It is a bit rare finding a Producer that is held with high regard in the hip-hop mainstream and underground scenes. It is even rarer knowing one that does this across different continents. DJ Teck-Zilla is a veteran in the game, and has earned respect in the different hip-hop industries; Nigeria, Africa, the United Kingdom, and North America. He has a catalog the size of a mini-publisher, and he isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Temitayo Odutola was born in the neighbourhood of Surulere, at the heart of Lagos Mainland on the 3rd of July. He attended K. Kotun Memorial, then Saint Gregory’s College Ikoyi for his Secondary education, before heading to Unilag for a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. He later went on to get his Master’s in Analytical Chemistry (Birkbeck University), and Audio production/recording diploma (RAC : Canada).
We caught up with the Ol’G for an exclusive, and the DJ/Producer with well over 25 hip-hop projects in his catalog took time out of his hectic schedule to share his story and passion to the hip-hop community of DJs and/or Producers that look up to him in the industry.
To begin the session, let’s break the ice with a journey back to your early begins; not as a rising DJ/producer, but as a kid, full of dreams and imaginations.
Well, I must say, my childhood was more of ermm… comics, cartoons, and video games. Of course, my parents played like, a lot of music around the house. A lot of, you know, Pop, Rock, Soul, R&B, and a little bit of hip-hop. Not so much, just a lil bit. And errr, I didn’t get even get into hip hop until later on, when I was like a bit older. When my older siblings used to play rap, that’s when I got into hip-hop. You know. Mostly it’s just, listening to stuff my parents used to play around the house. I used to read a lot of comics, like, I actually wanted to be an illustrator. I wanted to make comics. Growing up, that was my main thing back then.
How did you dabble into the world of music production and Disc-jockeying?
Actually, before even deejaying and producing, I started rapping. I used to write, like, weird rap rhymes… like JS3 and all. But it was after I formed Str8Buttah with Mister Rae and everyone else, that I started producing. It was more of happenstance.
A friend of mine, Chris, gave me a copy of FL and I just started messing with it. And from then, I just, you know, build my skill, self-taught. The first set of beats I made were (really) really whack. But over time, you know, I learnt how to sample, I learnt how to play the keys and all that. Yeah, I got better.
For deejaying, it was actually by accident. I used to be a Live Sound Engineer at a venue in Montreal, Canada. There was a DJ, I used to ask her to teach me stuff, like how to DJ, and all from time to time. There was a time she needed to travel for a while and they needed a replacement. I was like “Yeah, I could try.” I tried and I just started deejaying from then on. It was weird though. But hey, I think over time I got the hang of it and I’m still here.
I actually started producing way before deejaying. I started deejaying around 2013-ish. Like 2012, 2013. But I’ve been producing way before then. Like, in the mid-2000s.
Which DJs and Producers did you look up to back then, and over the years, which ones do respect for their incredible skillset.
I’ll just combine them all into a category of Local and Global DJs and Producer that like, mentored me and also have my, erm, respect in the game. Here goes;
African – DJ Jimmy Jatt, DJ Tommy, DJ Snoop da damaja. DJ Sose, DJ Big N, and the female ones also; DJ Macc, DJ Sensei Lo. For producers; Jonah the Monarch, Kraft, Mr. Baron, Shaywho, and Don Jazzy.
International – DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, Pete Rock, Just Blaze, RZA, TrueMaster. For DJs; DJ Premier, DJ Babu, DJ Roc Raida, skratch Bastid, and The X-ecutioners.
Shout out to DJ Hi-Tek, his name influenced mine. Although Tech in the 90s meant Dope, and I took the Tech and re-lettered it to Teck and the Zilla is from Godzilla. I’m pretty much a fanboy of the Godzilla comics
Let’s talk the genesis of Str8Buttah Productions
It was all coincidence; I was just at the right place, at the right time, with the right people. I knew someone who knew other people and I met people who had the same mind frame. Pretty much that’s how it happened.
First of all, Str8Buttah is made up of six members; me (myself) included, Mister Rae, R-Cube, XYZ, Professor Deckzavier, and The Invisible Enigma. The first person I met was Mister Rae.
