Published on July 12th, 2016 | by Jerry Doby


Who is the artist Tonedeff?


A truly daring boundary pusher and visionary, emcee/producer/singer-songwriter Tonedeff (@tonedeff) shatters the mold of conventional hip-hop, imbuing it with the sense of intense depth, honesty and self-sufficiency more attributed to an author than a rapper. Influenced by a diverse range of artists – CommonTori AmosEnyaThe Prodigy and Bjork for example – his fearless style is a seemingly impossible dichotomy of dense technical emceeing and emotive crooning. His penchant for cross-genre fusion is a wide-eyed gaze at what Hip Hop is capable of if set free from the confines of stereotype and cliche.

This first-generation Cuban-Colombian grew up in Chicago, IL, before moving to Miami, FL for the remainder of his adolescence where he began recording and performing at age 12. In 1997, he launched his indie label, QN5 Music with the release of The Monotone EP, but it wasn’t until relocating to Queens, NY at 21 that the well-traveled emcee really began making noise. Tearing through the city’s notorious underground battle scene, he quickly gained a reputation for his breathless flow (clocking in at 14 syllables per second). He began opening for esteemed acts such as Common and Masta Ace, gracing the buzz columns of The Source Magazine and URB, as well as appearing on MTV’s Hip Hop Week. During this period, he released a series of work including the multimedia-enhanced Hyphen EP, followed by 2002’s Happy F*ck You Songs with Extended Famm, Underscore in 2003, countless guest spots for artists such as  KRS-OneCunninLynguists and Immortal Technique, finally culminating with the release of his critically acclaimed debut album Archetype in 2005 and a set at Lollapalooza in 2006. All done without a promotional budget or a manager.

Seeing a more adventurous audience in 2016, Tonedeff returns with his second album, Polymer – a unique multi-part release of four separate EPs, each with its own theme and musical style that are then combined into a final form that encapsulates every facet of his persona. From the danceable sex-addiction saga of Glutton, the anxiety-riddled fast rap clinic of Demon, to the mirror-matched battle with delusion on Hunter and the shoegaze-flavored catharsis epic of Phantom– Polymer is synth-filtered opus of confessional singer/songwriter Hip Hop for a modern era.

Overall Rating: 5/5 he wrote, produced, played and performed every song on the album…and bottom line, he hit perfect marks on arrangement, lyrical content, production value and overall entertainment. As Pontius Pilot said “I can find no fault…”

From the outside looking in, who is Tonedeff?

Tonedeff is a modern day do-it-all with a penchant for technical raps and a flair for the experimental. I hate bandwagons, love underdogs and can pull off the impossible with a mic.

What brought you to the entertainment industry, music specifically?

I wasn’t born into it. I knew no one that made it or even anyone that could play the kazoo. But I was always fascinated by albums and music videos. I started writing my own songs at age 9, and recording and performing by 12. I do a lot of different things, but at the beginning, I had a scary amount of ideas and music was always the vehicle I wanted to ride to show folks.

What do you want people to get from your music?

I want my music to connect with folks in whatever way they need to connect with it. For some folks, that might mean getting a quote tattooed on themselves, for others that might mean bumping my rowdier joints before heading to the club, and for the rest it might mean being able to brag that their friends ain’t up on me, and they are. My music doesn’t really attract sceneters and tryhards, but it does bring a lot of randomly smart, talented folks together and I really love the diversity.

Tell us about your current project.

“Polymer” is my second studio album built on a deceivingly simple premise: 4 EPs, 4 Themes, 4 Styles, 1 Emcee. If you dig a little deeper with the concept, it’s a jigsaw puzzle of myself, where I put pick myself apart and reassemble all of the pieces in a way that reflects who I want to be. I wanted to show my full range as an artist, so I produced and performed everything on the record via synthesizers and pushed myself as hard as I could to find new ground. It’s easily the most personal record I’ve ever made and I think folks will be surprised as to how in-depth they’ll get into another person’s experience.

For new listeners, what song of yours would you pick as an introduction to you as an artist?

I’d probably recommend songs like “Competitive Nature” off of Polymer, or maybe “Porcelain” off of my first album, Archetype. A song like “Control” shows my entire range, but it’s also 10 minutes long, so that might be more of a deep cut for folks. Honestly, there’s no good answer for this, seeing how different all of the songs are. It’s a tad problematic when people tend to hear one thing and judge the entire body of my work off of that. For some folks, I’m “the fast rap guy” when I’ve only made about six songs where I chop. Spin a wheel, take your pick. Haha

Tell us a bit about your work and passions OUTSIDE of music…

I don’t have much time for anything else, but I’ve been tinkering with a cartoon series for years, which is a lifelong ambition of mine. Music has always gotten in the way of that, but as I’ve begun to finish more projects, I see an opportunity to finally get that ball rolling. When I’m not banging my head against my studio monitors, I love to watch movies and drink bourbon profusely while watching MMA. I’ve also consumed enough porn to give a lab chimp an aneurysm.

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About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.

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