Tony Bones Interview
Monday February 26th 2007,
Filed under: Freestyles,Interviews,Steady Bootleggin'
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“…three drinks later she was damn near Pam Grier maybe my imagination or the black and tan beer.” – Tony Bones on “Splashin Over Monica”

Hailing from Edmonton, North London, but calling New York home since before he was a teenager, Tony Bones has made noise in the rap game both as an underground vocalist and as graphic designer, and for those of you who don’t know much about this guy, here’s your chance to catch-up. I actually spoke with him late last year after I mistakenly referred to him as a white guy, and more recently Keir built with Tony about his exploits, so I’ve combined the best parts of both interviews into some kind of super-mega-Q&A-type extravaganza and all that good stuff. Bones is also responsible for the dope new Unkut Dot Com logo that we’re currently sporting.

Keir: What is your earliest recollection of hip hop out there?

My first encounter with hip hop was seeing Sugarhill Gang perform on Top of the Pops and I hated it. That may have been because I heard ‘Ant Rap’ by Adam & The Ants first which was horrid. I was more into what my older brother was into like The Jam, Elvis Costello, Madness, The Clash, The Specials, The Beat. That and what my dad played like Roy Ayres, Heatwave, Bob James, Lee Morgan, WAR, Cymande, all that stuff.

When did you come to the US?

We first came in October of ’83. I was about to turn 12. My family basically moved here to the US for a change of scenery. My parents are pretty outgoing like that. I absolutely hated it at first, it was like a different planet…

What was it like fitting into American culture at that age?

I remember being asked to say this or that. At a certain point I decided to disguise the way I spoke to avoid the hassle. Eventually I got used to the change and settled in. Having an older brother who was a nutter and nice with his hands didn’t hurt either.

After moving to New York, did you experience a re-acquaintance with hip hop?

One thing sparked my interest in hip hop was “Sucker MC’s”. I had never heard anything like it. That made me go back and explore exactly what this hip hop thing was. Shortly after that Just Ice (Sir Vicious) came around. He was the illest ever to me “…your tense and dense and trying to convince me to believe your stupid non-SENSE”. That made me start writing and of course I went by Sir Tone. I beat-boxed too. I met DMX in Yonkers up around PS 23 when I was about 14 or 15. Earl was a really cool cat. He rhymed and beat-boxed too.

When did you develop it into more than a mere interest?

I didn’t record anything until about ’86 or ’87 with this cat named Jake who swore he was Mantronik. After that, myself, this guy Russell and Jamel formed T.U.F. (The Unstoppable Force) in the Bronx. Two MC’s and the ambidextrous DJ Russ One.

Robbie: I remember reading a lot about you in Represent magazine from England. Did you have a major label deal at one stage?

I did. The story from the beginning is that I got signed to MCA in late ’93, and at that time I’d been at Arista for a year, working as as Art Director. I got signed to that major deal and I was like “Alright, well I’m just gonna keep my job while I record my album”, because you never know where those things go, and I’d been on the underground circuit for quite a bit just doing shows and that sort of thing, and that’s how I got noticed. So in the midst of making the album, with the usual major label rigamorole – I had a pretty cool A&R, but it’s amazing what they try and do – as soon as they sign you, they want you to do whatever is happening in the moment.

[laughing] So they just forget about whatever reason they signed you in the first place?

Exactly. The first reason that they liked your demo tape – they forget it. The thing is, the A&R liked what I did, which is just everyday, average guy stories and wordplay. What was happening at the time when the album would have been coming out, which was late ’95-’96, was calculated, marketed hip-hop…

The Bad Boy era?

There ya go! But it was actually slightly before that – was more of the Tupac and Naughty By Nature and all that shit, and I was just like “Ehh, I don’t do that! It’s not what I do” and they were like “Oh well, but you need to be hard. We need to make you hard!” And I was just like “Nah!” What ended-up happening was I had a pretty good atourney, so I was able to bargain my way out of the deal with MCA, and I was about to sign with East/West, but when I went over there and I spoke with them they were just about to drop The Juggaknots – cause they were label-mates of mine, so I know those guys – so we were about to be on the same label and I saw what they were doing and I just like “Ehh”, so I spoke to the coolest person on earth, this girl named Sheena Lester. She worked for RapPages magazine and they wrote a few things about me, and we got in contact through mutual friends and she gave me the best advice ever. She said “Look, you work for a record label – you know how it works. You could sell 100,000 records in your neighborhood or wherever, and make as much money as you would if you sell a million records on a major label. That’s just the way the money breaks down. Just do what’s personal” And that was it. From then I just went a completely different route. That’s when I met Jay [Mr. Live] – cause I actually met Jay when I was signed, and I invited him to do a song.

