We had the good fortune of connecting with Cecil Tso and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cecil, what do you want your legacy to be?
That I pushed for Independent Hip-Hop, and Indigenous Music in a town that isn’t sure what to think of any of it from a business stand point.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My name is Cecil Patrick Tso. I am a Hip-Hop Producer / Beatmaker. I go by the moniker Tsoh Tso (formerly I was known as Whatever Cecil). I’m in the groups An Illustrated Mess, and CoCec. I’m a show DJ for Tre Orona, and I do my best to help out other artists when I can. My journey started out on a laptop computer with a demo copy of FL Studios. Originally I wanted to rap, but I quickly lost interest, and found myself more interested in the actual music.
Our music is very intimate, and melancholy which in the past had been polarizing to the larger Hip-Hop community, but I believe that’s also what sets us apart. The music our label tends to release is very honest, and self reflective which is something I think people can connect to which is why we’re still here. Historically we’ve been collectively put in the same bracket as Indie Rock, and Shoegaze bands as opposed to other Hip-Hop acts.
At the risk of sounding cliché, we got to this point through hard work, and being too stubborn to quit. We’ve been making music for about 10 years now, and the whole journey has been uphill. We had to make a lot of our own opportunities. When we didn’t have the means to travel to a professional recording studio I became a makeshift recording engineer. When we weren’t able to get booked for any shows, I stepped into the shoes of a promoter, and we booked our own shows; I’d like shout out Ryan Wilson on that. I learned from his example. An Illustrated Mess was my first project, but as things began to grow we needed a home for everything, and after we all agreed to have a DIY label, I stepped up to run it. Even as things are continuing to become more serious, I’m doing my best to learn, and adapt.
Outside of being a label head I’ve grown quite a bit in the past two years as beatmaker, and composer, and a lot of those connections were made on luck through the internet. I have a relationship with one of my favorite independent labels on the planet, Fake Four Inc. We’ve been able to work with some of our favorite artist, and even some living legends. I’ve been fortunate to sell beats first, and foremost, but I’ve also been able to collaborate with people internationally. I’ve begun to compose music for independent films, and I’m slowly building a name for myself within the Underground Hip-Hop community. It’s a slow process, but I think we’re headed in the right direction.
The biggest thing I’ve learned in art is not force anything. If something is meant to happen it will happen organically. The biggest thing I’ve learned in business if that you have to force everything. Nothing you want will materialize until you make it. Finding that balance is very difficult, but when everything works out it’s a beautiful thing.
I don’t know where the road is going to take us, or if it’s going to come to a halt, but up to this point we’ve been screened at film festivals, and played on satellite radio. We’ve worked with people from France to Japan. We’ve been apart of things I dreamed of, but didn’t think would actually happen, and if people were to look at us I’d want them to know that it all started as a couple of Rez kids who were bored after school.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I think we’d have breakfast at Mike & Rhondas, aka “The Place” on the East Side. Afterwards maybe we’d stop downtown, walk around for a bit, and maybe grab a drink at Flagstaff Brewing Company. I’d vote for some kind of Asian dish for dinner, and depending on them we’d go to Hunan East (Chinese), Go Sushi (best Ramen in town), or Kokiyo (Korean). After that initially first day I think I’d take them on a hike up the San Francisco peaks, and then to the Navajo Reservation. I’d show them where I grew up. We’d hike, eat at the local flea market, and do a good number of off grid stuff. There’s a lot of Indigenous culture around Flagstaff, and Northern Arizona that gets put on the back burner, and I’d do my best share that with them.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d hate to sound pretentious, but up to this point I haven’t had any real mentorship. I’ve had moments in my life where someone fed me tips on how something should, or shouldn’t be, but for the most part I’m self taught, and still learning. That being said, I would thank, and shout out my Grandparents on the Tso side, my Aunt Stephanie, and my Uncle Brian. From the jump they were all oddly supportive of me pursuing music, and bought a lot of my first gear. I’d also like to shoutout my friends Clint Slim, Tre Orona, and Colin Haviland who continue to make music with me despite some of my crazy ideas. As things grow so should the quality, and because of that I’d also like to shoutout Alex Begay, Deidra Peaches, and Sakya Calsoyas.
I’d especially like to shout out my Wife, and life wingman, Amber. I can get pretty manic, and all over the place, and she holds me down so I can finish the next project
The black and white photo where I’m sitting down on stage behind the standing emcee was taken by Jake Hoyungowa. The rest were taken by Deidra Peaches.