Words by:
Photography & Creative Direction: Elizabeth Wirija
Directors: Ko, Jacob Cooper
Hair: Monique Avant
Lighting: Jacob Cooper
Photography Assistants: Salim Garcia, Tyh McLean
Set Design: Natalie Bonanno
Set Assistant: Arian Behpour
Graffiti Artist: Skam
Production Assistant: Mossi Ikemefuna

Teezo Touchdown is about to hang up the phone when he suddenly exclaims: “Hold up, hold up!” The artist has been condemning the rising costs of goods when he suddenly remembers to check his bank account.

“Right now,” he says, pausing in the middle of a street in LA while his banking app loads, “I have $208.21, and yesterday, my manager sent me $200. You do the math. I want that in print, so in ten years, I can look back at this and know exactly where I was during this interview.”

Declarations like this might suggest that the Beaumont, Texas native has a ten-year plan. The truth is much more exciting; he’s evolving in real time. There are few artists as open-minded, as willing to experiment, as Teezo Touchdown. A look at some of his cosigns bears this out: Tyler, the Creator, Kenny Beats, Lil Yachty… rap’s galaxy brain thinkers and mavericks. On top of that, he has modelled and appeared in campaigns for fashion powerhouses like Telfar, Marc Jacobs, Moncler and Matthew M Williams all admirers of his unconventional and outlandish style, including his current signature look: hair studded with 15 pounds of construction nails. His team assist him in achieving this look every morning.


This is, after all, the rapper who introduced himself in 2019 with the kind-of-rap, kind-of-rock 100 Drums – a track that sampled Panic! At The Disco’s anthemic hit I Write Sins Not Tragedies. 100 Drums starts with a question – “Is anybody brave any more?” – which epitomises Teezo’s MO. Since then, he’s released a string of loosies, including viral hits like Sucka!, I’m Just a Fan and Strong Friend. An artist in thrall to zeitgeist-defining icons like Prince, Marvin Gaye and Kraftwerk, his musical style doesn’t feel boxed in. It’s an ever-changing sound, floating between emo, rap, punk – an orbit which only Teezo can see.

For Teezo, each track is a fresh opportunity to flex his creativity and test out new ideas – which might, sometimes, come across as restless and searching (a state he’s increasingly open to, and comfortable in). “I’m glad we’re having this conversation now,” he says softly. “In a lot of interviews before, I was self-deprecating. I look in the mirror and see my biggest enemy. I don’t want to take credit for anything that makes me seem like a genius. I just pray and ask for ideas to flow through me.”

Like many of rap’s master universe builders, Teezo is adept at creating vivid alter egos to bring his concepts to life. He promoted his 2022 goth-rap single Mid with a Rid the Mid campaign on social media. The campaign, which mostly took the form of Instagram skits, was equal parts absurd, hilarious and deeply steeped in humanity. He ran for mayor in the fictional city of Midville and detailed what he would do if elected: policies including making it illegal for barbers to push back clients’ hairlines and for people to steal someone else’s lighter, as well as ensuring “every baby will be delivered with a midwife”.

Another persona is the stetson-wearing, lollipop-sucking Eugenius Hanes – a character he created in order to compartmentalise facets of his personality, because “when you hear [about] yourself from other people, I didn’t like that. Hanes was a way to not talk about myself, because even now, doing this interview, it’s weird.”

“People connect with someone’s story more than they connect with the image of the person. The more you give them to digest, the better”

But Hanes, it could be argued, also offered a protective layer in another way. Critics have been quick to dismiss Teezo as a fashion rapper, writing him off as style over substance. He isn’t rattled, and instead neutralises the accusations by addressing them head-on. “I was getting a lot of looks, tour opportunities, magazine covers, and I felt undeserving of it,” he says, admitting he fell prey to imposter syndrome. Leaning hard into these extracurricular activities, his music began to feel like an “afterthought”. He’s aware of the optics. “No one really knew me for the music, and music, to me, is my foundation.”

Teezo wants to rectify this. His upcoming debut album, Ended Up Being Me, will be the way that he does it. Although details are still scarce, the project will be his most complete statement so far, and will allow fans further into his singular world. His recent single, Rock Paper Strippers, reveals an even more playful, genre-meshing direction. With a similar rhyme scheme to Run-DMC’s iconic tune It’s Tricky, the track possesses an infectious sing-along sensibility over booming 808 beats and slinky synths. “I think she’s from Port Arthur/ I fly her out to Florida,” he raps animatedly.