Keir: So as things with MCA went sour, where did you go next?

Jay and I formed 88 Whatsanames and started really working on our stage show and putting out vinyl with Bobbito‘s label. I had some unreleased tracks on the side like that “Pure Marrow” track and “Come Upstairs” produced by Prince Po, also “Wide Open” by my man Ge-Ology and one from Buckwild and EZ Elpee too. In 96/97 I saw the big switch in music. Not so much with the industry as much as with the audience. Hearing dudes in the street talk about sound scan and budgets, sounding like the empty suits I had to sit in meetings with, it was a sign to get out…

Robbie: So you felt like it was getting too corny?

Hip-Hop here in New York just split right down the middle in ’97. A huge section of everybody just went the straight Puffy, jiggy, Bad Boy, pop music shit route, and everyone else just wen the other way. It was actually a fun time, man, cause you got to just run through the underground and do shows for people who loved hearing it. They didn’t give a shit about your video or whatever – they just wanted to hear you and see you perform. What me and Jay used to like to do – our show would be so tight, it would just be back and forth, and we would change it everytime. We would never do the same show twice. We’d just incorporate things that were happening in the news and different pop-culture references – we’d base the show around it. We’d just really entertain, man. We’d love to go on first and just ruin it for everyone else [laughs]. Actually it’s not ruining it, it’s just inspiring them to do more. That’s basically the deal from back then – while all that was going on, I stayed with design.

Keir: Ultimately leading you into an impressive career, can you talk about what you’ve done?

Design has been great for me. I love it like nothing else. Arista was the perfect training ground because when you work for Clive Davis, you have to know everything. After being at Arista for 7 years, I moved into more of a fashion design thing. I have worked as an art director mainly, but the more you know the better. So I’ve ended up doing everything from the apparel to packaging to advertising. I’ve designed logos and company brand image for Steve Stoute, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Know1edge, Fiberops, Akademiks, PRPS and others.

Robbie: There was a rumor that you’d done a song with Rakim while you were signed with MCA.

You know what? It was – it was just a rumor. We were supposed to, cause we were signed at the same time, and I remember my A&R being like “Yeah, I’ve gotta put you guys together, cause that’d be pretty funny since you guys are really different” But you know what’s really funny? My A&R had this weird idea of what he wanted to do with me. He wanted me to feign wealth – have me in a video, jumping out of a Delorean with a Prada suit on! Basically he was like “When you feign the wealth, you get sponsors, and the wealth comes”, and I was like “Yeah, whatever” A couple of years later, I saw Biggie and was like “Holy shit!”, to the point where my A&R said “For your first single, I want you to kick one of your verses off of ‘Rise’. Sample that song ‘Rise’ by Herb Albert” and I was like “Holy shit, that’s what Biggie used for ‘Hypnotize'” I was like “It’s a bit boring man, there’s not much you can do with it”

“Here’s a rolex we rented for the shoot – make sure you don’t lose it!”

[laughs] “When we get the new one, you can give it back!” It’s really strange, man. My time in music definitely informed what I’m doing now.

Mr. Live had a bit of a conflict with J-Live over the name, didn’t he?

He was Jay Live from way-back! He was the first Jay Live. I’ll tell you how we met – there were these open mics at this place called the Village Gate. It’s not there anymore, but it used to be an old-style New York jazz club. They had this open-mic night, and it was the first one I’d ever gone to, and I go “I’m confident about what I write, so I’ll just get up there and do whatever I’ll do”, so I got up there and I rocked it with my man Carl. And I saw J, he got up there with some other guys. The following time, there was this place across the street called Kenny’s Castaways where I got up the second time, and after that show J approached me and said “I like what you do, man. But you’re boys suck!” Cause I was on stage with two other people. Right then we just hit it off, I was like “This is a real dude here” and we started making songs together. We clicked from there and soon after recorded “Rhythm & Ism”, produced by Prince Po, at Chung King Studios. After that we did “Hunger Strike” and it would be up on the Bobbito show a lot. It was a lotta fun being live on the radio.

So that’s how the Fondle ‘Em thing came about?

Exactly. That was really through J, I was just a guest on it, because at the time I was really working on album packaging stuff [for Arista]. I did a Monty Python box-set, Monica, Brand Nubian, Bad Boy stuff, a lotta advertising stuff. Towards the end, I got disillusioned, and there were creative differences so I went and put all my energy into design.

Do you remember anything about Mr Live and J-Live confronting each other over the phone?

