05/21/2014 02:36 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Rap Dream

Growing up, I had two life goals. The first was to own a half-dog, half-monkey that I would call a "donkey" (pronounced "dunky"). The second was to become a Grammy award-winning, multi-platinum rap star. Needless to say, I have failed on both accounts, rendering my life, so far, an abject failure. But while my dream of owning a donkey may be a biological impossibility, my rap dream lives on. So for all you record execs out there, reach for a tissue box -- This is my story.


In the summer of 1997, I bought the cassette tape of "No Way Out" by Puff Daddy and the Family. I don't know what drew me to the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy, but "No Way Out" was the first piece of music I'd ever owned, so it became special to me. The album spoke exclusively to the sensibilities of Asians with money-grubbing tunes ("It's All About the Benjamins"), internationalist flavor ("Been Around the World"), and slow, lispy talkers (Mase, who became my favorite member of the Family). It was also an added bonus that when Mase rapped about "living in tenements", "tenements" sounded an awful lot like "Tiananmen," which I used when arguing with my Chinese parents over the artistic merits of what they believed was devil music.

Despite my parents' objections, I started secretly collecting albums of rappers like Mase, B.I.G., Tupac, Jay-Z, and yes, even Ja Rule (he was big back then). I printed out lyrics and kept them in a 101 Dalmations folder, trying to cover my obsession as innocuously as I could. I'd spend hours reciting rap lyrics, huddled up with a Walkman and the Dalmations, channeling my no-good, big-time, gangsta self (rap name, Li'L T, with capital letters exactly like tHaT). Sure, I was a 12-year old Asian girl from the suburbs who had never been "shot at," but I had faithful dreams of rap stardom. I wasn't trying to be nobody's hero -- I just wanted to be heard.


In December 1997, I wrote a letter to the editors of NBA Inside Stuff. I asked the staff to kindly put me in touch with Penny Hardaway, Stephon Marbury and Grant Hill. I thought that once I developed a correspondence with my favorite basketball players, I could ask them to join my new rap venture, tentatively called The Chop Suey Bunch. My solo act as Li'L T was going nowhere: I'd penned a handful of songs, but I was getting very little traction outside my bedroom mirror. Thankfully, I'd become socially aware enough to understand that I couldn't pull off an Asian-girl-rapping act. I had to find someone else to "spit my rhymes" (if I couldn't rap, I had to make up for it by talking the talk).

I turned my attention to recruiting NBA stars to lend me their help. They could go on tour, perform my songs, and wear balloon pants in a strobe-light-filled music video. And honestly, why wouldn't they want to rap to these lyrics?

(The following are verses from actual raps I wrote. Keep in mind I was 12, and obviously really weird. Special thanks to my dad for keeping these computer files in a folder labeled "Teresa Raps".)

I look in my fridge / It's really kind of gross
Mold is growing on the bread / Like the kind on my toes
Oh there is a squeak / I know it's a mouse
They're always in the fridge / And all around my house
I hear a huge snort / Sounds like a person I know
But it's really my dog / His name is Joe Shmoe

I was born in Indiana / On May 26th I came out screaming
Everyone was happy / Everyone was beaming
'Cause I came into the world
'Cause I came into the world
Everyone was happy
'Cause I came into the world

As you can see, I had immense songwriting talent to match a burgeoning ego. But after months of waiting, I never heard back from NBA Inside Stuff, or any of the other outlets I'd reached out to (including The Source, VIBE and Dennis Rodman for some reason). The rejection was devastating. I had failed.


By the summer of 1999, my rap dreams were pretty much over. I'd just started high school, Mase had gone into retirement (to become a preacher?!), and a decidedly less gangsta boy band called N'Sync had become my new obsession. My experiment with rap looked merely like a passing phase, allowing my parents to finally exhale.

They should have known, though, that weird teenage phases never die. So even though I failed to achieve commercial success as a hip-hop star, now, more than fifteen years later, I still have an eerie recall of late-90s rap lyrics. And at times, I've even been able to use this talent for good. One night at a bar in Boston, after perfectly reciting the lyrics to Jay-Z's "Can I Get A", I finally got the validation I had longed to hear: "Girl, you are STREET!"

You best believe it, son.


For those who may still be doubting my rap abilitiez, I just want to leave you with this final song, written in January 1997. As of today, I'm still unsigned by the major record labels, but I know it won't be long.

I have a cat named Carrot-Top / Also a fish named Fanny
My lizard's name is Lizard / And also a rabbit named Granny
My parrot is named Bubba / My snake's name is Spence
My pig's name is Hamburger Bun / I got a frog for eighty cents

And just a note: I didn't have any pets growing up. See that creativity? Now that's what they call music.

Li'L T out.