Detroit rap is currently one of the biggest sounds in Hip-Hop right now, and for good reason. The realness, style, and wit that Detroit rappers possess is totally different than artists from other cities. But when most people think about the current music coming out of the city, positive and thoughtful messaging is probably the last thing on their minds.

Enter 1Up Tee. A young rapper from the west side of Detroit with a drill sound but a conscious attitude. Tee first blew up on the scene with his 2022 song Accountability that spread like lightning throughout social media. Now Tee is gearing up for his first major project Childhood Trauma that’s set to come out at the beginning of summer.

We got the chance to sit down with Tee to talk about his sudden rise to the spotlight and the things in his life that lead him to this moment.

BLAC: You were deep into football before switching to rap. What made you decided to take rap seriously?

Tee: What made me take it serious was other people telling me that I had a talent that I didn’t know of. I thought I was talented at a sport. I thought I could play football, and I thought that was my only talent.

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When I started rapping, I saw that I had another talent. I’ve always been good with words. Like when I was in first grade, I was taking spelling tests that were in the third, fourth grade. I was always just ahead when it came to vocabulary and being articulate. That was just a talent that I didn’t know I had. And other people let me know too like, “Bro, you really can do something with it. Stop just playing.”

BLAC: When you did start pursuing rap, did you feel kind of apprehensive about it? Did you get kind of cautious about switching from one dream to the next?

Tee: No, it felt kind of natural. I think I was just meant to do what I’m doing now. I don’t even know why I stopped playing football. I didn’t get injured, nothing like that. I just one day I told my pops, “I’m done playing football” all of a sudden. I don’t know what happened, what switched in my head, but I started rapping. I started writing in my phone and going to the studio by myself. It was a very natural transition.

BLAC: Now most conscious rappers will have like a religious or a really heavy political stance, but you’re very much focused on the streets above anything else. What made you want to be conscious and separate from any like big group or organized religion?

Tee: I always was just naturally conscious. I was never a dude that walked around every day preaching to people, but I was a guy. I was the kid out the group that if somebody was fighting I’m like, “Man, y’all look dumb as hell.” Like it’s cool to fight, but what you fighting for? You get what I’m saying?

I think that came from my parents too. They taught me right from wrong. I made mistakes, learned from them, and always still knew right from wrong.

I feel like the reason why I’m not in like a big group or anything is because I don’t believe in none of that. I don’t believe in politics. I think all that shit is fake. I don’t believe in none of that. I think, I think there’s truth in every religion, but I’m not of one religion. Every religion says that any other religion but theirs wrong. And that just creates division.

A lot of African American kids grew up Christian, I grew up a Christian. But I asked my grandma one day like, “Okay, so my dad has Muslim beliefs. Does that mean he’s going to hell?” She told me, “Yeah.” So there’s people in different countries that are raised to believe in different religions, and people from here are saying that they’re going to an abyss because they don’t believe in what you believe in? I believe that that type of shit just creates division.

I know there is a God, I don’t know which God it is, but I believe in them. And I believe there’s truth in every religion.

BLAC: When you were first finding your voice, did you ever feel like switching it up from your conscious message? Like maybe you felt it was holding your career back or limiting your sound?

Tee: Never. When I first started rapping, I was just really doing what everybody else was doing. But as soon as I went the conscious route, I blew up.

Before, I wasn’t really being me. I was making twerk songs and drill songs but really, that wasn’t what I was doing on an everyday basis. It’s shit that I’ve been through, but it just wasn’t what I was doing at that moment. So I started rapping about my real thoughts and started putting my real feelings on the mic. And it just went up from there.

BLAC: So once you did start blowing up, how’d you react to those accolades? Because you got a lot of love from different rappers in the city, Babyface Ray, Babytron. You got love from Damien Lillard, I think Marshawn Lynch too. So how’d you react to all that love you’re getting at once?

Tee: It was surreal. I wouldn’t say that I was super excited. It was just surreal. It was something that I knew was going to happen because I knew I was talented. I knew at one point. I was going to be there, but I didn’t think it was going to be this quick.

I think the most surreal feeling I felt from another human fucking with my music was Meek Mill. Because Meek Mill, I don’t think he knows how much he helped my career by just posting my song twice on his story. Bro, like my TikTok, everything went up after that. That’s part of the reason why I am where I am. It’s because Meek posted my shit. And he don’t even know.

BLAC: Now you just dropped a new single called “Young Niggas”. Could you break down the meaning behind that track a little bit?

Tee: I was just speaking about how I felt about how younger black men are treated in the community. Yeah, we sometimes can be dumb as hell, but even the smart ones get treated like we’re dumb. It makes you want to be dumb when you get treated as you’re dumb.

Like me, I always been smart. But I’ve done dumb shit because I never got separated from that crowd because of my appearance, the way I look, the way I dress, the way I talk. I always got put in that damn box. So that song was just about that. It was about how no matter what background you come from, you always gonna get looked at as a young nigga instead of a young man. You know what I’m saying? It’s always gonna come back to you being a nigga at the end of the day. And that needs to change.

BLAC: So as we come to a close, you have a new project Childhood Trauma coming out soon. Do you mind giving our readers a little sneak peak at what you have in store for that tape?

Tee: Yeah, Childhood Trauma coming soon, man. It’s a big tape. Got a lot of big names on there. I got Babytron on there, Baby Money on there, Payroll Giovanni on there, and I got one secret name that I’m not going to reveal. I can tell you that it’s on Good Karma Remix though. That’s coming out sometime late May, early June. That area, right before the summertime. Imma give y’all some shit to ride to.

I feel like what everybody is missing is that real music. Like we haven’t heard no real music. We just been hearing, “I’m gonna kill him!” “I sell this drug!” “I make this amount of money!” I don’t talk about none of that shit man.

Let’s get back to the, the real side of things. Let’s get back to how it’s supposed to be.

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