Max Zanga & Matt Ó’Boyle of Tebi Rex

The No.1 Irish interracial hip-hop duo @mattobaoill & @max_zanga give us a little insight into @tebirexofficial as they share with us their story.

How did you start?

We met in Maynooth University at an inter-society talent show in the SU. Wherein one of us came first and one of us came second. Legend has it the winner cheated but we’ll save that for another day.

Max posted a fb status a few months after saying “anyone wanna make a hip hop group?” And listed some influences I really loved at that time like Childish Gambino, NERD, Chance The Rapper, and even Kate Nash – which I found interesting and affirming. I was super keen to make Hip-hop music so we met up and tested the waters. It kind of worked, so we kept going and going until it very much worked.

We were both making music on our ones before this, and certainly enjoyed that to an extent. But being in a group and having that dichotomy, that energy of someone else being there with something new, or to bounce ideas with. That was more fun than I had ever expected. We learned that our strengths, weaknesses, and differences really blended well. Thus Tebi Rex was formed.

What were the challenges that you faced?

In terms of challenges, I guess being in the hip-hop sphere at that time was a huge challenge. Not to sound like an old head, but shit was different then. We’re talking 2017 here – there were no hip-hop gigs to be found. Irish mainstream hadn’t cultivated an interest yet. This was before any Irish hip hop act you love now had popped at all. So we had to hustle to get gigs, management, anything.

I remember we used to do a lot of poetry slams. When we got there, we’d do a poem or two and then whip out a guitar and perform our songs – basically luring in a crowd and tricking them into seeing a Tebi Rex show. But that’s what we had to do. 

Irish Hip Hop was seen as too large a bet. I’ll never forget one of Dublin’s biggest radio stations saying “we like the rapper on this track, but the singer sounds way too Irish”. This is a station that often prides itself on Irish music. I was sickened. Of course they have changed their tune since, and play lots of Irish hip-hop of every accent; Including us. 
I guess it has been a challenge to “place” us in a genre. We dip in and out of everything from pop to indie to rock to jazz. This doesn’t bode well for streaming services. I think it’s easier for them if you stay in a lane, it seems like it’s pretty difficult to be on a hip-hop playlist one year then pushing out Rock music the next. It never stopped us though, it may have impacted us commercially – but that’s not what we’re about, that’s not why we do any of this at the end of the day. Make the tunes you feel like making, worry about the rest later. 

How was tour?

The tour was mad. Tour life is pretty tiring with all the constant packing/unpacking, check ins and check outs, driving for hours each day then gigging later that evening. But it was an awful lot of fun. 
We stayed in proper budget accommodation, like these places ended up being nasty at times (Shout out the Weaste Hotel, Salford). I shared a bed with R3D some nights and slept in our clothes cause we didn’t trust the sheets. We played some very odd places, saw some really weird shit. There were days where I literally said “Can something normal happen, please”. 
One thing I will say about our UK tour is.. Fuck Europcar, man. Absolute shower. 

Any new projects?

We’re all working flat-out on the Tebi team right now. Nothing announced yet but you can expect a lot of music this year, and you’re gonna be very, very surprised.