teezo touchdown
Image: Courtesy of Apple Music

Apple Music Up Next Presents: Teezo Touchdown

The past few years have seen singer, rapper, and producer Teezo Touchdown ride the wave of a meteoric rise. Hailing from Beaumont, the 31-year-old Texas native, born Aaron Lashane Thomas, has taken a huge jump from self-releasing his mixtapes and being a relatively underground artist to becoming a noteworthy star in the fast lane. 

teezo touchdown

Although his sudden rise to stardom appears to have happened at a rapid pace, Teezo had been putting in the groundwork for quite some time. While listeners may say they came to know of the music maker after his 2019 breakout hit “100 Drums,” which sampled Panic! At The Disco’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” did the rounds online and gained a lot of traction, Teezo made sure to keep his releases consistent and fed fans with countless singles, music videos, and even short films. But, it wasn’t until he lent his vocals in 2021 to Tyler The Creator’s “RUNITUP,” a track that would feature on his chart-topping release CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, that Teezo’s talent was showcased to a mass audience. The opportunity was so monumental that his monthly listener count would skyrocket from 50,000 to millions overnight. Gaining an early co-sign, Teezo the following year would then serve as an opening act on Tyler’s arena tour of the same name and perform to sold-out crowds every night. No flash in the pan, Teezo’s name would continue to be brought into the conversation throughout 2023. Following appearances on albums from Lil Yachty and Don Toliver, his reputation for being the go-to guy for a fire collaboration became apparent when heavyweights Drake and Travis Scott invited him to appear on their No. 1-selling LPs UTOPIA and For All The Dogs, respectively. In September, Teezo was finally ready for the world to hear his debut album, releasing the 14-track project How Do You Sleep at Night? via Not Fit for Society, a label in partnership with RCA Records.

With a new year in full swing, Teezo finds that his career is leveling up once again. This time, in the name of Apple Music. Today, January 10th, Teezo has been named the streaming service’s latest Up Next artist, a program that previously shined a light on the likes of Billie Eilish, Bad Bunny, Khalid, Ice Spice, and Tate McRae, to name a few. In true Teezo fashion, he commemorates the milestone in the only way he knows how to, humbly. 

“I feel honored, I feel seen,” he tells EUPHORIA. “The first time I heard about the Up Next campaign was with Fousheé with the time machine album, hearing ‘my slime’ and songs like that. Me and Apple, we first met around 2021 when we were able to start coming outside after the pandemic. They’ve always championed me. They’ve always been supportive of me. Even when I run into people on the team at shows and stuff, it’s always like catching up with a friend. So to have this honor, it’s amazing for me. It feels like family to me.”

Teezo speaks over a Zoom call during a rare day off. He’s currently in Arizona, taking his “first breather” since 2019. “We can count the pandemic, but I mean, that wasn’t really a time of reflection and relaxation,” he admits. “That was more of a time of worrying, thinking, ‘Is my career that I’ve been chasing all my life even going to exist?’” Describing his come-up as a “continuous journey,” Teezo wasn’t able to absorb his progress until he found the time to revisit old interviews of himself. “I can hear how I talk differently now and that comes from just experience and the things that I’ve been able to see going on, like my second tour and meeting people that I’ve been a fan of or other creatives. People say I’ve had a great year but I just take it a day at a time,” he says.

 

teezo touchdown
Image: Courtesy of Apple Music

 

The news of being announced as Apple Music’s January Up Next artist arrives shortly after Teezo joined Travis during the first leg of his mammoth “Circus Maximus Tour” across North America, his second arena tour following his time on the road with Tyler. Winning over thousands of fans who showed up and supported his set every night, Teezo recalls the days he struggled to be heard. “I remember paying DJs a hundred dollars just to perform a song in my hometown. I don’t think I’ve had any show that’s harder than trying to convince your hometown that you’re a star. I’ve seen people literally tell the DJ like, ‘Yo cut this off’ or yelling over the music,” he says.

Teezo recognizes that Tyler’s tour was a game-changing moment. “I always step back to Tyler telling me, ‘Yo, people are processing you when you first come out.’ He would give me advice on what to look out for,” he says. “I was talking to someone last night whose first time was seeing me on that tour. They were like, ‘You bust out of the door with a wielding a chainsaw and from that moment, you had me.’ It’s funny because I go from paying DJs to perform a song here and there to doing festivals like Lyrical Lemonade Festival and ALT + LDN and getting acquainted with having in-ear monitors performing in front of these larger crowds and now just completed my second arena tour. It’s crazy that I was able to adapt immediately to be able to talk and converse with these arena-size stages.”

 

After gaining major performing experience in an arena setting, there is now a demand for Teezo to perform in his very own world tour as the headline act. Kicking off the first leg in March across Europe, his “Spend The Night Tour” will visit venues where the capacity is considerably smaller than what he has recently been used to. “I’ve always heard that the smallest shows are the hardest ones to do. There’s no lights, there’s no smoke, there’s no pyro. It’s just you and the audience. I haven’t had many of those, but I did do one in Chicago very last minute with Lyrical Lemonade. It was my first sold-out headline show,” Teezo explains. He, however, realizes this tour is a stepping stone to where he manifests his career will take him next. “I’ve done way more arena shows than I’ve done more intimate shows, so it’s cool to kind of start from where everyone whose tour I’ve been on has all started. I’ve watched videos of Travis at the House of Blues and videos of Tyler performing at these very intimate shows. I feel like I’m more excited because I know that this is my journey that starts before the Scotiabank Arena or whatever. It all starts at these very intimate shows,” Teezo adds.