I met him through a mutual friend. We were in Unilag, the same course, and a mutual friend just introduced me to him like “Hey! Meet this guy blah-blah-blah. Meet this guy, blah-blah-blah,” and we just started, you know, chopping it up and found out we liked similar music, you know. We just started bonding. He knew 2 other guys: Professor Deck and JayDelar, and the 4 of us made up the Constellations. We did some demos, you know, underground demos. The group didn’t really last long since it was a testing ground for most of us. Over time, it evolved to the Str8 Buttah aspect.
The Str8 Buttah aspect was meant to be, you know, a compilation of songs of all the rappers we knew in Unilag. We knew a lot of rappers like Teeto (Ceemos), Micwrecker, XYZ, T-Rex too. The plan, for Rae and I (myself), was to make a compilation featuring all the rappers we used to freestyle with in Unilag. But unfortunately, that didn’t pan out, and we kinda kept the name, Str8Buttah Productions. And we started working on solos [deep breath]projects. Actually the very first project we worked on was, erm, Professor Deckzavier’s debut project, By Word of Mouth. We did that, produced it, mixed, even made out copies, we printed out flyers, put them up on walls and stuff. But that was the first one we worked with sha.
From then, you know, we kind of started branching out, you know, meeting new people. We met… there were quite a… I can’t really remember the timelines cos, everything is now blurred. We did some work with A-Q, MSpeech, XY. That’s how I met XY actually. He was kinda, like, promoting A-Q’s debut album (album title or year this happened) at the time, and they were doing other stuffs, like, events and stuffs. So I just kinda like met him, just strolled in like “Hey! You listen to hip-hop, I have this guys album, A-Q, blah-blah-blah,” you know, that was how I sha met XY. Later on, he became part of Str8Buttah Productions.
The other people that joined us were R-Cube… R-Cube was actually a family friend of Rae. He too liked hip-hop, liked what we were doing… He was like our manager in a way. “He was like our manager back in the day,” and he was very, you know, passionate, like “Yo, let’s do this. Let’s push it here, blah-blah-blah.” He naturally became family, you know, and his younger brother is The Invisible Enigma. He just joined by selection. I guess.
We got into the industry via Brotherly. Brotherly was a video director, cinematographer. He worked with erm, Kemi Adetiba on her King Of Boys. It was Buddha that was taking myself and Rae everywhere. He introduced me to (late) B-Elect, ThoroughBred, erm, ElaJoe, illBliss, and Modenine. Those were the first set of people I met in the industry. And that was how, you know, we formed a pact. I remember, like, having to submit my demo beat tape to Modenine to listen to.
I still remember all those trips [chuckles]… We used to take trips from school down to the studios, different studios across Lagos. We used to go and meet erm, King, erm. Eh what’s his name? [pause and sighs]Jonah The Monarch, erm, ah! there are so many; Venomous, XO, so many cats, I really can’t remember their names and the timelines, to be honest. So many things, so many years have passed. I can’t remember the timelines. But in a way that was how I got into the industry and we just kept on moving and working with people, you know. R-Cube & XYZ started working with Clarence Peters as well. That also helped us branch to different spheres because they do a lot of video directing and things like that.
Phlow is currently a Str8buttah Femcee. What informed your decision to sign her, and what has been the difficulty in pushing her to mainstream in this current industry?
I met Phlow at an event. Actually, I met Phlow via Cyclone. Cyclone is a female rapper. I knew of her music online. So when I came back to Nigeria around 2014,15. You know, we had a show in Yaba, and err, Cyclone brought Phlow to perform. And you know when she came on stage I was like “Awww Okay she’s a singer.” She started rapping and all that. I was like “WOW! Mehn she’s dope!” Like, I’ll definitely love to work with her. It wasn’t like I signed her to a production deal immediately. My plan was simply “Hey, let’s do a song” and call it a day, you know.
But after we worked on one song, another concept came in, and we started working on other songs, and other songs, and more songs. So we pretty much worked on an EP immediately. But at the same time, I was working on an EP with the singer, Maka, and there was no plan to sign anybody on a production deal or whatever until I played the songs for R-Cube. R-Cube suggested like, “Oh, why don’t we just, you know, take these 2 ladies and put them on. We have connections here and there, we can just, you know, put it out like a proper project under Str8 Buttah Productions; we do videos, we do promos, and things of that nature.” That’s pretty much how that happened. You know, the Phlow era. That’s how we started.
