Mad Charisma 

Local rappers Big Fella and Te’ Arthur add hip-hop flava to the local music scene

Local rappers Big Fella and Te’ Arthur add hip-hop flava to the local music scene

Four years ago, Big Fella and Te’ Arthur met in an African American Studies class at MTSU. Late last year, the two men and their hip-hop crew beat out more than 300 other local acts to win the Nashville Grammy Showcase. It was a small triumph for these musicians, who view themselves as underdogs in a local scene that doesn’t care to pay much attention to rap music.

After discovering, at their first meeting, that they both came from Michigan, Big Fella and Te’ Arthur began hanging together and recording music to the beats of a Casio keyboard. “We did it just so we could get in the car in the morning and listen to what we did,” Arthur says.

After adding vocals, they played the tracks for their friends, who encouraged them to make more. Before long, their first single, “Chicken and a 40,” was getting radio play on local rap station WNPL 106.7-FM. After hooking up with a drummer and a guitarist, they formed a band and started performing live. Trouble was, despite Murfreesboro’s thriving music scene, they were relegated to university talent contests and small showcases.

“The Country Music Hall of Fame aura is so strong around here that you gotta sneak in,” Big Fella says, repeating an oft-cited complaint among local musicians of all types. “We just sneak in on other people’s tickets and just take over. You can’t let them know what you’re gonna do before you do it. Once you do it, though, you got everybody on your nuts.”

Big Fella and Te’ Arthur describe their brand of hip-hop as feel-good soul music. Backed by a seven-piece band, Big Fella raps fast, while Te’ Arthur croons over danceable rhythms that update the ebullient funk of Parliament and Kool & The Gang.

“Not that new soul crap you hear on the radio these days,” Big Fella says of the group’s music. “It’s real soul music. It will take you back to Congo Square, where people shake that ass, because the music makes you feel so good.”

Last November, Big Fella and Te’ Arthur were selected to compete in the Nashville Grammy Showcase. “They had rock, Christian rock, contemporary, that rap-rock, country. We were the only hip-hop act on there,” says Big Fella. Each act was given 50 tickets to sell to their fans. At $10 a ticket, Big Fella and Te’ Arthur weren’t able to sell any. “Our audience is broke, our whole genre of music is broke,” Big Fella adds.

Big Fella, Te’ Arthur and The Truth swept both the audience and judges’ votes, despite not having sold a single ticket. “Big Fella has mad charisma, mad ideas and I’ve got his back,” says Arthur. “We’re gonna change the game.”

“Everybody wants reality,” Big Fella proclaims. “You can tell by all these reality shows. But ain’t nobody giving it to them. So we’re about to give them real shit.”

—Brittney Gilbert

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