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Tona [Interview]


Toronto, ON – Anyone who was present at the LSM showcase 3 has most definitely bared witness to what Tona (also known as Daetona) can do on a stage with a mic in his hand. Being that he was the last performance of the night, most of the crowd was already leaving. As soon as Tona grabs the Mic, he spits a couple of freestyles. The entire leaving crowd comes to the front of the stage to soak up the intense energy and to heed to the dope rhymes Tona was blessing the spot with. He had every onlooker in that venue going buck wild while he hit the crowd with punch lines as he worked them out. Experiencing something like that at a local showcase is as rare as seeing the Halley’s Comet light up the city skies.

If you weren’t feeling him before, you were definitely catching feelings at the end of his performance. If you didn’t know who he was, he took you back to school during that show. Daetona indeed is bringing something bona fide to the table of hip-hop. He is going to make artists want to go back to their labs and step up their game.

To all who weren’t at the LSM showcase yall missed out. But yall are still in luck, you can still get to know this talented MC Daetona…

HipHopCanada: Tell us about yourself. Where you repping?

Tona: I’m a 24 old MC not a rapper! I’m an MC hailing out the district (Scarborough) HBlock/Chester Le Projects, collectively bringing my hip-hop movement to the forefront to show people that during these days and times, this real art form was a mutha fuckin lost cause, until Tona came.

HipHopCanada: Who or what inspired you to be an MC? When and how did you get started?

Tona: Who inspired me to do real hip-hop? I would have to say every member of the Juice Crew! When u look at the whole crew, every member has a successful solo career, every member was tight and on point with their shit. From Big Daddy Kane to Master Ace, it was real back then. When I first got started it was in a rap group called YOUNG N.A.P.P.S. There were six of us in the group, some of [whom are] my people’s from round the way in Chester. At that time none of us were writing the rhymes we spit, but we were good, naww we were dope! We did a lot of local shows nothing too major but we all had love for hip-hop which is what kept that group together. That was my first interaction with rhyming but I been listening to hip-hop for ever so it’s been a part of my life so much it’s become a lifestyle.

HipHopCanada: Where did you get your name from?

Tona: First it was just Tona cause of my distinctive tone of voice, but I always use to compare my lifestyle at one point to the Daytona 500. It was moving that fast everything from my day to day activities with my peoples, to the climax of my own personal problems but time stops for no one and you gotta move that fast. I applied that same format to my raps. I said no matter what kind of music I decide to put out there, you’re gonna get Tona and how I move on a day to day basis. So that’s how u get the unique spelling of “Dae.” So when you get that musical outlet whether [it’s] a CD or a live performance you’re getting Tona every day.

HipHopCanada: What’s Street Famous about?

Tona: Street Famous is more Elite Squad’s vision. It’s basically their movement to give aspiring artists like myself a promotional outlet for their music. To get heard and profile them through the Street Famous website so you know, peeps could reach out and touch these artists as opposed to just hearing their music and not have any idea what these artists are about. Most people don’t know, but Elite Squad’s been holding weight around the city for many years now so this is just them giving back and supporting the real music they feel doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Matter of fact, P from Elite Squad (from Project Bounce) gave me my first exposure ever to the masses. I’ve had radio rotation before that, but he put me on my very first mix-tape so I got to salute P, he has been down before the Daetona era, only a small few know bout Gizmo B.

HipHopCanada: You used to belong to a crew Tyranny from Malvern. What happened to the crew?

Tona: Hold up, how did u know about Tyranny? Shit that’s research, but to answer the question, the group consists of me and two other members also hailing from Scarborough – K.Blacks and Redtea. They’re not from Malvern. But the group got dismantled on the account of us growing apart musically [with] different agenda’s. It’s hard to be in group cause that’s three totally different personalities clashing on a regular basis but they are my people though. They’re real MCs and we made some classic material that nobody really got exposed [to] on a large scale. [We got] no radio play, but we were locking down spots all over the city from your club venue’s to your street corner cipher’s. When I say we were out there grinding I’M NOT LYING! As far as I know, Redtea still doing his thing and Blacks got a different focus right now. You should be hearing from them soon enough, believe me! I’m going on record right now so quote it at the time we were out WE WERE THE BEST GROUP OUT THERE!

HipHopCanada: You’ve got a real nice voice, I must say! Do people compare you to anyone?

Tona: Thank you, and yeah I always get compared to Rock from Heltah Skeltah. Not the flow but the voice. There’s more though Joe Budden, Jay-Z and Rza. There’s a list for real! But I really don’t hear it because this is the voice I talk with everyday. Some people think I’m even purposely trying to make my voice deep and they be like “He’s straining it to hard, it doesn’t sound real!” I’ve heard it all really so nothing from here on is gonna be a surprise, just waiting [to hear someone say] Garth Brooks or some next shit.

