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Ill Tone [Prolific Profile]

Vancouver, B.C. Ill Tone is intent on making his mark on the music industry and his community, and he’s actively achieving this goal: recording, performing, fundraising and talking politics. Whether in Vancouver or on the island, he loves what he does and is building momentum by the minute. HipHopCanada decided that Ill Tone would be a great addition to our Prolific Profile series, so here he is.

Ill Tone

HipHopCanada: How do you define hip-hop, and where do you feel you fit into that definition?

Ill Tone: The definition is different to everyone. To me, hip-hop is creating beautiful music through whatever resources you have to work with. A drum machine, a sample, vocal chords, some ill lyrics and a mic is all you need. But that’s not to say if you add in a 200-piece orchestra that it isn’t hip-hop anymore.  Hip-hop is also about being yourself, and giving a true representation of who you are.  Whether your songs are about struggle or triumph, yourself or the world how you see it… just be you. The lyrics are a way for the artist to get some issues off his or her shoulders and connect with other people who feel the same way. Being able to connect with those around you builds a stronger community. Community is another huge aspect of hip-hop.

HipHopCanada: What drives you to stay in a business that is rarely profitable and highly competitive?

Ill Tone: I love it. For me, it started as a hobby. I never really thought when I started out that it could be a career as well but to have the opportunity to turn it into that is a dream. I didn’t like school and school didn’t offer me any paths I wanted to follow for the rest of my life. I kept up with rhyming, despite how hopeless it felt at times, because I love it. I have an extremely short attention span with pretty much everything in life except hip-hop. I can concentrate on it and can see myself being involved with it until the day I die.

HipHopCanada: Where are you based specifically?

Ill Tone: Vancouver, but me and my group, Broken Logic, started on Vancouver Island and we’re still back and forth quite a bit.

HipHopCanada: How has living there influenced your sound?

Ill Tone: To me, British Columbians and specifically people in Vancouver tend to be more accepting of politically motivated lyrics. Living here and delivering to the people here has allowed me to rhyme about the things I want to rhyme about without having to worry about how people are gonna receive it. The people here are cool with it.

HipHopCanada: Who is your primary fan base?

Ill Tone: Well, the front row of my shows is composed mainly of women aged 19 – 30 or so… and I’m fine with that! A lot of younger teenage dudes in smaller towns seem to look up to me as well because being a kid from a small town myself, I think it gives them hope of achieving something in the industry. There weren’t a lot of opportunities to advance where I came up, so if I can help inspire these kids I will gladly do so.  Just one more thing that makes it worthwhile.

HipHopCanada: What tips would you give young artists coming up, or what do you wish someone would have told you when you first started out in the hip-hop industry?

Ill Tone: Be yourself… and don’t piss the soundman off.

HipHopCanada: In which ways do you interact with your community?

Ill Tone: Along with my group, Broken Logic, I’ve been involved in organizing a whole pile of fundraisers for community oriented organizations like The Comox Valley Youth Connections Centre, Comox Valley LINK, Dawn to Dawn Society, and the Food Bank. Colby Rex, the other MC in the group has been head organizer on a lot of these so I can’t take all the credit. Most recently we did one for “FUCK CANCER” on January 13th at The Media Club in Vancouver and it was the first one that I’ve been fully in charge of.  The event totally blew up and we raised a pile of money for them. At this one, 100% of profits went to the charity. They aren’t all like that because I have to make a bit for myself to keep doing it, but any event I organize in the future will have some affiliation with a positive organization. The fact that I’ve been born in one of the most privileged places on Earth means I HAVE to give something back.  Not too many people get the opportunities that Canadians get.

As well as doing the fundraisers, I’m always open to throw a verse or something down on an upcoming artist’s song or project if I really believe in what they’re doing. I want all the real artists to succeed and will help them do so however I can. Everyone was local at some point.

I try to always have some conscientious lyrics on whatever I’m doing. Not every song has to be about politics or about any one subject, but it’s important for me to rap about things that will inspire people and make them aware of the world around them. The closer everyone is to the same page, the stronger the community will be.

