Gabriel Teodros (born 1981), is a hip hop artist and a member of the groups Abyssinian Creole and CopperWire. He is of Ethiopian, Scottish, Irish and Native American descent, and was raised on Beacon Hill, Seattle, Washington. Teodros' music often features socially conscious themes, and he was a catalyst in the surge of dynamic underground rap acts from the Pacific Northwest during the first decade of the 2000s.
Born and raised in Seattle, Washington to an Ethiopian mother and a father of Scottish, Irish and Native American descent. His parents met through anti-war organizing in the 1970s, and they split up around the time Gabriel was born. He stayed with his mother, where he met grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins as they first emigrated to the United States and all stayed in the same house.
His relationship with hip hop culture began at a young age within the South Seattle neighborhood of Beacon Hill. "A lot of kids in my neighborhood were affected by gang culture. And I kind of had a death wish. I felt like, at an early age, that I wasn't going to live to 21" he said in an interview with Sheeko Magazine. He spent his high school years in Las Vegas, Nevada where as one out of approximately 30 students of color in a predominantly white school, something within him changed. "It was the first time I understood that there was a system in place that wanted kids like me to want to die. And understanding that in high school made me want to live." he says in the same interview. The former breakdancer, graffiti writer and closet-emcee finally began to take his career path seriously at age 16, using hip hop to both understand and explain his world.
1999-2005: Beginnings and Abyssinian Creole:
Teodros began his musical career around 1999, when he returned to Seattle and began working with a live band called 500 Years. That same year, he met an MC named Khalil Crisis (better known as Khingz), from the group Maroon Colony. The 2 groups began sharing bills together all over Seattle and the 2 MC's also began working with a community organization called Youth Undoing Institutionalized Racism. In 2001, YUIR sent them to a conference in New Orleans, and it was there that Teodros and Khingz saw how much they had in common outside of music. They formed the group Abyssinian Creole to both represent their peoples and the bridges between them.
Also in 2001, Teodros released his first solo album entitled Sun To A Recycled Soul.
In 2005, Abyssinian Creole released its debut album, Sexy Beast, a record that gives expression to the post-1990s cosmopolitanism thriving in South Seattle. The album's featured guests include Moka Only, Geologic of Blue Scholars and Macklemore. What Sexy Beast made apparent was the diversity of Northwest hiphop: It can come from anywhere (East Africa, Haiti) and be about anything (love, immigration, meditation).
In the spring of 2006, Teodros completed the entire Lovework album with producer Amos Miller, around the same time MassLine Media was being formed with Teodros, Blue Scholars & Common Market.Lovework had additional beat contributions from Sabzi of Blue Scholars, Moka Only, Kitone, and Specs One. Its sound was primarily influenced by Seattle veteran Vitamin D (who also mixed the record) and the late J Dilla. The album title, Lovework was inspired by bell hooks and her book All About Love: New Visions, where hooks insists that to truly know love, one must agree that love is a verb. She goes further to say to truly know love, one must work to undo every system of domination that stops people from truly loving. The title was also inspired by a quote from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet where Gibran says "Work is love made visible".
Also in 2006, Good Medicine was formed: a four-person group composed of Teodros, Khingz, Macklemore and Geologic of Blue Scholars. Good Medicine have headlined a handful of shows in the Seattle area but have never released any music as a group. Towards the end of that year, Teodros independently released a mix-tape/CD entitled Westlake: Class of 1999, which was a collection of his unreleased songs recorded in 4 different cities between the years 2002-2006.
The Lovework album was released February 27, 2007 on MassLine, to critical acclaim. The album topped the CMJ Hip Hop charts for 2 weeks and came in at #19 for the year 2007. This year Teodros was also named as one of URB Magazine's "Next 100".
2009-2010: Air 2 A Bird and GT's Ethiopium:
In the fall of 2009, after being deported from the London-Heathrow Airport and having to cancel a European tour, Teodros found himself in a Brooklyn, NY recording studio with Lovework producer Amos Miller. They spent 2 weeks together crafting a 12 track album produced using mostly GarageBand, a piano, and the recordings of actual birds. The end result was Air 2 A Bird's Crow Hill, released independently in the summer of 2010.