“The story I’m trying to tell is semi-autobiographical,” he says, with a pregnant pause, searching for the right words to continue. “It’s as if you were going into my childhood and you find a box of my cassettes which are my influences, my life. You understand, ‘This is what he’s seen growing up and how he’s living now.’ I feel like I finally had the confidence to do that and understand that people connect with someone’s story more than they connect with the image of the person. The more you give them to digest, the better.”

Beaumont is one of the most disenfranchised cities in the US, known for its high murder rate and increasing economic disparity (in 2019, it was estimated that over 16% of the population lived at or below the national poverty line). I wonder what it was like for Teezo growing up there, especially as a presumed outsider. It’s a presumption he’s quick to dispel. “My individuality didn’t come until I started looking at what I do and studying it,” he says. As a teenager, he began going to thrift stores, hunting down distinctive accessories, evolving his style as he went. Teezo’s sound was an extension of his style: he would chop and change, build upon recycled content and see how he could bring his singularity into the mix. The image he paints of himself during his early days is someone innovative and crafty, who refused to allow his circumstances to prevent him from expressing himself. “We grew up poor, man,” he explains. “It was the best thing having a dad who had tools around the house. We started putting nails in our hats and boots. I couldn’t afford a gimbal for movement videos, and didn’t have money for lights, but I did have a reflective base that I bounced the sun off of. We didn’t have mics, so we filmed stuff and did voiceovers later.”


But, ingenuity aside, he still found himself unable to express what was in his mind’s eye, so he decided to switch things up. “In 2016, I made the decision to stop listening to other music,” he says emphatically. “A lot of my early music was me just playing – I vividly remember my roommate passing by my room while I was working on music, and he was like, ‘Alright, I hear you Zaytoven, I hear you Future.’ That was a pivotal moment for me, because I was like, ‘Yo, you gotta make something that’s you.’”

“I was getting a lot of looks, tour opportunities, magazine covers, and I felt undeserving of it. No one really knew me for the music, and music, to me, is my foundation”

Teezo says “repetition” helped him through this period of restraint – a dogged determination to meet the days when inspiration doesn’t show and grind through them. “Some days, I’m in a studio just digging through beats,” he laughs. “I like to say, ‘Getting beat to death’ – just going through beats and not finding anything. I won’t force it because I understand those bad songs make me appreciate the good ones.”

For Teezo, a swing and miss is more important than not swinging at all. This expansive artistic approach led to a feature on Tyler, the Creator’s breezily melodic cut RunItUp, from his widely praised 2021 album, Call Me If You Get Lost. It was a watershed moment which saw him brought on as support for huge shows by Tyler, Kali Uchis and Vince Staples.


The momentum kept growing, the phone kept ringing (with calls from SBTRKT, Don Toliver and Smino). But one collaboration stands out in his memory – his appearance on Kenny Beats’ bi-weekly freestyle series, The Cave. “With the Kenny Beats,” he sighs, casting his mind back to the day, “if you see the other episodes, they’re all having a blast. I felt like I took that whole experience way too seriously. I was so hungry to make good music – I’m looking for a life-changing moment. My team took me to the side and said, ‘You have to rethink how you collaborate. Let it be a collaboration, don’t try and take over the whole session.’”

This gave Teezo permission to dial back his approach. He wanted others to guide him, and started asking how he could improve their records rather than assuming his mere presence would be enough. “The first thing I say when I come out of the booth is, ‘Do you like it?’” he explains. “I ask, ‘Do you need me to change anything?’” He is quick to assert that he doesn’t take these collaborations lightly, and “the reason I don’t take them lightly is because I’m super scared to ask for anything. That’s why with this debut album, there’s only one feature on it. I’m terrified to ask people things. When I go to someone’s house, I’m scared to ask where the bathroom is. When it comes to music, when people ask me to do a song with them, it’s an honour.”


Having spent an hour talking to Teezo, I am left a little take aback. I wasn’t sure whether to expect Teezo Touchdown or Eugenius Hanes, but instead of rap’s latest provocateur I found myself in conversation with an artist who wasn’t afraid to show his vulnerabilities. Which, in a way, feels a lot more subversive. He laughs when I use that word. “Man, I see that word being used everywhere to describe me. I don’t even know what it means. I’m just doing me.”