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[Picking the Brain] Tony Dufrense

Fresh off the release of his lastest project “Pittsburgh UGK” (which has been downloaded over 25,000 times on datpiff.com) we caught up with Tony Durfrense check out what happened when we picked his brain……

[BMW]
Mr Dufresne, how are you doing?
[TD]
I’m doing good man, definitely can’t complain.

[BMW]
You were known as Lil Tone previously now the monicur is Tony Dufrense why the change?
[TD]
I felt there was a saturation of the term “lil” attached to a lot of artists in hip-hop. It was a decision I made to seperate my brand and be an individual. Plus, I think the maturity and content of my music didn’t match the name… It didn’t embody what I wanted to represent as an artist. One day I watched Shawshank Redemption and the name “Tony Dufresne” instantly popped into my head minutes after watching the movie. I feel like the main character in that movie represents the struggle I go through as an artist. Andy Dufresne gets falsely convicted of murdering his wife at the beginning of the movie and spends years manipulating the system while going through hell to break free of incarceration. Pittsburgh represents Shawshank in my eyes. I’ve been falsely accused of not being a “real” MC and I’m going through hell to get my voice heard and be successful. This is a name I can stand by and what I want to be remembered as… I’ll always be Lil Tone but if I’m fortunate to see the light of day in hip-hop… Tony Dufresne be thy name.

[BMW]
So you rap, you also do a bit of graphic design work & some tattooing as well right? Will there be a point when we can come to your studio get a verse, a cover & a tattoo all in the same session? Do you think that those three skills are inter connected & will anyone of them help you expand the others?
[TD]
I can’t incorporate tattooing into the hustle right now ‘cause of lack of technique and confidence. I’m currently working with local tattoo artists such as Gregory Anderson, on an apprentice type level to make it official and pursue it full-time.  As of right now it’s a dream that hasn’t become a reality yet but I’m positive it’ll be in the forefront of 2013. My studio will only be available for exclusive clientele and artists I personally know ‘cause it’s located in my home. And yes, at some point I look forward to offer all of the things you mentioned plus more. I currently barber on the side, so if I can get enough space to accommodate everything I want to do, a person could come to my spot and get production, recording services, mixtape covers, logos, t-shirt designs, custom portraits, their haircut(laughs)… Whatever. People have to understand that my talents in art were noticed in kindergarten. I don’t remember but supposedly when I’d color pictures it would be consistent and within the lines. I was drawing shapes and figures at an advanced level so my kindergarten teacher relayed her fascination with my mother. After that she put me into various art programs and connected me with certain local artists in the city to perfect my craft. So I think that’s where my love of music comes from… It’s a verbal art form but if done right with the right delivery… You can paint pictures with words. So yeah I think music, graphic design, barbering and tattooing are all connected ‘cause they’re forms of art. I know music is an acquired taste and there’s so much politics and bullshit involved so visual arts will definitely be the one that makes me successful. Then enable me to hopefully break though in the industry with my music.

[BMW]
From what I gather you sir,  have angered the hip hop community by using the UGK logo on the “Pittsburgh UGK” project you just released what made you do that? How do you feel about the response from your peers & fans?
[TD]
I put a lot of thought into the concepts and visuals for my mixtapes. Pittsburgh UGK was no different and the shit came from the heart. It was meant to be a statement that I’m one of the city’s most prominent MCs. This is a fact. I don’t give a fuck about the hip-hop community’s standards on what validates an MC. I bring a totally different vibe to Pittsburgh hip-hop, my work ethic is unmatched and I release quality music on a consistent basis. Shit, I feel like I earned the right to rock that title.  But the negative response from die-hard UGK fans in Texas was unexpected. Sometimes I’m oblivious to the fact that the internet is worldwide but their response was amusing to say the least. I don’t see how anyone can look at that cover and think it’s a disrespect to the original UGK but that wasn’t my intention.  The fans have embraced the project well. Matter fact, a lot of people say this is some of my best material since Willie Lynch Syndrome so the positive feedback definitely outweighs the negative. I welcome all criticism,.. It’s to be expected in this game.

[BMW]
You put out a list of artists that you wanted to work with from the local area even tagged them in the post on facebook. Then I looked at the tracklist from the “Pittsburgh UGK” project and didn’t see many of those same names as features. Are you sitting on tracks? What happened after that post I saw some responded saying they were willing to work?
[TD]
I decided not too long after making that post that I should make this a solo project. Sometimes I work at a fast pace and I’m skeptical about people’s ability to keep up but I just felt like features wouldn’t fit on what I was trying to accomplish on this project. All of the artists I mentioned are still willing to work but as of right now, I haven’t recorded any new material with none of them.

[BMW]
You released the “Willie Lynch Syndrome” series a while back (2011), many people aren’t familiar with that name. What prompted those projects & Do you think the teachings of Willie Lynch are still prevalent in today’s society?
[TD]
I like making conceptual projects. When I decided to make Willie Lynch Syndrome, I really wanted to bring that “conscious rapper” inside of me and educate people on what the fuck’s going on in America today. I think people are blinded by the fact that our president’s black. After Barack Obama got elected people thought racism magically disappeared but this isn’t true. Anyone that is familiar with American history knows that the Willie Lynch Syndrome wasn’t just designed to make us inferior in the 1700s but it was implemented to benefit the generations to come. It was basically a handbook for slave owners and the main objective was to emasculate that black man so that the slave owners would have control and allegiance of the black woman and their children. When you look at the Black Panther movement and all the activists in the 1960s and 1970s, it is clear that we have no leaders left in our communities. Why?.. ‘Cause we act like self-absorbed bitches. Plain and simple. A nigga will risk doing years in prison to make fast money but can’t apply that same determination and hustle into something legal that will benefit his future generations. The American Dream has been and will always be out of reach for us because we weren’t meant to have it. Our mentality is “What can I get out of today” rather than “What can I build for tomorrow”. And all I tried to do with that project is motivate my people to be better… Want better. Racism still exists but it’s not what’s holding us back now… Our mentality is.

