The City of Detroit has been plagued by plenty of unfortunate circumstances throughout history, large in part to race, economy and standard of living. Overtime jobs have become obsolete, drugs prevalent, and crime up through the roof. Many rappers who call Detroit home can attest to the brutal environment of growing up under such conditions.
Terry Wallace, famously know by his stage name Tee Grizzley, is a new rapper on the music scene. Grizzley has garnered major attention for his hit track “first day out” which reveals more about himself than many catch on.
Grizzley recalls growing up in an “underprivileged” childhood in the Joy Road neighborhood of Detroit. The household in which Grizzley was raised was abusive, and he recalls “a lot of drugs coming in and out of there.” After a while, the illegal activity caught up to his parents who spent sporadic stints in jail. Wallace remembers, “I was raised by my grandma, had aunties and sisters in the house,” Grizzley says. “So when I’m out running in the streets and I come [home], they got music blasting and it’s all R&B. Nineties R&B, ‘80s, 2000s, stuff like that.”
Expressing early interest in music, Tee was additionally impressed by how his uncles would leave to the studio and return with their recorded voices captured as art. Tee recalls, “I’m like, ‘That’s crazy. How y’all do that? Y’all really went to a real studio?’ And once I did it and heard my voice, I fell in love with it.”
Tee remembers being terrible at rap, and it wasn’t until the age of fourteen that he started taking it to the next level. His childhood friends JR, Lee and Po formed a group called AllStars Ball Hard and spend a great deal of time uploading their own music on YouTube.
His life came to a low point when in 2011 his mother was arrested for drug trafficking and sentenced to 15 years, and a year after his father was murdered. Tee reflects on it today and doesn’t point blame to anyone, “You’re gonna have people that either love you or hate you, and in the streets, the people that hate you are gonna want to kill you. It wasn’t for him necessarily, but the life he was living, you know… I’ll never question what God did. Whatever decision God make, I’m riding with it.”
Tee was know by many who knew him as a good kid, always steered out of trouble no matter what distractions came around him. The generation of family before him couldn’t even dream about the opportunity to attend college, but he persevered until he got accepted into Michigan State University’s College of Business, where he studied accounting and finance.
His good run would soon come to a close as he got arrested as a freshman in 2014. Going to college for somebody coming from a background like his was unheard of and he did what he had to to survive. The lack of resources was too much to handle, and the instincts of street took over his mind. Police reports from students at his college indicated that he and his friend Jeremey Christian Ford has stolen up to $10,000 in cash, as well as $10,000 in electronics.
Later that month, he was apprehended by police but released as a result of insufficient evidence as grounds for a warrant. He was told to remain in the county until the investigation had been completely finished. Scared, Grizzley left the state to Kentucky while the warrant was finalized and issued.
While on the run, Tee and a few Detroit accomplices robbed The Castle Jewelry in Lexington, Kentucky. As Grizzley and his associates were making an exit, the manager of the store pulled out a gun and demanded they stay down until the police showed up. The police then charged him with first-degree robbery in Kentucky, which was subsequently brought down to “theft by unlawful taking or disposition” and was sentenced to a total on nine months.
All of this occurred away from home, and upon being released, he was extradited to Ingham County in Michigan and charged with two counts of second-degree home invasion. Convicted on Feb. 3, 2015, he was given a sentence of 18 months in jail.
Tee spent the first part of his time in jail getting jumped, jumping people, and stealing from other inmates. Ultimately, Tee took a second to realize that he would have to go home eventually, and that it would have to be earned. He recalls, “So I started reading books, talking to people who had a head on their shoulders, sold my TV and just got a whole bunch of books. Started talking to old people, people who weren’t coming home, started figuring out what was important.” Terry took on the name Tee Grizzley in jail where he wrote his single “First Day Out”; once released he took his work to be recorded while in the same clothes he got arrested in. With the help of Joseph McFashion, YouTube, and 4sho magazine; Grizzley was able to rack millions of plays short after the release in November 7, 2016.
Tee Grizzley is an inspiration to anyone who feels out of place or trapped in life. Terry Wallace contributes to the notion that you are not your past, but your experiences are your future. Since his legal fallout, Tee has signed a deal with 300 Entertainment and has released his mixtape “My Moment” which dropped April 7th.