Photography by Isaac Rosenthal
EB Rebel is an artist. She is also an MC, songwriter, music producer, college graduate and recent New York City transplant. We first came to know Miss Ebonie Tave though "Don’t Care," her independently released 2016 track from her EP Trance. "Don't Care" is an urgent commandment and call to attention. It is written about the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri in 2014. Since getting to know EB personally, we believe in the poetry of how she sees the world.
STORY AND DISPOSITION
A new series that profiles artists and advocates of the music industry community.
We choose to document these wonderful individuals, because we believe in them. We want you to see the magic and beauty that we see.
Our tools are the art of portrait photography, interview and song selection.
I was born In Dallas, Texas. Closer to the downtown area, which is more of an urban part of the city. My mom and my dad didn’t have the best relationship, from what I’ve heard. I was mostly there with my mom. I don’t really have a relationship with my dad.
Growing up was pretty tough, but it shaped a lot of what I do now. My mom wasn’t around a lot, so I spent most of my time with my grandmother and my aunt. Plus I was an only child, so I spent much of my time either alone or around older people. My grandmother and aunt loved me and took care of me, but I didn’t really have anyone to play with or anything like that.
Today I’m really close with my aunt, but as a kid there was more of a disconnect that stopped me from being open with her. So I spent a lot of my time writing. I didn’t talk much as a kid – I’m still reserved even now. But growing up, a friend of my mom’s even thought I was a mute because of how quiet I was!
I think I was quiet because I didn’t understand a lot of things. So I preferred to be quiet and observe. I’m still like that today.
My mom and I had a close relationship, but she had her own demons. So she was in and out. I didn’t really know it as a kid, but as I got older her addiction became more apparent. I drink very rarely, maybe four times a year, and I’ve never done drugs. Because of how strong addiction is in my family, I think it’s been better for me to stay away from it.
Now, I try to do more self reflection. I think my mom’s addiction really shaped how I approach things, relationships and people. I didn’t want people to find out, so I liked to stay quiet.
I had a really good education. I went to probably the best thing other than private school. You had to apply to get in, and have certain test scores and everything. It really exposed you to a different life than what you probably grew up around. It also opened me up to different types of people. It was a really diverse group of kids, so at a really young age I was exposed to hanging out with people who looked different from me. My middle and high schools operated the same way, and then I went to college for legal studies. I was the first person in my family to get a degree.
I wouldn’t say I was driven, but more that I felt pressure. My family doesn’t come from anything, so I knew it wasn’t an option for me to just sit back and relax. I knew I had to figure something out. I was really thinking about going into the Navy. I just couldn’t stay in the same neighborhood. I mean, I love my family, but I didn’t want to be the same as them, and I saw college as a way to broaden my options.
My family were really proud of me. They loved saying I was going to be a lawyer. There’s a sort of social status that comes with that. Even my uncle, who came into my life later on, was really proud. I remember how skeptical he was when I said I was going to focus on my music instead. Well, until he heard the music. Then he was like, “yeah, alright. I’m alright with that.”
Even though I’m not using that degree, I still always tell people that unless you have a plan for yourself right out of high school that doesn’t involve college, it’s probably a good idea to go. It exposes you to a lot of different ways of thinking. And if nothing else, more often than not, you make more money when you have a degree. Some people think differently because of all the debt, but if you can find a way to skate by without much of that, then it’s a good thing to do.
College was definitely the expectation coming out of my high school. I think probably 70% of kids ended up getting a degree. Did they all study what they really wanted to? Are they actually using their degree? Eh. Some of them. But at least most kids gave college a shot.
A lot of people in my family attempted college. And then a few years after I became the first to graduate, my mom actually went back and finished, too. We’re the two degree holders in the family!
My family’s history with college was on my mind. Even when I wasn’t so sure about it, I knew that my mom had tried and didn’t finish. That my cousin had tried and didn’t finish. It was something I felt like I needed do.
I’m also the first person in my family to really get out of Dallas – 1,500 miles out. I didn’t really travel as a kid – I got on my first plane when I was 20. But I realized there was more possibility outside of Dallas through the music. I would listen to east coast hip hop all the time growing up. It created this dream in me to move out here. When I finally did, my mom told me she knew I wouldn’t be back for a while, because of how much I talked about it when I was young.
But before New York, right after I graduated college, it took me seven months to find a job. I wasn’t even being picky – $20 an hour is a lot in Dallas. I wasn’t out here looking for $25 an hour. I was looking for $12. No one would call me back. So for seven months, I was just at the house writing, and dabbling in production too. Just waiting for the phone to ring. But I think it ended up spawning a lot of the music that I make today.
