EB Rebel will be the first to admit she's still new to the rap game. Until a few years ago, the real-life Ebonie Tave was on the fast track to law school, but thanks to the combination of a floundering economy, shortage of jobs in law and an overwhelming urge to create, EB put her legal dreams on hold to focus on her music. She seems to have adjusted pretty well, as one of her tracks, “Don’t Care,” was picked by BET filmmakers to be featured in their documentary Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement, which was released last month.
Raised in Dallas by her mother, who is also an artist, the ambitious young rapper says she’s been using writing as a creative and emotional outlet ever since she was a child.
“I’m an only child, so I had a lot of free time,” EB says. “It left a lot of time to imagine things, and that’s when I started writing; family issues, you know, writing was an outlet for that.”
After graduating from Texas Woman’s University in 2012 with a degree in legal studies, EB struggled to find employment. She turned to music for an outlet — and this time, she tried something new. “I started producing,” EB says. “I had always written, and I wrote songs, but I never went to a studio and recorded them in the traditional sense. So, I started messing around with Logic [Pro] on my MacBook and started getting into producing and learning how to play music and learning song structure.”
Eight months later she moved to San Antonio for a job and remained there for about a year and a half. The solitude that comes with moving to a new place seemed to bolster the young artist’s creative drive. “When I moved to San Antonio, that was when I did a bulk of the writing on the mixtape [Rebel With A Cause]," EB says. “I did all the writing during that time. That transition of going to a new place and finding new friends — a lot of time was spent alone, so I channeled that into that particular project.”
She was soon back in Dallas, eager to develop herself as an artist. “Once I got it in my mind that I was going to start doing this, I started doing research, like, who’s poppin’ in the city, basically.”
She focused her energy on going to shows, networking and searching for local artists and creatives who were making the kind of art she aimed to produce. Eventually, she stumbled across X, the Misfit’s SoundCloud, and was completely in awe. “I started hearing all of these weird beats and I’m like, ‘Man, I need to start working with this guy.’ He has a totally different sound than anybody in the city — it’s darker, which is kind of what I’m into.” The two finally met at the 2014 Dallas Observer Music Awards Showcase and soon began to collaborate.
Around that time, EB became inspired to respond to the high-profile police brutality cases, specifically the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and penned the track “Don’t Care."
“It’s funny because I worked on it for close to a year,” EB says. “As time went by I’m like, ‘Is this even going to be relevant anymore? But, unfortunately, it’s not something that’s going to die. Because after that happened [the death of Eric Garner], then Mike Brown, and so on and so forth.”
Co-produced by X, the Misfit and EB herself, all “Don’t Care” needed was a visual — and that’s where local creative Jeremy Biggers came in. “I like what she is doing," Biggers says. "I like that in an era where it’s easy to go the 'nursery rhyme/chant' rapper route, she’s one of the artists using the platform to discuss things that are actually important.”
After its premiere on Central Track last month, the video for "Don't Care" was picked up by AfroPunk. About a week later she received an email that would change everything. “I got an email from BET saying they loved the song and wanted to use the song in a documentary.” EB recalls.
This wasn’t just any documentary. Stay Woke was directed by award-winning director Laurens Grant, produced by actor/activist Jesse Williams and aims to highlight the facts surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. “It sounded a little too good to be true," EB admits. "But then they told me what it was about, [and] I was like, ‘Yeah, of course.’ I mean, this song was literally written about that.”
EB has already moved onto the next project. She’s putting the finishing touches on her upcoming, five-track EP Trance and prepping to drop her next video. “I named it [Trance] just because the issues that I’m talking about on here makes me feel that way at times,” EB says. “So, a lot of the issues, which are social-cultural issues, I wanted to do something that spoke to young adults.”
EB's focus is on making music that perfectly blends social and cultural issues with her distinctively addictive vocals and sharp, commanding beats. “[I’m just] trying to make music that does have a message, but is still secular sounding,” EB says. “Not so boom bap sounding, like a lot of conscious music can sound. That’s kind of what I want my legacy to be as an artist, is making message-driven music, but still sounds good to where kids want to dance to it or bump it in their cars — even if they’re not necessarily listening to the lyrics until later.”
Ever the artist, impulsively searching for her next inspiration, EB is set to move to New York at the end of the month. “I just want to go there and create,” EB says. “One of my close friends just moved there. She’s a photographer. She’s willing to dive in, head-first, as far as her art goes. So, hey, here we go.”