I don’t, actually. But I think Jay is still pretty miffed by the whole thing, but that was his name when I met him, way back then – Jay Live. He had a group named E&J. It was him and this cat named Equality. I listened to their demo tapes and they were good – they were really, really good. Our shows were as good as they were thanks to Jay. He was relentless. He really pushed us to be as good as we could.

Keir: How did you meet OK?

I actually met Organized Konfusion through my manager at the time. It was a mutual respect thing really. The word ‘artist’ is used far too liberally in hip hop. Those cats were straight up artists. Monch had this beat that I recorded “Pure Marrow” to and he sang the chorus, those were fun times.

What’s going on these days?

Last year I founded Double Helix Design. I have an apparel line called Local Strangler which I do with my wife Asia who is also an apparel designer, it launches Fall 2007. I’m looking to design some books and open a shop this year as well.

I heard you’ve been recording new songs as well, who are you working with right now?

In a few weeks I will be recording a few songs with my man from Ocean Aquanaut, from Baltimore. I’ve also been talking with Breeze from the Juggaknots about creating some new stuff…

Tony Bones – ‘Current Events’

Ge-Ology featuring Tony Bones & Ocean Aquanaut – ‘Tetsuo’s Revenge’

Mr. Live & Tony Bones – ‘Splashin’ Ova Monica’

Mr. Live & Tony Bones – ‘Hunger Strike’

Mr. Live & Tony Bones – ‘Noise (Unreleased)’

Tony Bones – ‘Deep In Ya Bones (Demo)’

Mr. Live & Tony Bones – ‘Freestyle’

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35 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Funny, I always assumed he was white too. Thanks for mp3’ing those tracks. Now I don’t have to be bothered with doing it myself!

Comment by a-one 02.26.07 @

shit, if tony bones is recording shit again i’d happily throw him some beats for free! that’s the best news i’ve heard in years, seriously.

Comment by waximilien 02.26.07 @

haven’t played it in a while but I remember liking Tetsuo’s Revenge too

Comment by cro 02.27.07 @

Tetsuo’s Revenge was the ill shit…
Bones and Ocean Aquanaut together again?
My dreams have been answered…

Comment by Iller 02.27.07 @

what about that song dirty soap??? can you guys get that mp3 for the kid??

Comment by elohvee 02.27.07 @

It’s great that Tony Bones kept his London accent despite spending his adult years in N.Y. I had also always assumed he was white because of the name ‘Bones’. Glad to see I wasnt the only person to jump to that conclusion. ooops!

Tetsuo’s Revenge was very dope.
Does anyone know if it ever appeared on wax other than on that DJ Morpheus Compilation? I would love a 12″ of that song.

I have the The Bus Off EP that the ‘Splashin over Monica track’ comes from. Was there any other records from Whatsaname?

Comment by bob disaster 02.27.07 @

Updated the audio with the Ge-Ology track and a new song from last year…

They also did a track called “Placebo” on another Mr. Live single which I don’t have anymore.

Comment by Robbie 02.28.07 @

i do, if anyone needs it.

Comment by domesticated 02.28.07 @

speaking of the Bus Off EP – did anyone email earl Blaize? There was a similar message on Lives LP. I’ma drop him a line

Comment by waximilien 02.28.07 @

waximilien, I actually did e-mail him at one point years and years ago and he hit me back. That was a curious message he had on the record though right?

Comment by Keir 02.28.07 @

I’d never heard any Tony Bones before. What a distinctive voice. The Ge-Ology tune is wicked. Another banging interview Rob.

Comment by End Level Boss 02.28.07 @

OAQua and BOnes…
that record is a bonified classic…

Comment by Iller 02.28.07 @

In 96/97 I saw the big switch in music. Not so much with the industry as much as with the audience. Hearing dudes in the street talk about sound scan and budgets, sounding like the empty suits I had to sit in meetings with, it was a sign to get out…

^^^THAT is what the biggest problem is to me. It’s not even the music that came out then, but as soon as FANS started worrying about rappers’ sales is when things went crazy to me too. I think that’s ultimately what contributed to hip-hop getting the way it’s gotten. When labels found out fans were starting to focus on the same thing they were focused on, they just figured they didn’t have to give them anything else.

Comment by DanjaMania 03.01.07 @

placebo was the jam. remember it from the eclipse coffee syrup mixtape as he doubled it up nicely

Comment by thesurgeongeneral 03.02.07 @

^^That DJ Eclipse mixtape was fuego. Eclipse unorthodox like 3 tits.

I have a couple of their radio freestyles.

