The name Hi Tone may not be widely recognized outside of his home state of California, but that’s about to change. After his recent appearance on Sway In The Morning, a well-attended Los Angeles premiere of his documentary, No Xanax Needed, and subsequent album of the same name, the Covina, California native is on his way to making his musical dreams come true. In fact, they already have. Since he was young, all he ever wanted to do was make music for a living and share it with the world. In Part I of the Hi Tone interview, he talks about growing up in Covina, Sway In The Morning and his struggles with addiction. Check out the documentary below.
RAPstation (Kyle Eustice): How did growing up in a small town outside of LA shape your musical style?
Hi Tone: Covina inspired my music from what I was going through on a day-to-day, but as far as shaping my musical style, I was influenced by oldies such as Brenten Wood, Marvin Gaye, Sly Slick & Wicked, War, and Ralfi Pagan, to name a few.
What was your household like growing up?
My mother left my father when I was 9 years old. My father gave me an ultimatum and I ended up choosing to live with my mom. Shortly after that, she started dating an African-American man, who became the father figure in my life. As far as where we lived, I was an apartment baby. I grew up in an apartment until I ended up getting my own place. We weren't rich, but we weren't poor. My mom did everything she could to keep my sister and I happy growing up.
During the Sway In The Morning interview, you said you took a few years off from making music, if I recall. What did you do during that time? Is that when addiction took over?
Thats correct. I took a few years off from recording music to learn how to tattoo. Let me give you a small back story. To be completely honest, music has always been my passion. I knew it's what I wanted to do for a living, but we all know how hard that is to accomplish. When I was younger, I used to hustle weed and cocaine to get by while I perfected my rhymes, but I was never that good at it. Instead of making the money I should've been making on the ounces I was selling, I would make just enough to get by and use the rest to get high. There came a point in my life were I needed to grow up, but I just never wanted to work for anybody. I had been collecting ink for a few years during this period of time and my cousin who worked at Inksligers knew my situation and told me they were looking for a new shop helper. This was and is one of the most renowned shops in California, so I jumped on the opportunity and for the next three years, I soaked up game, got free tattoos, made some extra cash, learned how to tattoo, quit selling drugs, and stopped getting high. These are what you call blessings and sacrifice at the same time. I made $160 on the first shop tattoo I did and went straight to the studio to record my first solo independent song, which lead to my debut mixtape TFC Vol.1 in 2010.
What do you think gave you the strength to finally say, ‘Ok this is enough?’
If you’re talking about drug use, I stopped once I lost my dam mind. At that point, you really don't have a choice if you value what God has given you. It's either make a change or lose it all.