Tucker Booth is a man of many talents.
It’s not often that you find someone in the golf community who’s won 12 freestyle rap battle championships in 4 different states.
Tucker is the host of Rappers Don’t Golf with Tucker Booth, an insightful podcast available on all of your favorite platforms. He also has a book that’s set to launch in 2022 called Quick Trip. Follow Tucker on Twitter and read his take on a variety of topics below.
DECEMBER 2022 UPDATE: Tucker and I recorded a podcast! You can listen below or read the email interview (which touches on some additional topics).
Interview with Tucker Booth
Me: You’re my kind of guy. Lots of random interests, a few hidden (or not so hidden talents) and with your podcast, a unique contribution to the world of golf — thanks for agreeing to an interview!
Let’s work in reverse here and start by talking about your podcast. When did you first get the idea for Rappers Don’t Golf with Tucker Booth? And how did you come up with the name?
Tucker: So I am a professional entertainer who has been a singer, guitarist and rapper since my youth.
In my twenties, I started an independent record label that was rock and hip hop out of St. Louis, Missouri, and became known in the St. Louis Metro area as one of the best freestyle battle rappers in city history. I’ve won twelve freestyle rap battle championships in four states, and I was the three time defending champion of the St. Louis Underground Music Festival aka S.L.U.M Fest. That created quite a following with rappers online, and right about that same time I started getting into golf.
As I kept tweeting and posting about golf, I had all these battle rappers come on going:
Why are you always talking about this golf shit, man? Rappers don’t golf. Where is the real hip hop man?
And after one particularly animated exchange with one of these rapper guys, I decided that was going to be my new hashtag #RappersDontGolf.
The pod itself is obviously a big melting pot of different guests, not just golf people. I interview a lot of media people, entertainment folks, musicians, comedians, but basically people that interest me. My guests are often journalists or media people that are telling the stories, because I like to hear the story behind the story. So that’s really what I feel like Rappers Don’t Golf with Tucker Booth is all about.
Me: You have some real roots in the music industry. Do you feel like those experiences made it easy to launch a podcast or have you been surprised by the learning curve?
Tucker: It absolutely helped, and granted it’s not just that I’ve been singing and performing on stage since I was in kindergarten, but also because I studied in school mass communications, journalism, public speaking, theater, improvisation and debate. So I do have an education in this. But was there a learning curve starting the podcast? Absolutely.
The learning curve was pretty extreme and mainly because I did not get into podcasting in order to try and gain sponsorship or mainstream popularity per se. I did it because I realized it was a really interesting side project for me to get to interview all these people that I admired and find ways to track them down and get them to come on the pod.
I also started podcasting as a networking tool. I’m trying to build a super network of like-minded entertainment folks, and this is the fastest way that I could find to get to meet these people, talk with them and get to know them on a somewhat deeper level. Once we have a connection, I keep them in my rolodex and offer my services to them in all the different ways that I know I can help. This has led to great business and collaborative opportunities including helping Lisa Cornwell, former Golf Channel broadcaster, write her memoirs. I am the co-author of her memoirs.
Me: So you’re about 45 episodes in with guests from a broad range of backgrounds. How do you choose your guests?
Tucker: I look on Twitter for people that are well-known and verified and offer something that fascinates me. Sometimes I’ll pursue guests that aren’t well-known, but the common link between all of my guests is that they need to have some sort of interesting angle on what I’d call life in general. This makes finding guests more complicated, but also more intriguing for me and hopefully for my listeners.
I’d say I’m mostly attracted to the folks I’d mentioned earlier, media folks, storytellers, artists, entertainers, funny people. I love hearing them because they always have so much to say and so much to share.
Me: What does your podcast preparation look like? Do you prefer to freelance or do you have a framework for each episode?
Tucker: So the preparation is mostly just making sure that the guest and I are simpatico on what we’re planning on doing. And what I plan on doing is having a very relaxed and unplanned conversation with them.
I do research my guests and premeditate on some ideas that I would love to get to, especially if the guest doesn’t have as much to say as some of the others do. But my basic approach is to get the guests going by asking them some questions about their upbringing, and then I just reflect off their answers. So my podcast is truly conversational. I do not come with a list of prepared questions, and often times I don’t even get to the topics I’ve thought about beforehand.
