Held to a high standard, and known to deliver on that, Cris Ponce, affectionately and professionally known T.N.L.C reigns supreme from the simple city of Tomball. Finding vast inspiration from American Hip-Hop artists such as Logic, Kendrick Lamar, and Mac Miller to name a few, Cris Ponce shares his knowledge with his audience while being fully absorbed by his musical roots. Looking to be the next life changer on his everlasting journey, he taps into his inner self to obtain a genuine mindset for his flow and rhymes.
Releasing the highly anticipated album, “SHOES OF A BEGINNER, MIDEST OF A WINNER,” T.N.L.C focuses on his lyrical dexterity as he explores 20-tracks that are sure to captivate any listener. Portraying his imaginative side all while letting us into his world, T.N.L.C makes sure that we get to take in the full scope of his artistry through the vessel that is this collection of songs.
An ambient world opens our minds to the versatility he has hidden under his sleeve as “A TEMPTING NEW YEARS” immediately expands on our mindset as we embrace the lo-fi hip-hop grooves present. Accompanying the spoken word tribute that T.N.L.C disperses to us before the familiar countdown is heard, he takes us right into the next track presented on “SHOES OF A BEGINNER, MIDEST OF A WINNER.”
Carrying out the fireworks and theatrical appeal of his grand entrance throughout the entire album, the atmospheric “SAVE ME A SPOT” has us tapping into a more simplistic musical foundation that evolves with jazz-like components before the rhythmic grooves kick in. Similar to what we hear towards the end of his album on “AIN’T NO LOSS,” T.N.L.C’s vocalization divulges the hunger that lives with him and the dedication he continues to carry forth.
Buttery with his rhyme schemes, the emcee that lives within T.N.L.C depicts numerous truths we’re exposed to through the duration of “SHOES OF A BEGINNER, MIDEST OF A WINNER.” Tracks like “RIGHT NOW” and “KILL IT!,” have us playing into an effervescent universe that greets us with poise and anticipation. There’s vivacious energy hailing from the high octane performance as we bop along to the drum patterns in an infectious way. However on “RIGHT NOW” we hear the combination of T.N.L.C’s forward techniques as a rapper, which adds a unique texture to the more mainstream approach that is heard with a female vocalist belting out emotions front and center. All while “KILL IT!,” still holds onto the underground appeal that places it in its own category.
Hearing how Lo-fi collaborates with old-school Hip-hop numerous times throughout this album, records like “AFFIRMATIVE,” “W.L.I.A.S,” “20XX,” and “WHO DO I TRUST” have us admiring the storytelling skillset that T.N.L.C has us discovering with our full attention in the mix. Embodying the nostalgic fuel that Hip-hop heads effortlessly convey, T.N.L.C keeps the roots of Hip-hop alive, all while staying relevant in the new wave.
We have to give credit where it’s due, and it’s hats off to the production quality bringing us mesmerizing samples used in the compositions upon us. “HOORAY,” is a prime example of how drastically the use of samples can steer a song into a vision of its own. With the continuous production transitions heard on this track, we ultimately come to an overwhelmed T.N.L.C as he brings us the raw grit that we need from his emerging self. Going from this record right into the soothing vibrations of “SPAZZIN’,” we’re immersed in the rollercoaster of buoyancy that is portrayed in this tracklist.
Emitting a lounge-like realm that has us equally satisfied as it does intrigue, there’s a vigor that wraps us in flourishing certainty. When we come across songs like “OVERTHINKING IDK…,” and “EVERY AMEN COUNTS,” the potent belief system of T.N.L.C takes a stance on racial beliefs and his faith as a whole as we get to sway between the presence he makes known.
“MEETING THE GREATEST” sweeps us into a spectrum of R&B as the reverberated essence of T.N.L.C’s slick cadences approach the tracks sample in an innovative manner. Hearing a cry for better days ahead, the blossoming evolution of T.N.L.C takes us through this album in a manner that is swift and transparent. Vulnerability is the name of the game when it comes to the words that he pens. There’s no denying what lies beneath the surface as T.N.L.C ensures that it’s brought to the table every time.
Intermissions tend to be key when digesting a project that holds such substance. “HEAR ME OUT (INTERLUDE),” still aims to bring us the artistic talents of T.N.L.C’s vocalization, but tours us down a road that is more pacifying, along with “SUMMER WIND (SCENE)” being the perfect interlude as we enjoy a skit that provokes thought and greases us up for what’s to come on the remaining songs we’re eager to take in.