HipHopCanada: What do you think are flaws within the hip-hop industry? In Canada? In Toronto?

Tona: The first flaw I would say is the music’s authenticity because that’s what keeps the industry moving. [There is] too much emphasis on the catch phrase of the month. Traditional rhyme styles ain’t acceptable and that’s how it originally started nah mean. Second flaw I would say is because economically we are so far behind the U.S. in market sales that these companies don’t give two shits about the music, they just want to get it sold the fastest. They should be selecting the music and artists they actually feel, embrace it and make it their music also. It’s a business, but damn, where are you going to draw the line. Third, artists need to start treating themselves like a business, even though your skills are creative, you’re capable of generating multimillions of dollars per year and thus you must think of yourself as a business. Most artists don’t like business, some are real good at it, but they are the minority. [For others its] the love and skill for performing that is much bigger [but] it’s not the best use of their time. [However it is] better than being that dumb ass rapper that won’t even research the kind of contract he claims he is looking for. There’s more but I’ma stop there.

HipHopCanada: What do you think should be changed?

Tona: As a people we need to look beyond the sales pitch. Meaning the music being pushed in [our] face now a days, is just inspiring more gimmicks and telling rappers it’s cool to make trash. Everybody looks great when they’re selling! All the attention is focused on their ass making them believe that they are the most important creature on the planet. This is almost never the case when you get down to business. hip-hop is just at a standstill not just in Toronto but Worldwide shit, I don’t see it evolving. Start supporting the real music.

HipHopCanada: Where do you see Canadian hip-hop going? hip-hop in general?

Tona: I can see it elevating because of the talent that I know we have in our city. We’ve got a population of over 2 million but yo, how many of them people are actually consumers? How many of them actually go out and buy the music? Not that many, trust me. In a couple of years I can see it on the up rise though, it’s all about timing. The quality of the music is not [just] there yet. The material should be able to be on the same rack as Jay-Z’s album. You got your select few, but we should be trying to compete on an international stage not with each other in our own city. We should be trying to push the city together, as a unit! Everybody wanna be king of the city idiots! There is more power in numbers!

HipHopCanada: Do you think there’s something wrong with the hip-hop music put out today? Who you feeling? Who you not feeling?

Tona: Yeah, there’s definitely something wrong with hip-hop, and that’s my whole point. I’m always going to address this because it’s at standstill. It seems like everybody is just sticking to the formula that’s safe, that they know will work, nobody’s experimenting or coming with a new sound. That’s where Da District and Tona come in, we gonna be doing the shit that’ll break the norm. Underground’s the only thing that feels real to me, straight goods, real artists, real music, we just like roaches, always living, never dying. There’s a lot of fake love in the industry, some people got it in for me, I got the sixth sense about that shit but I’m not in this to make friends. The only peeps I got in this game that I actually talk to is J-Staxxx from Famm One. He’s nice, he can hold weight definitely! Besides him Theo 3, Empire, Brassmunk, my squad and done. There’s some more but it’s them off top. If I told you exactly who I’m not feeling, this interview would go two, three pages long. So if I call your name on a track, that probably means that you wack and I feel you don’t deserve to rap!

HipHopCanada: Any artists or people in general you look up to? Who would you want to work with?

Tona: Yeah Nas, Jay-Z, Busta, Juice Crew, Redman and J Dilla. I’m a fan of the music first and it is why I got so many but whenever you hear any of these artists rhyme, it makes you wanna step your game up and rhyme better. I’m looking forward to work with my squad Da District. I’m on some bias shit but I’m open-minded.

HipHopCanada: What do you want to bring to the game? Why are you in the game?

Tona: I’m in the game to account for the percentage of hip-hop I feel is missing in the game right now. I come from a real era of hip-hop where the music was real, minus the gimmicks. I could’ve been signed three times on some real talk, but I was looking at the most convincing crooks. What’s even worse than not having a deal is having a fucked up one that you can’t get out of. But back then the lyrics were real, lyricists where actually getting the exposure. Now a days being lyrical ain’t important. I’m hoping to bring back that authentic style music that has been missing from the industry for too many years. I represent that era, my era, and the future generation so you’ll be getting that true school rap, with a new school flow, naww a millennium school flow. Whether it’s the commercial flavor of the month, or some underground joints being passed around the pavement, the music comes from the heart. You can tell who’s in it for money and who has passion for the music. That cat who always complains about not getting paid for shows is that same fool who won’t even pay $30 dollars to copyright his material. I’ll be bringing you real live events, things I’ve experienced first hand in a way that you not used to getting it.

HipHopCanada: Who produces for you? Who would you like to produce for you?

