Tony Austin Talks Mixtapes on the Streets of Baltimore
In the rap game, if you don’t rep your city you’re probably not going anywhere. In part two of our interview with Baltimore artist Tony Austin, we discussed the pride that comes with his hometown. Austin truly runs his city and gets the utmost respect throughout his day-to-day business.
Before sitting down to talk, Austin ran some errands and explored the real Baltimore. He dropped off about 10 stacks at the bank in a private backroom (skipping the line, of course), so that he’d have enough one dollar bills for the 2’O Clock Club — his strip club on the city’s infamous Block. The next stop was the mall where Austin spent summer afternoons in his teen years and the Sand-Town Barbershop in West Baltimore — a place the rapper has gotten haircuts for 20-plus years and can stop a Kobe vs. LeBron argument dead in its tracks with a simple stare.
As Austin is the king of Baltimore, he’s the perfect person to shed light on why the city is generally ignored in the national and mainstream hip-hop scenes.
The BoomBox: Why don’t we hear much from Baltimore as far as real hip-hop?
Tony Austin: It’s that club music. A lot of our rappers, besides a couple, get with the same guys who do the club songs and rap over a club beat. That’s not hip-hop and it’s not accepted, like just right there in D.C. for example or across the street in Delaware or Philly — they not paying attention. It’s different if you put a person in a circle in Baltimore and then you put him in Philly. He lost, because he doesn’t understand the culture of it. You go right up the street to New York and it’s really a culture shock. Like, we was just talking, you got your Funkmaster Flexes and big DJs and all them. They only on some New York stuff or some stuff that’s real hip-hop.
The BoomBox: With the south poppin’ at such a mainstream level right now and regional scenes all getting their shine, are executives even looking at Baltimore for something new?
From an executive level, you’re not even looking at Baltimore. You’re looking past it, because there’s nothing there to catch your attention. Why? Because it don’t have the support of the streets and it don’t have the support of the radio. If you start a real street movement, you don’t even have to worry about radio.
The BoomBox: So, in a place like Baltimore, you shouldn’t even worry about radio in the beginning?
Like me, I don’t even mess with it. I got a guy that’s trying to do radio, but they are not gonna get it. I put thousands of mixtapes out there. We can go somewhere, you know, right around the corner on Greenmount Avenue and people bumping the mixtape. That says a lot. If you put out something and they listening to it, that means they really like it. There’s something genuine there that’s catching they’re souls. Music is universal.
To me, I tell people, I’m on another whole different level. It’s a movement. You either get with the movement or the movement will leave you behind. Ain’t nothing really selling. You gotta be here to take a chance on yourself before somebody else takes a chance on you. Being in the industry for so long, people call it cheating; I’ve been in that position. I know what I’m making and what I’m not making. I don’t need the validation. I know what it is.