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TeFF: In Riddim With Two Cultures.

July 17, 2013

TeFFSmall01Text by Aneesah Coley. Image by Sharon Calvin.

Travis Johnson, better known as TeFF, creates music that seamlessly blends reggae and hip-hop together in a genre he calls “regg-hop.” Raised in both Philadelphia and Jamaica, TeFF allows his music to showcase both of his dominant cultures.

“I think it’s the best of both worlds,” he says. “Philly’s got the best artists in the world, that’s what I say. And Jamaica is just the best place in the world to me.”

TeFF lends his vocals to popular and original hip-hop tracks, as well as Jamaican riddims and beats. People often praise him for the clarity of his music and talk about their ease of understanding the lyrics, unlike their experiences with some traditional reggae. He has garnered a large and diverse following. A fan from Germany reached out to him via Twitter and a young woman from London remixed a song of his, later sending her version to him.

“It was hot,” he says. “I never met her, some British girl. She just killed it though.”

The 28-year-old is far from his days of freestyling while attending Overbrook High School and his elementary school days spent tape recording his own voice. The latter resulted in an embarrassing little black tape that TeFF says will never be brought to light.

For the sake of music, sleep is often lost and all night recording sessions are inevitable. The bed perched up against one wall in the studio where he records proves the existence of overnight sessions.

“This shit is not a game,” TeFF says. “It’s sacrifice after sacrifice.”

TeFF’s ambition is fueled in part by his parents, Jamaican immigrants who came from meager means.

“My dad grew up pretty much on his own,” he says. “He left the house when he was like 12 and made a life. He’s here, ballin’, without the drugs, without the typical stereotype of a Jamaican coming to America.”

His mother is now a nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The examples set by his mothe and father are what drive TeFF.

“No, I can’t get no rest,” he says. “I got 10 songs to ship out by next week. These DJs need it. These DJs need their drop over in Europe, in Jamaica, in Philly. We burning the candle on both ends. If it had more stems we’d burn those too.”

TeFF’s latest EP, Straight Off the Top, Vol. 4, was released and made available as a free download online in April. It was his sixth release and he has more ready.

“Pick any project, any mixtape,” says TeFF’s producer, Emmanuel “TuchPoint” Aden. “Play it from beginning to end. Name another artist that can do what you just heard.”

This summer, TeFF will perform at Villa’s Stop the Violence Kick back Block Party in Southwest Philly and at the Atlantic City Carnival in July.

“Ambition trumps all,” he says often. “I want to live forever through my music.”

One Comment
  1. Anonymous permalink
    January 11, 2014 3:56 pm

    Teff the best of both world his music is extremely unique

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