Tone Jonez is a producer, sound engineer, husband, and father from Aiken, South Carolina now based in Atlanta. The music veteran sat down with Hip Hop Scriptures to talk about his rise to success, how he overcame struggles in both his personal life and his career, and give tips to any rising producers or creatives. Read an interview recap below and check out the full interview on YouTube above.
About Tone Jonez
Tone started playing keys when he was three years old. As a three year old child, he was able to pick up the melody of a commercial he heard on tv and play it on his toy keyboard. His father, who was also a musician, was ecstatic. Tone’s father is the one who took him under his wing and introduced and trained him in music. Tone credits this as this beginning of his music career. Read more about Tone here.
Producing and Sound Design Collective
Tone’s role in music starts with bare-bones sound creation. He spoke with us about his work in the Sound Design Collective, where producers get the sounds they are using in their beats. These sounds are also used in movies and films. He first began his work with the Sound Design Collective as a customer, eventually buying enough of their sounds to catch their attention. They reached out to him, and a partnership began. Tone couldn’t get too into his work as a sound designer (some NDAs were involved…), but he did speak on how far reaching his sounds are. He hears his sounds being used in beats coming from all over the country. His ear for music has allowed him to find inspiration in the most unexpected places. Tone has made beats out of everything from a leaky sink to zoo animals!
Not growing up hip hop
Fun fact about Tone Jonez: he had no idea Biggie and Tupac were dead! He grew up in a Christian household. His dad threw away all his rap tapes when Tone was young, so he never had a chance to listen to it at home. Tone only heard hip hop in passing. The genre he was immersed in however, was gospel. “I’m thankful for that because it helped me to get a really rich musicality and it helped me later on when I was able to finally hear some hip hop and kind of mend those elements together.”
Chi Chi, our founder and interviewer, grew up in Chicago and had her own thoughts about the connections between gospel and hip hop. “The intersection between gospel and hip hop is the struggle and testifying to that struggle and making something beautiful out of it.” This is something that Tone knows well. He did not get to where he is today without his own share of struggle.
“It’s one of those things where I appreciate the struggle in the moment, but way after the struggle, especially in times like right now, I really appreciate that struggle because I see how it molded certain characteristics I was going to need on this journey. I was going to need perseverance.” Tone looks back at times where he was just getting out on his own, without heat, A/C, or money, only focused on one thing: making beats. His dedication to his craft is what kept him going. Tone says he kept pushing even when things were tough, and once he learned he could do that, he was unstoppable.
Importance of a web presence as a producer
The Internet is a huge tool for all new producers to take advantage of. Tone sees it as an opportunity to take control over one’s own success. There is no waiting around to be discovered; you are constructing your own brand. Tone suggested spending your time on building a presence, whether that be on your own site or on socials, to assemble an audience and get people tuned in.
Tone needed help with the infrastructure of his business. He was getting too many customers to keep up with and it was beginning to get overwhelming. In 2012, he joined with AirBit to handle the logistics of selling beats. This allowed him to spend more time making beats and working on his artistry. Tone credits the platform with his ability to have such a booming business, saying there is no way he would be able to maintain all the traffic he gets today.
From producer to composer
Tone’s Grammy nomination came as a complete surprise to him. He made a beat, published it on his website. Tone actually sang on the beat, using his voice as the song’s choir. Lecrae ended up reworking the beat and using Tone’s choir in their own song, landing Tone the nomination. Tone says had no idea he was nominated until someone else texted him congratulations! The beat is still one of Tone’s most popular. He says while he was recording the choir vocals, he was channeling Kirk Franklin, one of his biggest inspirations. Now those exact vocals are used on a song featuring Kirk Franklin! Let this serve as an inspiration to any aspiring producers out there - anything is possible!
Advice for any new producers
“It’s easy to put it online… and think that now you can just sit back and the money is just gonna start rolling in. It does not work like that!” Tone believes the key is to work on building your audience, put yourself out there, and be authentic. The energy he put out is what he got back. Tone says people want to know you, not just what you do. Being able to connect with your audience will get you far.
Connections to Atlanta
Tone is originally from South Carolina and he has a lot of pride in where he is from, but he can’t deny there is something magical about where he is located now, Atlanta GA. His friend originally brought him out to Atlanta to do beat battles and Tone said it felt like a whole different world. He loved how in Atlanta, everyone was going after their dreams and following their passions. The energy surrounding Atlanta was infectious, until one day Tone realized he didn’t want to leave. Relocating was “the hardest thing (he) had to do…”, but it was the change of pace he needed to kickstart his career.
Watch the full interview here.