khingz Makoma’s solo project, Amos Miller’s solo project, Manik 1derful’s solo project, Sista HailStorm’s album, and Macklemore’s album. I’m probably forgetting a bunch.”

TODD E. JONES: “What’s next?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Trying to connect with all the East African artists in the Diaspora. Go back to Africa, make hella music that feels good, and help raise some kids, write a book or something. Who knows what tomorrow will hold? Oh, and I’ll be on your block in 2007.”

TODD E. JONES: “Any final words?”

GABRIEL TEODROS: “Keep living.”

Interview by Todd E. Jones aka New Jeru Poet

NOTICE: This interview is property of Todd E. Jones and cannot be duplicated or posted without written permission.

OFFICIAL SITES:
Massline Media: http://www.masslinemedia.com/

Gabriel Teodros MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/gabrielteodros

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