With all the big name musicians coming to Penn State this fall, we want to highlight some of the smaller, local acts around State College. This week, we talk to local rapper Tony Black, who just dropped his latest video with Genuinezo called “Rolling”. With a wide range of styles and influences, Tony looks to take over the State College rap scene. Check out his new video here, and keep reading for our latest installment of Ten Questions.
Onward State: Give us some basic info about yourself.
Tony Black: My name is Tony Black, and I’m from California — the bay area to be exact, in a town called Hayward/Union City. I’m a sophomore, public relations major at Penn State, and a rapper. I won the THON’s Got Talent competition last year, and got the opportunity to perform at THON. I have three dogs. Also I’m a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
OS: How would you describe your music, in your own words?
TB: Honest, in the simplest terms. I won’t lie in any song. You won’t hear me talk about “gangster shit” (my parents would kill me). I like to keep my material current, and make it relevant to anyone who keeps up with pop culture. It keeps me in the loop, and keeps the audience listening. My music is also energetic. When performing, I’ll spend a lot of time running around the stage, and not rapping because I’m out of breath.
OS: Tell us about your latest project.
TB: I just dropped a mixtape, Little People, Big Dreams (http://tonyblack.bandcamp.com/), in July 2012. It would have been up sooner, but I’m retarded when it comes to computer stuff. I’m already working on another mixtape called Keep The Buzz Going. I’m always working on music, dropping singles here and there.
OS: What goes into your songwriting process?
TB: It really depends on the song. Last year, a lot of times I would write music after getting back from parties (I won’t say I was or wasn’t intoxicated), and talk about what I just saw. Sometimes I think of lines while walking to class, and piece them together later. I also write based on what I visualize for a music video. It makes the songs more relatable and connected to the video.
OS: What first got you into rap?
TB: The first album I ever bought was Beware of Dog by Lil’ Bow Wow, back in 2000. Next was probably Lil’ Romeo. I started out back in high school by getting involved in acting, and the speech and debate club. Sophomore year, I made the state finals in speech and debate. Senior year, I won a national championship. I started writing my own pieces for speech and debate, and creative writing started building from there. I got into writing poetry. In a hotel room at the nationals, my friends and I started rapping over a beat for the first time. My dad said if I work on it, and want to do this with my life, he would invest in it. Ever since then, I’ve been working towards a serious music career. Two days before coming to Penn State, I recorded my first song, “That Girl (Hips and Thighs)”
OS: Where do you get inspiration from (in terms of lyrics, as well as beats/production)?
TB: Influence-wise, I’d like to say that I’m not influenced, but no one can. I like Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, Logic, and Drake. I listen to everything. Besides rap, I listen to Coldplay, The Fray, Mumford and Sons — really anything. I’ve learned that If I always listen to rap, I’ll become what I listen to. I’ll never be a part of Mumford and Sons (I don’t play banjo), but I may be able to grab a small slice of their sound and put it into my music. This allows me to branch out and avoid sticking to one repetitive sound.
OS: Who are you trying to reach with your music?
TB: Everyone — different songs reach different people. I like to branch out as much as possible. My dad’s friends like songs with old-school rap beats. I also have beats produced by house DJ’s like Lunice for the younger crowd, and even some dubstep beats. No one likes every single track on an album, so I try to get at least a few people to relate to each song.
OS: Do you perform on/off campus? How often?
TB: I haven’t really explored performing around State College too much. I’ve performed once at my frat, once for Babba Sparxx at Williamsport, and at THON last year. I’m trying to do a Sig Ep college tour this year too. My favorite place was probably at my frat. Lots of energy.
OS: What are your long-term aspirations?
TB: I want to do music full-time. I know everyone says it’s hard, but I think they’re misinterpreting the definition of success. I don’t want to be the next Jay-Z (I would if I could), but I want to make enough to support myself. If I could, I would own my own business and rap at the same time.
10. What are your favorite and least favorite things about playing music/the industry?
TB: My least favorite thing is the money behind it. You can’t do anything if you don’t have the money to get into the business. My favorite thing is being able to connect with people who listen to my music. It feels good to know that I’m helping people get through the day.