Tee Grizzley Talks Chart Success and Inspiration of 'First Day Out': 'Rap Was All I Had'

Bobbi Digital
Tee Grizzley

Detroit native Tee Grizzley released his latest hit "First Day Out" on his debut mixtape My Moment, which arrived in April. The chart-climbing track marked the rapper's Hot 100 debut, where it currently sits at No. 67, and has also risen up the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Rap Airplay and R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts.

Tee spoke with Billboard about what inspired the personal lyrics to his song, who he would love to collaborate with and more.

Billboard: “First Day Out” was released a few days after your three-year prison stint for home invasion ended. Why did you write it?

Tee Grizzley: It was my first day out of prison, and I felt like rap was all I had. I knew I had to give it my all and tell my story. I think my genre is more “reality rap”; I talk about my life and the struggles that I’ve been through.

How did you find out “First Day Out” had cracked the Billboard Hot 100?

Somebody sent me a picture of [the chart] to say “Congratulations,” and I thought it was fake. I’m like, “I’m not on the Billboard Hot 100, what are they talking about?” I downloaded the app on my phone, and once I saw I was on there, I said, “I’ve got to keep this app, because [there’s] no telling what’s going to happen.”

How does it feel to represent Detroit on the charts?

It feels good because coming from Detroit is really unheard of, people don't even mention Billboard because it seems so impossible to get on [the Hot 100]. So for me to be on there, it's a real accomplishment for my city. 

Do you have any requirements for your in-the-works debut album, which is due out this fall?

I’m never going to make an album that has [featured artists]. I am going to make singles with other artists and put those out there -- I’d love to work with Bruno Mars, Drake, Kendrick Lamar. But when somebody buys a Tee Grizzley album, all they’re going to hear is Tee Grizzley.

Recently, following his U.S. tour, Tee released the video for "Catch It" -- also off My Moment. Watch below.

This article originally appeared in the June 3 issue of Billboard.