"Versatile is who I am," the ever-amped and spirited rapper shouts! "I make music for everybody - stuff for the West Coast gangsters and lowriders, and joints that East Coast cats can appreciate lyrically with beats that can still get the South crunk. My roots are in Nicaragua and El Salvador, so I got Black, Spanish and White in me. I mix it up like rice and beans, baby!"
After successfully recording six albums on his own, T-Bone recently partnered with industry veteran, Louis “Buster” Brown to ensure that his seventh disc would have the music and magic to reach a broader audience. Buster, part of the legendary production team Buster & Shavoni, is a specialist at creating inspirational content that explodes in the mainstream marketplace. Lending the full weight of his executive experience as Sr. V.P. of A&R for B-Rite Records, and having produced multiple platinum-plus projects by the likes of Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams and God’s Property (which, combined, exceed 15 million units sold), Buster joining forces with T-Bone was a no-brainer. Brown elaborates, “Right after I finished executive producing the companion soundtrack for the book ‘Purpose Driven Life,’ God spoke to me, telling me to put T-Bone on my shoulders and carry him over to his ‘Promised Land.’ I said, ‘God…T-Bone is over 200 pounds!’ But who can argue with God?” All jokes aside, Buster is dead serious about his involvement. He and T-Bone’s collaborative chemistry is destined to be a Bone-A-Fide sensation.
T-Bone has rocked the mic alongside righteous artists from Kirk Franklin to Yolanda Adams, and collaborated with mainstream artists from KRS-One to Mack 10. In addition, he’s hosted two TV music programs "TX-10" (Dish Network) and "Real Videos" (TBN), plus had standout performances in the feature film and soundtrack "The Fighting Temptations" (w/ Beyonce and Cuba Gooding, Jr.). He’s now primed for across-the-board superstardom with his amazing new album, Bone-A-Fide. Check the first single, "Can I Live," on which T-Bone spits, “I’m bout bringing my people over like I’m Harriett Tubman / Been through the fire like Kanye West, beat the odds / Now I’m on shuffles and iPods / See, most of y’all could never reach stature / `Cuz half of you gangsta rappers is gangsta actors / And backstabbers, y’all got the game backwards / But Bone and Darkchild make hits like linebackers!”
There's the Hip Hop blast from the past "12 Years Ago" that crunches along on a rock guitar riff a la vintage Run-DMC and Beastie Boys. There's the epically melodic "I've Been Looking Around" and the club banger "Follow T" in which he flexes his bilingual capabilities AND sings the hook! "Hard Streets,” ironically, represents the softer side of T-Bone as produced by his old friends the Avila Brothers, who wrote on Janet Jackson's and Usher's latest albums. With additional tracks produced by red hot Bosko, Buster & Shavoni and Hallway Productions, Bone-A-Fide promises to be the most talked about rap album of the season.
The crux is that T-Bone has the undeniable skillz to match wits and rhymes with the toughest MCs in the game, only his message emanates from another dimension. "If you walk into a well-lit room and turn on a flashlight, it makes no difference," T-Bone muses. "If you walk into a dark room and turn on that same flashlight, it's going to illuminate the whole room. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm not coming into the game to make enemies, point fingers or judge people. I'm just fighting for what I believe in and trying to pull everyone over to my side. Doing what I do, my way, I've had rappers from E-40 to Killa Mike tell me that they have respect and love for me and what I stand for."
What T-Bone stands for is nothing short of a planetary spiritual revolution with all praises due to God. Without preaching, T-Bone speaks in the fiery, lava-like flow of Hip Hop, running over and penetrating everything in its path to sear in the concept of a better way of life. And you can best be sure that T-Bone knows what it means to have led the “Hard-Knock Life."
T-Bone was born and raised in the Mission District of Northern California. His father is from Nicaragua and his mother is from El Salvador. Frequent visits to both homelands insured that he learned a lot about his culture. It wasn't long, however, that in the midst of his immediate ghetto surroundings, T-Bone was caught up in the lure of rap. "When Hip Hop started,” T-Bone shares, “I grew up listening to KRS-One, Public Enemy and LL Cool J. Then West Coast rap started to rise up with N.W.A and 2Pac."
One wonders what a rapper of such inspirational rhymes today heard in the incendiary raps of ghetto thugs like N.W.A., but T-Bone found plenty. "Everything they were rapping about , I was living," he testifies. "I was raised amongst the gangs, drug dealers and pimps. My life hasn't always been positive. I was left for dead. I had 15 gang members break into my spot at 3 in the morning and try to kill me. I know what it's like to have a gun drawn on me, what it's like to deal some stuff and to jump folks. I'm open about what I did, but I rap about how I changed my life for the better."
