Las Vegas can be many different things. For some, it's a source of reckless adventure. For others, it’s an epicenter for potential riches. The bright lights and continuous heartbeat of the strip pave way for global superstars - artists that, in many ways, embody the glamour of Sin City. Far too often, however, we see smaller communities and sounds that surround the area fall victim to the allure of Vegas. Competing with artists that can sell out world-famous casinos can leave up-and-coming artists who call the city home in the shadows of their own domain.
For Tyler Griffin, an artist better known as Papichuloteej, bringing a new style and sound to the city is a challenge he’s willing to accept. Vegas’s smaller music scenes exist primarily under the hip-hop sound. For a time, so did Teej, but after switching his sound to bedroom pop/alternative R&B, he essentially paved his own lane.
The 22-year-old is a natural creative in every sense of the term. His music is sleek and fluid - groovy basslines and dazzling synths inhabit much of Teej’s catalog. His voice is smooth and sweeping. Last Tuesday, Teej paired up with San Jose native Gabby Trinh on “Stars Align,” an undeniably catchy record that stands as proof of his ever-evolving, locally unique style of pop music.
When I asked Teej about his career to this point, he laughs and exclaims that much of it has been “right place, right time.” In his eyes, it’s all part of the plan. You see, Papichuloteej has a strong confidence in his own intuition - one that stems as a direct result of his musical talent. “I know that I’ll end up in the right spot,” he says. Over the course of the past year, the Vegas artist’s connection with Jarred Howard, owner of Stray Dogs Music Group, has allowed for independent creation under a manager who wholly understands the value of letting the musician paint his own mural. In addition to his new found collective, Teej has worked with Wanyá of Boyz II Men, as well as fellow Vegas native Scoop Deville (producer of “Poetic Justice”) among others.
Teej tells me that his biggest inspiration is Pharrell Williams. From a sonic standpoint, I totally understand his claim, but I think the inspiration runs deeper than that. Pharrell is a trendsetter - perhaps one of the greatest of our time. He pushed boundaries and shattered normalities and continues to do so. In many ways, Papichuloteej’s style goes against the grain of the traditional sounds of Las Vegas. I’m sure Teej does not care. In fact, I’d be willing to bet it’s what he wants. Papichuloteej is a trailblazer in the infant stages of his career. When the time is right, he’ll put his undivided energy into a project, and when that happens, don’t be surprised when it makes waves. He told you here first, after all.
Today, we sit down with Papichuloteej to discuss his music, inspirations, goals and ultimate vision as part of a 6-part series covering and speaking with one of music’s most exciting new assemblies - Stray Dogs Music Group.
Carter Ferryman : How did you get the name Papichuloteej?
Papichuloteej : "I rebranded last summer to my Instagram name which was Papichuloteej. I got the name Teej from my high school history teacher sophomore or junior year and I just kept rolling with that because I liked it better than anything I ever came up with. Also, Papichulo was something that my grandma used to call me so it kind of worked out when I made my Instagram name. I released music under Teej and then I realized Teej is the same name as a Hindu festival, so when people were trying to look me up, I would get dubbed and that festival is big as fuck! It’s a yearly festival for women in India, so I just rebranded to my Instagram name."
Speaking of festivals, I was told that you went to a South by Southwest writing camp, what that whole experience like?
"My homie basically told me to apply and he knew someone that was doing the camp that would look out and get me into it because I wasn't an official artist there last year. I got the opportunity to work with other artists that were coming into the camp and be on board as a writer. Any record that planned to get released; I would get credit on. Also, me being able to network was really cool."
Would you say songwriting is the strongest facet of your musical toolbelt?
"Yeah, I'll say song writing probably is."
How has being locked down impacted you from a creative standpoint? Are you still able to go to the studio or are you recording from home?
"I own a studio with my engineer. We're keeping it on the low but we're getting a bigger unit. We went from one room to three rooms because he mixes a lot of people in the city. We just moved to a bigger room so we can start booking multiple sessions. It hasn't really affected me much besides working with other people. I kind of chilled for a little bit, then I came back out and got back to the normal routine. I've still been creating a lot of shit."
What does a normal weekly routine look like for you in terms of making music?
"It really depends. Right now, I'm in the process of dropping a song and getting ready to drop a song. I’m still making shit to have it ready to pitch or get it placed for somebody else but I'm constantly making music. Basically, whenever my engineers are free and we’re both at the studio, we'll work on something. If I get hit for a reference or an inquiry then I'll coordinate or record at home. Whatever capability I have."
As far as collaboration goes, since you've been growing as an artist fairly quickly, have you seen more opportunities for collaborations with producers or other artists arise?
"Yeah, I've been working with 3 or 4 producers over the last three months. I've been working with Sonny Norway for over a year and a half. He’s produced for Kyle and Mac Miller. He’s one of my good homies now. I've also gotten to work with Scoop Deville, he’s from Vegas too. He produced the “Poetic Justice” joint by Kendrick and Drake."
