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16 March, 2004@12:00 am

Tony Toca’s dedication to Hip-Hop is immeasurable. From the earliest days of this culture’s inception, Tony Touch has always had a hand in it somehow, somewhere. Growing up in early 80′s Brooklyn he was connected to it from the outset and it didn’t take long for him to find his way to his vocation: the holy trinity that is two turntables and a microphone. It started simple; pause tapes made solely for the love of the music and from there it grew into a life lived for, by, and because of Hip-Hop. For the better part of two decades; from Rock Steady to 50 Emcees to The Piece Maker and beyond, nobody has repped harder for the peoples on the block than Tony Touch. And while his very important (and often overlooked) contributions to the game may not have made him a house-hold name just yet, you ask any head in the streets who is the undisputed King of the Mixtape and they’ll tell you it’s Tone. Because that is where the foundation lies: in the art of the Mixtape, and it is a medium that Tony has utilized as the fullest form of expression. He’ll tell you first and foremost that he’s a DJ. That’s where it all comes from. You can hear it throughout the whole of The Piece Maker 2. Whether he’s spittin’ hardcore with his fellow Diaz Brother Doo Wop, or if he’s back in the cut, letting someone else get they shine, Tony Touch’s musical signature is always felt. Recently I had a chance to sit and build with one of the busiest cats in Hip-Hop, and not only is he mad humble, he’s gracious as well.

FT: First off, let’s get right into the new record: Piece Maker 2. Give us an idea of how a record like this comes about, how do you get everything together? How many beats are yours?

Tony Touch: Yeah, I produced a little more than half the album. Usually I hook up with producers first. The first step is the beats, I get the beats together, I produce a whole bunch of things, you know. I reach out to a few heads that I know I wanna work with. On this particular project I know I wanted to work with Eric Sermon, I wanted to get with Pete Rock, I wanted to get something from RZA, these are guys that didn’t produce anything on the first album. My formula was to change up the entire lineup, so I reached out to all the producers, got all my beats together first and then I reach out to the artists and have something to present to them.

FT: Who did the track that Q-Unique is on? That shit is bugged.

TT: He did that himself, he set that up. Yeah, he’s rhymin’ his ass off on that track. That’s how he gave it to me, it was a finished product, man. He just put it in my hands and I had to put it on there, you know? He’s a member of Rock Steady Crew, so that’s the Rock Steady support.

FT: Do you have a favorite track off of Piece Maker 2?

TT: Man, all nineteen are incredible to me.

FT: So you got more mixtapes than anybody on Earth. Any idea exactly how many?

TT: Definitely in the upper hundreds, maybe four hundred.

FT: Do you remember the first one you ever made?

TT: The first one I did was in ’87, but that was before I was ever really making tapes for the public, that was just my personal. I still got that tape, man.

FT: Oh, word?

TT: Yeah, it’s got all that old stuff. You know, Biz Markie records, Eric B. and Rakim, MC Shan, that era, the ’87 era.

FT: How important do think the mixtape is to Hip-Hop?

TT: The mixtape is probably the number one item to use when promoting a new artist or new music and now even a new product, man. You got a lot of companies that use mixtapes to promote new products like communication products and stuff like that. It’s just a great way to expose people to what’s new.

FT: You’ve pretty much done everything in the game; DJ, MC, producer, etc. What do you like the best?

TT: Performing live at a club, Djing at a club. Djing is my first love, I mean, I’m Emceeing and producing and all that, and I enjoy doing everything, but my first love is my club gigs. There’s nothing like it, especially when the sound system is right and the ambiance is cool and the room is well structured…that’s definitely my first love.

FT: Where are some of your favorite places where you’ve spun?

TT: Man, there’s quite a few of them. In Japan: Club Harlem, it’s a hot spot. In Puerto Rico it’s club Lasers. There’s a few spots in Germany and Switzerland. They’re sound systems are real tight over in Europe, you know?

FT: With all the people you’ve worked with, from legends to new cats in the game, who are some of the best that you’ve worked with, who have you really vibed with?

TT: Aw, there’s too many to name, you know? Everybody brings something different to the table, man. I got some of that hardcore, some of that abstract, some of that underground, some of that bilingual stuff. There’s like so man different flavors, know what I mean? Like pure lyricists that are just amazing to work with, it’s like everybody brings something different and I try to keep it well rounded, every project I work on, you know? Like, I get something from Large Professor different than what I get from Wyclef; you know what I mean? Everybody’s energy is incredible, but everybody is different.

FT: Yeah, you’ve seen so many MCs, you’d probably have a good idea of what makes the quintessential MC.

TT: To me, you know, what makes an incredible MC is the ability to come up with incredible songs as well as being able to improvise, to adjust to rhyme to any beat and not come with excuses about a beat being too fast or too slow, those are the main elements man, you know? Of course diction and clarity is all part of it, as well as the wordplay having to be incredible. You have to be witty; there’s a certain wit that comes with all that. Stage presence. Definitely the voce, like Guru said; “it’s mostly the voice.…”

FT: Do you consider yourself an “underground” artist?

TT: I’m kinda’ in both worlds, you know what I mean? I work with underground artists, but I’m on commercial radio stations, you know, you hear me in the mix on commercial radio playing stuff and then my mixtapes cater to the underground a little bit more. My records, I think there’s more of a balance of both.

FT No doubt. So what’s in the future for Tony Touch, what you got going on besides the new record?

TT: I got more projects. The Diaz Brothers record is gonna’ come out. That’s gonna’ be on some more lyrical hardcore shit. Then I got a Spanish Reggae album coming up as well, like a Spanish Reggae Hip-Hop album. And you can always hit my website:  Working with some new artists, like Soni. I got a lot of things going on.

FT: What do you think is the best thing about Hip-Hop?

TT: The fact that it’s always expanding and growing and changing up, you know?

FT: What do you think is the worst thing?

TT: The exploitation of it.

FT: Last words?

TT: Yeah, man, shout-out to everybody that continues to support Tony Touch, everything I do. Look out for more stuff to come out, but right now it’s all about the Piece Maker 2. For every Hip-Hop head, there’s definitely something in there for you.

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