So the podcast is designed to feel like a natural conversation between two folks that are in the same general industry and getting to know one another. This format hopefully makes the listeners feel like they’re a part of that introductory conversation.
Me: I know this is subjective, but what are your three most interesting episodes so far?
Tucker: Boy, there’s been a lot of great episodes. I’d say three of the most interesting are:
Royce White, a former NBA player who was washed out of the NBA because of mental health issues and speaking out loudly about mental health awareness and also very critically about the NBA in a variety of ways. He criticized the NBA, not only for being negligent in their dealing with mental health issues, as far as with him and others, but also for supplying guests with alcohol late into the game, promoting drinking and driving. He really went on quite a fire-breathing rant for almost two hours with me. Very unfiltered, very politically conscientious. That was a fascinating conversation.
A couple of the other ones that come to mind…
I had Ben Schneiders, an Australian journalist who writes for the Sydney Morning Herald. He came on after he had done an explosive expose on the church of Scientology and how they are filtering hundreds of millions of dollars through Australia in order to avoid tax status. As a result of that article, Ben was aggressively harassed by the Church of Scientology. Pages went up online that attacked his character and those pages were linked back to the church by private investigators. He had people spooking him and messing with him on his home turf. That was a very eyebrow raising episode. Ben Schneiders was definitely a brave and eloquent guest, a very intriguing topic.
The last one I’ll go with is my friend Lisa Cornwell. Lisa was the focus of a Washington Post piece written by Ben Strauss. Ben, Lisa and Chelsea Kite (another former Golf Channel employee) all came on and talked about an investigative report that Ben had written with these ladies and other contributors. The piece covers a systemic history of gender discrimination, sexism, LGBTQ discrimination, and in their words, a misogynist toxic boys club culture that they allege still exists at the Golf Channel. That was two hours of explosive stuff and definitely worth a listen.
Me: Let’s shift away from podcasting and fly back in time to your childhood. How does Tucker Booth become the guy we know today? I know you were born in Portland but really find your roots in St. Louis. What did your time in St. Louis look like and how did you eventually find your way to music — specifically rap music?
Tucker: My journey to music started in Portland. My mom and dad were both musical people. My mom played the piano and sang my dad played flute and harmonica and sang. They both had done musical theater, so they trained me from birth to sing and dance and perform. And every holiday, when the family got together, we would get around the piano and I would sing and perform with all of my family.
My very first live performance in front of a large crowd was as a six year old in kindergarten. I dressed up in a teddy bear outfit and performed the Teddy Bear’s Picnic for a packed auditorium. And ever since that standing ovation on I’ve been hooked.
I mentioned earlier, I’ve been trained. I’ve taken years of acting lessons, voice lessons, piano, lessons, guitar lessons, et cetera, and know how to do all those things. But as far as how did I get into the rap? That did kind of start more in St. Louis.
When I was a teenager in my high school rock band, everyone would jam out and do solos. And when it came to the lead singer’s solo, I would start freestyling, uh, oftentimes kind of doing a combo of singing and rapping, but it eventually just turned into me ripping freestyle raps while they broke it down. And that led me to dig into more hip hop, and I got into a lot of the eighties and nineties hip hop stuff.
And around the late 90s in college, I made friends with a guy that ended up becoming my best friend. We even started a record label together. He was even more knowledgeable in rap than I was. He became a mentor and taught me all about the great classic rap that was out there. And he also helped me learn how to freestyle battle rap and became a coach / sparring partner who would go with me to these tournaments and compete as well. His name is Jonathan Toth, Toth from Hoth, aka J-Toth. You can find him online as well.
Me: Tell us about your first album. What did you learn from the experience?
Tucker: My very first album that I put out for the masses was a mix tape in 2003 from St. Louis called Tucker Booth Will Rap 4 Food. You can find that and a bunch of my other albums to freely stream or download on bandcamp. Will Rap 4 Food was a mix of studio recordings from all these different studios I’d been working with.
The album was a fusion of styles. I called it folk rap — so I’m playing an acoustic guitar, there’s hip hop beats, there’s DJs, there’s fusions of live music with samples, there’s singing and there’s rapping. But the main thing was it definitely had to sound like folk and rock and hip hop, all kind of boiled into one. It taught me how to hustle music on the street. It was a burnt CDR that I would sell out of my guitar case while I’d play for money in the street. I would sell it at the shows and it taught me how to be a salesman and it taught me how to promote myself in a far more direct hands-on way. So I am very grateful for that part of it to be sure.
