When you think of Arkansas, the first things may may think about is Bill Clinton, Darren McFadden or Johnny Cash. Hip hop doesn’t really come to mind.Tony Tillman is here to change that perspective. With his new album, “Camden“, he is bringing us into his world, his state and shows us the impact of his state within his music.
CG: What’s brewing with Tony Tillman?
TT: Hopefully something dope, man. Im just making music that i feel is true to who i am, and trying to create my own lane.
CG: Who were some of your rap influences growing up?
TT: Tupac, The Luniz, MC Eiht, Mr. Ill, South Central Cartel, Spice One, Outkast, Brotha Lynch Hung. Alot of west coast rappers. It’s crazy cause im from Arkansas, born and raised, but i barely ever listened to any southern music. I think it’s because i was into gang culture. I grew up around alot of gang members and really looked up to them, and idolized the lifestyle they lived. I didn’t know any college graduates and positive people, so i wanted to be like the trappers and gangstas from my community. Many of them either got killed, killed someone, and went to prison.
CG: What made you go with naming your album “Camden”?
TT: I wanted to do something special for the city man. I wanted to give them something they can be proud of. Camden is a small dot on the Arkansas map, and most of the world dont have a clue that lives exist there so i wanted to give them a voice. I wanted to tell my story, which is a story the people of the city share, and let the world know that there are lives there that matter.
CG: Your story telling skills are some of the best that I’ve heard in years, do you feel that that quality is missing out of hip hop right now?
TT: I definitely feel like that’s a lost art in hip-hop. I grew up on a lot of story telling music. As a matter of fact, story telling is what made me fall in love with hip-hop. Tupac’s “Brenda’s Got A Baby” and Spice 1’s “Welcome To The Ghetto” were the songs that painted the picture of my reality. Their content is what was going on in my community. I remember Ice Cube saying rappers were “news reporters” reporting what goes on in the hood. But emcee’s have strayed from that and found it easier to just boast about what u have or how nice you are or who girl you can smash. But i kinda see a resurgence of story telling rap coming back tho, and that’s exciting. I aspire to contribute to that.
CG: What was one of your worse stories you seen or heard from “Adams Ave”?
TT: My young uncle named Joe was killed on Adams Ave. When he died, it changed my life forever. I was 12 years old at the time and he was just 16. That dude was like my brother. Somebody shot him right there on Adams Ave during an altercation, messed me up forever.
CG: “Ghost” is one of my favorite songs on the album. How was the writing process for that track? What made you put it on the album?
TT: To be honest, i think because i rarely spoke about it, it was just time to get it out of my system. I just happened to run across the perfect track that inspired me to write about that incident. It was probably the easiest song to write on the whole album. Took me no time to write. Lyrics just poured from me. I decided to put it on the album because it was an important event in my life, and there were other people involved who possibly felt the same way i did in wishing i would’ve done more to prevent it. I felt i owed it to them to put that story out there. Put myself out there and let them know i still deal with the hurt behind that too.
CG: What are some of the take aways you want listeners to get from listening to “Camden”?
TT: This album is a social commentary. I hope people hear this album and develop a burden for people who live in substandard conditions. It’s almost like nobody cares that poor people exist until a Michael Brown is shot by a police officer, then everybody want to turn into activists. But death and destruction is alway going on in these places. I hope they hear this album and realize that, and grow a desire to do something about it.
CG: What are 3 tips you can give other artists out there?
TT: (1) Stay true to yourself and make honest music. (2) Put a team of people around you who are not scared to give you honest feedback. (3) Don’t let doubters and non-supporters kill your drive.
CG: Any shout outs?
TT: Yea man, my RMG family, and any and everybody who supports anything RMG does. Thank you to every single person who has ever taken the time out to listen to 1 song of mine, i deeply appreciate that. And shout out to Dead End Hip-Hop for this interview, im honored to be considered! Anybody can get at me on twitter @thetonytilllman