TeeZandos is the Antichrist of drill, dousing your expectations in lighter fluid and striking a match. She does what she wants, she says what she means — and she doesn’t flinch, doesn’t stutter. Her wordplay is as sabre-sharp, and she knows it. At 14 years old, she took it upon herself to approach UK rap veteran Corleone with her bars, and she has been his protégé ever since, the crown jewel of his label GB Records.
2019 saw a 17-year-old TeeZandos ascend to claim the title ‘The Princess of Drill’. Her breakout track ‘Need Focus’, which racked up over a million streams, made her intentions clear: “14 when I first chilled in a bando / 15 years when my blade got swung / 16 when I said, ‘Fuck bein’ normal / I wanna be the oddest one’.”
Her collaborations, meanwhile, are a calculated curation of the finest the scene has to offer, from her incisive drill duet with firebrand rapper Fizzler, ‘Phone Call’, to pairing with the 24-carat flows of the anonymous Midas The Jagaban on her recent single ‘Page 45’. When we speak, the 19-year-old on the other end of the line is disarmingly honest.
She isn’t in the business of sugar-coating her words; she deals in grab-you-by- the-collar reality. Despite mounting co-signs in the drill scene, TeeZandos considers herself a lone wolf. “I don’t have many friends,” she says — not with self-pity, not with pride, just as a fact. “It’s not even me being cocky and not wanting friends, it’s just as time has been going on and things have been getting more serious, people are just weirdos, so I’m not around them. I don’t have many industry friends, which is pretty obvious. Success has affected my friendships in the best way possible, because now I don’t have any friends, which leads me to no problems.”
Notoriety comes with sacrifice, but is it really sacrifice when TeeZandos is willing to let it go? “I had to give up simple stuff, like going to college and social events... even though I never liked them anyway. I wouldn’t go to a social event, doing what I do. People take things the wrong way. I’m not a normal teenager — I can’t just go to Carnival. I’d probably have to go with, like, 15 people, and two of them would have to be security guards.”
Being an artist who not only appears to have unshakeable confidence, but also seems to be a performer by reflex, the last thing you’d guess is that TeeZandos is an unapologetic introvert.
“The reality is, I’ve never really liked the real world anyway,” she shrugs. “For a long period of my life, I’ve never done normal things: I was never that kid who wanted to go out with their friends and all that. I wanted to stay home. As long as I have my cats, I’m fine.”
She has two cats: one is a black tabby, whose name she refuses to share (“It’s seriously that bad. When I walk into the house and I’m like, ‘So and so!’ people look at me like, ‘What the fuck?’”) and the other is black, white and furry, and called Wybie, named in honour of the strange companion of Coraline, the titular protagonist of a dark fantasy horror film featuring uncanny characters who have buttons for eyes.
“I like eerie things that don’t make sense, or have people questioning [them],” she says. “I grew up in a proper Christian family, you know, all ‘The Light’ stuff, and I never really took that in. It just led me to more crazy things, the creepier side of the world... I don’t really like the normal side.”
Though she was raised on jungle and garage sounds, TeeZandos found herself gravitating naturally towards something quite different. “Like a little weirdo, I started listening to rock music and shit like that. It was the first music I listened to from the force of myself, not from the force of anyone else,” she says. “I like Ozzy Osbourne; I think he’s cool. It’s free, it’s whatever he wants. It’s what he wants to talk about, it’s what he wants to do. He dresses how he wants to dress and he acts the way he wants to act. I like people like that.”
It’s an unlikely influence that casts a distorted reflection in her artistry: in the visuals for her track ‘Slender’, TeeZandos toys with satanic worship, building the beat on a chant that sounds like it’s falling in reverse, and opening with a disfigurement of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our plug / Who art in OT / Hallowed be thy name / Thy trappers come / Thy will be done / In O as it is in Ends.”