TJ Porter is here to put Harlem on the map. At just 19 years old, the “Harlem” rapper celebrates his new deal on Def Jam’s Undisputed roster, proving anybody can make it out the mud as long as they work hard, stay focused, and stay passionate. Everything he talks about in his lyrics are real and genuine, based off real-life experiences growing up in the hood. Read more…
Hailing from the Robert F. Wagner Housing Projects, real name Terrence Reaves has seen it all. His music embodies strength and resilience, which pairs nicely with his down-to-earth personality. It was 12 years old when he started rapping, remembering times in the trap spitting to the old folks who surrounded him. Now, he unleashes his new project Voice of the Trenches, in which he hopes to get his first plaque.
For those who don’t know, who is TJ Porter?
Signed to Def Jam from Harlem, putting Harlem back on the map. Just striving and working hard to become who I want.
How would you describe your sound?
I do a little bit of everything. Autotune. If people want bars, I do that too.
You put out a single called “Harlem.” What does that city mean to you?
It means a lot to me because it’s where I’m from. I’m bringing the culture everywhere from Harlem. The aura, everywhere.
You grew up in the projects. What did you see growing up?
A lot. It was dangerous. Everything. Drugs, dead bodies, everything.
At what point did you feel the music was for real?
Probably this year when I got signed. I always felt like I could rap. I was always rapping, since young! Lil boy, I was probably 9 years old in the trap, rapping with grown ass men. I got old videos like that. 9 or 10 years old rapping in front of older n*ggas from the trap.
Was that intimidating?
Hell no, that’s just how I was raised. It was regular.
When were you able to walk away from the streets?
I wouldn’t say I walked away from it, but I try to stay out of trouble because I’m in a good predicament right now. But if it come my way… we in there.
You still stay in Harlem?
Nah, I live in Jersey, It’s just a wave. My mom’s there.
How does moms feel about the music?
My mom’s hyped.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
It’s important, you get to network. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on over here, that’s not in New York. There’s a few more opportunities out here.
What’s your favorite part about the West Coast?
The weather! New York when it’s not summertime, it’s cold! It’s raining for 8 days straight right now.
What’s the inspiration behind your name?
Everybody called me TJ my whole life growing up, because I’m a junior. Then when I made my first song, the guy who uploaded it for me said “you just gonna upload it as TJ?” So I’m watching Paid in Full. I’m like “yo Rich Porter, he a real young n*gga! He a real Harlem n*gga, I’m a real Harlem n*gga.” TJ Porter!
What sets you apart from other street rappers?
Everything! The way I carry myself, I don’t smoke or drink. I may have a drink here or there on special occasions, but I don’t really drink or smoke. I still do everything. Kids be feeling like if you don’t do certain stuff, it discredits you from everyone. Nah. I don’t smoke or drink but I’m still in the game. Still in the streets like everybody else, I’m just myself.
What do you want fans to get from your story?
I want them to understand there’s still people out here making music with a message. ‘Cause people be having a lot of bullshit music out.
Talk about linking with Calboy in the studio.
Calboy was in the city, he text me “pull up.” We made about 4 or 5 songs. All of them fire, I’m not gonna lie. Calboy cool though, he real genuine. I fuck with him. Street n*ggas always gon’ fuck with each other. We get each other. We not from the same hood, but we get each other.
“Do You Care” sees you singing. What inspired that record?
I told the producer, “I want to do something for the girls.” You see how Drake did “Marvin’s Room”? I told him I wanted a beat like that. He made the beat for “Do You Care?”, I just put the words with it.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I’m tryna get a plaque before the year is over. I’m bouta drop an album, Voice of the Trenches. I’m tryna get a plaque!
What can we expect from the album?
A lot of good music.
Do you feel like any singles you have out now are eligible for a plaque?
All of them! “Do You Care?” and “Harlem.” I got a single on my album called “Lifestyle,” it’s different. Just me talking my shit, my life.
How big is social media for your career?
It’s big, especially ‘cause the generation we live in right now is all about social media. Everything revolves around social media.
Who’s your favorite person to follow?
Probably Meek. That’s my favorite artist. I haven’t worked with him, I know him though.
What did you do with your first advance?
I bought a crib, I invested some bread. The rest of the money, went shopping a little bit. Bought some jewelry, got some stuff for my mom. I ain’t really spend too much out of my advance ‘cause I already know the deals and stuff work.
What’s a normal day in the life, walk us through?
I wake up, go to the gym, come back, take a shower. If I don’t go to the studio, I’m probably chillin’ with some girls or something. That’s a regular day. I’m chillin’ with my bros, we different.
Did you ever work any part-time jobs?
I never had a job. Never. I used to play basketball and I used to scam.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
I seen a group of girls after my show. I gave them all hugs, they just started crying. The show was somewhere Upstate.
What’s your dream collab?
Meek or Drake. Drake is a life changer.
What does it mean to perform at The Basement series today?
It’s lit! It’s a dope experience.