Im Gespräch mit Bronx-Rapper T.O.N.E.-Z, Bruder von T La Rock und Special K: über Rapmusik im Wandel der Zeit, geplatzte Verträge, neue Träume, Juggalos und europäische Beatmacher.
How you doin’ T.O.N.E-Z?
I’m excellent homie, feeling good.
I was asking myself about the meaning of your name – can you help me out?
The name is T.O.N.E-Z, it stands for T-he O-ne No-one E-xpected. I used to go by the name Style when I was signed to Select Records back in the 90’s.
Speaking of the 90’s, you’ve been in the rapgame for quite some time now. Do you remember your first time rapping?
Yeah I’ve been in the game for a minute now, but I started rapping when I was like 9 years old.
Still got that on tape?
Not the first stuff I did, but Mick Nice has a lot of early demos I recorded.
So speaking of the good old times, you always give respect to the beginnings of the Hip Hop culture and the pioneers of rap like for example in your track “Rule Hip Hop”. What are your memories of those times some call the golden era of rap?
Well I have to give respect to the originators like my brothers T La Rock and Special K from Treacherous 3 because if it weren’t for them there would be no us! Most of these clowns nowadays don’t give credit or respect to the pioneers, and that’s why they never last long.
What has changed since then and what’s missing right now?
Well what has changed is of course the style of writing and the subject matter and of course technology. There’s no love for the art anymore, no passion or respect for the art. So what’s missing is passion, creativity, lyricism, great subject matter, respect, honor and loyalty. Add all of those into the pot and things might look better but it depends on the artist if he or she is willing to make the adjustment.
You already mentioned your special connection to some of those rap veterans in your family…
My older brothers are T La Rock (“It’s Yours” – first artist on Def Jam) and Special K of Treachrous 3. Growing up around them was like growing up around Smokey Robinson or Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder or even Sam Cooke! They were rapping before most people knew or understood what it was, so just think man I grew up around legends! And I also learned a lot from both of them. I’m like Luke Skywalker receiving the force from 2 Obie One’s!
It seems like you are not making a big deal of those connections on wax?
Yes I do but most people in this industry don’t even know or understand what it means to have two powerful forces in hip hop as my brothers, so when I mention it they act like they don’t care, but I still let people know…they influenced me very much.
Did you ever do a record together with your brothers? I would love the idea of putting together some kind of family album…
Well me and T (T La Rock) recorded a few songs before, but all of us never did. I’d like to but its harder than it looks. *laughs* Maybe one day it’ll happen.
But your brothers are still rapping?
T La Rock records form time to time, Special K I’m not sure.
Back to your solo career, you did an album together with Mick Nice back in 1990 (Style – In Tone We trust) on Select Records. Why don’t you still work together with Mick?
I do work with Mick Nice, that’s my brother from another mother, my homie for life. He doesn’t really DJ anymore but he designed my website. He does graphic design now, and he’s excellent at it he works with the top dogs in this business so he’s straight.
Back then you got some famous labelmates like Chubb Rock, Kid’N Play, Red Hot Lover Tone etc. and things were doing well. So why didn’t you release a second album on Select Records?
Me and Hollywood (Hollywood Impact) were working on a new album, but Select Records tried to get to cut my album budget in half, it was for 100.000 dollars and back then that was unheard of.. But that’s the deal they agreed to, so they tried to get me to agree to cut it in half because fro their penny pinching. Also me and my production company owned our publishing and Select wanted full control, so they tried to get some of those corny ass rappers on the label to help write my next album because they owed their publishing (the other rappers). I’ll rap circles around those other rappers and burry them lyrically so I thought it was funny. Plus Select Records took a major loss with the millions they put behind Kid N Play’s new albums and they all flopped so I guess they were cutting corners. But me and Fred (president of Select Records) remain friends, he’s a cool dude plus his label did give me my big break, I actually signed with Motown first but that didn’t work out.
The next time I heard of you was on your 2005 solo album “The One No-one Expected”. What did you do all the time between those two albums?
If I told you that I’d be arrested… *laughs*
You did not rap in those times? That’s hard to believe, since you are so deep in this thing called rapping…
I was still recording but never released anything.
Okay, let’s leave the old times behind. I remember 1 or 2 years ago when someone posted on our message board that you were going to release an EP titled “Heisser Scheiss”. What is the story behind that title?
That EP was a little project I released with a small indie called Rydas Records, kool ass dude ran that label and he helped me get into the market I’m in now. The wicked underground were you have some big artists and some very talented rappers such as, Tech N9ne, Twiztid, ICP, KMK, Loke and Myzery, the list goes on. So much love and respect to Rydas Records, Lokey, Mission Infect, Jason Porter, Fury, Kyrptik, Menacide, Intrinzik!