Comment by qwimby 03.03.07 @

one of those all time classic tapes indeed! and besides that, there’s a whole lotta absolutely underrated uk-spitters out there, cats like TY, FALLACY, RODNEY P just to name 3…shame they’s not gettin theirs on an international – or do i have to say american ? – level..

Comment by ddubz 03.06.07 @

Wicked cous. You know big tings is going down so funny to hear that cockney twang again mate. People need to recognise you aint no joke. One love big man..

PS. i know you aint white….

Comment by Mrbubbla 03.14.07 @

yo, i thought cats might be interested in checkin out’s myspace

simple enough….
it 1 for the 88!

Comment by idris intifada 03.14.07 @

So glad to hear Mr. Bones is gonna be back at the whole mcing thing, silly niceness.
Man was also souding nice on “make it rowdy” off that finally dropped Mr. Live lp “the bang theory”. Anyone else hear it yet?

Comment by Lair 03.28.07 @

Givin a lil something back
Mr Live,TonyBones,IG Off,Hazadus,Kwest,PoisonPen,AL Skills,Skam,Shadowman & Doxxmen – Freestyle Sesh from Underground Railroad.
Those tunes ya’ll put up are heavy.

Comment by Lair 03.28.07 @

tony bones thinks I’M the coolest person on earth? the man obviously doesn’t own a mirror! :)

you’re the man, man. keep standing strong — gee at your side’s damn near a guarantee you will — and i hope to see you soon in the nyc.


Comment by sheena lester 04.08.07 @

Great interview. Didn’t know Tony Bones was from Edmonton – north London stand up!

Put out a CDR of all you old stuff – i’d cop it.

Comment by Big Yak 04.12.07 @

What’s good everyone… This is BigVes, producer of Mr. Live and creator of the “Placebo” track featuring Tony Bones!!! I want to thank you for all the luv and respect We have some things about to drop, so feel free to check out my myspace page at:

You’ll also find Mr. Live, EBlaize, BigTrap and more of the team on my friends list… Also, info on the “THE NEW” and first ever Mr. Live EP “The Bang Theory”…

One Luv


Comment by BigVes 05.12.07 @

Thank you for a really good interview with one of the most slept on cats of the late 90s.

I agree completely with Tony Bones why and when hiphop messed up…

Is “Deep in your bones” really a demo song?
My man always plays me that track when he has a few beers in him. Where’d he get that from then?

Big ups!
P.S. Always good to hear new stuff coming out.
Mr.Live is dope too!!

Comment by Kashal-Tee 05.23.07 @

Tony Bones is the Bees Bollox..its mad man i was thinking about him today and then i stumbled across this (wikedly dope) site…

I salute you.

Comment by Blokey 06.08.07 @

yeah same question : does the “deep in ya bones” track exsist somewhere else ?? would love to see that on vinyl !! love that song.
peace, Tobi

Comment by Tobi 06.14.07 @

Great interview with Tony Bones. I remember him from some memorable freestyles up on the Stretch and Bob show on KCR.
Since I’m late, is there anyway that I could get a copy of the recordings you posted earlier? I’d really appreciate it, as many of Memorex’s from the KCR shows are lost.

Comment by Oliver 09.26.07 @

Yo great interview! Big respect to Tony Bones and Mr. Live. I been trying to figure out the name to the Mr Live and Tony Bones joint that goes “It goes 1 for 88, 2 for the Whatsaname, 2 for the what!, 2 for the whatsaname”. Was that placebo? I use to spin that shit back in the day. If anyone has has info,links,mp3 of this classic, please holla.

Comment by JayPlus 05.13.08 @

oh snap, I took that Mr Live photo. dope interview.

Comment by Jay Smooth 09.14.08 @

Bones needs to get with his homey SuperSugarBearCharlesBronsonStyle from the MCA days. I heard he calls himself Moe Raw these days.

Comment by Moe Raw 01.07.09 @

Thanks again for the luv… We about to bang-out one mo’ time…
Stay Tuned!!! -VES

Follow us on Twitter:

and MySpace:

Comment by VES 07.25.09 @

“Deep in Your Bones” is one of the greatest songs of all time.

Comment by nesta 11.12.09 @

These links seem dead, any chance of a reup?

Comment by nesta 11.12.09 @

Oh, I didn’t realize this shit was 2.5 years old, I thought it was the full version of the post linked on the front page. Never mind then.

Comment by nesta 11.12.09 @

This is VES, producer of Mr. Live (Supa Dupa, Placebo, Good Life), and I want y’all to know that we now have a site showcasing some unreleased Mr. Live and Tony Bones as well as classic stuff no longer available on vinyl… check it out at –

Comment by IAMVES 01.11.10 @

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