Sunday, December 14, 2014

Interview with Emmy-Nominated Rapper/Actor T.O.N.E-z: Recent High School Football Controversy, FX's Justified, and Hip-Hop Projects

The divide amongst Americans intensifies daily. Fingers are pointed at an imbalance of power, politics, religion, and race while citizens reach out for anything to blame for this split in society. We jump to conclusions over risqué themes in video games, music, and movies, just because we desire quick answers to complex situations. The Entertainment, which used to bring us together, now stands in front of a firing squad.

One casualty: Hip-Hop.

Before games, the Crittenden High School football team in Marion, Kentucky motivates each other through the power of hip-hop using the song Put Your Hands up High by Gangstagrass and Emmy-nominated rapper T.O.N.E-z of FX Network’s ‘Justified’ fame. The players get into the spirit of competition through the rhythm and lyrics of his music; a spirit that unites the team towards a common goal.

T.O.N.E-z hears of this unity, which inspires the actor/artist to schedule a pep rally appearance and halftime performance to honor the Crittenden high school students. "I was extremely excited! I remember when I was in school and a huge fan of music and how I wished that artist would come and perform for us, I was not only excited but honored," states T.O.N.E-z. Word travels throughout the school, and the students are ecstatic to have T.O.N.E-z perform during their “Pink Out” breast cancer awareness game. The story makes the front page of the local newspaper as T.O.N.E-z flies into Nashville, TN and continues on a two-hour drive to Marion, Kentucky…

… to find out that his performance was cancelled.

Church leaders and a few parents convinced the school's superintendent that T.O.N.E-z’s music catalog was too inappropriate for the students and his performance was scrapped. "The wonderful people who decided last minute after seeing me on the front page of the newspaper THAT DAY said my song was inappropriate for the kids," claimed T.O.N.E-z. The superintendent didn't want to promote the rapper's "values" despite T.O.N.E-z's inspirational lyrics, which are full of determination and redemption. "Serena Dickerson who handled my travel and lodging and promotion for the event called me in tears to break the news, I was VERY disappointed and somewhat angry for the kids who were looking forward to seeing me perform and found out I wasn't performing the same time I found out."

Watch the WPSD Local 6 News Story Here

T.O.N.E-z remained positive. He would post on his Facebook: "I want to apologize, especially to the Crittenden football team and fans and the good folks I've personally met... Certain people in the community are not pleased with some of my lyrics, and I can understand that to a certain extent, but the song I was going to perform is the same song the football team plays every game... With that being said, God bless everyone here, especially the ones who cancelled my performance. I hold no ill thoughts or will toward you. I wish you guys the best."

Despite the cancellation, Put Your Hands Up High still blasts through the speakers during the high school football game. The students stand tall by also playing the theme from Footloose as an act of rebellion against their oppressors. "It showed how amazing the kids are and also how much more MATURE they are compared to the folks who banned me from performing," added T.O.N.E-z. "I made a Facebook status stating I felt like a 2014 Kevin Bacon. Jody Porter (science teacher & football PA announcer) didn't see my post but played the song from his own feelings and that showed great minds do think alike!"

I asked T.O.N.E-z if the cancellation had anything to do with people in power being biased against hip-hop due to racial discrimination. T.O.N.E-z responds, "Who knows why people do what they do. I don't know the exact reason but I'm 100% sure it was NOT because of lyrics or hip-hop."

Over the weeks to come, the citizens of Marion continued to standup for their music freedom, and now the town is inviting T.O.N.E-z back to perform at the historic Fohs Hall, where he will be the first rapper to ever play at the venue. "It was Serena Dickerson who made all that happen. She and her family plus hundreds of good people were disgusted by what occurred the first time I was there," says the artist. "So we came up with a date and a venue and got it all booked and locked in thanks to the help of some great people and huge hearts."

T.O.N.E-z was touched by the outcry and goes on to say, "It just showed me what I've always stated, that there are still amazing people in the world and we should not count our children out by assuming they're all mindless party going adolescents."

Despite the controversy in Kentucky, the rapper/actor has remained busy. T.O.N.E-z recently independently released an album titled Fog of War. "It's another look into my life from love, heartache, joy, fun, arrogance, tragedy, hate and how it shapes me every second of my existence."

To accompany the full-length album, he's also releasing a 5-Track EP titled Handcuffs. "Handcuffs is produced by the future of music, Rorschack. It's a different journey musically for me because his style of production is so unique and groundbreaking and full of ethnicity," claims the rapper. "It's 5 songs with heavy bass and spacey sounds under me performing different flows and word play. The first single and video is a song called Bar Tab which is my view of the club scene and how money and jewels should never be the reason man and woman connect." T.O.N.E-z recently finished production on the music video for Bar Tab, which will be released in the near future.

When asked if he will be performing any more acting gigs or sticking to music as we approach the sixth and final season of FX's critically-acclaimed show, Justified, T.O.N.E-z responds, "I'll be doing both! Justified is the best thing to happen for me career-wise but I have some movies and other TV shows in the works plus of course more music!"

Where's T.O.N.E-z heading to next? The Emmy-Nominated rapper positively exclaims, "To the top, straight to the TOP!"

Check out Fog of War as well as T.O.N.E-z's new single, Reality Check, on iTunes.
The final season of Justified premieres Tuesday, January 20th at 10PM only on FX.

For more information on T.O.N.E-z, head to
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