HipHopCanada: Which artists have you worked with that left an impression on you, and why?

Ill Tone: Lokeynote. I didn’t know how to properly record until I stepped into his studio. One time, I was off a bit on my second layer and I was like, “Can’t you just line it up?” And he said something like, “Can’t you just rap it better?” From that moment on I was better at hitting my doubles because I had to be and that’s why he said it. I’m also recording and mixing some of my own stuff these days and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t sat and watched him mess with shit for a couple years. Lokey did all the mixes on my “MAN vs CLOWN EP” and I’m stoked on how it turned out.

Next would have to be Mos Eisley from Sweatshop Union. He made one of the beats on “MAN vs CLOWN”  and I had the opportunity to sit down with him and arrange the beat. Sweatshop is my favourite group and had been for quite some time, so getting the chance to even meet, let alone work with, one of my favourite artists was a dream come true. Those Sweatshop dudes definitely live up to what they rap about when you meet them in person. As real as people get.

HipHopCanada: Which Canadian artist would you most like to collaborate with?

Ill Tone: Damn. That’s a tough one because I could probably name 30. Hip-hop artist I would have to say Classified. His beats are pure fire and his rhyming steadily improves with each release where most artists decline. K-OS is also as sick as it gets and if I could ever work with him… I wouldn’t pass it up. Artist outside of hip-hop… Joni Mitchell.

HipHopCanada: Tell us about past and present successes, as well as future projects?

Ill Tone: At this point, Broken Logic has rocked over 100 shows around the province, including openers for Tech N9ne, Maestro Fresh Wes, Sweatshop, Moka Only, and a whole bunch of other talented artists. In April of 2010, we presented “The Weed EP” which earned us some attention on a national scale and the EP was featured by Hip-Hop Canada and Get Grounded TV. It was our first time getting any sort of press coverage. Hats off to Rex for putting it all together. The biggest accomplishment of all was that we did these things without any outside management. We’ve remained independent and self-managed.

Right now, I’ve just released my first EP, “MAN vs CLOWN”, and already the single’s been getting some spins on some British Columbia community/college radio stations. I’ve never had anything on the radio before so to me this is huge, whether or not the communities spinning it are small or large, it’s something.  The single is called “Time” and features MC Dosia and Julie Webster. As well as radio play, I’ve been booked to do quite a few interviews for various Canadian publications as a result of this project. It’s all positive and a giant step in the right direction.

For the near future, Broken Logic is working on a project called “Covers”. It’s gonna drop as a free download in early to mid March. Colby is working on a second edition of “The Weed EP” which he plans to have ready for April 20th. Beyond that, I’m working on an EP with my bro RcThaHazard called “Songs About Nothing” and I’m really, really stoked about this one. RC is one of my favourite MCs and best friends. Making this project is a lot of fun. This one is gonna be a free download as well and should be ready for early June. Broken Logic has also started working on some album tracks but it’s still too early to say when we’re going to drop it. And myself, I’ve started working on an official full length and already have some label attention for the release of it… so stay tuned! Don’t wanna say too much yet.

HipHopCanada: Any last words for the HipHopCanada online community?

Ill Tone: Thanks for listening and stay tuned because this is only the beginning! Much more music to come from myself and Broken Logic before it’s over.  A lot more.

Man vs Clown








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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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  2. DM

    Great interview. Having known Tone since we were kids it’s awesome to see his hard work paying off. He deserves any success and exposure he gets… and as well as being a friend on a personal level, I’m a big time fan of his artistry. Definitely check out his reverb page for tonnes of great free downloads.

  3. dynamicwayne

    Interesting Interview…PROPS!

  4. MisterLuke

    Definitely a great interview. It’s Independent artists like Ill Tone that pave the way for future generations, same time causing a bit of reflection to happen. In an industry full of hate and greed, it’s refreshing to hear a positive voice.

    mad respect.


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