The Dallas hip-hop scene has remained overlooked and underappreciated for too long. Born from the sounds of legends like Big Tuck, Tum Tum, and the Dirty South Rydaz, thrust into the mainstream through artists like Dorrough and Lil’ Wil, and carried into the current era with artists like Yella Beezy, Trapboy Freddy, and Kaash Paige, Dallas hip-hop is a melting pot of sounds and styles from every corner of the genre.
Enter: Coach Tev, born Tevyn Jenkins from Irving, a northwestern suburb of Dallas. Equipped with a commanding presence, an infectious balance of wit, humor, and lyricism, and consistency throughout his own music and feature work, Tev is positioned to become another of Dallas rap’s figureheads.
Coach Tev’s music encapsulates the diversity of sounds and styles that have gradually transformed the city into an outlet of talent. His latest EP, No Worries, This Is Fine, captures this range. The puncturing “Dame Dash,” the flashy “Ricardo Tubbs,” and the wonky “Party w Friends” showcase an ear for production and a daringness to experiment. Much like the greater Dallas rap scene, Tev’s malleability and consistency make him ever so intriguing.
Walk me through making No Worries, This Is Fine. What inspired you, and how long had you been working on it?
It all kinda started when I caught COVID in mid-October. I started working on my next album to follow up COTY, and I’m pretty much almost done with that one, but then I caught COVID, right? So I was posted up at the crib for like three weeks straight and just recorded some new songs.
The title comes from that meme of the dog sitting in the room full of fire. That’s how life has felt, especially this year. We’re watching the world burn around us, and we just gotta bounce back like, “Oh okay, this is cool.” We just march on. Especially on Twitter, people just make a joke of anything like, “Everything’s fine.” So that was the whole idea behind that.
Do you feel like anything has changed with your approach to music over the years?
I think the biggest shift recently came when I started recording myself at home. I come from the mixtape era, so I was really into backpack rap. I listened to a lot of The Cool Kids, Talib Kweli. That was what I was into when I first started rapping. That’s how my style was.
Around the time I got my own equipment, I started playing around with more pockets and stuff with more sounds other than just strictly boom bap. I was able to find a lane in that too. I was able to make a track like “Nimitz Sweater” from Home by Dawn or “Mini-Cap” [from COTY.]
I found a way to mesh the two. I can still have my witty lyrics, but then also have things with a little bit more bounce. That’s not just for the backpackers all the time.
I think you have a particular presence, not just on your own music but on your features, too. What artists were your inspiration to this point?
One hundred percent, I’d have to say, Lil Wayne. That was my first favorite rapper ever. He was just really witty, and his delivery was unconventional at times. He had that perfect balance of “I can rap really well, but my delivery is also top-tier to where I don’t have to ‘lyrical miracle’ you all the time.” I’m not gonna Eminem “piss pissedofferson” you all the time.
After that, probably Wu-Tang and Curren$y. Talib Kweli in my earlier rap days. The Cool Kids, too. I used to listen to a lot of them. That’s how I got my whole smooth, suave approach as well.
Over the last year, you’ve made a concerted effort to make more videos. You were doing a merchandise line for your album in 2019, as well as some other endeavors. Walk me through your mindset going forward with building your brand.
First, I gotta shout out my guy Jonathan. He’s like my right hand with branding and creative. Between me and him, we’re always trying to figure out ways to separate ourselves from other rappers out here that can also rap really well. The number one thing is image and branding. Talent is only like 20 percent.
I also have been blessed to have a film degree background, and with that, I started shooting our own content. We started doing these snippets back in 2018, so I have all these unreleased tracks and verses that never came out, and I just started shooting a lot of them. I saw I was getting a lot of new followers and engagements, and I was like, “This is easy to do. We can shoot it ourselves. It doesn’t have to be a full song, and we can have some stuff to put out to be consistent.” And it just so happened to be kinda easy with this whole coach theme. It’s easy to bounce creative ideas off of that.
Your music and your style are emblematic of the reasons why Dallas has been succeeding as a scene over the last couple of years. Do you feel like this year stood out to you musically within Dallas?
Not really, but the people I think had a really good year this year, I’ve already been checking for them. There’s a few people that surprised me this year, but most people I had been watching for a few years, so this year wasn’t much different other than Kaash [Paige]. I’ve been tapped in heavy since 2013 or 2014, so I’ve already kinda seen who’s coming up and who already had talent. I wouldn’t say this year showed me anything different.
Dallas gets unfair criticism because it’s surrounded by Southern cities that have found their “sound,” and that it doesn’t have a “sound.” How do you view that perception? Do you feel like that’s something you combat?
I don’t think nothing of it. I’m not trying to sound like the city. I don’t want that for myself, anyways. It’s 2020, so everything is a melting pot of everything else because of the internet. I think there’s only four cities that actually still have a legit sound, and that’s not a bad thing. People are branching out and being influenced by people all over the country and all over the world, and I think that’s beautiful.
That’s why I never get into those conversations about our city versus that city because I know we got it. I know it’s out here.
Photos by Emanuel Oma.