Perched in a corner of a Yaletown café, Tee Krispil recounts her journey to underground rap notoriety and how she developed a fast-rising CBD-wellness brand.
“It’s so weird how things come full circle, ” she says with a laugh, discussing the roots of her newest endeavour, Fleurs Tea, a seven-woman company specializing in locally made tea and topical products.
The Ottawa-born musician and entrepreneur started crafting her own herbal brews while studying digital-music production at Langara College. Her interest in plant healing helped her perfect the blend now called Woke, recommended for focus and energy. At the time, she was making tea for herself and friends, but never thought it would morph into a business of its own.
The organic, pre-dosed tea bags come in three mixtures said to boost functionality, promote sleep, and help with pain relief and detoxification. Each bag contains seven milligrams of hemp-derived CBD, a nonintoxicating component of cannabis, and a handful of herbs, like gotu kola for brain function and horsetail for bone health.
Krispil launched Fleurs Tea right before performing at 4/20 in 2017. This year will be her third rapping at the festival but her first running a booth.
“Crowds give me anxiety, but I guess I’ll just have to deal with it,” she says, adding that last year instead of hosting a booth, she simply tossed packages of tea into the audience from the stage.
Krispil may not like crowds, but she is no stranger to performing for them. As both a solo artist and a member of Vancouver-based rap group the People North West (TPNW), she’s shared the stage with Kid Ink, Raekwon, and Ghostface Killah. This year, TPNW is opening for Bay Area rapper E-40.
If all you knew of the 25-year-old artist was derived from the arm’s-length identity that social media and music platforms allow, the bland background of a bustling chain coffee shop would be a stark contrast to Krispil’s persona: to fans, she’s a tattooed, sharp-tongued young rapper, usually smoking a joint, dancing, and dropping take-no-prisoners bars. In person, she’s astoundingly calm and easygoing, which explains how she can juggle so many different pursuits.
Krispil started recording in 2014 while living in Toronto but says she began her music career somewhat in denial. She attributes her shift into music to a “spiritual revelation” experienced during a trip to Israel the year prior and a chance encounter with a man, also travelling, who suggested she experiment with lyrics.
“I was a white girl from the suburbs. What did I have to say?” she says, laughing. “But we stayed up all night and wrote freestyle about our journeys. It was amazing.”
Since then, Krispil has had plenty to say. She has been dubbed one of the most exciting developing artists in Canadian hip-hop. Bouncing back and forth between Toronto and Vancouver, she capitalizes on the diversity of the East Coast music landscape and the mellowed-out insulator that is the West Coast. “The two cities have very different creative energy,” she says. “Vancouver is laid-back and focused at the same time, so the music has the natural chill style to it.”
Influenced by old-school reggae and artists like Erykah Badu, Gang Starr, and Biggie, she mastered a lyric-saturated style and laid it over a retro backdrop reminiscent of ’90s boom bap.
Her lyrics combine equal parts female empowerment and self-discovery, while metaphorically and often point-blank challenging the status quo of the male-dominated hip-hop industry.
For example, “Badangadang”, a single off her upcoming album, One Way Ticket, produced by Moxsa, is an in-your-face anthem for women making their way through the music industry. Mirroring feedback she’s received too many times, she writes: “I’ll let my rhymes do the talking, not the fact that I’m a chick.”
“I get ‘You’re good for a girl’ a lot,” she says, rolling her eyes. “They’re clearly trying to come from a good place, but it’s just not a smart thing to say.”
Weed is another theme that plays heavily into her persona. If she’s not smoking it or surrounded by people who are, she’s rapping about it.
“Cannabis removes blocks,” she says.
Raised in a conservative home by a Scottish Christian mother and a Moroccan Jewish father, Krispil still receives some pushback from her family, but explains her cannabis use as a tool for health and spirituality.
“It was hard channelling [creativity] from a higher source, whereas when I smoke weed I can just cut myself out and let it flow naturally,” she says.
Though she jokes about having an identity crisis at least once every few months, when she speaks about her work one message seems clear: cannabis and music help her pursue creative freedom, unrestrained by stereotypes.
When not redefining the concept of the modern female rapper, Krispil is pouring her efforts into expanding the Fleurs Tea brand and working as the social-media strategist for a local digital-marketing agency.
“You know when people say they’re busy, it means they’re really busy?” she says. “When I say I’m busy, it means I’ve blocked out time to chill in my bathtub with a joint.”
She laughs, but, much like the healing message behind her CBD-infused tea, the concept of self-care and reflection is undoubtedly one of her tricks for self-empowerment.