Having adopted a meticulous approach to realizing his vast ambitions, DJ Teck-Zilla has touched the hip-hop game in more ways than one. On his latest single “Disco Lo”, the RAC alum teams up with hip-hop duo Camp Lo to deliver a bouncy and retro banger.
One piece of gear you can’t live without? My Solid State Logic audio interface
Morning person or night owl? Morning, AKA #TeamEarly!
Favourite live show? Shash’u (RAC alumni) on the beat machine at Underworld
Best way to get in the zone? Drink water, core exercises, and I’m set to go!
Favourite lyric? “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?”
Whether he’s shaping projects in the studio or spinning the decks for festival season, you can count on DJ Teck-Zilla to turn up the heat. The Lagos-born producer, DJ, and writer has built his craft across continents, immersing himself in the Afrobeats and B-boy scenes with a consistently inquisitive nature. Throughout his illustrious career, Teck-Zilla has remained firmly rooted in a determination to excel in every discipline he sets his mind to.
Among his latest ventures, the RAC alum achieved yet another one of his dreams – collaborating with Bronx rap duo Camp Lo. Their new track “Disco Lo” combines Teck-Zilla’s seasoned production skills with Geechi Suede and Sonny Cheeba’s slick rhymes to offer a 70s vibe fitted for the future.
The prolific creative reconnected with RAC to share his perspective on staying true to your art and establishing creative longevity. Read on to soak up the inspiration and get a hint of what’s to come!
RAC: Thanks for taking the time to connect with us! Simply put – who is Teck-Zilla? Tell us a little bit about your early years and your first moments in music.
Teck-Zilla: Teck-Zilla is a Nigerian-born producer, sound engineer, DJ, writer, martial artist and all-around creative. My early years were spent reading tons of comic books and listening to music that my parents played on vinyl and cassette tapes. I grew up on a lot of soul, pop, and soft rock; I remember a mix of Marvin Gaye, Phil Collins, Smokie, T’Pau, Madonna, Michael Jackson, lots of Motown, The Temptations, and Fleetwood Mac (amongst others). I actually wanted to be a comic book illustrator as a kid, but as time went on, my focus shifted more towards music. In high school, I used to charge my mates for my homemade mixtapes of popular songs, and I amassed a large collection of music thanks to my older siblings and their friends. This really influenced the type of music I listened to, as they were into a mix of hip-hop, R&B, and soul – that was where I got my hip-hop education from. We could go from Snoop Dogg to EPMD, Boyz II Men to Tevin Campbell with the twinkle of an eye. I can’t really recall my first moments in music, as so many events occurred that it makes it pretty difficult to arrange a proper timeline. Let’s just say it was a mix of luck, happenstance, and destiny, and voilà – here I am today.
RAC: How does the music you listen to now influence your work?
Teck-Zilla: There has been lots of innovation and evolution in music. Unfortunately, I listen to music more from an audio engineer standpoint now as I love trying to figure out how that particular music was made. I ask myself things like “What did the producer do?” or “Why did they use that effect?”, all that technical stuff that normal fans might not pay attention to. Also, it all varies from time to time, and I listen to different genres, so I try to pull elements from each and implement them in my creative process. Besides hip-hop, a lot of Afrobeats, deep house and alternative soul are the most prominent genres on my playlists. Alt-R&B and soul acts like SG Lewis, Noah, and Joya Mooi have been breaking the mold lately. I always love me some Planet Giza too – those guys really raise the bar with their genreless production style. As for Afrobeats, I’ve gotten into Burna Boy and Tems (who I once DJed for, way before she blew up).
RAC: Among your many accomplishments, you are a founding member of Nigerian hip-hop collective Str8Buttah. Can you elaborate on how this group came about, and the creative directions that unite you?
