• DeAara Lewis

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The Evolution of Royal’T TopMC a.ka. “The boy”…

Well, this week seems to be all things T.J. a.k.a. Royal T’ Top MC.  For all my faithful readers who may not know who I am referring to, Royal’T TopMC is an up and coming rapper in the Memphis, TN area. He also happens to be my nephew.

This week, his remix of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s extremely popular song, “Otis” debuted on Youtube and has been getting a lot of love, he also was interviewed in The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Flyer and made a debut on the highly coveted Live From Memphis “60 Seconds.”  Links to all of this are below.

T.J. and I – where can I start?  I was there at the hospital when he was born.  I was thirteen years-old, had stayed out of school that day because my sister was in labor (I was also a little sore because she choked the hell out of me during one of  her labor pains).  When they brought him out of the delivery room he wasn’t the first thing I saw, it was actually my sister’s after birth.  It disgusted me so badly that I vowed never to eat chicken soup again (yes, that’s what it looked like to me and I didn’t eat it for almost 10 years).   But when I did see him I was excited and nervous as the same time.  What was it going to be like with a baby in the house, I thought.

Well, although it was different, it proved to be a lot of fun.  Deneka, my sister, was extremely protective of him (which hasn’t changed much in the past 20 years) and I just enjoyed being an aunt for the first time.  Over the years as he grew, we had our ups and downs.  His mouth would prove to be one of my biggest pet peeves but his sincerity, loyalty and passion more than made up for it.  And our bond deepened because when I would baby-sit him, we often played pretend.

We would create the scenes in these far away places and let our imaginations go there.  When he was bored or wouldn’t stop crying, Deneka would put on at-home concerts and sing her heart out.  So he got introduced to entertainment very organically.   His grandmother is also a singer and is grandfather (whom he affectionately calls “Big Daddy”) loves to sing and loves all-things Temptations.

I featured T.J. in some of my student projects while I was in college and he got to work on the sets of movie projects I would produce.  “Tricks” was a turning point not only for me but for him as well.  He was just starting to come into his own with his raps and it also helped that his mother, Deneka, who is also a professional singer, gave him his first performance set when she let him rap on some of her songs that she’d do live.

During the time of “Tricks”, I had come up with a song idea after listening to Bootsy Collins’ “I’d Rather Be with You.”  I wrote the hook and then Deneka and I wrote the rest of the song but we had no idea who to go to produce what would become “Tricks” theme song.  Our budget was small, my real estate business was starting to get hit hard due to the recession and I just didn’t have it like I once did.  Furthermore, we couldn’t find anybody who we could afford to produce it the way we wanted it done.

My nephew had already done two independent albums and knew the software, so Deneka and I put our money together, got him his recording equipment, invested in turning one of the bedrooms into a full-out recording studio and we got started on the very first full fledge song that T.J. engineered.  “That Healing Touch” was a big song, with over 30 tracks (F.Y.I. – This song and video are both actually going to be re-produced in the very near future due to some talent changes).  Deneka, who is also an opera singer, added some operatic parts on there, but it didn’t sound full enough, we needed some base.

After pulling some teeth, T.J. agreed to sing the base operatic part of the song.  Deneka worked and worked and worked with him until he got it and he did an outstanding job.  When people hear the song, they don’t even realize that is T.J. singing in it.    And as gifted as he is a rapper and writer, he is also a very good singer, although he doesn’t like people to know that.

He has a couple of other songs from some of his beginning work that I really want to produce a video for.  I know he has since moved on and is still experimenting with different sounds as he tries to find himself, but two of his first songs when it was just him, before his “Godfathers” entered the picture to really guide him, are my favorites to this day.

He and I sometimes have a difficult relationship.  Like me, he has a very strong personality and like me, he has to get his feelings out when he is upset.  The family says he and I bump heads so much because we act so much alike.   I can’t tell you how many times Deneka has called T.J. by name or me by his.

There have been times when I have wanted to completely disown him as my nephew, times that I wanted to fight him like he was a dude in the streets, but there are many more times that he has had my back and I have had his.  I broke up with a guy once for criticizing him and I never looked back.

Sometimes, because all of us are so close and are publicly pursuing careers in entertainment, people do try to come against us.  Sometimes they try to play us against one another.  Sometimes, to get to one of us, they try to go through another.  Thankfully, no one has ever succeeded and I think that has a lot to do with the kind of family we are.  Accountability, integrity and talking shit out until we are exhausted is very important to us.   Few secrets and fewer betrayals.

T.J. didn’t have the luxury of having his father in his life, but if you get to know him, you wouldn’t know it.  He also got unfairly targeted by some family members growing up for a multitude of reasons, mainly because he was so outspoken, lol.  But in  spite of all of this, he is still a walking example of a man because so many other men stepped up and filled those shoes.  My father, his “Big Daddy”,  his late great grand-father whom he affectionately called “Partner”, his late “PawPaw”,  his honorary uncle in Chicago who always keeps one foot in his ass and his many hip-hop “uncles” who would take a bullet for him if they had to.  He’s never been afraid to express his vulnerable side and if he is wrong, he will admit it.

He doesn’t disrespect women in life or in his music and although he is just 20-years-old, he has an “old-soul.” He is also very family oriented, being a peacemaker (just like his Mom) and wanting us to stick together.   I can’t imagine life without ever have known him.  I know he looks up to me, but he inspires me to stay on my game just as much as I have inspired him.

Tomorrow, he will be releasing his first big independent album, “4 All Seasonz” at the Hi-Tone on Poplar in Memphis, TN.  Doors open at 9:00 p.m. and it’s a $5.00 cover and $5.00 for the album.  I hope some of you can make it and get to experience this amazing kid whom I have  had the pleasure of knowing and watched evolved for the past 20 years and I look forward to continuing to witness that evolution.


Royal’T TopMC remixes Jay-Z/Kanye West’ “Otis” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nkz2yposXto

Commercial Appeal write-up: http://www.gomemphis.com/news/2011/oct/20/royalt-staking-out-place-among-new-hip-hop-crop/#

(“60 Seconds” Live From Memphis): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNi45jlZ6Kg

The Memphis Flyer write-up: http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/the-evolution-of-royalt/Content?oid=3068018


One Response

  1. I love everything you blog about but as you already know, this brings back so many memories. This was beautifully written and well thought out. Thank you for blogging… 😀

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