Tisakorean’s most frequently used emoji is definitely the bar of soap. The 23-year-old rapper constantly puts it in his captions on Instagram and his responses to fans on Twitter. He’s even gone so far as to stuff his pockets with actual Dove bars just to get his point across. “If you listen to any of my songs, I never say drip,” he told me during a recent phone conversation. “I’ve always been the freshest, always been the cleanest. It’s just another word for that.”
Tisa has always been a little different — from the words he says, to the clothes he wears, and, now, in the music he makes. As a teenager, the Houston native became known as a dancer and DJ at a time when dance-focused Texas rappers like Yung Nation and BeatKing dominated the scene. His own music, while indebted to these pioneers, is much weirder. The beats he makes are sparse and dissonant, creating a sound that’s sort of detached from an era — they’d sound just as at home on a mid-2000s Soulja Boy tape as they do in Triller and TikTok videos. As he does on his viral hit “Dip,” he sometimes raps in an exaggeratedly deep voice that sounds like Patrick Star.
Tisa’s debut project, released in March, is called A Guide To Being A Partying Freshman and, during our phone interview, it’s clear that he loves talking about his time in high school. Those four years can be difficult for some but, for Tisa, it’s where he became the person he is today.
Tell me about where you’re from.
I tell people I'm from Mo City, but that's because I moved here since middle school — but I'm originally from Southwest. Mo City was like any hood. The only way you get out is if you playing basketball or shit like that. Other than that, you don't really see a lot of artists come up from over here. Only other person is Travis [Scott]. Either you ultra-athletic or ultra-outstanding.
I always been fresh and partying, though. That's how my music relate to this. When I was in high school, I used to DJ and party all day. That's why [my album] is A Guide To Being A Partying Freshman 'cause literally my whole life I partied and my music is dancey and up. In high school, I used to dance in the hallways — I used to do videos and everything. My senior year, I ended up getting — what is it called?
Yeah, “best dressed.” My style always just been me. I grew up on Pharrell, and his style just became what I loved. When I listened to him, it motivated me to be who I am. When I started making music, I wanted to take the Pharrell approach — like, Let me hear everybody stuff and make sure my stuff sounds like nothing like this.
What came first for you, DJing or dancing?
Definitely the dancing. I used to always dance, but when I met my friend T Jones — he locked up right now, free him — I had never met somebody who took it as serious as I took it. In Houston, we got jigging, and nobody could out jig me. My name wasn't Tisa at that moment, it was Cudy. Everybody used to be like, Cudy, this nigga jigging game is ridiculous. So when I met T Jones, I was dancing — we had a clique and everything. We did the party scene, and there wasn't DJs, so I was like, Fuck it, let's start DJing. Then I really became the life of the party. On "Preball," you can hear “I hit the club looking for a freak” — I used to really do that shit.
What was the music you were jigging to and DJing back then?
I was jigging to Young Nation, man. It's crazy, I talk to them like every other day now. I would DJ that, BeatKing, Lil Ronny MothaF. That's my favorite type of music. It was just inside me when I started making music.
Were you playing clubs, house parties?
It wasn't really clubs 'cause I was in high school at the moment. It was mainly house parties, mansion parties. Sometimes we'd have a penthouse. They was being shut down, shot up. It was crazy. My junior year, my pops was letting me know, "What you finna do?" 'Cause at this point I'm just being a damn student — partying, DJing. I wasn't caring about college or making music. I ended up applying for Prairie View — I went there for nursing, but the true reason I went there was to DJ. I wanted to party for real.
One of the guys I ended up meeting from DJing in high school was the main DJ at [Prairie View]. When I went there, he instantly got me on the radio station. But I partied too hard. I failed out my first year. I ended up coming back to Houston, and I made another DJing group. I was like, "I'm just gonna party." I was dancing hard, shooting videos — jigging videos, but people music videos too. I shot and edited the “Dip” video.
Did rapping come next?
I started producing first. As a DJ, people was trying to get mixes and I'm like, Well shit, I might as well start producing if I'm DJing. I taught myself how to produce. I was trying to get my beats to certain people that I was cool with, and they would let me know this shit wasn't the sound that people was making. Even if you listen to my music right now, it don't [sound] like the beats that's going on right now. I'm like, Damn, I'm just trying to give you this but okay. If nobody rap on my beats, I'm gonna rap on 'em.
