Stay humble and hustle hard is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Chicago Rapper Taco. Yeah, the name threw me off as well, but it comes from his Grandfather. Taco says he would throw a temper tantrum when he couldn’t eat tacos. And as he describes it, his Grandfather would wrap whatever they were eating for dinner in a tortilla, just so he would eat.
The product of the city’s South Westside LeClaire Courts, Taco, emerged out of the negative narrative associated with inner city housing projects to become one of the city’s brightest stars. I had the opportunity to sit down with Taco to discuss his upcoming E.P, “UnderRated.” Along with his new distribution deal with Sony.
Ali: What’s good big dog? How you feeling?
Taco: I’m feeling great. I actually just woke up. Man, I’ve been knocked out.
That’s what grinding will do to you. It’s put you on your ass. So, let’s get into it. You got into hip-hop at the age of fourteen after performing at an open mic session. Shortly after, you release a mixtape. So, from the open mic session to your first mixtape release, did you think you would be selling out shows?
Taco: Umm, not really. I didn’t take it seriously at first. Everyone that knows me knows me from playing ball. I went to the University of Iowa, a Big Ten school. Then later, I transferred to NIU and graduate from there. So everyone knows me from playing ball. I’ve always wanted to make music, but my family, friends, and everybody was like I should be hooping. So at first, I was doing what everyone wanted me to do. Then as I got older, I started to do what I wanted to do. And that was to make music.
While people were pushing you to play basketball, who were some of your musical influences that urged you to take that lane of making music?
Taco: Back then, I was listening to Nas, Jay-Z, Lupe, and T.I. But right now, it’s J Cole and Kendrick Lamar. You know, people like that.
Ok, so you’re preparing to release an E.P. titled “UnderRated.” Why did you name it “UnderRated?”
Taco: I named it “UnderRated” because I feel like I’m underrated. Even though I’ve done so much for the city. Even with the selling out multiple shows. I’ve put out hella albums, mixtapes, and songs that’s been hits. Everybody been rocking to em’. And I feel like I’m not talked about in the top tier like other artists are. It’s like I’m flying under the radar. Even though I making big moves, there are still people who haven’t heard of me. So it’s like I’m flying under the radar. You know how the Spurs was. They were killing it. Making it to the playoffs every year. They were flying under the radar. That’s how I feel I am.
With the “UnderRated” album, what can fans expect from it?
Taco: Umm, just me popping my shit. Everyone knows me for being a humble person. I’m still going to be humble no matter what. But, I had to talk my shit and let people know who I am. It’s got joints on there for everybody. Whenever I make an album, I like to make it to where it can touch everybody. If you’re feeling sad, happy, or whatever, I got something for you. If you’re heading to the club, I got something for you. If you’re leaving the club, I got something for you. I like different lanes when I make an album. Personally, when I listen to an album, and it’s the same theme throughout. For me, it’s a bad album. I like albums that explore different topics, and that’s what I’m bringing with “UnderRated.”
I’ve listened to some of your music, and you’re really talented—which why I wanted to chop it up with you. But earlier in the year, J.P. Digital put out a list of Chicago’s top 100 artists. Your name was not on the list. You had Chief Keef in the top spot. Durk holding the second spot and Big Chop as the 3rd best artist in Chicago. I honestly thought Chop was a producer. So it was weird to see him on that list. But tell me, how do you feel about it?
Taco: Look, the man didn’t even have Kanye West on the list. After I saw that, it wasn’t even respected. Kanye is a top tier artist and forever will be here in Chicago. No matter where he’s at or what he’s doing. So once I saw that I couldn’t even respect that list. Like I said, I’ve been flying under the radar. They gone know my name one day, regardless. So it is what it is.
You’ve recently inked a deal with Sony. Can you talk about how that came about?
Taco: Well, I’ve been speaking with a guy in Sony for about five years. He loves my music, and he wanted to make sure that I would get the right deal. He was like he wanted to see what I’ll be doing in the next five years. You know, I’ve been patient. I was still putting out good quality music, putting on shows, and doing everything an artist is supposed to do. Here we five years later, and he came to me with a lucrative deal. I’ll be able to get my music distributed, and I’ll be able to market my music; however, I want to.
Aye, brutha… That’s dope. Congrats. So apparently, since 14, you evolved into a dope emcee. But where do you want to be in the next five years?
Taco: Wow, that’s a good question. I always like to think ahead. I plan my goals; I write them down. But off the top of my head, in the next five years… Umm, I want to be known in the music business for doing what I do. Be known as a great artist. Have some money in my pocket to provide for my mom. Do what I love to, and that’s making music. And I’m off to a great start with the Sony deal.
So now that you’re connected with Sony, when can the fans expect you to drop “UnderRated?”
Taco: No official date has been set. But it’s coming. We just have to make sure we market it right, and the numbers are there so I can get the most money. But I have so many unleased music that I want to release right now that it’s burning a hole in my computer.
How many tracks are on “UnderRated?”
Taco: Right now, it’s 10.
Ok, so out of the ten, which two is going to make your fans go crazy?
Taco: Umm, the intro. Like I said, I’m a humble guy. Even when it comes to this music, I’m still humble. But on the intro, they’re going to hear me talk my shit. And then there’s “Lift,” which features and a top artist in the game. So they need to make sure they get the album and listen to that song.
I know every artist has a ton of tracks that never make the final cut when it comes to making an album. Which track is a banger but didn’t make the album.
Taco: Man, I got this joint with Frank Ocean that I was going to put on there. I got another joint with Gorilla Zoe and a few other that’s popping. But they didn’t make it because they didn’t fit the storyline of the album. But they’ll be released as a single, like the Frank Ocean joint. I’ve actually been waiting for him to come back out with something so I can release it. So it can hit on a broader scale.
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Ali Bouldin is a freelance writer within the Black and Hip-Hop culture. With featured articles in multiple publications.