[BMW]You have over 20 mixtapes under your belt, with the way mixtapes are made more recently do you think there is a difference between a mixtape and an album? What would be the difference between a Tony Dufresne mixtape and a Tony Dufresne album??
[TD]
I think there’s big difference in mixtapes and albums today. Mixtapes are more personal and self-reflective of the artist. I often hear commercial artists say that they get more freedom on their mixtapes than their albums. Albums are usually financed and promoted by record companies so you have to cater to those involved and basically get approval on the material released. Mixtapes are the complete opposite. Everything from production to promotion is usually handled by the artist. So I think when there’s big money involved you have to compromise the music sometimes to sell records. Mixtapes are meant to get your voice heard and establish your brand and albums are meant to make money. The difference between a Tony Dufresne mixtape and an album would come down to production and sound quality. My mixtapes are usually produced by producers on SoundClick and recorded in my home studio. The process is very simple and the quality of the music is always on point but lacks that professional quality needed to be standout. An album from me would be a totally different experience. I don’t have effects to alter my voice in my home studio so what you hear is all me. I can’t copy and paste hooks with the equipment I have so I have to repeatedly do the hook on each song. I think if I had the freedom to have an engineer record all my vocals and mix everything down, it would really give me piece of mind when writing which makes for a better body of work. Plus engineers have an ear and expertise that I don’t understand. A professional studio could bring my music to life and it’s something I haven’t done yet. People are in for a treat when the budget allows me to do so. I have producers that I’d personally like to work with which also costs money. But I’m confident that I’ll have my budget in order to make an official album in 2013.

 

[BMW]You don’t perform often why is that? When was the last time you performed live & when do you plan on performing again?
[TD]
I don’t perform ‘cause I basically feel unappreciated as an artist. I’ve made numerous mixtapes and get limited love here… Why perform? I know someone reading this might think I’m full of shit but walk in my shoes and see things from my perspective. This city is filled with hatred and I’ve seen numerous artists perform consistently here that haven’t progressed. Everybody is a rapper here so where’s the support? And the people that don’t rap usually have family or friends that are involved in the local hip-hop scene… So that’s where their affiliations lie and it’s difficult to break those ties. I’m certain that I’ll come to terms with my ego eventually and get my ass on stage but it’ll be out of desperation to get the validation I deserve.  So to answer your question, yes I plan on performing again. At this point, if I want all the accolades I think I’m entitled to then I have to perform. The last time I performed was at house party in 2003 so yeah… It’s long overdue.  

 

[BMW]Being that you don’t perform much what do you think about the whole “Pay to play” situation??
[TD]
Pay to play is cool! I think if an artist is confident in his or her music, they’ll benefit from a ‘pay to play’ show. Even if the rest of the artists on the bill are wack and unknown you never know who’s in attendance. Any opportunity to shine is important even if it costs. Every artist should do their homework about the event thoroughly. Consider the venue and the cost to perform. If it’s a popular club then the probability of a lot of fans being there is high. That’s what shows are all about… Connecting with the fans and possibly getting more exposure. If the performance fee is reasonable and the venue is popular… Why not pay to play?

[BMW]You seem to be the type of person who isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Give me 5 artists that you would never work with & why not?
[TD]
Wiz Khalifa, Pittsburgh Slim, Phresh Larosa, Owey and Tolly. I respect Wiz’s hustle but the content of his flows and swagger annoys the fuck out of me.  How many songs can you rap about money, weed and bitches? Pittsburgh Slim is just terrible in every sense of the word. Phresh Larosa sounds like Wiz Khalifa’s mini me and if you have to swagger jack that dude then the integrity of your brand and overall persona is just fake to me. Owey reminds me of a clean-cut Gucci Mane… Big budget and no lyrics.  And Tolly is trap rapper with the intelligence of a two year old. When I want an idea of what not to sound like, I take a look at their videos. (laughs)

[BMW]What was the last album you purchased (physical copy)?
The last album I purchased was actually Pharcyde’s “Bizarre Ride 2”… True story.

[BMW]You did a collaborative mixtape with Pablo Neruda will there be more projects like that in the future & if so with who?
[TD]
I’d definitely like to make a sequel to the Beneath the Surface mixtape. Pablo and I were in a group called the Usual Suspects when we were 13 -14 years old so we know each other’s style and complement each other well. Aside from him the only other artists I can see myself collaborating with on an entire project is Kemickal, Lady Kay, Hubbs and Mr. Brink. I look forward to working with those MCs in 2013.

[BMW]You seem to be a proponent of collaborating & you have a respect for hip hop so, being that “Banned from TV” is one of the more notable “posse cuts” in Hip Hop history. If you could remake that track or even have your own version in today’s industry what artists would you like to hear on the track and who would you want to produce it?
[TD]
That’s a interesting question. The artists I’d like to hear on that track if I was fortunate enough to remake it would be myself, MGK, Waka Flocka and Ludacris. (laughs) That would be dope! And I’d have to get the legendary Dr. Dre to produce that joint.

[BMW]How do you want to be remembered as an artist?
[TD]
I want to be remembered as one of the most creative and original artists in hip-hop. An artist that values quality music and hard work over money and record sales. A loyal fan and student of the game. That’s all.

Brainiacs you can hear the new “Pittsburgh UGK” mixtape and be on the look out for his next project!

 Follow @tonydufresne on twitter

 

 

 

 

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Greg AndersonHip HopInterviewMusicPicking the BrainPittsburgh Hip HopRapUGK

brandonw • November 15, 2012


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