Ill Tone Speaks On Honesty, Sexuality and the NDP
Vancouver, BC – Ill Tone, Vancouver rapper and now producer, talks about the values of re-evaluation, honesty and coming out in to a predominately straight community. Not ready to completely set down the mic himself though, he talks about his past years, his struggles and where his music is headed! Check out our interview with Ill Tone after the jump.
ILL Tone: Q&A
Interview conducted by Allie Samborn for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: Hey! So after having your own career take-off, you’re changing gears a bit, correct?
Ill Tone: Yeah, I’m focusing more on the production and engineering side of things now.
HipHopCanada: And are you working on your own stuff at all anymore?
Ill Tone: I’m working on a mixtape called Honestly and another EP with Dead Giveaway from Oregon. His skills on the production side are way beyond mine, so I’m mostly emceeing and adding a bit to the beats.
HipHopCanada: What made you make that switch from performer to producer?
Ill Tone: I liked it better because this way, I’m working with the artist directly and not emceeing while trying to book tours and negotiate distribution deals and radio play and dealing with industry people. No offense to them or anything at all but I prefer to deal with artists directly. For me, working with likeminded artistic people is a better fit and gives me a better feeling than working with industry people.
HipHopCanada: Fair enough! Now that you’re producing, do you find that you’re having new, fresh ideas for your own work or does it take a back seat to what you’re working on for others?
Ill Tone: Now that I’m engineering and producing, my music has gotten a lot better because of it. I don’t have to hit up the engineer and ask him to make these certain minor changes or go into the studio myself. When you have a studio at home and you can just go do the stuff yourself, your music absolutely expands in that capacity that’s the comfort of being the guy who makes the changes! But the client’s needs and music always comes before mine.
HipHopCanada: It’s been about a year since you’ve released a project of your own?
Ill Tone: Yes, I released an EP last November, Up In My Head. I think it’s my best work; of course that’s a biased opinion! It has been a year but I’m not putting any pressure on myself to get other projects done in a certain time. My focus now is working with the clients I have. From a business standpoint, they come first. I do plan to release my own stuff but I’m not going to impose deadlines on myself to get it done.
HipHopCanada: As far as producing and engineering, did you enter in with a goal in mind?
Ill Tone: I’m basically just re-assessing right now. I’m new to being a producer outside of my own music, which I’m not done making. This is just a new time for me.
HipHopCanada: What’s it like to take a step back from being ‘the creator’ of something?
Ill Tone: Life is A LOT more chill! I’m not constantly on the road and keeping deadlines for grant apps and projects. I don’t have to figure out how I’m going to be in Germany one night and Hungary the next. It got pretty crazy there for a while so it’s nice to slow down.
HipHopCanada: By being on the production side more, has that made your own artistic capabilities more well-rounded or is it a bit overwhelming to combine?
Ill Tone: I wouldn’t recommend engineering your own music! It’s super overwhelming. Perfectionism, for me at least, can be a problem because nothing is ever quite perfect. There’s definitely that downside to it.
HipHopCanada: I’ve heard you say in other interviews that one of your main goals is to be honest, original and true. Is that something that comes easy to you?
Ill Tone: I had to work at it back in the day. I wrote funnier raps about drinking and getting drunk and it took me a long time to dig deep and come up with matter that would engage people and be a little more true to how I was actually feeling. I do believe that lyricists come up with their best stuff at their darkest times, when they actually write about that stuff. I’m so inspired by artists that can come out and say groundbreaking shit.
HipHopCanada: Right. And you, yourself have had a bit of a dark past that you’ve had to deal with. Do the things that you went through still shape who you are?
Ill Tone: Yeah, yeah. I’m not perfect and I definitely still have my struggles. I wrestled with chemical dependency, spent a few years sober and then relapsed. I’m not quite where I was but I am kilometers ahead of where I was 5 years ago. I’m not perfect but I’ve always got to be conscious of the fact that nothing like that goes away overnight.
HipHopCanada: Of course. And the other thing you’ve been vocal about is coming out as bisexual to the hip-hop community. When did you start talking about this?
Well I’ve known forever, obviously, but I started telling people in the hip-hop community in my mid-twenties. Since my early-twenties some people knew but definitely not everyone. I was with Broken Logic back in the day and they all knew. I just decided to be more public with it because I’ve taken that approach over the history of my rap career with people and if they didn’t know this, how honest was I really being? Plus, of all the things people know about me, what’s one more thing?
HipHopCanada: Totally. Do you feel like this has affected your standing in the community at all?
Ill Tone: I had a lot of support from it . . . and a lot of criticism. But I don’t pay attention to that. People make their comments but I don’t pay attention. People might call me a faggot behind closed doors, I’m sure it happens, but that’s what people were doing in Junior High and if you’re still doing that as a 20, 30-year-old man then what does that say about you?
HipHopCanada: Has this new-ish freedom affected your music?
Ill Tone: I guess that remains to be seen . . . I’m not going to make a whole album about it or anything but I’m sure it’ll get a few mentions in future releases.
HipHopCanada: I don’t know if you’ve heard of Miles from “Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood”, but he recently came out as gay.
Ill Tone: I haven’t heard that!
HipHopCanada: He said that it’s such a difficult thing; he regretted it for a bit after but ultimately, appreciated the awareness he could bring to it with his story, even though it seems to be hurting his career. Do you identify with those sentiments at all?
Ill Tone: I don’t regret it at all but I get what he’s saying about it hurting his career, I can already tell with mine it’s different. There are industry people I have hit up and they’re less responsive getting back to me but that’s their shit at the end of the day.
HipHopCanada: Has there been anything surprising about talking about it at all?
Ill Tone: It’s actually all happened as I expected. There are mixed feelings and probably some hating but I don’t hear about it. I get a lot of support from people who didn’t previously know and that’s encouraging, that they’re recognizing the courage it took.
HipHopCanada: So in addition to all your emceeing and engineering, you were also an NDP political canvasser. How’d that happen?
Ill Tone: I worked on the last election and our candidate in Burnaby won re-election so congrats! But I believe in the NDP platform, I was opposed to Harper and believed I had to be the change I wanted to see. So instead of sitting around and bitching, I did something. It was the best environment to work in.
HipHopCanada: You’ve been involved with lots of different things over the course of your career that you’ve actually been able to work into your music as well.
Ill Tone: I’ve done lots of charity-type stuff. Things for the Children’s Hospital, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter, F*ck Cancer – that was actually around the time my own grandma passed from cancer. I don’t work with one specific charity; if there’s an event where I’ll make decent money, I try to give a bit back.
HipHopCanada: Nice. Is there anything you’d say to an up-and-comer in the industry after being so involved in so many aspects of it?
Ill Tone: Music is all about individualism. I’d urge them to be themselves. Say what’s on their mind, don’t conform, be yourself and stay true. Sometimes you’ll find yourself alienated for not taking part in a fad but it always comes back around. Just try to stay as fresh as possible. Like Run the Jewels. They’re dope!
HipHopCanada: Great advice. Thanks for taking the time to talk!
Ill Tone: Thank you!
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