When I started letting my friends listen to the music, I got a lot of encouragement to really pursue it. At that time, I was mostly just keeping it to myself. But sharing it pushed me forward. I think I knew the music was good. I knew I wanted to follow it. But having that validation made a difference. I think it would for any artist – you can think it’s great in your head, but what about outside?
I posted my music on an association called Raw Artists. It’s a platform that was pretty big in Dallas at the time. I applied, and a couple days later they hit me back and asked me to do a showcase. That’s how it started. That was three years ago.
A lot has changed since then. I’m a very ‘what’s meant to be is meant to be’ kind of person. I still haven’t done anything with my degree. I’m technically a paralegal, but I haven’t set foot in a legal office since an internship I did during my Junior year. But maybe – well I’m thinking – if I’ve been able to achieve these things in the last three years, then music is where I’m supposed to be.
I N C O N V E R S A T I O N
Discipline is not something that can be taught, necessarily. It has to come from you. You have to want whatever you are striving for. Your goals have to be more important than any relationship, any party, any pastime.
It's living a life that’s not meant for you; settling. For me, if I didn’t attempt my music career, I would have lived a life of regret. I would feel worthless. Music is the best thing I’ve ever done, and working on it regularly gives me the most pride that I have ever felt in my life.
The creative process or space that I’m in right now is the best and worst process I’ve experienced. I am 1000% hands on with this project, even more so than the last. My producer partner came for 3 days to NYC, and we locked ourselves in my apartment and just made beats from scratch. As always, I write every word on the record. I’ve been recording a lot, listening to those records a lot, sharing samples of them, revising, and I have been involved in every part of the mixing process. It has been extremely stressful. I have wanted togive up a few times during this project, but I believe in what I am trying to do, no matter how frustrated I get. It's a beautiful monster.
My intent is to create a space and narrative for people like myself; the underrepresented. People have their ideas of what artists should look like (especially in the case of women), what artists should speak about and how that music should sound. I want to challenge all of that. I know that I am not what the industry traditionally goes for, but it is 2017.
I’m going to challenge what people think about women creators, how people look at the hip hop music, and a perception of beauty that is not attached solely to feminine qualities.
My childhood was challenging, probably the worst time of my life; but it also contributed to my creativity. I was alone and depressed a lot, so I turned to writing poetry, then later to writing songs. I still live in the darkness of that, and perhaps, that’s where my best music comes from.
Beauty to me is something that is dependent on your culture and where you come from. In this country, we seem to be held to the same standards, but bodies are built differently and our features are different. I think it is important to connect with things that make you feel beautiful, because with today's climate, if you are relying on the media to guide you, you will be lost.
HER GREATEST LIMITATION
My greatest limitation is being inside of my own head. I feel that if I was able to control that, I would be better off. Obsessing about things, or critiquing yourself too much, is time consuming. It's something I’m working on, but it's easier said than done.
EB Rebel was asked to select eight songs that would help us understand her better.
Songs that have shaped her life and experiences.
1. ex factor by lauren hill
I was very young when it was first released. But even as a kid, I could identify with the raw emotion. As I got older, I appreciated the meaning of the song because of the relationships I was in.
5. KIM BY EMINEM
I think this song is the craziest song I have ever heard in my life. The way Em illustrated his reality at that time with such theatrical elements was an early exposure to how vivid storytelling can be outside of traditional literature. It's a movie.
2. Runaway by Kanye West
I love how the song starts with the simple piano notes and then builds. It's a beautiful song about being less than perfect in relationships, which is something that most people can relate to. I love the instrumentation and the verse from Pusha T that adds just the right amount of asshole to it. The extended version has the muffled auto-tuned singing that I find beautiful, too.
6. NEW SLAVES BY KANYE WEST
My song DON'T CARE is a direct result of the influence of this song on me; the blending of hip hop, electronic and rock sounds. On top of having a very progressive sound, he chose to address the continuing issue of race in our country.
3. Izzo (H.O.V.A.) by JAY-Z
This is the song that made me a Jay-Z fan. It was really my true introduction to hip-hop. Everything about the song was big to me; the hook, the video. When I listen to this song, I just think of the first time I heard it and how special it was. And I used to try to do the Dame Dash dances moves from the video.
7. Love is Blind by Eve
The storytelling aspect of this record was rare at the time for a female rapper. I don't know if this is a true story, but I will always believe it is. I hated the guy in this song, by the way.
4. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY By QUEEN
I learned about this song within the past year, and have played it about 100 times since. I love Freddie Mercury's voice to start with, and the lyrics are powerful. I'm also a Mama's girl so I can relate! The switch of production in the middle of the song is clever.
8. BAD RELIGION BY FRANK OCEAN
I connect to this song for so many reasons. I love Frank's bravery in addressing his sexuality, and his relation to religion. This song also made me want to step up my songwriting game, because the lyrics on this song are phenomenal.