In December 2009, Teodros released GT's Ethiopium: A Jitter Generation Mixtape. This release shined a light on the realities of Ethiopia, touched on America's own imperfections & stressed the importance of exploring one's own intelligence and spirituality. It was made completely using instrumentals from Oh No's Ethiopium, which was made completely using old-school and rare samples of Ethiopian music.
2012-Present: Colored People's Time Machine and CopperWire:
In January 2012, Teodros released Colored People's Time Machine, his first full-length solo album since Lovework.Colored People's Time Machine was recorded in Seattle and Brooklyn and is a multi-lingual, multi-genre album that featured vocal, instrumental, and production collaborations with 20 different artists. On it, he explored themes of love (Goodnight, a brief interlude on a long-distance relationship), cultural identity (Blossoms of Fire), personal identity (Alien Native, a biographical tale), the concept of home (Diaspora and Beit), loss (Ella Mable Bright, a tribute to his grandmother featuring Meklit Hadero), music (Colored People's Time Machine, and Sun and Breeze, also featuring Meklit Hadero and Amos Miller), and the music industry (You A Star, on which he warns about the pitfalls of the industry and the danger of buying into the illusion of stardom). Other guests on the album include Mexico City's Bocafloja, Los Angeles emcee SKIM, and Palestinian wordsmith Sabreena Da Witch.
On April 17, 2012, CopperWire's debut album Earthbound was released on Porto Franco Records. CopperWire is a group composed of Teodros, Meklit Hadero and Burntface. All three celebrate their Ethiopian ancestry on the album, but do so through the characters of galactic fugitives aboard a hijacked starship.Earthbound's story, as described in liner notes by award-winning science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor, casts CopperWire members as characters that journey to Earth in the year 2089 to learn what it means to be human. They include mad scientist Scholar Black (Burntface), alien-human hybrid Getazia (Gabriel Teodros) and interstellar telepath Ko Ai (Meklit Hadero). The album uses metaphors of intergalactic distances to talk about diaspora and cultural connection and disconnection. The album also uses sonified light curves (that is the sound of stars, processed through Fourier analysis into frequencies that can be heard by humans) courtesy of SETI Institute researcher & NASA Kepler Labs analyst Jon Jenkins.
Touring and other work:
Teodros leads writing workshops with youth, has helped spearhead after-school programs, and organizes all-ages events.
He was also a founding DJ for Zulu Radio on KBCS 91.3 FM.
As a part of Abyssinian Creole, Teodros performed alongside Khingz at the Under the Volcano Festival in North Vancouver, BC in 2003, 2004 and 2009.
Teodros performed at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, WA in 2006 (with Abyssinian Creole), 2007 (as a solo artist, and with Good Medicine), and in 2010 (with Air 2 A Bird).
In 2007, Teodros toured the Western part of the United States with Blue Scholars and Common Market, for the first and only MassLine Tour. Also in 2007, Teodros performed at the Sasquatch! Music Festival, which was headlined by Björk, and also featured Manu Chao and Ozomatli. Teodros also performed at the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival in Hartford, CT in 2007 (as a solo artist), and in 2008 (as a part of Abyssinian Creole).
In the Summer of 2009, Teodros toured in Mexico with Bocafloja, Eternia and Para La Gente.
In 2011, Teodros toured Ethiopia alongside Meklit Hadero and Burntface, where they did 12 shows including the first Hip Hop shows to ever happen in the cities of Harar and Gondar. He recorded an album in Washington, DC inspired by the experience, that was released in May 2014
In November 2012, Teodros did a TED Talk about Hip Hop and Science Fiction, at TEDxRainier in Seattle, WA.
Teodros has also performed in the United States alongside the likes of Lupe Fiasco,Black Star,K'naan,Zap Mama, Fishbone, KRS-One and The Coup.