Wow, the difficulty in pushing her to mainstream was insane, bro. There are not so many dope female rappers out there. And it’s usually the case of like, a lot of people in the media are not, like, really enthused about female rappers. They feel like “[kisses teeth]there’s nothing for them, theres no avenue. They should just sing.“ Either they’re singing or half-naked. These stuffs are what I’ve heard from people. They’d be like “Nowadays, [female rappers]music can’t sell” and “This music isn’t for us. We can’t do anything with it”, I mean, and so many things I really don’t want to get into. Because I know what I faced trying to get her that level of notoriety.
But we did the best we could, and she pulled out Marmalade which did pretty well commercially. It really put her out there to some degree. I mean, what can I say? We did the best we could and can only pray for more to happen.
Let’s talk collaborations. As a producer, which collaboration(s) stand out in your discography? Which Artistes do you (not) enjoy working with?
I do have a lot of favourite collaborations. Ok [adjusts], let me try and name them. I really like working with Fecko. I’ve know Fecko for a long time, so it’s easy to really, you know, sit down with him and work. We have this kind of chemistry, you know, like rapport. So its easier to bounce ideas and be like “hey, let’s not do this. Why don’t we do it like this? Why don’t we switch things up? and stuffs like that.” So, Fecko, one.
Definitely, I love working with Maka and Phlow. Maka, I’ve known her forever, so, it’s very easy to sit down and work. I usually just allow her to do her thing as a singer, while I just put some input, you know, here and there. Tryna guide her, but for the most part, I let her do her thing. Same for Phlow.
I really do enjoy working with everyone. I don’t think I have difficult people… Well, maybe one or two sha, but I don’t think I want to go there. I don’t like wasting energy. I like talking about positive things.
I love working with illBliss also. I just started working with him in 2019. Although I’ve known him forever, and we’ve never actually worked on a full project. We only worked on like, one song (prior to 2019), and I wasn’t fully involved in it. It was a song off KnightHouse‘s first compilation tape called Street Scriptures. So I produced a song on it that illBliss was on it. We’ve been talking about working together for years until it happened in 2019. I did enjoy working on that particular project (Illy-Zilla).
I also love working with Modenine. The way we work is different from most. It’s very, how will I call it now… It’s very regimented, very surgical. Because Mode always wants things in a certain way, so we always have to try and reach a compromise every now and then. I’ll be like “Ok, let’s do it this way, let’s make sure that Modenine thing is in it… that kind of thing. But yeah, who else, who else.
I like walking with Psalmurai, Mista Books, so many. Shout out to The Holstar from Zambia. I worked on a project with him. I worked on several projects with them, Holstar and ZoneFam from Zambia. Yeah, that’s it.
What would you attribute the decline of the Hip-Hop genre from the mainstream in the early 2010s?
This is a tough one, and I can’t really put a finger on it. It’s a mix of different things, I’ll have to say. Wow!. [Takes deep breath]
There was a shift, you know. I’ll say there was a shift in 2012, you know. That was when Afropop or Afrobeat, if I may, you know, was really forming and taking shape, and they found their voice. In the same vein, hip-hop, Nigerian hip-hop wasn’t championed besides a few people, you know.
We still had Olamide, we still had Phyno, we still had M.I, Modenine, illBliss. We do have a lot of rappers; Boogey. But when the media… To be honest, when the media does not support you, you get relegated. That’s just the truth of the matter. No matter how much you slice it… yeah if the media, you know, Nigerian blogs, Nigerian magazines, Nigerian TV, radio and erm… All these things.
If they don’t create an avenue or a platform or a space for Nigerian Hip Hop it will not grow, and that’s just the fact. No matter how much we underground people might put out material, it will only go to a certain point. Because if the mainstream (media) don’t show us a form of attention, it’s not gonna go beyond a certain stage. It’s going to reach a ceiling and it’s going to stop there. That is the fact.
The decline can be attributed to so many things; lack of infrastructure as well. Like where do upcoming artistes go to? Especially upcoming rappers, where they go to, to showcase their wares. Besides one cypher, and hey, there’s only so much that one cypher is going to do for you. Record Labels too, if they don’t show interest in a rapper, well eh you know, there’s really no point in doing it that much.
