In an age of ‘hiphop is dead’ and art, storytelling and truth are thrown into the wind in favor of fructose coated pop, A-Tone Tha Priest is throwing it right back in it’s bloated face. Refreshingly honest, even controversial A-Tone delivers a walloping 20+ trax of intellectual throwdown with his new release “Stand By My Words”. Here A-Tone spits truth, and it’s not always pretty, but it does go down smooth.
DG: Tell us about the album “Stand By My Words”.
A.Tone Da Priest: Stand By My Words, is my first official LP, not an album however. It was sort of a makeshift project, and actually came together like a mixtape, just with all original material. The songs on their range anywhere from 09’-11’ so there are distinct differences in style and production from song to song, at least to my ears. I didn’t originally intend to put it out like that, but it just seemed to fit so well together and I wasn’t doing much else with the tracks besides getting them on random mixtapes and listening on my iPod. I just decided to put it all together. The name denotes how some of the material may seem a bit extreme, but nonetheless, I still stand by my truths, which is what this collection of songs definitely is. Also it is an introduction of sorts into the foundation of my beliefs, real grass root you know. And I feel my youth on some of the records makes it even more authentic in that regard. Unapologetic odes to whatever I may be talking about on a song to song basis.
DG: You’ve got 20 songs featured plus a hidden track. Most artists are lucky if they put 10 songs together for an album. What was the reasoning behind it?
A.Tone Da Priest: Well like I said, it came together like a mixtape and from 09’-11’, I was in the studio creating like a mad man. I started as an intern at Hot Beats Recording Studios in Atlanta around late 07’, and soon learned the art engineering and mixing. At this point I started going in on my own material, knocking out multiple mixtapes, features and any other songs that would pop in my head. By the time 2011 came around I was sitting on over 100 songs, and I had to put out some of them quick before they sounded too dated. Those 20 songs to me just fit so well together in my timeline I couldn’t see them being apart. They tell a more complete story of where I was mentally and physically at that time. The bonus track was just for kicks lol, I just wanted to make that song and be mysterious and what not with it. I’m not a part of the school of thought that an album should be short though, I feel as long as you are coming to the table and keeping it interesting, then it could be 40 tracks for all I care, as long as they coherently fit together and you don’t pull a Lil Flip on the fans lol.
DG: Aside from Outkast and 2Pac, most people would be surprised to know that you’re also influenced by rock bands such as Nirvana and Sum 41. Does that diversity affect your songwriting?
A.Tone Da Priest: Of course, every artist I’ve ever become infatuated with in my life has affected my writing and delivery vastly. On my earlier material you hear more strictly rap influences including the misogyny and senseless acts of bravado, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve looked back and started to embrace my old tastes more. You know people’s perceptions when you’re younger can a lot of times cloud your judgment as to what you should be creating as an artist, who you should be making it for, and for what reason. Hanging around dudes who have never been exposed too much of anything outside of hip hop puts you in a box. It is sort of a pressure to be like them, simply rapping to impress girls and get people going and what not. Despite this however, I’ve always remained eclectic drawing from everyone and standing out amongst my peers. My interest in artist like those mentioned, and the likes of Jackie Wilson, Green Day, Operation Ivy really got me thinking different types things were cool than your average MC would. It also did wonders for my melody crafting and song writing. They just make a lot more vulnerable music, music that more people can feel without having to have a lot of material things, like in hip hop. Sometimes I love the indirectness of rock, because it’s more open to interpretation than the literal prose of hip hop. Kurt Cobain is my idol in that respect.
DG: Alot of your songs cover controversial topics, such as “Tha Coon” “Sex Ed” and “Ay Haters”. Do you consider yourself a ‘shock’ artist?
A.Tone Da Priest: No, I don’t consider myself a shock artist, artist like Eminem, Tyler, Hopsin who come in doing that are just seeking attention. I just don’t tend to shy away from topics that would probably make others uncomfortable. Like “Sex Ed” for instance, at my high school the things I talk about in the song were going on daily. Girls getting pregnant as freshman, diseases, in school fornication, this stuff is too juicy to make up lol. On a serious note though, I’m just trying to open people’s eyes up a little bit to the stuff they don’t necessarily want to see. Hip hop is a modern day minstrel show without doubt because despite a majority of African Americans not being dope dealers, career criminals and overall drains on society, those are still a majority of the one’s who get exposure from the big time labels which you don’t see in any other genre. The only difference these days is we don’t need white men in black face to exploit our short comings, we do it ourselves. People tend to shy away from the truth, but I can’t stand for that. I must speak out against what I feel is wrong at any expense, whether it means losing fans or my life. Look at Get Em (Mother***) one of the first songs I ever did, which covered stereotypes of whites and blacks. It is now one of the most hated videos ever on Youtube lol just because I told the truth lol its funny to me, but also very telling of the times. The more you hide issues, the bigger they become… To answer the question though, I’d say I’m more like Ice Cube on Death Certificate than any type of shock rapper.[vimeo 41736686 nolink]
DG: Speaking of shocking, your video “Tha Coon” was recently banned on YouTube for promoting hate speech. Were you at all surprised?