Tona: My production crew is called the Da Avenue and I think they gonna have the city sweating them for beats once people get exposed to that live shit. They are not afraid to experiment with their sound. We don’t wanna do what’s been done or being done, we’re the complete opposite of your favorite label. Agile from Brassmunk fits right in that category so we are working. I spent some time trying to get at him to do some work with me and that’s been the blessing. I learn from producers that have worked with almost everybody and have been around hip-hop long enough. I’m trying to work with Tone Masons in the future, their tight. I’m willing to work with any producer with their own sound, to the point you can’t put a label on it. Blood Brothers are on their way up, a duo out of the east borough, we produced “IT MAY SOUND CRAZY” together.

HipHopCanada: What about distribution? Do you have any?

Tona: Most of the distribution I do is through Ice Cold Records. They been like family but even before them, I was distributing the product myself even when the resources were minimal. I didn’t even have the means to put out an album but I made it happen. I came in this game as a street ball player, never played on an organized team, never been coached. I’m just used to doing things on my terms, Ice Cold and I compromise and that is why [I’m] with them. I’m still on that street team and we do everything as a unit. I opened up Da District Entertainment this year, [which was] my vision so we just kinda combining the forces, strength in numbers. We all got a hustler’s mentality so we make things happen even when the budget is coming out of our own pockets. I’m hoping to have a major distributor handle distribution for me in the long run so it’s not time consuming. We are everything right now- executive producers, marketing directors, graphic designers, everything. We are on this grind hard [which is going] to improve, as our bargaining power increases.

HipHopCanada: What are your plans in the business? Any upcoming Projects? Any Collabos?

Tona: In my opinion the secret to success in the music business is no different from that in any other business. [It’s about] intelligent planning, solid work, smart execution and that’s my plan. Promises of shortcuts usually never come through. As I build up my team I’m just going to surround myself with loyal people. I’ve learned my lesson with that already messing with clowns that get lured by every pretty face that walks by, literally and figuratively and in this business, you meet a lot of em.

HipHopCanada: What do up and coming MC’s need to know about the business? Does the music industry pay the bills?

Tona: Most artists are naive to the realities of the business of music. [They] try to start up labels with no credentials or no business plan [for] investors [to see] why it would be in their best interest to invest in [these artists and their] company. Artists need to know that nobody is gonna hand [them] anything no matter how nice they think they are. So take some time and understand why it’s critical to be business minded if you looking to be successful in this game. If not then just keep rhyming on your block. The industry probably pays the bills only if you got commercial success, because their people account for the masses. Independent wax is at its all time low in sales, so we would be lucky to cover that cell phone bill.

HipHopCanada: The “Best of Tona Vol 1” is something you’ve put out? How did that come about? Tell us about it.

Tona: The mix tape was put together by the people basically [and the] streets demanded it. Elite Squad set up a temporary site with some of the material I used to give them for their mix tapes, and people’s was feeling the joints crazy. That time I was smothering mix tapes, during last year, every mix tape that came out the city had my name on it. I started getting a lot of emails from peeps that just wanted to hear more so that’s what they got. Where there’s a demand, you must supply, [that’s a] hustler’s mentality. It was more like an introduction CD for the people. Before that I would be just freestlyling at shows, battling, basically everything to go get my respect but I had nothing to give people when I was through.

HipHopCanada: You have a lot of remixes out… I’ve heard tons. Where can people hear you? What should they look out for? How can people get at you? Where can they buy your stuff?

Tona: People can hear me on 89.5 FM Project Bounce between 12-5am, they been holding me down for a minute, 105.5 FM, and a lot of other various different radio stations around the province except for Flow most likely. For the people out in the Steel city (Hamilton) DJ DIRTYMAN and I do a radio show out in Hamilton 93.3 CFMU on Saturday’s 9 pm -10:30 pm. But soon enough you’ll hear me every where if you living in Toronto, trust in that. People need to look for “The Best of Tona volume 2”, BORDERLINE serious business, volume 1 was a problem, volume 2 is an issue, enough said. If peeps wanna purchase material they can contact me through email at or hit up T Ones at Ice Cold Records at his email or by calling 416-838-3434 or toll free 1.888.682.4474.

HipHopCanada: Any upcoming shows you performing at?

Tona: On the agenda right now is the Roca Fest going down at the Hershey Centre, but them thangs come spontaneous so just hit me through email to stay updated. YA HEARD!

HipHopCanada: Any shout out? Parting words?

Tona: Da District Entertaiment, Ice Cold Records, Chester Le projects, Jane and Finch (Chalkfarm), Project bounce, EliteSquad, H-Block, Famm One, Dj Dirtyman, and all the supporters who have been holding it down for me, continue to do so, and trust me, I will not let u down, believe that, put your faith in TONA!

Written by Joanna Pinto for HipHopCanada

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@HipHopCanada is Canada's largest source for Canadian hip-hop. Check back regularly for new music, videos, stories and discussion. Be sure to follow our updates on Twitter @HipHopCanada. This account is maintained by various members of the HipHopCanada team.

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