The Wisdom of Tela James

Southern rap legend Tela grew up in Memphis, Tennessee.   Blues legend B.B. King was his grand godfather and Tela grew up with the sounds of the blues as the soundtrack to his youth.  Later in life it would be the sounds of Hendrix, Jackson and Prince that inspired not only his musical taste and his purpose in life; but also, his drive to succeed. He became a legend in the 90’s when he dropped his critically acclaimed debate album, “Piece of Mind.”

After a hiatus Tela has returned with “Celebration” the first single from his new project. “Celebration” is produced by Blac Elvis and is a celebration of life.  The album will include tracks from Jazze Pha, Drumma Boy and Cory Mo.

Who would be your greatest musical influence?

I was around it (music) coming up. I didn’t know how much of an influence blues and jazz would be early on in my career. I knew my higher purpose. I listened to Michal Jackson, Prince, and Jimmy Hendrix.  I was a little guy, but I still understood that you have this 16-year-old that produces, records his own stuff and releases his own albums.  I was 8 years old and I understood that. I was heavy influenced by Willie Hutch. All these people influenced me.  When I introduced my debut album, it entered the field of blues, funk, gospel, with a dash of Ice Cube. I was just a sponge soaking up everything.

Tell me about your independent label 1520 Records.

Right now, it’s still in early stages.  We just got an idea where we want to be able to gather acts, such as myself, that are legendary. A label for artists from my time who want to put a period on that legacy. We still have a fan base out there (but no record label). Rod Stewart still has a record deal. Aerosmith still has a record deal. We are trying to develop something so that if you are Tela, you still get a record deal.

What is it that you want fans to get from your music?

Hopefully I’m able to give to the people what inspired me.  Music is my healer, so I hope that I’m giving something that makes it better (for them).  If you can listen to my music (and you are dealing with something negative) you have something that lightens you or inspires you. (Your album just motivated me to run a mile today.  Tomorrow I will run 2.) If my music is uplifting, then I’ve done my job. I hope that through my music I show how important you are. And that we can join collectively as beings and share our gifts and then you get that light.

Do you have an opinion about today’s studio made pop?

I don’t have a problem with today’s music. It is technology and things are changing.  Some things are fads. They will come and go.  I don’t have an opinion about it.  I think some people believe in it like a religion. You don’t want to say you’re doing it the wrong way. So, I focus on me.  I do like the fact that they are taking their destiny into their own hands. You made your own record. You distribute it. I still like industry standards; the frequency had to be right. The artwork had to be right. You can’t sound like another artist.  I hold no ill towards what this generation is doing. I wish them well.

Your mother was a strong woman.  Do you wish to talk about her influence on you?  

Her influence on me is from as spiritual side more than anything. She was a very religious woman.  My mom, auntie and grandmother, when put together, I have a super mom. So my mothering bases were covered by a collective group.  Her influence is a spiritual one.  I will always be indebted and love her for that.

How important is God in your life?

For me God is everything; music, love, health wealth.  We have a wonderful relationship. I couldn’t be without this universal being.

You seem to be a humble person. Is it hard to be a celebrity and remain humble?

Where I’m at now? No, not at all. When I was young — you don’t know that you aren’t humble. I’m older. I know how fragile I really am.  It’s easy to be humble when you understand it’s all a gift and you are being privileged.  You must have (those) brain cells and you have to develop them through dealing with financial issues, setbacks, etc.  Trump for instance, even Trump can be humbled. It just takes a certain situation to happen for the development of the brain cells. This has been some of my meditation– to stay humble. I pray about it, keep me humble.

Do you have a special fan encounter you would like to share?

I remember this one little guy. He was not old enough to get into the club. He came out to see Roc-A-Fella and got crushed.  He didn’t understand Bleek is busy and I don’t think Bleek meant to crush him. I took him with us that night and we let him hang out.  We were sneaking him in and out of clubs, he was something like 14 and we disguised him as a little man. We said he was a tech guy and he had to go where we go. I made this guy’s night. We had a limousine.   I wish it could have been documented.  We put some money in his pocket, and I remember him leaving and he said he would never forget it.  You could tell the effect it had on his existence at that time.

Anything you want to add?

I think you covered it.  If I could give any inspiration (it is) don’t let off the gas. Continue with persistency (because) sometimes we think it’s harder than it is.  If you are fortunate –make it count. We can complain that we have no shoes; but there is somebody with no feet. Stay productive. Love as much as you can.  Be blessed in the whole big scheme of things.

Post Author: Brenda Clemons

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