But hey, I’m a bobo, what do I know? These are just my own thought.
With your knowledge of the Industry, What are the practices that need to be stopped, regulated, or put in place for the industry to achieve commercial success?
To be honest, music industry in Nigeria has no structure. Everyone is just winging it. There are no royalties collection bodies, no huge body that controls this industry, per say. Its just been in the labels from beginning to the end. All those other bodies that say they are like, association of artistes doing this and that. They don’t really do… I don’t know what they’re doing.
I attended a few meetings here and there, but I didn’t just see the point. Because nobody is gon’ cater for you, or try to be like “hey, if you sign up here, you can get a grant” or you get funding. there is no funding, there’s nothing, compared to other countries… Ok now, like Canada, you have (Much)FACT, where artistes, indie artistes can get funding for their… They’ll apply, you know, everyone will apply, and they will choose maybe 4 or 5 people (artistes) to be funded for their project. Maybe a full-length project with videos, promo… It helps the industry grow. But we don’t have that kind of situation here, so everyone is for him/herself. That’s why most people will have to go and get a chairman somewhere, you know, or a yahoo boy (internet fraudsters) that will fund their music. That’s just the facts.
On the practices still, other things we should look out for; how do we proliferate this music. As an indie artiste, how do you get your music to the radio? when you always have to go through payola (pay DJs and OAPs to play your music). Yeah, I mean, there are other outlets online, but you still have to get on radio. Like getting radio goes a long way. It pushes you to new listeners. No matter how you slice it, you need radio to some degree.
But getting on radio is another topic, En-tire-ly to be honest. I’ve tried it before, I know how the game is, and I can assure you it’s an uphill task.
What advice or gems would you like to leave for the young generations of Producers/DJ you’ve inspired and still are inspiring to try out Hip-hop (career and development)?
I think you just have to do what makes you happy. Regardless, a lot of people are going to tell you “Hey don’t do this.” Always do things that make you happy and always have an open mind. If you get what I mean.
Always be ready to learn, be eager to learn, always. Be eager to take risks. Always be eager to, you know, meet people, because you’ll never know. Most of the things I get is because of me meeting people. I meet people a lot, we talk, you know, chop it up and you definitely have to be able to sell yourself easily.
What’s your strength, your selling point. What is the unique thing you bring to the table that no one else has? You need to discover that on your own, you need to bring it to the world and show people that “I GAT THIS,” as oppose to you just conforming. You don’t have to conform, you need to stand out in whatever way you can.
I can’t really say what it is, but only you can discover what that thing is on your own. Especially when it comes to hip hop. You need to standout, you can’t just be copying everybody. Like some rappers out there I know that rap like J. Cole or rap like Kendrick. I mean, you can only amaze us for so long when your style is a complete copy of someone that we know. A after a while, it gets boring.
So, find your voice, find your selling point and be able to market yourself. You should be able to defend whatever music you put out there to the end. Whether it’s whack or not, I always tell people, “if you can defend it to the end, that shows how truly committed you are.” But now, we’re just focusing on people making dope music, so yeah, it’s the same.
Focus on your art, be yourself, and be ready to work, be ready to grind, be ready to market, be ready to, you know go out of your comfort zone. And who knows mehn, the dice might roll in your favour and you will make it. Paaa!
Lastly, outside of Music Production, what other Activities and Businesses do you dabble into?
Outside of music production, I’m a Live Sound Engineer. I’m also a blogger. I write for a couple of international blogs. I do a lot of PR behind-the-scenes, and I do some other businesses, that I’m not gonna go into right now. Hey! I’m not broke [chuckles]. Just kidding, but yeah I’m into other stuff.
Teck-Zilla has collaborated with hip-hop emcees, femcees, producers, and DJs across different generations, but he has always maintained his traditional hardcore beats with a touch of samples from several local music genre. His beats are known to test the lyrical ability and depth of all who jump on them.
It’s safe to say you’re on a Teck-Zilla beat because your pen game isn’t average, and you have what it tales to claim your seat at the hip-hop critical-acclaimed table with other great emcees.
You can checkout the entire Str8Buttah Productions discography.