TeeFLii’s hit records will never get old. Songs like “24 Hours” featuring 2 Chainz and “This D” saw much success, which included radio airplay and DJs dropping the West Coast bangers each night at the clubs.
Real name Christian Jones grew up in South Central Los Angeles similar to his peers, working very closely with the likes of Nipsey Hussle and Dom Kennedy. With the former, he had the pleasure of being featured on Nipsey’s biggest projects to date: “Keyz To The City 2” on Victory Lap and “Hate It of Love It” on Crenshaw. The latter, he most recently released an entire self-titled EP with TeeFLii featuring Dom Kennedy.
Jones calls himself a FLii&B singer, which to a lot of people that’s R&B. Born and raised in the church, his entire family was musically-inclined — including his mom and grandmas. His biggest musical influences are in fact not ratchet at all, but more so gospel singers and real singers. Fast forward to 2020, he’s got his eyes focused on that end prize: a Grammy.
AllHipHop caught up with TeeFlii in downtown Los Angeles to discuss studio sessions with Nipsey, fatherhood, his Top 5, and more!
AllHipHop: What was your experience growing up in South Central LA?
TeeFLii: The normal things you hear about. I’m sure there’s previous stuff you can’t really talk about or show. A lot of violence. I can’t say the city is somewhere where you can get rich. [chuckles] It has its perks. Hell, I love my city though.
AllHipHop: What are the perks?
TeeFLii: The perks is you have to stay out of the way. Stay out of the s##t because you could either get caught up and go to jail, or end up dead. It’s normal.
AllHipHop: Bring us back to the days of “24 Hours” and “This D.” What was TeeFlii like then?
TeeFLii: TeeFLii was more raunchy, TeeFlii was wild. That was young TeeFlii, I’m older now. My mindframe way different. I’ve grown so much, this is a new version. The new version is more so having a chip on the shoulder, got something to prove. This is the prime stage in my life where everything counts. This is going to set the milestone for what I do from here on out.
It’s going to make a way for my kids, my family. I have 3 girls and 1 boy. I love my babies. Being a father and experiencing that elevation, it’s dope. They get big before your eyes so fast, it’s amazing. My oldest daughter is 10, she’s the leader of the pack. My son thinks he’s the oldest, that’s Jayden. Daryl is the second oldest. Distinctive Bear, that’s Jordan. All of their last names are Jones.
AllHipHop: Biggest lesson you’ve learned in fatherhood?
TeeFLii: Patience. Seeing how they develop through time — growing and everything, you see so much of you in them. Sometimes it’s dope, sometimes you’re like “man what the hell?” It definitely isn’t easy. It starts making you think “damn, I used to be like this with my pops or my moms.” You just try to go from there. Any questions I have, I have a dope family man. Always there to give me answers. That love, that push is always dope.
AllHipHop: Were you ready for those songs to blow up?
TeeFLii: Not even going to lie, I knew “24 Hours” was gon’ go. Because right there, I had the wave. Once I had the wave, “This D” was poppin’. I knew “This D” was going to pop like underground, but it was so ratchet. That’s the dope part about it, that’s still the mindframe. That’s one of the challenges, getting back to that but on the newer side. Doing something new with it.
AllHipHop: Define ‘new.’
TeeFLii: We just started on the new album, coming up with crazy dope ideas. I’ve been working with Mars of 1500 Or Nothin’, shout out to those guys over there. Been working with The Dream’s producer Los, shout out those guys. My boy young Josh sending me beats, so I get beats from a lot of people. Right now, the main focus is getting the best out of this album.
AllHipHop: Talk about your last project with Dom Kennedy and why you made it self-titled?
TeeFLii: It’s dope! When you have a chip on your shoulder, it’s so many things that come across your head. To be respected by your peers, so many people who came up like how you’re coming up. For those guys to respect you, you have to put in the work. That’s the main thing: staying focused and getting the best out of it. We want the best, nothing less. I want to do way better than my last album, for damn sure. I know what that’s going to take. People say hard work and dedication, that’s for damn sure.
It really takes being in there and staying on it, day in and day out. Coming in and doing your job, doing what you have to do. Not worrying about who isn’t doing what. If nobody’s sending me no beats, I can make my own. I’ll make a beat. If nobody’s helping me put together the words to a song, I’m used to doing it by myself anyway. Those are things you always value the most, that makes it more of a competition. No disrespect to any artists out there, it’s more so when it comes to how I was raised. If you’re good, you’re going to get money out of the game anyway. But you should want to be somebody who puts a blueprint in the game, somebody who brought something to the table.
