Issue 16 (2004)
Back in the day you would have to go to the local corner spot, bodega, or mom and pop shop to pick up the newest mixtape. The emergence of mainstream mixes has changed the game a bit since Tony Touch entered it in ’82. Best known for his army of mixtapes on the streets of NYC, he’s been representing hiphop as a B-Boy, MC, and DJ. He’s stretched the limits of the genre with groundbreaking concepts such as those exhibited on the “5 Deadly Venoms Of Brooklyn” collab with greats Premier, Evil Dee, and Mr. Cee and the ultra exclusive “50 MCs” freestyle series. In 2000 Tony stepped it up another notch recording “The Piece Maker”, his full-length debut, featuring hiphop mainstays such as Gang Starr, Wu tang, and De La Soul. The follow-up, “The Piece Maker 2”, surfaces with a different label and an all-new lineup of artists. Managing to avoid the errors of other major label mixtapes, Tony has stayed true to his format, walking the fine line between a production album and a strict DJ mix.
How has your focus changed with the upcoming release of “The Piece Maker 2”?
When I made the first album I wasn’t really thinking about singles. There was no real format because my focus was on creating a dope all around mixtape. On the last album there might have been mass attention records that could have been worked a bit more. Marketing wise I think it could have been tighter and that maybe we should have worked another single. For this album I’m a little more strategic and focusing on what’s going to be a single and what isn’t, while before I was just trying to hit the streets with the whole shit.
How much production did you contribute this time around?
I produced about eight or nine out of the twenty-two joints. I got more involved with production and collaborating with the artists. I was able to be more involved musically and lyrically this time around, so there was more of a concentration on making songs.
If you had to categorize your style of production what would it be?
Straight b-boy. I have a b-boy mentality for everything I’m doing, whether it’s rhyming, producing, or spinning in a club. Dancing is my first love so I have to make the people dance.
Any specific formula you use when making beats?
Sometimes it will be a drum loop or something vocal. It depends, other times I might find an ill sample, a bass line, or a rift and it will start from there. It comes from all ways, sometimes you got a rhyme that you want to spit and it comes from the words. There’s no real formula. My shit is improvised, so I go with a feeling. I don’t really sit there and dwell too much on trying to make it sound like this or like that. I’ve been kind of winging it lately.
What process do you use to decide which artists rhyme over your beats?
It’s a formula that I’ve had since I did the 50 MCs mixtape. It’s just a matching game. I hear beats and I can hear this kid on it or I definitely want him on the album so I’m going to look for this type of beat or make that type of beat for him. It always starts off with the artist that I’m going to be working with. I try and cater to them, but from my point of view of what I feel they can rap on.
Do you plan your appearances on the mic or is it based on the chemistry in the studio?
It’s all pretty much a feeling. It’s fairly spontaneous. I don’t put too much thought or stress into it because this shit was built on improvising. From freestyling to writing to b-boying, you have to be able to improvise, so that’s my formula for makings these records now. I just have fun with it, sometimes the feeling isn’t right, but when it comes to rhyming on this or that a lot of that stuff isn’t even planned. I might think of some shit right then and get a feeling like I have to rhyme on it and other times I leave it for the artists to catch wreck on.
What do you feel are the necessary ingredients for a complete mixtape?
You gotta play some shit that’s banging at the moment, some exclusive unheard shit, some underground shit that’s out but not getting its shine, and you have to be able to incorporate the whole DJ element of mixing, cutting, and making your shit clean and sharp. On top of presentation, I would say attitude and personality are playing a role right now. People talk on their tapes, some people have no business talking while others sound good when they do that. I can understand a cat yelling, because as a DJ you get hyped when you’re making a tape. There’s an appropriate time for everything, but you got to know when to talk, yell, or when to bark.
What do you bring to the table that separates you from others DJs?
I think I’m one of your more well rounded D Js in terms of being able to do some jigged out gig or some real underground Rocksteady shit. You also have turntablists that are sick with it, but not all of them can rock the clubs. Then you have some club DJs whose music selections are nice, but they don’t have any DJ skills. I would say I have enough of each that would put me in that well-rounded realm, because there’s only a few that can rep both. I’m not saying I’m a turntablist, but I can hold my own. I still go back and forth whether it’s on tape or at a party. I guess I would also put myself in the category of DJs that rhyme alongside Pete Rock and Doo Wop.