“High school was the most crazy moment of my life. I think it was the time I grew up.”
At what point did "Dip" come out of that?
I was rapping for a year. I didn't have a plan, I was just putting out music. So I just ended up switching everything. When I had the session, "Dip" was the last song I did. I had ten minutes left, and [the engineer] was like, “What you trying to do?” I had this beat and the beat name was "Dip.” None of it was wrote down, honestly. Then I did a dance video to it, and that's what got the most reaction.
That was when I first started to see people doing The Woah dance.
People was already doing it in Houston. I never knew the name, honestly. I never made "Dip" for that. I make jigging videos, and then in the jigging videos I do it. I didn't even start noticing it was a big thing until probably a month after "Dip" came out.
It seems like there’s been some argument in Texas about who really created it.
People was already doing it in Houston. It wasn't even a big deal though, I promise. People would just say it's jigging. I tell you what I know for sure, Dejo was the first person I seen do it. Whoever made it, or whoever put a name on it, I'm not sure.
Did "Dip" have a Houston moment where you were like, Okay, this song is going somewhere?
When I first made "Dip" and it first got the Instagram reaction, it was kids. I start going to teen parties, like, fuck it. I know the Houston scene, all my friends still DJ. I would hit 'em up like, Where you all at this week? Bring my song, let’s play it. I'm a very nonchalant person, so I say I don't notice shit, but I ain't lying, the moment I noticed it was when Uzi called me.
What did he tell you when he called?
When he texted me, I said, Man, this not Uzi, don't be playing man. I'm thinking it's some bullshit. So when he FaceTimed me, I was like, "Oh, shit." He was like, "I fuck with your shit." When he told me that, it opened my eyes so much. You don't have to do what's going on, you can be yourself. You can be proud. I always had low-key acceptance, but I always pushed it, though. Like wearing the Aeropostale — it'd always be something in the back of my head like, Damn, you know you going against the grain, Tisa.
I never expected anybody to even fuck with my music. It still shocks me to this day when people tell me they like it. When he called me, it was probably the biggest shock that I've ever had. I still go to him for advice, and he give me the most true shit. He would get on my ass too. I look at him as my big brother. If I need answers, I go to him.
What led to you signing with Atlantic?
I did it for connections. I bring so much to the table, and I wanted to be elevated. Let's just say that I do bring the Aeropostale to the table, they probably can connect me even easier.
Are you getting free Aeropostale now?
It's crazy. People who meet me give me Aeropostale. I had somebody recently DM me and they was like, "I got a Aeropostale jacket I never wore. My grandma gave it to me. I want to give it to you." Shit, that's cool too. If I be on some vintage shit, I'ma wear that. I'll be in that.
Throughout this conversation, and on your album, I’ve heard you talk a lot about high school.
High school was the most crazy moment of my life. I think it was the time I grew up. The stuff that was going on, it give me a feeling. When I go into my old high school…man, I can't even talk about it on the phone. It give me a feeling. I had heartbreaks here. It touched me.
Are you a nostalgic person in general?
Yeah, I am. I'm just starting to notice it. I like James Bond, and when I watch the movies, it give me a feeling. I like old games. My favorite system is the Dreamcast, but I love the Nintendo 64. I just love the look of it.
Why is the gas station such an important location for filming dance videos?
That's where I first did the "Dip" video. There's a gas station by where my people live. People can't really see the spot we're in unless you drive over there. We dance, and if it's dark, I'm like, Okay, we need some light. We're gonna go to the gas station. But every time we would go to certain spots, the cops would come. So I'm like, Let's go to this one called Shamrock and dance every night. So we just start making music and go dance to it. It make other people want to dance to it.
I didn't think about that. You’re doing it at night and you need lighting. And then the whole thing can be easily imitated and it becomes more viral.
That gas station always be so lit. The first like twenty times I ever been, they was giving us problems, and I just went inside there and talked to the dude. "Yeah bro, I'm just a kid, just doing videos. I don't want to cause no problems." He was like, "Okay, cool. As long as you guys don't bother nobody." Now I'm cool with him. Every time I go in there, he’s like, “I been seeing your videos.” He follows me on Instagram and everything.