The first album that really got successful was the second album, which is called Tucker Booth 4 President, which is also on that bandcamp link. That album became successful enough that I not only sold 5,000 copies of it, but I got articles / cover stories in the St. Louis newspapers that vouched for the album’s efficacy and awesomeness. Tucker Booth 4 President was voted one of the best albums of the year for underground rap in St. Louis back in 2004.
Me: You have a few albums under your belt, but it’s been a few years since you’ve released an album. Is there a song that you still really want the world to hear?
Tucker: Well, I would say more than one.
I did quietly privately release a new album on YouTube over the shutdown, which I wrote, which is the first new rap and hip hop stuff I’ve done in almost seven years. It’s called Sociopaths a Comedy. The song I’d most like the world to hear is called Invisible Enemy. It is the opening track on Sociopaths. It features the hilarious JL Cauvin, otherwise known as the world’s very best Trump impersonator and an extremely funny standup comic. It is a meditation on sociopathy, gaslighting — especially as it pertains to COVID and the madness that went on at the beginning of the shutdown.
Me: Do you think it’s easier to be a musician in 2021 or back when you started?
Tucker: I think the answer is it’s never been easy and it never will be.
I don’t think it’s any easier now than when I started mainly because there wasn’t as much internet and social media. When I got crackin’ the early 2000s, you were able to stand out a bit more than now when everybody’s got a SoundCloud, a bandcamp, a YouTube and a Spotify.
However, I don’t think it makes it much easier to gain followings per se. I know some people feel like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram help their reach, but you’ve got to know how to work those media platforms, just as well as you need to know how to work your musical craft. So, the people that succeed on there aren’t always the most talented, they’re the ones that are best at going beast mode on the internet.
So no, I don’t know if it’s any easier now. Uh, definitely think back then, it might’ve been just a tad bit easier, but honestly, I don’t think it’s ever been easy and it probably never will.
Me: Again, I was drawn to your work because I really enjoy people who don’t fit into a predictable box. You host a unique podcast, you’ve won rap battles, you’ve written a book and you’re connected to the sport of golf. What’s your connection to the game? Do you play often?
Tucker: I started picking up the game right around the time that I became a new father and while I was still doing all the rap and the battles and everything.
I got drawn to golf because of Tiger Woods, just like all the other people my age (I’m 42). I loved watching Tiger — I thought he was so exciting and I wanted to pick up a club and attempt to do what he did. I’m an athlete. I’ve always enjoyed athletic pursuits, but golf, it intimidated me just because of how hard it looked.
As I’ve gone through the last 12 years of trying to pick up the game, it still alludes me entirely. I am, self-admittedly, a terrible golfer…probably one of the worst I’ve ever known. The one thing that connects me to the game was right at the time when I was starting to learn and my son was born, I would stick a little plastic Snoopy club in his hands so when I’d go out to try and hit practice balls at the park, he’d have something to do with me. He instantly surpassed me and is now an 11 year old with an amazing swing. He’s shown great promise with golf and has learned to love it on a much deeper level than me. He is already talking about a college scholarship. Though I suffer no illusions that I’ll ever be a great golfer, I am rooting for my son and believe that he has the potential to pay for his college education as a result of his golf swing.
I do love watching the pros. Now that I know a lot of these people in the Golf Channel world — the broadcasters and whatnot — I love watching not just to see the players, but also to hear the announcers and the commentators who are friends, so I definitely feel connected that way.
The most connected I feel to any of the pros though is not only to Lisa Cornwell, but to my friend, Sarah Kemp, who is a pro on the LPGA and absolutely my favorite golfer friend as a human being always pulling for Sarah, she’s been doing very well lately. She took 18th place in the Evian over in France and took 8th place last week in Ireland, so go Sarah Kemp! She’s definitely keeping me watching every week.
Me: Do you get the sense that golf is growing in popularity? Why or why not?
Tucker: I get the sense that it seems just to go up and down a bit. Right now, it seems to be in a down swoop. I attribute that to the Tiger Woods’ effect. When Tiger’s playing more eyeballs are on the game. We don’t have a superstar of his magnitude on the PGA right now. Phil Mickelson winning the PGA championship probably helps cause he’s the biggest superstar besides Tiger, in my opinion, and him coming back into prominence may help bring some of the older fans back to the game.