I’ve definitely brought a lot to the table, but I have a lot more work to do. Being one of those guys who acknowledges that, because that’s a tough cookie to take in right there: knowing I did everything I could possibly do. In that mindframe, you either fall for it or — that’s what we’re trying to not to let happen, that fallen place. Stay in there and stay focused with what’s the valuable thing: getting that Grammy. That’ll mean like winning the NBA Championship, a football player winning the Superbowl. Those things are dope. To be in that category being nominated twice, it let me know I’m not too far away from it.
AllHipHop: What did it mean to be on those iconic projects with your friend?
TeeFLii: That’s history. We always knew we’re going to do something cool. At that time, thinking of what you’re going to do and not really knowing what you’re going to do is 2 different things. The energy we surround ourselves with has a lot to do with the success you take in. Nipsey was one of those boys, he’s so much of a leader and a teacher that he had that style with it. A lot of people really didn’t even know how dope Nipsey was until the death. The inner city, the people that he fought for, those people know. Those moments you’re always going to cherish. One dude who’s going to fight for me, one dude who’s always in my corner.
Family, him spending time with my kids. Taking the time out to do that alone: meet my family, things of that nature. Staying true as a friend and a big brother. Always reaching out: “you want to come out here and do this? FLii, I need you on the album. I need you on this. Come through, we’re making next level s##t.” Those are the dope moments I’m always going to cherish, knowing he had that effect on me. That’s my boy. That’s one reason I have a chip on my shoulder, making sure that I live up to that expectation.
AllHipHop: Who was a father first?
TeeFLii: I believe he was a father first.
AllHipHop: Did he give you tips?
TeeFLii: Not so much father tips. [chuckles] Our stuff was more so about what’d go on in the inner city, how we could be the opposite. How we could take off and make the city look good. That was Nip’s biggest thing, he always wanted to make the city look good.
AllHipHop: For Victory Lap, some songs were recorded a while ago. Was “Keyz 2 the City 2” an older song?
TeeFLii: My song was actually the second to last to be added. I was wildin’, f##king up and s##t. Being young TeeFlii. He was more so on me, “man get on the album.” We locked down one day. He ended up locking me in there: “we gon’ get it done.” Always for big bro, anything for bro. Any time he reached out, we’d always put it together. It was easy. We’re from the same area, we represent the same things. It was always love. I love to see the fact that he even got his Grammy, we used to talk about those things.
Us everyday, the challenges. A lot of people run from the challenge, but Nipsey loved challenges. He’s a competitor, a tough competitor. To be out there running the same lap with somebody where you guys represent the same things, come from the same area, feels so great to even have the success we had together. Everything we did went down in history, that’s for sure.
AllHipHop: What was the energy in the room making “Keyz 2 the City 2”?
TeeFLii: Nipsey was knocked out on the couch. Nipsey was asleep. “Keyz 2 the City 2,” I did 6 hooks that day. “Keyz 2 the City” was the last one that I did. Once I was done, I played it and it was practically morning time. He woke up, I’m playing it loud. He goes to the bathroom, comes out the bathroom and into the booth to lay his verse. No lie.
AllHipHop: Who’s in your Top 5?
TeeFLii: I definitely listen to The Dream, always gon’ listen to The Dream. I listen to Darryl Moss, the gospel singer. PJ Morton, J. Moss, Kim Burrell, Usher. So many great singers out there. Eric Bellinger, Ty$, my boy Fat Box. I definitely listen to H.E.R. Those are my guys! If I forgot anybody, charge it to my head not my heart.
AllHipHop: Anything else you want to let us know?
TeeFLii: Definitely working on Starr Pt. 2. Definitely going to be releasing another EP during the summer. It all depends on the Corona s##t, but we’re working on getting the music out there. Everybody keeps hitting me and letting me know that they want more. I’m definitely in the studio. Soon as we leave here, going to grab something to eat, smoke some weed for a little bit, then right to the studio. We’re definitely not laying up, not taking it lightly. We’re glad to be in this position to even be able to be heard, blessed that I’m one of those guys who doesn’t have to worry about that.