Teddy Walton is 24 years old, and is the only producer who can claim to have worked on both Kendrick Lamar’s Damn (He produced "Love") and Bryson Tiller’s sophomore release, True to Self. He asks me to confirm this over the phone, and when I do he practically shouts with joy and surprised laughter. Growing up between Memphis and Columbia, Missouri, he began making music in high school with this brother, who records under the mononym June. Nearly a decade later, he’s just now beginning to making a living making music. “I literally had zero dollars in my pocket, in the kitchen, making the ‘Set It Off’ beat,” he says. “My last job was UPS; I was 18, and I’ve been struggling since then.”
In addition to Kendrick and Tiller, he produced "Crew" for GoldLink this year, and placed the beat for "Electric Body" with ASAP Rocky and Schoolboy Q in 2015. Now he’s in talks with Adult Swim and has plans to put out an EP, called Mental Health, with features from “major artists,” in addition to working on Nipsey Hussle’s upcoming album. From there, he’s got his eyes set on his dream artists: Adele and Lil B. He says he’s unsigned—no publishing deal, just a basic admin deal that he just signed. “I can text Kendrick Lamar myself—what do I need a publishing deal for?” he says.
Complex spoke with Teddy about how met Bryson Tiller and how he picks the samples that define his work.
How did you first connect with Tiller?
It was while he was working on Trapsoul. I was cool with a lot of the producers who were working on it. I got invited to the house in L.A. where they were working and I actually didn’t talk to Bryson in person while I was there, but I was around and he definitely knew of my sound. I didn’t place anything on Trapsoul and the crazy thing about it is, I kinda didn’t want to play him beats because I think that he was in a certain process and I didn’t really push for Trapsoul; I thought, Man, I’m definitely gonna get on this next project, 100 percent.
How did you reconnect to work on True to Self?
I went back to Memphis to visit my mom and my family and I had noticed that he followed me on Twitter and I DM’d and said, Yo where do I send heat? And out of nowhere he sent the email. For about a whole month I was sending him regular beats from here and there and I know I sent him the “Rain on Me” beat and the “Set It Off” beat.
Were you getting feedback, or just sending them and hoping for the best?
I’m sending and hoping and waiting for him to be like, "Yo I need this." The funny thing about it, I sent “Rain” and didn’t know it was gonna be on the album until the album was out. The crazy thing about about “Rain on Me,” I had Bryson in mind when I made that. I know he needs this.
But as soon as I sent “Set It Off,” about a minute later, he was like, “I 100 percent need this for my album.” Then he asked for track outs the next day. And that beat was done by me and IAMNOBODI. I met him through a friend of mine, Zacari, who was on the Kendrick Lamar “Love” track. He called me one day and said, “We gotta cook,” and then he sent me a couple different tracks and outta nowhere I started sampling them and hit him back with some of the craziest things. I made the full “Set It Off” beat in the kitchen. I was living in Glendale, [California] and my laptop was broken. I just stayed in the house, making beats the whole time.
Where do you live right now?
I’m in the process in the finding a spot in L.A., so really I’m everywhere in L.A. right now. [Laughs.] I can definitely say I’m homeless in L.A. right now.
When you were making beats with Tiller in mind, what made you go to ’90s R&B for the samples?
Ever since I started making beats, when I was 15, with my brother, I sampled R&B. My brother’s name is June. Anybody that’s been a fan of me knows that I’ve been sampling ’90s R&B since high school. It makes you feel like the music is on a classic level again. I like to sample just the vocals and it gives it an old school feel. And my favorites from then has to go to SWV. Their voices [together], it sounds like one voice almost. I don’t know. It has a dreamy, psychedelic, yet R&B vibe to them.
My favorite song of yours on the project is “In Check”—how did that happen?
It was me and J-Louis at Bryson’s house, and J-Louis did the majority of the beat. Me and J-Louis is best friends—we don’t even have to do music, we’re chilling. I first met him when my friend invited me to Tiller’s house when they were working on Trapsoul and J-Louis was the quietest person. He didn’t really talk much and I’m sorta quiet until I really get to meet you. But somehow we got to talking and ended up connecting. The first day we met we made this one beat called “Hollywood Nights” that he uploaded to his SoundCloud.
So he had invited me over [to Tiller’s] one day and I said, “Yo I got this sample.” I literally gave J-Louis the “Missing You” sample, went to sleep to take a nap, and woke up to hearing “In Check,” the crazy kicks. I thought, This man is crazy.
What do you look for in a sample?
It’s about the mood. It could be any type of genre, it just has to make me feel a certain way—happy, sad—if it makes me feel that, the artist won.
What was the scene like working at Tiller’s house? Lots of people? Was it quiet?
For me, having met a lot of people in the industry now, I really respect Bryson’s camp because they’re chill. They’re very open to anybody that’s talented. They know who’s gonna be a good impact on the game. It’s got a super chill nighttime vibe, with a whole bunch of producers, creators there. It feels like a family. That’s how it was for Trapsoul.
During True to Self, I was barely there. That whole process, I literally didn’t see Bryson in person. Which is the craziest thing to me, to have four on there. But me and Bryson had a long conversation on Twitter, in DMs.
How would you describe Bryson? What do people not know about him?
He’s a very private person. When I did meet him, he was super humble and super nice, didn’t talk that much. It’s almost that you wouldn’t even know he was an artist, unless you were a Bryson fan. I feel like people already know what type of person he is based on the image he puts out. He’s a calm young dad.