Meet TeeFlii, the Ratchet Prince of Los Angeles R&B
He's danced with Chris Brown, calls girls Annies, and says his music is for making babies, not having sex.
Christian Jones aka TeeFLii is a singer and producer from South Central Los Angeles with a lusty, ratchet approach to R&B that he calls “FLii&B.” A few weeks ago he caught our attention with AnnieRUO’TAY 2 (The TakeOver), a mixtape hosted by DJ Mustard and DJ Carisma that resembles something The-Dream would make after hanging out with a bunch of strippers in a hot tub full of Four Loko. Even if you haven’t heard of TeeFLii, chances are you’ve seen him before. He was featured in David LaChapelle’s 2005 krumping documentary Rize as Baby Tight Eyez, an impetuous teenager who plays the piano with his adopted church family in one scene, then is remanded for beating up a kid “really bad” in the next. Now 25 years old, TeeFLii is sweet and humble when we speak on the phone; he calls me “ma’am” and thanks his gospel roots for the grown-ass music he makes today.
When did you start making music?
I started working on music professionally at the age of 12 or 13 and I started working in the studio at the age of 17. I grew up around gospel music and worked at the House of Blues with my grandma. I had a lot of love from there and it made me want to continue my journey in the music game. I come from a strong background of singers and I've really been influenced by my grandmother and her gospel career.
What was it like growing up in South Central LA?
I grew up around the violence, gangs, the horror, so it was pretty much a rough a life. I grew up as a dancer. That's my first passion for music. That's what led me to start looking for outlets to do my own music. I was part of the whole krump movement with Tommy the Clown and David LaChapelle and a lot of others that I came up with.
Where did you get the name TeeFLii?
TeeFLii came from dancing. I was in the Rize movie, and my name in the movie was Baby Tight Eyez. I was under somebody in dancing named Tight Eyez, then I wanted to branch off and do my own thing when I started getting older. I wanted to have my own name and something I could say that I did for myself. I grew up under another dude named Flii Stylz who choreographed for Chris Brown, Usher, Omarion, everybody in the game. I took a liking to him and next thing I knew, I just took the name TeeFLii.
How would you describe your sound?
I describe myself as a smooth, rough, uptight, sensitive, emotional singer. You're gonna get all of that out of me.
Your music is also very sexual.
I don't really think it's sexual, I think it's baby-making songs. I think that's how we all got here. [Our parents] just did it their way. I feel like this is how we all talk when we get away from our parents. Everybody has a little rachet in them and there's a lot of people that grow up and become freakier and do things differently. It's just a grown mentality. I'm just bringing a lot of things to it and having fun, seeing that I can do something besides being in the streets, selling drugs, going to jail and messing up my life.
Do you have any kids?
I have a three year-old and I have a sixth month-old right now. I'm just trying to be the best daddy of all time, trying to feed them, get them out of the streets of LA and into a new environment so they won't have to go through what I went through.
You call girls “Annie” in your songs. Where did that come from?
Michael Jackson. MJ, baby. People gotta understand that I made “Annie” off of not wanting to say “shorty.” I'm from Los Angeles, so I wanted to set a trend for us to be able to call females something besides the b-word, or anything that makes them feel out of context. Sometimes I may use those words in my songs, but when they hear “Annie,” it makes them feel way better.
DJ Mustard is a big supporter of yours. How did you two link up?
I hooked up with DJ Mustard right after I did a song called "Like Me" with Problem. It floated around the streets and, as you know, when a song floats around the streets, certain people that are out there join in. DJ Mustard just so happened to be the one that extended his hand out, and we made a great connection. We've got a lot of things coming up. I'm very happy and honored to be working with artists like DJ Mustard, Problem, Nipsey Hussle. I come from the bottom, really, so it lets you know that hard work does pay off. All you have to do is put your mind to it.
I also saw a picture of you and E-40 in the studio.
Yes ma'am, I enjoyed myself with the fabulous E-40. He is a funny creature. I learned a lot from him that day. His lingo is nice and he's a nice person, down to earth, really likes to talk to the youth and let them know about the music game, what you're getting yourself into and just to keep your head up and follow your mind, follow your heart, do what you believe in. We got to do a nice song together and it came out great. The fans will be hearing that pretty soon.
Who else would you like to collaborate with?
A lot of times I say I would love to work with The-Dream, but what's been really itching my fingers lately is I would love to work with Chris Brown. Since we both grew up together and danced together and shared some kind of friendship and connection, I feel like we'd make a nice collaboration together for the people.
You danced with Chris Brown?
I danced with Chris Brown in his first three videos. We got to do certain shows and it was a beautiful thing, and a life-learned lesson. That was then, and this is now. We're just here to move on, try to do something bigger and better. That's what got me here, dancing with Chris Brown and Omarion. Being around that sort of influence makes you hungry for what you know you can do.
What projects are you working on now?
For the next couple of months, I'm gonna be working on one of my first artists. His name is Kay Ess. I'm about to release his mixtape, hopefully on the 20th of April. Right after that I'll be releasing AnnieRUO'TAY 3 (Annie's World). I've got a project coming up with DJ Mustard and a project with Nipsey Hussle. I've been listening to different catalogs, trying to study music more and make sure that people understand what kind of name I'm trying to make for myself. I just want everybody to enjoy the music.
Frances Capell tweets things on the Internet over here - @ffffrances