But it is quite unusual selling records in the States with a german title?
That was actually the idea of my boys wife who is German. I was looking for a unique title and she just screamed it out and I was like perfect!
Do you have any other connections to Germany?
Yes, one of my producer Psycrobeats he’s in Germany, he produced on the EP and on my new album. He is incredibly talented and a good friend, other than that just a lot of fans who show me incredible love. I’d like to release my album on a label out there but I have no connections. Germany is the best!
You just mentioned your work with some foreign artists as there are some more like for example on your track “This Is For” (ft. Geist from Germany) and with people from the UK (Anai). What was the motivation for you working together with not only US artists?
Most USA artists are all about money, which is fine, it’s cool with me, but the UK artists are more into the music plus they show me a lot of love and respect my craft, only the underground artists in the USA understand the love and respect for Hip Hop so I work well with them. As far as the bigger names I respect their hustle but there’s no respect for the culture.
Speaking of versatility and influences, you also did a couple of tracks together with some so called horrorcore rappers like Myzery, Intrinzik or Jason Porter. Can we expect more of this in the future?
Yes you will, the horrorcore/wickid/underground is a great market, they don’t care about radio play, MTV and there’s really no politics. Plus it’s just like early Hip Hop “used” to be so I love it and nuff respect to all the Juggalos!
Let’s talk about your new record. After releasing some EP’s and mixtapes in the last couple of years your new album “The Book of T.O.N.E.-Z Vol. 1″ hits the stores very soon. What can you tell us about it?
I know, I know. How long have you been working to bring this album out and how does it differ from your last one?
It only took me like 3 days, and it’s much more focused and the tracks are incredible!
You always do very personal tracks like “Fake Ass Friends”, can we expect something like this from your new album as well?
“Fake Ass Friends” is on the album with a better mix, my boy Fury loves that track so much he influenced me to re-release it on the album, and yes there’ll be 3 other tracks like that on the album.
Who did the beats for the album?
Inzane, Sirvo, Macadobeats, Psycrobeats from Germany, Puzzle from Romania, PMC from Switzerland, Darkeones from Denmark, BadAbbot, Mystary and Clockworkbeats. All incredible producers!!
That’s a long ass list, wow. But one of the first things I noticed was that there are no features on your album, quite unusual right now. Didn’t you want to have any feature artists?
Nope, every rapper always have a million guests on their album so it’s really not their album, it’s more like a compilation album. But my next album will have a few, this album is called “Book Of T.O.N.E-z” so it’s about me and no one can represent me but me.
Is there a closed concept for the album like a book with a story from the beginning to the end?
In a way yes.
Let us know…
When people buy the album they’ll understand the concept. *laughs*
You already released the album in a digital format. Do you think this will be the future, releasing albums as MP3’s only?
Unfortunately yes, thanks to I-Pods and all the mp3 players, but that’s why I love the underground because they loves CD’s, artwork and getting a signed copy but I sell more digitally so money wise it’s better.
Because of the title “The Book of T.O.N.E-Z Volume I” I guess there will be a Volume 2?
Yes Sir, already working on it.
Any other plans for new records in the near future?
I have 3 albums I’m releasing and one EP and then I’m done.
Done? You mean quitting the rap game, buying a farm and living in peace with your wife till the end of the world?
*laughs* Something like that yes, but no farm. But I’ll slow down on recording and help develop new rappers.
Is there a chance to get to see you in Germany in the near future?
Of course there is I’d love to go there I get so much love from there.
So there is one last question I have: What are your top ten rap albums of all time?
1. Run Dmc’s frist album, LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out, Beastie Boys – Licence To Ill, Eric B & Rakim – Follow The Leader, BDP – By All Means Necessary, Public Enemy – Take A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, Nas – Illmatic, De La Soul – 3 Feet High And Rising, NWA – Straight Out Of Compton, Dr.Dre – The Chronic and Eminem’s Marshal Mathers LP.
I expected at least one of your brothers records on that list. But anyway, thanks for your answers T.O.N.E-Z, any last words for your fans?
Yes I am the BEST, I may not be the biggest but I am the best! Respect my skills and my passion, God is great and he has sent me to make incredible music and great albums, God don’t like ugly and I’m handsome! Much love and respect to all my friends and fans. Fix ya lense and get focused! Buy the new album, you will not be disappointed! And of course: Thank You for allowing me to do this interview and to all the people in Germany: I love y’all!