“TAME: The Aspiring Me“ An interview with Samantha Ding

TAME, The Aspiring Me, a rapper from Missouri City, Texas who recently moved to New York was interviewed by RFB volunteer Samantha Ding at his show at Friends & Lovers, October 4, 2018.

RFB: How did you get your name?

TAME: I used to go by Lil Mello. My dad’s name is Big Mello. Everybody at school knew my dad was a rapper, and I was a rapper. My dad passed away the summer after my seventh grade year.  I remember one time I was 17 and went to the barber, someone my dad used to take us to, and played him one of my first songs that I ever recorded. He didn’t have a reaction that I thought he was going to have. He said, it’s not Mello, but you know, it’s cool. You see, my dad was a gangster rapper and I was listening to a lot of Lupe and Pharrell. So when I would rap, that’s the vibe I was coming from. A lot of people that I used to play my music for would have the same sentiment. they would expect it to sound a certain way because of my dad’s music.

After using the name Lil Mello for awhile, I took on the name “A.D.D.”. Those are my initials, Andrew Devon Davis. I feel that everyone that was born after certain time has a little bit of A.D.D., so I was using it as a theme, something everyone could relate to. I like for my music to be something that anyone can find something in.  I had success under the name A.D.D. The height of that success came when I got booked to play South by Southwest, but the festival had another group similarly named so their manager was complaining that their fanbase would be confused if I was on, so I got taken off the list. The next day some friends, my studio manager, and I had a pow wow to figure out a new name. “The Aspiring Me” had always been my website even when I was going under A.D.D., and the first EP that I put out was called “The Aspiring Me”. The name went back to the theme of trying to find myself outside of my dad’s identity. Changing my name to “The Aspiring Me” was an easy transition, since people already connected it to me. I just took on the name of my music project. It still means the same thing as A.D.D. to me: a search for self out of a whole lot of chaos.

RFB: When did you start rapping and making music?

TAME: My dad was a rapper so I grew up in music. I used to crack recording programs back in ‘96, when I was 7 years old. I used to play with those programs, I used to chop up beats, record myself. I found out that if you take your headphones and you plug the headphones into the microphone jack, one side of your earpiece becomes a microphone and the other side is the monitor. I used to literally use the table, put the recording part over the tabletop and the monitor under it, clamp it together and create kick drums by banging on the table.

RFB: You made your own beats.

TAME: I started like that. I was just doing that because we just needed beats to rap to. Freestyling was always something in Houston culture. Anyone from Houston, they have a freestyle sense in them somewhere, because that’s just what we used to do. In the back of the school bus, we would just beat on the seat and freestyle all the way home. In terms of audio production, using programs, I’ve been doing that stuff since I was 7. When I was 9 my aunt got me a Casio keyboard. I played the trombone in middle school and high school and that just naturally transferred over to the keys. I taught myself how to play the keys after the trombone. I’ve been making my own beats professionally since I was like 17. That’s when I really started to make beats instead of just playing around. I’ve been around music for the longest time, so I don’t really remember when I started rapping.

RFB: Would you say that the Houston music scene influenced you a lot growing up?

TAME: My dad was one of the first rappers to break out of Houston. He was signed to Rap-A-Lot Records in the early 90s, so I was immersed in it. I would go with my dad to car shows after he played and we would have a crate of tapes and CDs and he would pass them around and I would be right there with him, throwing tapes out to the crowd. I remember he opened up for Westside Connection, this group with Ice Cube, Mack 10 and Dub C, when they were touring through Houston. They were playing at International Ballroom, and I was on stage.   I’ve been immersed in music so it’s just not even just Houston culture but rap music in general. But my favorite rappers growing up were Z-Ro, especially because he’s from Missouri City,  the city I’m from. I’m even wearing my Elkins City High School track shirt. Travis Scott and I also went to the same high school, Elkins City Highl. Anyway, I grew up listening to Z-Ro, Lil Flip, Slim Thug, Michael Watts, DJ Screw, Scarface, Lil Keke, Lil Troy, Wickett Crickett. The Houston music scene was definitely influential.

I used to get in trouble in class for writing rhymes. You know when your English class starts and in the beginning of class you have to do a journal entry? My journal entry would be a rap. My teacher said it wasn’t a journal. I got kicked out of high school because of my rhyme book. They said it had “terroristic threats” in it, and they sent me to alternative school.  I had to go to a behavioral learning center in Fort Bend.

RFB: You just moved from Houston to New York, after having lived in New York before that.

TAME: Yes. When I moved to Houston, I got a lot of experience in figuring out how to maneuver the industry. Part of me wished I would have stayed here but the other half is glad I did that because I learned so much and I built so much back in Houston to where now when I’m here I’m laser-focused and I know exactly what I need to do. I’m doing the exact things that I want to do so it’s a feeling of freedom and I have a support system of friends that can help me out.

RFB: Where in the city are you usually?

TAME: I’m in between Uptown and Brooklyn. I played in Harlem twice. But every time I come to New York I I’m definitely Brooklyn all the way.

RFB: What are your favorite venues to play at?

TAME: Friends and Lovers. I like a spot called Silent Barn, and also Knitting Factory. But my go-to venue here is Friends and Lovers.

RFB: What’s your relationship with Fat Tony (a prominent Houston rapper) like?

TAME: Yeah. I’ve worked with him. We’ve officially done a couple of songs together that have come out. He’s been one of my best friends, one of the people that have helped me out along the way. We’ve got a close relationship. Whenever he’s working on new music, he’s sending me stuff and I’m looking at it. When I’m working on new music, I’m sending him stuff. And we’re not afraid to let each other know what sucks and what’s cool. I remember the first time I sent him a song. He listened to it and he said, bro, that shit’s kind of trash. (Laughs) The biggest thing I’ve learned from him is just the importance of a support system and the importance of friendship.

RFB: Who are you listening to nowadays?

TAME: I’ve definitely got “Astroworld” on rotation. [Fat] Tony also just dropped “10,000 Hours” so I’ve been jamming that. I’ve been listening to Pi’erre Bourne, I love his music. I still jam “Die Lit”, by Playboi Carti. I honestly think Playboi Carti has the most cohesive album this year. It’s like a sugar high, non-stop, it’s super fun. But lately I’ve been in a hyper-creative mode, and whenever I’m in album mode, I try not to listen to a lot of stuff because it naturally starts to blend into what I’m working on. I try to listen to stuff outside of music. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I also try only do music when I’m in the studio. Outside of that I like to live my life with to create as many experiences and content as possible. It’s good to do the little things that keep my mind fresh and inspired, like renting a bike, going to a museum, or an art show. Because if I don’t live life then I don’t have things to talk about. Sometimes you get so involved with being an artist and trying make it happen that you just forget about the regular stuff.

Check out TAME’s music on SoundCloud, iTunes, and Spotify, and follow him on Instagram at @theaspiringme.

His recent projects include “You Might Like This” (https://open.spotify.com/album/4qUNt7lTMDRgo1voRbaXfk) and he produced for and was featured on FlygerWoods’ latest single “SQUAD” (https://open.spotify.com/album/1VvBiQpFxLAVOCzPAij66H)