Teo The Artist's Debut Album, "Open Mind," is a Confessional Joy Ride, Buckle Up Listeners



Flowing like a volcano and dripping verses off the top, Tim Jones has transformed himself to a much-esteemed Chicago Emcee driven by his passion for making a better world by of his introspective and City-repping music.


His Debut Album, 'Open Mind,' invites components of the immortalized soul, acid jazz and rap, urban rhetorics, gospel-croon, blues-swing, R&B hums, swinging cadence, and Oswin Benjamin, Jasper Logan, and the notorious BdotCroc to the same open-mic cipher.


With his Sonic clique's support, "ADHD," which stands for 'always driven having determination' and performing under the Moniker "Teo The Artist"—this Debut docks as the first stanchion is the Chicagoan's gospel of upliftment brought on by the introspection of his past encounters. He manages to give life to his once ominous variations of the past through his versifying mids-booming-tonality and his background as a gospel and jazz songster, reducing and infusing into a stewy pot that borrows freely from the upbeat vibes some of Chicago's biggest Rappers.


A song like "World," stands out in this synopsis, where inebriating versified cadences from Teo and Jasper Logan renders up like a scene from "Cocoa Butter Kisses," in Chance the Rapper's 2013 Acid-Rap, with a similar Wurlitzer backdrop, and the same exacting swing. That shouldn't come as a surprise since all three mentioned cultivated their surrounding inspirations from within the same river-parted Windy City. Here, much like his previous endeavors, Teo takes aim at his ney-sayers and boasts like the ready-made Rapper he lyrically renders-up as through his confident, but calm demeanors. And he does this while the expanses in his Church-nostalgic swan-dive become festooned with crisp punching R&B reminiscent beats, spilling over its edges with a cherubic choral of filtering harmonies synergizing as one.

When we're met with "Yams," which is garlands the equivalent Hip-hop inspired back-beat behind Acid Rap's "Juice," but feels a far arms reach away in how Teo stays true to his own well-developed magnetizing and steadfast flow; sprouting into a jazz-centric scintillation that chaperons us on out the back door, and into "Marley." If you enjoyed anything like "Everbody's Something," from the same Mixtape, you'd like what you find here. There's a walking serenade-like pad beaming in the backdrop as carbonated underwater influx and the audible scars of a vinyl record takes us from the marching cadence of "Yams" and into a featured verse from Oswin Benjamin that slices through the woofers of your speakers with a vengeance, while utilizing the same confidence exuding flow as Joey Bada$$ from "1999."


When you get somewhere halfway through 'Open Mind,' it's the grande piano manifested love-sick confessions of "You," that brings out the touchstones of the monologue tallying days from Mo-town, this time, with a new-age lounge aesthetic. The cadence stays steady here, mainly being driven by the anecdotal nostalgia and bear-hugging goose-bumps that Teo produces with every whispering incantation of his hook, "cause even when it hurt just know you're good enough for you, I know it's hard to say, but say I'm good enough for me." Over the verses, he reminisces about the fleeting sentiments of the past, oozing with inductive cessation-filled notions that would make any cold-heart ache with the burning-passion of Teo's flute festooned left turn into the existential crisis of "Smiley."


Opening up with, "he's really sad, but you can't tell, cause the memes and music hide it really well, life's pretty bad, but oh well, no one gets it anytime I try to tell," the soul-sapping song, "Smiley," draws ironic melancholy from the idea of hiding your problems away behind a fake smile and the exaggerated enthusiasm you can expect appended—which he does the opposite of here. Over a punchy Hip-hop beat and the same adorned Grande Piano from before, Teo The Artist confesses his turbulent Mind's dismissal corners: "have you ever had the burden of a dream?" he asks during the fleshy verses of his Sad-boy aesthetic, "tryna find out what it means, and you really think you capping, cause it's probably just a dream?" He's divulging about the vulnerable aspects of second-guessing yourself as a perfectionist harboring tremendous egalitarian visions. With space-soaring 80's inspired synths, this song stands as the magic door into the wavering Mind of the Chicago home-grown underground hero.


Songs like "No Worries," and "Crazy," it's safe to say there's more underneath the shell of the Acid Rap-consuming and Gospel-soul-inspired melancholic Rapper. Within the hazy and piano festooned backdrops of 'Open Mind,' operates a club champagne-popping hype-up party titled "No Worries," which features the drawl resoundings of BdotCroc and Poodie for the radio-active anthemic stanzas highlighted over this banger. Then there are the oscillating, spacious dusky tip-toeings behind "Crazy," which traverses above Teo's riffling verses, resembling someone like Big Sean. Intervening somewhere nearby, but far in-between, where 32nd note high-hat scatterings withdraw endorsement from the drippy vibes of Trap-music.


