Interview: Inside the Tonic
The Tonic (of Cross Movement and CEO of Cross Movement Records) has finally released his first solo album “The Dash”. Available now at Qualityjunk.com.
As a member of The Cross Movement, The Tonic has toured globally, earned two GRAMMY nominations, a Stellar Award nomination and two GMA Dove Award nominations; has been featured by media outlets as diverse as Time Magazine, CCM Magazine, The Source, Vibe Magazine and The Washington Post; and posted some of the highest street week scans in the history of Christian hip-hop. Prior to joining the group 16 years ago, The Tonic was an independent solo artist, and his new album, The Dash, marks a return to his roots.
We are glad to see your solo album is finally out! What can we expect from it?
I think people can expect a diversity of music and rap styles, while not straying too far from my east coast rap upbringings. I attempted to discuss a variety of classic topics but with a slight off-center approach, praying all the while that Gods signature (Jesus, The Gospel or His Kingdom agenda) would be preeminent throughout the whole project.
Before we go any further with the Dash questions, how did you come up with “Tonic”? What does it mean?
Well, you know us Hip-Hoppers. KRS said it besta lot of rappers with colorful namesor something like that. LOL. I was searching for a new name cause in the early days, Earthquake and I had a group called Exodus (later to be named The Gift) where my name then was M.G. Truth. But as I studied scripture more and got a good grasp of the fact that truth wasnt just something to talk about, it was a person, I became very uncomfortable with the name. So as I started searching, the name The Tonic just had a nice ring to it for me so I looked it up in the dictionary and it said something to the effect of An agent used to bring refreshment to the bodyand I said perfect. The rest is history.
Musically and lyrically how will this album be different from your non-solo projects (with Cross Movement)?
I just think when youre in a group like CM everyone played their role. One of the roles that I played was to always have a mass appeal or what others called anthem type songs on the album. And thats what I sort of got pegged for. But on a solo project, now you have the room to try whatever you want to without having to first make sure that youre not coming down someone elses lane. So I think what youll see is just me being more free to just be The Tonic in all the ways that God has uniquely made me to be me.
Why “The Dash” as the title of the album, what’s the meaning?
Simple stuff, with profound implication. We are all born and we all die–and the only thing that will make that fact significant is the decisions we make in between. The real picture (not to get too morbid) is of the place that we all will end upthat being in a graveyard with a slab of stone over head and with a few words on it trying to explain something about us. Two of those things being our birth date and our death date. But what we often overlook on the tombstone is the little tiny, seemingly insignificant dash that separates the two. While in actuality, its The Dash that is the most important thing of all. It is The Dash that will tell us about what a person did with sin, what a person did with God and His son The Christ, and will also determine the itinerary of every person once God calls all men and women, out of the grave and into his presence for final judgment. Judgment for what? Well, for The Dash that has been etched as the life of each individual. Fortunately, for those who have the opportunity to hear this album banging in their ears, still have a chance to chisel out a Dash that is expectable to the Lord.
If you had to describe the album in 1 phrase what would it be?
What it CAN look like when Hip-Hop is submitted to the Kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ. Or at least that was the prayer. LOL.
What accomplishments do you want to achieve with the Dash?
Spiritually? Same mission! To see the culture comforted with the realities of The Gospel and Jesus as the very embodiment of true life itself. Not excluding all the other places that this album can land (cause I dont look to limit God), but especially to the Hip-Hop culture and all the places that it has touched down around the world, in the streets, in the burbs, in the church, and also where it (Hip-Hop) has touched down in the hearts of men.
Practically? I got a fire burning to lead a few new charges. I hope that this album challenges the Hip-Hop community, The Church and the world at large to see that there are some more mature subject matters out here than just what is trendy. So if I cant do the Stanky Leg, can I still contribute something of value? There is a big question out there that I have seen on the message boards as of latecan a east coast Christian emcee even thrive in a Dirty South escorted music scene? This album should be a good litmus test for that. I honestly believe that the Hip-Hop culture and the person who has happened to grow up in Hip-Hop has more to offer than just entertaining the youth group. Dont want to exclude them, but I would like to include the young and the mature, the Hip-Hopper and the Non-Hip-Hopper, the believer and non-believer, the North, South, East, and West to listen together to what the Lord might have to sayeven though it might come from different angles of the hip-hop context. If it is the Truth and comes from Gods mouth, it will transcend, translate and be able to be embraced on some level every time. It reminds me of another time years ago, before hip-hop was so readily allowed in churches. When the more mature saints were not even open to it at all. But after the Lord would give CM some time to minister before them and they heard the Word of God laced through the lyrics and heard the Gospel expounded in the presentation, while the presenters were doing so in boots and baggy denimthey would also come up and say, I just want you to know that I dont like Hip-Hop, but I like that. If God wants to do it, He can.