Teck-Zilla: It started in university, when a friend of mine who I met while studying for my A-Level exams at Cambridge introduced me to one of the founding members, Rae. He in turn introduced me to some of his friends who had the same musical interests as I did, and we all just gelled like glue. The other thing is, we all did everything in-house – producing, recording, mixing, graphic design, and PR. We simply just kept it in-house, even though we had no solid business plan. We were just kids who loved making music and expressing our creativity. Nothing more, nothing less. We definitely have had great memories together. Some of the members are also now into video directing and IT solutions, amongst other things.
RAC: Something else that’s unique about your journey is that you’re also a music journalist, writing for publications like EARMILK and Montrealhiphop.net. Tell us more about this aspect of your career – how does this contribute to who you are as an artist?
Teck-Zilla: This also happened by chance. I started my first blog while I was in London, UK around 2009, and I guess some artists saw the reviews I did and loved them so much that their engagement made me do it more. Eventually Thewordisbond reached out to me to become a regular contributor, and that led to me working for Montrealhiphop.net as both a reviewer and correspondent. I had the opportunity to attend some high-profile shows in Montreal and interview local acts as well. I wrote about artists like Rakim, Camp Lo, Oddisee, French Montana, Ace Hood, and Tech N9ne. Overall, working behind the scenes as a writer made me aware of how personal art can be and how it’s always subjective depending on one’s viewpoint. Regardless, one should not be overly sensitive about writers’ perceptions, because art will always be received in ways you would never imagine.
RAC: Which aspect of the musical landscape do you enjoy the most?
Teck-Zilla: I will always love the creative aspect more than anything; the stage where things start coming together in one’s head. Unfortunately, it seems to be like a chore now, as everyone is all about vitality, and the idea of being organic with the art is a dying concept. On the other hand, times sure have changed, and the way music is being consumed is a whole lot different now. We have gone from physical CDs to 1s and 0s, which is not a bad thing, but at times the wave of music pouring at you can be a bit too much.
RAC: On your latest single, “Disco Lo”, you collaborate with New York hip-hop legends Camp Lo. Describe the creative process involved in making this single, and some of the things you’ve learned from the experience.
Teck-Zilla: Working with Camp Lo is a dream come true, and was something I had to do before I left this Earth. I have always been a fan of the duo since I saw their videos on MTV when I was a kid. I was fortunate to have met them twice in person – the first time was when they did a show in Montreal, and the second was in London, UK. I must say the collaborative experience was quite revealing, but enjoyable. It showed me a lot about the inner workings of publishing, contracts, and the business side of music. I already had the concept for “Disco Lo” many years ago, and I told myself that I would keep the beat just for them. Luckily, I was able to reach out to Mark DiVita (a fellow DJ and creative) who helped to make it possible. There was a lot of back-and-forth, which was expected, but eventually we got it done!
RAC: What is your goal as a musician? What kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind?
Teck-Zilla: I just want people to remember me for being true to myself and sticking to my guts. My legacy should be that I was one of the best who went all the way.
RAC: How do you pull yourself out of an artistic rut? What advice can you share for other musicians on maintaining a creative output and chasing their dreams?
Teck-Zilla: This is a great question. I tend to write out my goals, ideas, and concepts every now and then, so when I reach that stumbling block, I just take a break from everything. We all get burned out without realizing it, and the best way to recharge is to map out where you are going, take time to let the body recharge, and get back on track. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it works most of the time. I am also really into martial arts, so that is another method I use to recalibrate my artistic energies. My advice is: find out what you love, discover why you love it, and stick to a plan while having fun with it.
RAC: Thank you very much for sharing your story, Teck-Zilla! Walk us through the rest of 2022 – what does your future hold?
Teck-Zilla: 2022 should be fun. I will be DJing at a number of events, and a lot of music will be released as well. I am really diversifying my style now, so you should expect different projects with Afropop, funk, and b-boy break music styles while of course incorporating that classic hip-hop sound.
I would like to say the future is promising. Who knows, I might just mess around and do a collab with Drake (hopefully he is reading this, haha)!
Written by Rebecca Judd
Illustration by Yihong Guo