Tee-Double – New Old-School Style


It feels like everyone and their mother is eagerly awaiting the series finale of Breaking Bad this Sunday. I’m sad, excited, anxious, and so many more feelings all at once, and getting my hands on as many Internet articles about Breaking Bad as I can to sate my obsession. And by complete chance, I discovered yesterday that Austin’s legendary MC Tee-Double was featured on the show a few seasons ago.

It’s so subtle and brief that you probably didn’t even notice it, but in Episode 1 of Season 4, Flynn (Walter Jr.) is in his bedroom blasting a hip-hop track, unaware of his mother’s machinations. That hip-hop track is Tee-Double’s 2005 jam “Bringing it Back.” Putting aside the fact that blasting a semi-obscure old-school Austin MC automatically makes Flynn one of the coolest kids in Albuquerque, it actually sort of fits. The stuttering minimalist beat is contemporary (even futuristic?) without being abrasive. It’s both interesting and accessible. It’s totally the kind of sound that a suburban white teenager in the late 2000’s would dig.

But that was ages ago. Back in March of this year, Tee-Double released Rosie’s Boy, his 20th studio album. I’m not really clear on Tee-Double’s story; to be honest, I get his background confused with Austin’s other godfather of hip-hop, MC Overlord, and it isn’t readily available on the Internet. What is clear, though, is that Tee-Double is a mover and shaker. He is an independent artist in every sense of the word, controlling every step of his process on his own. He is an entrepreneur and a community leader, and has busied himself beyond just rhyming.

And even being pulled in so many directions, he is able to consistently release really good material. Rosie’s Boy, while not an earth-shaking record, has no bad tracks. It can be a bit off-putting initially, because it feels dated and old-school – miles away from the cutting edge atmosphere of “Bringing It Back. But in the context of the record, it actually makes sense.

Rosie’s Boy is an origin story. “Music was the most important thing where I lived,” Tee-Double intones to kick off, “Blast Off,” a song about growing up. And it feels like what it probably felt like for Tee-Double to come upon hip-hop in the 80s; it’s got that old school atmosphere. Opener “Let Me Rock” has a brighter, bouncier beat and Tee-Double’s flow is a lot more advanced in style, but he’s still focused on how got to where he is, with remembrances like, “I used to lay in my room, studying the art / analyzing the phrases and learning to count bars.”

At times on Rosie’s Boy, Tee-Double has a distinctly Southern feel. His pronunciation is somewhat reminiscent of Killer Mike’s, and the production often feels like early Outkast (for better and worse). But Tee-Double has been in the game a long time, and illustrates that he’s able to operate at a variety of paces. He can be a tongue-twister or a straightforward old-school rhymer. By the time he gets to the final track, “Rosie’s Boy,” he just sounds triumphant. It’s like he made it through all those formative experiences and arrived at the successful, confident MC we know now.

– Carter Delloro