Seattle-based emcee Gabriel Teodros knows another world is possible, and he is bringing that world to life through his music. A second-generation Ethiopian American, Teodros explores themes of diaspora, blackness, masculinity, resistance, and love through his music, which is always on point. This remains the case on his new record, Children of the Dragons, and we had a chance to chat with him about feminism, music, and the meaning of “home.” Check it out!
VBF: How has feminism – or feminisms – affected the way you make music?
GT: It’s affected my music in more ways than I’ll ever be able to name…but here’s a few: It has made me break myself down over and over again. It’s made me recognize vulnerability as a strength and not a weakness. It’s made me hyper-critical of my own lyrics and the lyrics I listen to. It’s made me always take a look at who I am and who I’m not sharing a stage or song with, and question if someone is being excluded, then why? It’s made me a better listener, and at the core being a better musician all comes down to your ability to listen. Also, reading the works of Audre Lorde and bell hooks have affected my writing, deeply.
VBF: A lot of your music contains themes of diaspora, and this record speaks a lot to something that really resonated with me as an immigrant – this elusive concept of “home.” Can you tell me about how this search for home or something resembling home plays out the ways you create?
GT: I’ve always felt like home means several places and no one place at the same time. I don’t know what it’s like to be rooted and content in one place, and maybe I never will. I do feel completely content and “home,” I suppose, when I’m creating music, or having a good show… or spending quality time with loved ones… but just in those moments. So the concept of home comes up a lot, and it could be about any number of places, people, feelings, memories, changes, visions or hopes. I think I still have this romanticized idea of a people that never had to, and never wanted to, leave the place their ancestors came from. It’s such a beautiful thought to me, sitting somewhere in the back of my mind… but it’s never been a reality to me.
VBF: You also do a good amount of celebrating women of color while at the same time unpacking masculinity and what that means for you, how it is evolving for you. Can you tell me more about that?
GT: I was raised in a house full of women of color–that’s the identity of my first teachers and the people who taught me how to love. It just feels natural to celebrate the people who taught you how to love, and to want to see them happy. As far as redefining masculinity, that’s been a life mission of mine ever since I was able to see that so much of what I was taught about masculinity is a problem. I think of it as a struggle now to just be a full human in a system and pathology where one group of people gives up entire parts of their humanity in the process of denying another’s. That’s one of the things I was trying to say in that song “Black Love”, how all of our freedoms are connected, even on an interpersonal level. It’s still my favorite song I’ve ever written, and one of my favorite lines in it says “something about your happiness feels like freedom.”
Download this track here!
VBF: Who are your inspirations?
GT: Everyone. I don’t think I can spend time getting to know anyone without being inspired in some way, even if that means being inspired to do something differently than them. I always tell people close to me that at some point something that happens between us will end up in a song… it’s inevitable and part of the unwritten contract that comes with us being friends!
VBF: Who are you listening to these days?
GT: We finished mixing 2 of my own albums this year, so lately I’ve listened to my own music more than anything else. Aside from that, it’s been a lot of old Ethiopian music, OCnotes and Flying Lotus.
VBF: You’re stranded on a desert island. You get to take one food, one beverage, and one feminist.
GT: If Jean Grae the rapper has Jean Grey the superhero’s powers, her. That would make her a Level 5 mutant and we could leave this island whenever we want. I mean she just fought Deadpool, it’s possible! I also can’t live without coffee… and some form of beans and rice… or lentils!
Listen to the full album below, and go get it here.
Verónica loves folks from immigrant families and the art they make.