Like any great album, we hear the lengths an artist will go to in order to make their listeners feel as if they truly know the individual behind the art. Keeping us on our toes as we embrace this theme, lush guitar riffs and a new flavor of psychedelic rock meets Hip-hop unveils soothing ballads titled “WE IN IT TO WIN IT,” and “MORE THAN JUST EARTH.” As T.N.L.C embodies a conscious headspace we adore his transitions between forwarding lyrics that grace the composition in a more in-depth look at how he holds onto his emotions while thinking with his head.
As we come towards the end of the project and get graced by the title track “SHOES OF A BEGINNER, MINDSET OF A WINNER,” all that is T.N.L.C unravels in a more coherent fashion. Taking this opportunity to boldly take us into what gives him the mindset of a winner, we hear just how his perseverance, faith, and leaps into this role have, and will, take him towards what he’s destined for. Completing this inevitability with a daring, synth Pop twist with “THE LAST MESSAGE FROM EARTH,” T.N.L.C takes us for one last spin, towards the end of this project, in a similar way we came into it.
In a display of spoken word, a message of truth, and where he wants to be in life, he understands what he has to do to get where he needs to be and is eager to bring it to his audience while being creative. Ending on an electronic note that completely spirals the entire masterpiece into an intriguing suggestion of food for thought, we leave this piece feeling completed.
The thought that went into this album has not gone unnoticed. We are completely blown away by your versatility and attention to detail! What inspired such an eclectic sound to this full-length album?
So yeah, the diversity for this album was really what I wanted to show everyone for my debut. I want to show that I can get on a beat and make a song and either a catchy and vibey song or a more severe storytelling track. This LP is easily one of the best albums, and I'm saying it. It's the most underrated and album of the year. It beats anyone when it comes to story feel. The sound might not be radio good, but I am a one-person team as well. I feel proud of what I could do for myself.
What's the message behind "SHOES OF A BEGINNER, MINDSET OF A WINNER" as a whole? What struck up the inspiration for the album title?
It's a perfect and hidden message that not many might notice, but it's about me being at my weakest on September 1st, and I slowly was growing my inspiration to music when I was at the lowest point of my life. It was over a relationship, and it's something not to get sad about. I came up with the title as I was starting my music career, which explains the shoes of a Beginner part. A beginner always has rookie mistakes. That explains the mixes I have for some songs. I'm one year in making music, and I slowly became stronger and better at my craft. Months and months of work were put into this project, and I have other versions of most of the final songs in this debut. The Mindset of a winner was me making this album as diverse as possible, giving different vibes, and slowly mastering the flow and my delivery for vocals. It has been shown that my growth has been demonstrated in this project.
How would you describe your headspace from writing the album to where it's presently at now? Have any significant changes occurred in the way you view yourself or the life you live?
I can take around one to a few hours when writing a song, sometimes days and even months. I can tell you that the easiest and most open song that I have on this project was reported around 30 minutes or less. I cried with sadness because I wasn't in the right place when I was dealing with personal problems in my life. But I can tell you that I really can make anything catchy. I'm the king of that. I don't feel cocky. I am just confident. Life right now is better than ever. Underrated, but we going to make it!
Out of all 20 songs heard in the collection, do you have one that resonates with you more than others? Why?
I have way too many songs that I feel a spark of enjoyment. The one that speaks to me the most would either save me a spot, right now, hooray, we in it to win it, hear me out, overthinking IDK, every amen counts, or who do I trust. There are many, but If I had to choose, I would prefer to overthink Idk. I fell in love with it. This is one of those songs I felt the happiest making but yet overthought about a lot. It was easy to write about. I just needed to find the right delivery. Easily one of my favorites and best IMO.
What was it like piecing together all of the creative details we get to explore? How long did the creation process of "SHOES OF A BEGINNER, MINDSET OF A WINNER" take you?
This album roughly took nearly one year to make. Mid-December 2020 was the beginning of the idea. Each song belongs here. None are skipped IMO, and they all have a story to tell. I had a lot of many other songs, but I made sure to make this as mainstream as possible. I can tell you that this is just the beginning as I'm efficiently improving the second.