Thed Weller shares details from the past and his vision for the future.
Recently, I had an opportunity to briefly sit down and catch up with Thed Weller during a Jazz performance at the Blue Note by our longtime friend and classmate brilliant saxophonist Kenneth Williams.
Ultimately, I was impressed by his passion that is positively influencing other artists by asking them to stretch themselves creatively to achieve the next level. Yearning to learn more, I asked him to share with us some details from the past, his vision for the future, and the magnificent event, better known as ItIsWritten.
Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get started? What inspired you in the beginning? What inspires you now? Where did you get the name Thed Weller?
I first started rapping in the 5th grade. This was a couple of years after my mom and dad got divorced. I had a stuttering problem and I went to a speech pathologist for therapy. My mom, with her four children (Miriam [Older], Eunice [Younger], Ura [Youngest]) moved to Bessemer, Alabama in 1980. I was in the 3rd grade at the time Dunbar Elementary School (Bessemer Colored High is still the name it bears in concrete on the building’s front.) My mom enrolled at UAB and became a Nuclear Medicine Technologist.We lived with her parents for about a year until we found a home in Bessemer. She retired from the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Research Center a few years ago.
Because of my speech impediment, my nervousness, and the nature of children to sometimes prefer to entertain themselves at the expense of others, I didn’t like to read out loud to the class and eventually, decided that I didn’t like to read. By the time I got to the 5th grade, I was about two grade levels behind in my reading. I remember going to a Title 1 Reading class for other children that were reading below grade level. Around this time I discovered that when I would rap along with the songs I heard on the radio, I didn’t stutter. I began to write my own raps and discovered the same phenomenon. I’ve been rapping ever since.
Today, I’m inspired by my son mostly. He is a writer and performer as well. I’ve actually gotten to perform with him on more than one occasion and that’s pretty cool. I also am enjoying how popular the culture I love is being rediscovered in pop culture. I am authentically of that era and am fortunate enough to have creative friends that remember their childhoods as well. I have been a classroom teacher for twenty-one years. I have always found it easy to connect with students because I remember what it was like to not have friends in a strange new place. I remember how much easier it was to make friends by creating with people. It inspires me to be able to create with so many people of so many different ages.
The name Thed Weller actually comes from a mispronunciation from a random caller. The first talent show I won was at UAB as a junior. My performance name at that time was The Bessemer Dweller. After a few years of performing under that moniker, I was told that it was a long name for a rapper. I shortened it to “The Dweller”. I registered a website (TheDweller.com) to load my music and videos to the internet. A phone telemarketer must have gotten my information and called me asking to speak to "Thed Weller." The person on the phone continued to try and sell me ink pens with my name on them. I never corrected him about the mispronunciation of my name. I actually thought it was a friend of mine prank calling me. I asked him later that day, “Did you call me the other day asking for "Thed Weller" trying to sell me some pens?!” Clearly, he had not and we both had a good laugh that day.
In the early 2000’s, there were a few spoken word outlets around Birmingham. I was working on my first album, Ain’t No Pillows On The Road and wanted to test out some of my lyrics. I would go to open mics and use “Thed Weller” as my spoken word artist name. Eventually, that’s the name that would stick.
What is your brand and what does it mean to you?
I recently completed the Co.Starters Business Incubator program. I will be openingScribes The Growlery. According to Frederick Douglass (which is where I first got the idea of a Growlery). Scribes will be a community growlery designed to un-silo the knowledge of the community to flow back to the community. I will encourage patrons and community stakeholders in general, to contribute to an annual book I’m calling the “Community Canon”. My dream is to create a space for people to congregate and get smarter just by doing so. Leave the pearls of wisdom they have for all in the community to have the opportunity to share. I believe it is important that we, as a people, keep access to accurate information. Scribes will help provide such a source of accurate information. We’ll also serve coffee, tea and baked goods.
I am an educator. I currently teach The Art of Language to fifth graders. I also present at educational conferences around the country sharing some of the techniques I’ve found effective over the years. I also love coffee, teas and baked goods. I am my brand.
What is your vision for the future? How will you make an impact on the nation?
I see our ability to “write the power” as a real option for resistance. By helping others find ways to articulate their thoughts and ideas via written and spoken performances, I believe we will contribute to rebuilding the culture of humanity.
It Is Written — explain what it is and all the elements (frequency, next event, target audience). The success of the last event. Obstacles that became triumphs.
It Is Written is based on a line from L.L. Cool J.’s song I’m Bad where he says, “Give me an hour plus a pen and a pad!” I gather twelve “Scribes” (poets, songwriters, rappers, etc.) to agree to use and hour, a pen and a pad to create a 16 bar verse based on suggestions from the audience. At the end of that hour, they perform what they’ve written for the audience in attendance. While they scribes write, I had my sister Eunice Elliott (comedian) perform for about 15 - 20 minutes. I got my band, Dat2, back together to perform as the house band. I also invited a Chef T. Randle to curate the cipher. After Dat2 performed, rappers from the upcoming album No Country For Old Men performed with the band. I recorded all of this and will produce a TV Show for the web and a mixtape for the internet as well. We are currently planning #ItIsWritten2. Look for it to happen Summer, 2017. My target audience is anyone that thinks they would enjoy a show like this.
One of the largest challenges in putting this show together was getting people to see my vision. I had to find a way to make it happen and to help more people begin to understand what I was trying to do. I was able to pull this show together in about three weeks from its inception. I was able to do this because I have a better understanding of what an economy is. I used to think it had more to do with money than it actually does. An economy is people and resources. Economies are sometimes controlled with money. The truth is, if you have people and resources, you have an economy. I was able to focus on the economy I had access to instead of the money I did not. That’s a triumph in my book.
In 5 years where do you see yourself?
In 5 years I see myself planning #ItIsWritten20 from a Scribes The Growlery location enjoying a delicious cup of coffee.
Be sure to check out the next "It Is Written" event. Date and location will be announced soon.
And for all aspiring scribes, contact Thed Weller at the Ellication Labs to secure your spot.