When we arrive near the final last-call signs passing by on the winding journey that Teo The Artist expresses with heart-throbbing introspections and uplifting club-banger production—sometimes detouring with the inebriating vibe he draws from Chicago-greats before him. It's almost impossible not to feel absorbed in the theatrics and performance behind his sonic escapades. Especially during the gospel-jazz Séances of "Care/Feel," and "Soul," which stand out as the most embellishing moments of "Open Mind," where Teo shows his most serenading variation of the name. The booming subs halfway through "Care/Feel" runs over you like the drill-lap at your local marine training site, before it swan-dives into the soul-enamoring harp-trills of the infatuating audible daydream that "Soul" renders up so vividly. Here, Teo mentions his disturbance with suicide and his impatience with God's plan, giving his audience a deep-vision into the authenticity and spirit behind the budding artist's internal turbulence.


It's not a song festering over the problems of his past, but instead, an epiphany focused narrative that resembles the meditative state this album playthrough leaves you in; uplifted and renewed, ready to take on the challenges ahead with a new empowering soundtrack graciously provided Chicago house-hold name himself: Teo The Artist.



How did you plan out the cohesion behind 'Open Mind's' playback, and how one song's narrative blended into the other? 


Flow and cohesion are always some of the biggest factors in my mixtapes. Every great project that I’ve listened to needs flow and making sure everything fit was the hard part. I literally cut and rewrote songs just so they could fit the vision of OPEN MIND. OPEN MIND is literally me expressing different feelings, emotions, and thoughts I had. Every track is a different frame of mind. I wanted something that flows but shows how abrupt and transparent my thoughts are. That’s how I was able to speak on things like death, depression, suicide, feeling inadequate with music, and oppression as a black man. I plan my music the same way I plan my shows. I want both to tell stories and leave people with a message or just something that sticks with them.


Do you feel like Chicago has a significant influence on how this Album turned out, both aesthetically, the performances featured within it, and in the sentiments, you were trying to capture throughout?


Well what can I say? It’s home. Chicago has always had a big influence in my sound. From growing up a church, then later a jazz musician to listening to artists like Kanye West and Chance The Rapper, it’s something I incorporate in my music cause well it’s apart of me. Plus, some of the people I collabed on the tape with like Alexis, Bianca, Jasper, and Black Glove (Sam Wise and Sick Philz) are from Chicago too. I told everybody I worked with to be free and be themselves. It gave everything an organic feel. I always try to show love to Chicago in my music cause the city and the people gave me a lot. From people who literally went out their way to help me like my mentor Add-2 (Shouts out to Add), to everyone who listened. This city built me up and I’m forever gonna be grateful.


If you could pick three songs from this Debut Record that you feel represent the message and influence behind what you strive to do as an artist, which would they be, and why?


Well definitely The Big Picture, Family Matters, and All Love/Peace. The Big Picture because it’s literally about having the mental freedom and being secure enough in your identity to create. I feel like sometimes I get in my own way. I’m working on allowing myself that freedom to create or even just be myself without holding myself back. Family Matters cause Black Lives Matters. I will always be an advocate for my people. I wrote this song because I wanted to give a very specific message to black men and women. For the last year way before the protests this summer, I wanted to speak on the disconnect between black men and women. I think unity now more than ever is crucial because if we can’t unify we will not survive. So I’m gonna always make music that uplifts black people. Black Lives Matter. All Love/Peace because well as artists, not every aspect of being an artist is not sweet. It’s actually kinda horrible sometimes, yo. However, there are times when it’s worth it. But when people come up to me and say, “This song helped me”, “I was really in a dark place and I heard your music”, or just a simple “ You dope bro”, then it’s worth it. That and Bianca Shaw bodied her verse and just that song in general. Shouts out to B. Black Glove came in and did they thang, yo. Jason and Lyndsey added some seasoning and it was awesome.


When you think back to this Record's inception and method, and especially behind writing, recording, mixing, and mastering, what stood out as the most impactful learning experience behind "Open Mind"? 


I learned a lot through everything. Cause with writing, I had to really focus and really dissect what I wanted to say. I wanted to really speak about something that matters. You can always rap for 16 bars and not say anything. I’ve done that before. I wanted this time to be different. I am an audio engineering major when I’m not doing cool stuff so I used every new skill, technique, and trick I learned on my tape. Recording, mixing, and mastering was a process in and of itself. Cause it’s one thing to engineer yourself, but it’s completely different to mix other people. I don’t know if I can narrow down just one experience. Maybe the introspection it took the make the music. It was not anything overnight. The project took two years to make. All Love/Peace and Eulogy are two years old. Internalizing everything was the biggest learning process cause I learned more about myself.


If you could give your audience a few words that would act as the Prologue to the experience they can come to expect from "Open Mind," what would you say and why?


Simply “Have An Open Mind”.This experience is one that’s from a genuine place. Hopefully, people listen to this tape and see themselves in the music. My story is really not that different from somebody else’s. So listen to it and have an open mind.

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