The upcoming shows will be in promotion of his experimental debut album, How Do You Sleep At Night? – a question often raised concerning the foot-long nails weaved into Teezo’s hair. Taking influence from the likes of Destiny’s Child, Prince, 50 Cent, Future, and Frank Ocean, it’s no coincidence that the fascinating record is laced with various sonics, from rap, rock, R&B, and funk. The sound listeners have been immersed in is what he refers to as his own genre, Rock & Boom. During his Apple Music short film, Teezo states in his own words, “[Rock & Boom is] R&B with the intensity of rock, the penmanship of hip-hop, and a boom that will shake the world.” That said, during the earlier stages of the album, Teezo reveals the project we hear today was “a whole other album,” explaining, “At first I think it was more of a show-off type of album. And then what it ended up being was more of this Teezo Touchdown who loves production, but also who loves his penmanship. I think that’s one thing that I really wanted to show is just my love of writing and the skill that I have in it.”

Leaving an impression on critics, NME stated Teezo’s “love for dramatic highs and muted lows on this album makes the record a rollercoaster of emotions and sounds, and a polished and entertaining debut” while Clash referred to the album as “a brilliantly dizzying melting pot of genre and sonic identity.” With the odd review from Pitchfork claiming How Do You Sleep At Night? is “a genre mash-up that isn’t as offbeat as it wants to be” or Slant describing the music as “juvenile at best,” Teezo doesn’t appear to be phased by any of the negativity. Instead, he’s willing to take it all on board if the criticism is constructive. 

teezo touchdown
Image: Courtesy of Apple Music

“I’m not exempt from anyone’s opinion,” he says. “I just look for the true genuine opinions. I think right now my name is really gaining attraction. Even if you just mention my name, I have enough people who are interested in it. They’re going to look and see what you have to say about it. I feel like so many people love me and love the art.”

He continues: “I always say, the person who didn’t see or believe in it also gets to speak. It’s like, ‘How could you not have seen this from the beginning?’ I kind of commend them on sticking to their guns, but I just wanna make sure that it’s not a character that they’re playing to, like, ‘I know that you all love them, but it’s gonna be my role to be the bad guy and pick apart Teezo Touchdown.’ I would put more weight on it if they could actually tell me their critique in person. I’m obviously a student, I wanna get better. I’m trying to see if it’s coming from a place where they wanna see me get better or if they wanna see me crash and burn.”

Never taking his in-person fan interactions for granted, Teezo previously mentioned that he made a cautious decision to stay offline during the week of its release in order to only hear the reaction from fans in real life. Still, nearly five months later, listeners are approaching Teezo and expressing what the music means to them. “I can read online what people are saying about it, but you don’t really know what to believe. You don’t know if someone is just regurgitating some take that someone else said. But what I’ve been getting in person is love,” he says. “I’ve been getting people telling me how this album gets them through difficult times or this is the album that they attach activities to. When you’re in the studio, it’s just you, the engineer, and the producers in the room. I think being able to see how this music will react live on my tour is gonna tell me more of what this album is.”

As far as what’s next musically, Teezo is keeping fans tied over by dropping an extended version of his debut, How Do You Sleep At Night? With You, with an additional three tracks – “Up and Down,” “Out of Respect,” and “Third Coast.” Aside from that, many fans will be eager to know whether the golden opportunity to create his sophomore record has started to take place. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. However, as far as Teezo is concerned, jumping straight back into the studio isn’t necessarily what he believes is required just yet. “I think it starts with the person,” he insists. “In my interviews, I’ve been kind of using them to just be very honest with myself and just seeing where am I at right now. I’ve become very calculated now. I think that just comes with experience and my research and seeing that most of the people I look up to are quite intentional. The intention before I even step into the studio is really just self-reflecting, looking at the album, seeing the pros and cons of what I’ve done, and moving on to the next. Like I always say, trial and success. I haven’t really moved into the music or the sonics right now. It’s just looking at the person and asking, ‘What does this next step look like for you?’”

teezo touchdown
Image: Courtesy of Apple Music

Now that many more people are looking closer in, does Teezo feel any added pressure? “The only pressure that I have is the pressure that’s on myself,” he declares. “My team isn’t saying, ‘Yo, this record needs to be this or that.’ I wanna prove myself right, but I also wanna show the people who are invested in me and who are betting on me, that they were right. I think the pressure, it’s all self-induced. I just wanna prove to my team that they took the right chance on this Teezo Touchdown thing. I love and care for them, and I’m just so thankful that they gave me this opportunity. I wanna prove that this isn’t a fluke. This is something that’s gonna change the world.”

It’s been a crazy journey, and one can only assume that it’s going to keep getting better. That could probably be why the best advice Teezo claims to have ever received is to enjoy every second of the process and relish in every milestone. “It sounds cliche, but it still stands the test of time,” he says. “All of the greats that I’ve had to honor because of the meeting, they all still have this childlike excitement and care for what they do. I think that’s the most inspiring thing that I’ve seen.”

“I’m definitely guilty of calling this a grind or charging it to the game or whatever, but I think instead of us repeating that and to make it easier for us to sleep, I think we need to change that by making sure you are having fun. Make sure you still get that excitement and butterflies in your stomach over what you’re doing. Be excited about the hotel that you’re in. Be excited to be sharing these meals. Be excited about how small the venues are. You’re gonna romanticize all of the hardships that got you there, so enjoy it while you’re dead in the middle of it.”

Teezo concludes: “The best measure of time is one day at a time.”