A.Tone Da Priest: Surprised isn’t the word, I was frustrated and disappointed that a person could get offended enough by that video to even bother flagging it period. First of all it’s not hate, because even though I am being sarcastic, I am encouraging coonery if you listen to my words. Second of all, each of the videos which appeared within mine are all still currently independent videos on Youtube and have yet to be flagged or even disputed over. On a site where it’s okay to have underage girls shaking their asses, bloody and barbaric fights, recreational illegal drug use, and purely racist tirades, they get me for putting up material that use to be shown on national television in the past? It’s ridiculous, I have a feeling it is more about me being a rapper and having a message than anything else. It hurts to be called a racist against my own people when I am merely attempting to enlighten and give air to an obvious problem. I guess Youtube is all about entertainment though, not knowledge or justice.
DG: I have to admit the topic caught me off guard but it says alot about the current state of hiphop. What is your opinion about hiphop these days?
A.Tone Da Priest: Hip hop is in shambles. The best thing about it these days is the production which even in itself all sounds the same. It’s like these days there isn’t even an underground anymore because they are all just trying to sound like the major label counterparts. I haven’t even been remotely excited about a hip hop act since 07’. There is just nothing to it anymore, no substance, no story and when an artist does try to have substance they either have no budget and horrific production, or they are with a label and forced to infuse with soulless factory pop music, so their message is weakened. I think today it’s like the grandfather affect. Say a dad tells a story to his son. His son hears the story takes the story rehashes it and once he has kids tells them his version of the same story. Now if Grandpa were to come back and tell his story to his son’s kids, it may be the same story, but they resonate more with the microwave version their dad told because it is more to the point, even though Grandpa will swear he told it wrong. That is what’s going on today, same old story, but now they are just telling it uninformed without the consequences and hardships that were apart of the original source’s story. Now we get a stripped down version of what’s not reality. Tell me, how in one verse are you going to talk about killing somebody, getting sexual favors from someone else’s girls, buying a Maybach off legal dope money, and then laughing it all off with a fat blunt of purp. That is not real that’s fiction. Back in the day if Pac shot somebody in his song he gave a reason right then. These days someone like Lil Wayne will talk about taking a life and giggle about it. Fake… I can’t deal with that nonsense, and it’s like the kids don’t think its fake, so it’s creating this subculture of prideful ignorance. They are desensitizing these kids just for the sake of making money and it’s not right.
DG: It seems like all of the mainstream hiphop artists have crossed over to dance, pop, electro, house and even dubstep. Would you call that evolution of the genre or the death knell?
A.Tone Da Priest: I think it is just proving the industries lack of faith in hip hop as a standalone. They are just letting it die. I would call it evolution if maybe the artists stepped up their lyrical prowess to match the improved production, but that doesn’t happen. Instead you got the Pitbulls, Flo Ridas, Black Eyes Peas who spit brainless party music that you can forget about while you are listening to it. And if it doesn’t have that pop sound, then it is just a way over produced hip hop track with too many clicks and pops and Autotune stealing the artist soul. At this point it doesn’t even matter who the song belongs too… It has become less and less about the artist, and more about a uniform product that the customer can accept as quality. It’s hard to market artist in this day and age because they aren’t interesting, they don’t stand for a thing.
DG: People might be surprised to learn that you are not only an mc and producer, but you also do animation, showcased in the video “Sinful”. Is there anything else you’d like the world to know about you?
A.Tone Da Priest: I’m a pretty self-sustaining artist. I produce/record/engineer most if not all of my own tracks, I do my own artwork, promote my own records, film and edit my own videos, my websites, photographs. It’s tiring and I can’t wait until I can disperse some of these responsibilities, but for right now, quality control is what I’m most concerned about and who better to keep tabs on that than me. Besides that though, I’m also a real musician, not just an MC. I play guitar and bass, which will become more evident upon my next two releases. I plan on bringing back some much needed ruggedness to an artform which has become extremely cookie cutter and polished. Prepare for some distortion lol Grungehop.
By: Douglas Garnett – firstname.lastname@example.org