But as far as young fans growing the game, et cetera, I just don’t think these new stars are enigmatic enough and exciting enough to people that aren’t already golf fans. Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, and people like that are just too polarizing with their cockiness. Even Rory McIlroy, it’s not necessarily that he’s cocky, but just that his personality isn’t that endearing to the viewers. He’s not sensational enough, meaning just that he has that enigmatic presence about him.
I think Collin Morikawa has a chance to be a player like this for a younger generation, so the jury’s out still, but we’ll see how Morikawa does.
Me: If you were the sports czar, are there changes you would make to the game?
Tucker: The only real change I would make to golf is getting away from this idea of anyone needing to feel excluded, for any reason.
I know there will always be private clubs and I’m not one of these people that says we need to shut them down, but private clubs should be the place where people have to follow extensive arbitrary rules. I think public golf courses and golf instructors who are teaching the game to people who want to learn just for the love of the game should teach people to play the game however they like.
I mean, obviously there are simple rules that we’ll all continue to follow, like counting your strokes and whatnot. But I also don’t think that even a scorecard is necessary. I think lots of people play golf just to go out there and experience the ambience and get the exercise or to spend time with their friends and loved ones.
I think golf should be promoted more as an opportunity to have fun and find your own unique sense of the game and how you like to play it, instead of making it an etiquette thing. Focusing on the dress code stuff and all the rules within the game intimidate the average person from getting deeper into it.
Me: My website specifically focuses on par 3 and executive golf courses. Do you have any short courses near you? If so, have you played them?
Tucker: I have to say I almost only play short courses, because my game is so terrible that playing a long course is just a slow, painful slog through hell.
There are great short courses around our neighborhood. The Lakes at El Segundo (which just closed, rest in peace) was where I not only took my first golf lesson and learned to play, but also where my son learned to play. It’s known for being one of the short courses that Fred Couples worked on for his short game and was also the home course for Bill Wright, who is the very first African-American to ever win a PGA sponsored event, uh, ever. He won the greater Seattle amateur in 1959 and he was an early mentor to me and helped me with my game.
I also have to give love to Westchester Public Golf Course. It’s not exclusively a par 3, but over half their holes are par 3s. And I’ll give love to Alondra Park Golf Course, which has a nice par 3 that my son and I have used as a practice course over the years.
Me: Let’s end with a lighting round.
Favorite golfer? We’ll go Tiger, Ricky Fowler (and that’s it not just mine, but my wife and son love Ricky, so we all pull Ricky) and Bubba Watson. If I had to pick one, I’ll just say Tiger.
Favorite NBA player? There’s an old answer and a new answer. When I was a kid, it was Clyde Drexler. I’ve got a lot of family from Portland, Oregon and Clyde the Glide was my early hero as I grew up. When I moved to the Los Angeles area I became a huge fan of Kobe Bryant, and I have been a fan of LeBron James ever since he was drafted, so I’ll go with those three.
Clyde early on, Kobe in his prime and LeBron today.
Greatest rapper ever? Me, by a mile. No. I’ll go with MF doom. Not a name everybody knows, but a legend and someone Wu Tang Clan or any of the other greats will tell you is their hero. MF doom, who just passed away this year, has to be my pick for greatest rapper of all time.
If we’re talking mainstream, it’s gotta be Tupac Shakur. Don’t even really think it’s close.
Best thing about living in California? I would say obviously the sunshine and the beautiful weather and in general, the wonderful, tolerant, beautiful people that are out here. I know we get painted as being this utterly blue, liberal, doofus state, but we’re not. I’d say we’re almost 50, 50 as far as political views and whatnot. It feels like a real purple state with a lot of tolerance and a lot of coexisting, so I’ll say the beautiful weather and then the beautiful tolerant people.
When will we be able to read your book, Quick Trip? The book was written over the duration of the COVID shutdown. It’s an epic bio biographical recounting of 25 years of my life that includes a trip that I took during the shutdown, trying to find myself.
As far as when Quick Trip will be available for public consumption, the answer is yet to be determined. However, I can say that I have finished the rough draft and that I’ve already had editors working with me on it. I’ve just brought in some new editors that I’m very excited about as well. I would imagine the book will be ready for people to read by early 2022.