Reflecting on what made him rethink the direction of his rap ‘thematics,’ T-Bone witnesses, "The turning point was when my friend Ralphie was shot to death in a drive-by - once in the chest and once in the back. As he was lying in the grass twitching, my friends tried, in vain, to make him get up. His last words were, "Just tell everyone to wear red at my funeral." I thought, 'What did he die for...this ignorant color?!' My parents were pastors at the time, so I knew about the things of God. I decided to flip what I was rapping about - being as crafty as the best in the game and speaking in a language this generation can relate to."
"When I started out," T-Bone continues, "I did regular street stuff at clubs and house parties. But as my life changed so did my story. There's a scripture that says, 'From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.' Once I was filled with anger and madness. Now I'm full of love, peace and joy. Hip Hop is the language of the streets. God is the language of Love. I mix the two together to see amazing results take place!"
T-Bone knows he has a battle ahead of him, but six albums on the inspirational rap side (including Redeemed Hoodlum and 2001's Grammy-nominated The Last Street Preacha) and years of touring, not just the country but all over the world, have prepared him well. Trust, 'T' is no pushover! One look at the cover of Bone-a-Fide - a replica of revolutionary Che Guevara’s world-renowned portrait - forewarns all listeners upfront what's about to take place in their headphones: a rain shower of revolutionary rhymes.
"I know my cover is controversial," T-Bone states, "but there are parallels. One, I represent God and when Jesus was on Earth He himself was very controversial. Two, I'm Hispanic, so I did something I felt represented for my people. Three, when you think of Che Guevara you think revolution, which also reflects struggle and militancy. I wanted people to see my CD cover and immediately get that I'm comin' up to change the game." T-Bone is no casual convert to the ideologies of Guevara. He's been sporting a tattoo of the legend on his arm for years. "What I respect most about Che is that he was for the people," T-Bone reasons. "For instance, Fidel Castro was down with him at first, but they broke up because Castro let the power go to his head and became a dictator. Meanwhile - even when he became empowered - Che still worked in the fields with the people. He always remembered where he came from and what he was fighting for."
Proving his solidarity with the secular rebels of rap, T-Bone collaborates with two major street rappers on Bone-A-Fide. First, there's West Coast legend Mack 10. "People might think guys like Mack 10 are just gangstas," T-Bone states, "but gangstas are looking for God, too. That's what our song 'A Few Good Men' (produced by Fredwreck, Dr. Dre’s right-hand man) is about. Mack says, 'I'm all about Jesus but I'm nothin' like Mase / I'm too gully and ghetto, but still covered in His grace!' He still says stuff like 'If you see me in a 6-4, tuck your pistol / It's on if you miss, so be careful what you wish for.' He's not trying to be something that he's not. In the end, we talk about bringing hip-hop where it used to be, and challenging listeners to repent of their sins.
T-Bone also gets down with Hispanic Street don Chino XL. "'Ya’ll Can't Win' produced by King Tech (from Sway & King Tech) is a lyrical massacre of battle rhymes. “I say 'Opposing me could be detrimental / Like a skinhead with a confederate flag walking through South Central!' Chino says, 'We be the bomb, I keep it real like the Black Eyed Peas before they added that blonde!'"
Once Bone-A-Fide hits the streets, so does T-Bone on a tour that will surely take him back to places he has already visited such as Australia, India, Africa, Holland, Amsterdam, Germany, Sweden, Bolivia, Italy, Saint Tropez, Paris, Peru, Argentina and Salvador. He's even played every state in the U.S., including ultra-conservative Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana! "I've done up to 250 shows a year. The benefit is I've become a great entertainer. I've been all over the world in front of 15,000 people a night.”
“The reason I have to expand beyond ‘gospel/hip hop,’’ T-Bone concludes, “is when people hear that term, their guard goes up. I don't want to alienate people. I don't want a Muslim or a Hindu to hear music on my CD and say, ‘That's not where I'm at. I serve another God.’ My music is for everybody. God is for everyone. Love is for everyone. I made a universal record everybody can bang without a barrier restricting you from listening freely.”
“It's time for me to step out in front of the masses, get in the game with the best. I've got my armor and I'm fully equipped!”
“This how we raise the little children of America / To grow up and be criminals, rapists and bomb terrorists / From the second they’re born, innocent but torn / Between these two worlds fighting for souls, like a tug-a-war / Who’s keeping score, got juveniles in the morgue / While killas’ winning awards and steady praising The Lord, they cheer and roar / Ego-trippin’ has gotta stop / Gotta shine and rhyme in His name instead of Hip-Hop!”
from "Let That Thang Go" (written by T-Bone)