You've written for bigger artists too. I heard Wanyá from Boyz II Men?
"I’ve gotten to work with Wanyá from Boyz II Men. He's working on some stuff right now that’s going to be coming out for his solo career. Maxo Kream was at South By Southwest with Wanyá. so, I had an opportunity to work with him, also my engineer is his recording engineer."
What's the Vegas scene like?
"The scene is growing, but it's not what I make. I think a lot of people get a wrong impression because they’ll hear my music and then they'll think that Vegas has kind of a pop scene or what I do reflects Vegas but the scene is very much a hip-hop one. It's still growing. A lot of artists are doing good things right now, a lot of people are doing well such as Asaiah Ziv, The Dreamers, Mac Nealy, and IPMG to name a few.
We're finally learning how to come together as a city. We just don’t have resources, so it's taken artists to go out and bring resources back and bring attention to the city. I definitely think we're going to be a city to compete with and we could be in that conversation. We’re just in the baby stages at the moment.
I feel like people haven’t seen Vegas in terms of music. It's really cool to see you and other artists bring in music communities to the city.
It's a really cool thing to watch. We are starting to get a lot of love just because artists in the city are starting to pop and get some attention. We're getting more traction, but it’s hard because we live in a city where on a normal condition, the biggest artists can come here and perform twice a week, so we're competing with the strip at the same time."
How did you get involved with Stray Dogs?
"I was still going by Teej and I dropped a project in February last year called 1080P. I don't remember how we ended up following each other but I sent Jarred the link and he checked it out. The next day, he just wrote an article for it on Lyrical Lemonade and that shit was dope! From there on we kept tabs on each other for a while. Stray Dogs wasn't the name yet or the name of what Jarred was doing. Jarred found out that I didn't have a manager and shit with my other manager kind of fell off and went south. I was managing myself for a little bit until Jarred and I hopped on a call. We talked and since then he’s been my manager. I've only met Jarred twice and I've known for over a year and a half now."
What do you think makes Stray Dogs different or stand out?
"I think we all stand out in our own separate ways. You listen to our music and none of us sound the same. Jarred has done a lot too, I'm not discrediting him before I say this, but I think each of us had something going for us that Jarred saw. He knew that he could help us improve, so we had our own little shit rocking before we got with Jarred."
How would you say that you've evolved as a performer?
"Once I re-branded from hip-hop to bedroom pop and alternative R&B, I think I learned to change my set up. I play with a band now; I'm just trying to do as much as I can with the budget I have. I just try to improve my set and as far as the entertainment value goes, I just want to make sure people are getting what they pay for."
With your genre, do you face a lot of competition in the Vegas scene? Do you see other artists in your area doing the same thing or would you say that you're kind of a unicorn?
"The band that I use is a band from Vegas, they go by the name The Noir Movement. They're their own entity in the city and they play with other people more than they play with me. I just recently started playing with them. I didn't use a band at first but I'm starting to work with them more now. I was recording with them a couple nights ago. They got their own movement; they throw shows out here and everything like that. Nobody here really makes the type of music I make. There are people that make pop R&B but not exactly what I make. I would say 80% of Vegas is hip-hop."
Who would you cite as your biggest inspirations' music wise?
"Pharrell is definitely one of my biggest inspirations. Kyle was one of my biggest inspirations in a high school along with Ludacris and Nelly."
Would you say you take bits and pieces from those artists like Pharrell, more from like a sound standpoint?
"It's so hard not to at first, because you don’t know what to do. But over time I think I started to understand my voice, my range more, and what sounds good with me. I definitely have my influences, but now I think I sound like myself; I don’t think I sound like anybody in particular."
Can you explain the story behind the corner chapel picture on your Instagram?
"I went up to New York to link with some different people and different labels for song writing and the distribution company that I'm with, Level is in the same building as Warner because Warner owns them. I was there because some of the homies work there. They wanted me to meet some people that work there as well. Then I met an artist that's from Brooklyn. He was there recording and he asked me if I wanted to come work in the session. I worked in that session that night with some other folks and it was so cool. I was up there for about a week."
Do you find yourself in situations like that often, where it's just the right place at the right time and where you can collaborate with artists and prove yourself in a way?
"My whole life is being at the right place at the right time. It's been that way to this point. I really trust my intuition and know that I'll end up in the right spot. I haven’t been afraid to take more chances because I know it's going to work out and it always does."
What do you have going on in the next few months?
"I dropped a song on May 12th with my home girl from San Jose, Gabby, and it’s called “Stars Align”. I'm going to be dropping singles all year, I have music for a project but I'm just not in a project space right now. I want to gain more traction, more attention, and more blood in the game because I want this shit to be crazy. I’m trying to build up attention with these singles and get the traction that I want before I go ahead and put my energy into a project."
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