What are the reasons for delay of the Dash album?
Actually, there are a few. The main one being that I suffered an illness that took me out for about two years. The illness was Anxiety Disorder. It surprised me when I found out that many people who have it (and as crazy as it seemsa lot of pastors and people in ministry), dont like to talk about it publicly. And I can understand it a little because in most cases people begin to just dismiss you as someone who is cracking up. Cause if you have it serious enough as I did you end up in many an emergency room only to be told that there is nothing wrong with you. But all the while having to suffer through real physical symptoms like heart racing, blood pressure sky high, so dizzy that you cant stand, impending death and doom and then a bunch of other stuff that just makes normal life difficult. And then when you dont have a normal life, it was twice as difficult for someone like me. CEO of a Christian rap label releasing like 8 and 9 albums in one year, part of a high profile rap group with all of its responsibilities and demands, father and husband of a wife with two little children and trying to have enough mental time and prayer time to labor over a solo album. What? Wasnt working. I think that was the hardest part, trying to get better (and even when people thought I was better, I wasnt) while at the same time keeping all these other wheels turning for my staff, my artists, and my family. Some things became easier as time went on, but unfortunately The Dash wasnt one of those things.
Also, I had a lot of pressure on me to give it my best shot cause in my mind at the time it very well was going to be my first and my last. So I didnt even want to put it out if I couldnt have the proper approach. So it took some time for God to quiet my life down enough for me to be able to hear from Him and then in turn for me to take those things and try to speak to people through musicwhich can be very hard I might add. Let me say this too writing lyrics with a biblical worldview in mind is TEN TIMES harder than any genre of writing I know. And that is coming from someone who came from secular Hip-Hop into Gospel Rap.
Dang, didnt know I would have so much to say on one question. LOL. But let me add this last confession. There was also a lot of down time while I was trying to get back to that quiet place where writing this album made sense again. A lot of XBOX live and trying to see if a Hip-Hop head could actually learn how to play golf without losing his swagger (the jury is still out on that one). But I must admit there seemed to be a bunch of seemingly wasted time as well that I may have to answer to the Lord for. But in his infinite grace, at the same time, I have also been experiencing the unbelievable, uncanny, un-staged, symphony-like orchestration of Gods perfect timingby which I am overwhelmed and humbled daily.
Did the delay cause any changes in the album (as far as sounds)?
I dont believe that it did, because nothing ever really got honed in early on. There has been a lot of misconception about the making of this album. A few people on facebook and myspace were suggesting that I was holding the album for these 3-4 years just trying to come up with the perfect concoction of lyrics and music, which is so far from the truth. LOL. The truth is that the album comes out on March 31st and I really didnt start grinding fresh on it until about 4 or 5 months ago. And when I say that, I mean, other than having Prayers Ball and I Am Still, I dont think there were any other songs written, music chosen, or anything. No pun intended, but it was a mad Dash to the finish line.
Who is CMR signing next?
Well, funny you ask. Cause normally we arent really looking. But this is one of those rare times when we actually have our eyes wide open for a bunch of stuff. We are currently changing our business model as we speak so that we can take on more stuff than what we traditionally were able to. It seems like a perfect time for phase 2 of what the Movement has really been all about. One of my challenges is that I think I let the fire of what God set us out on initially go down a little. I think I let some other things color us in ways that I never intended. So with The Lords help, I am looking to rebuild that, hopefully in this next phase that people will see coming from us over the next few years. Again, if it be the Lords will. So if you ask who? Cant speak on it right now. All I know is that I am excited!
Who would you collab with outside of CMR, Reach, and Lampmode?
I think I can work with anyone. I only have one thing that pretty much hedges me in. I am ready to put my name, my art, my follow-ship and my leadership everywhere and anywhere that I can see the Signature. Unfortunately, many might take that to mean oh right, so that means it will just be the CMR, Reach or Lamp Mode types, and I say nah. I say that God is out to reach the world in some very diverse and different waysHe is not about nonsense or things outside of his prescription thoughbut diverse and different nonetheless. Nuff said. Oh , and big up to Reach and Lamp Mode for standing firm. I am happy to be named among them.