Ray Villarreal, aka Tone Royal, dropped his first project recently, Rushing Greatness. The Texas rapper gives us a little more insight into his music, his passions, as well as a bunch of other fun stuff.
“Tone Royal” – how did that name come about and when did you first fall in love with hip-hop?
Tone Royal is a combination of my city and my name. Tone, standing for San Antonio, and Royal, representing my last name (Villarreal) which means royal village or royal town in Spanish. I first fell in love with Hip-Hop from when I was around 6 years old. I remember hearing Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio, and being hooked. I loved the beat and the way the words flowed together, I was captivated by the music from the first time I heard it.
What music in general were you listening to growing up?
Growing up I listened to a lot of Outkast, Eminem, Ludacris, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Common, Talib Kweli…honestly I listened to whatever I could get my hands on. I had to sneak a lot of albums into my house. My parents weren’t big fans of the explicit nature of the music, haha.
Do you remember the first song you wrote? If so, tell us about it.
I can’t remember the exact first song I wrote, but I started writing music when I was 12-years-old, so I’m sure it was terrible. I actually found a notebook the other day filled with music I wrote while I was in middle school… It’s bad, really bad, haha.
Did the city you grew up in have an impact on yourself as an artist and the kind of music you want to make?
I’m from San Antonio, but I was raised in Georgia. Living in GA really expanded the variety of hip-hop I was exposed to. I grew up listening to faster, boom-bap type of hip hop and rap where lyrics, storytelling and punchlines were the focal point of the music, an example would be Outkast. Moving back to San Antonio, I was introduced to a culture where slow, chopped and screwed hip-hop was the main style people listened to, and I could never get into it. I feel Georgia had a bigger impact on me, as far as influencing the type of music I make, much more than San Antonio has.
You’ve been a guest on Double Toasted and some of their podcasts for months now. How did you originally get involved with that crew?
I was a huge fan of Double Toasted and had been following the show since its days as Spill.com. I randomly ran into Korey Coleman, the main host and site founder, at a bar one night on Rainy Street here in Austin. I was so ecstatic, I ran up to him and tried not to freak out. He ended up inviting me to the studio and put me on the show, kind of as a one time thing, but he ended up liking me so much that he kept asking me to come back, eventually asking me to become a regular co-host on the show. I’ve been working with DT for about 9 months now. It all started from a drunk night in Austin…
How do you feel about the hip-hop scene in general right now? What do you love about it and what do you hate?
I believe hip-hop is entering a special period. the internet has allowed vast varieties of hip hop to truly shine and expand globally, in contrast to the radio/tv era where the population’s main source to the music was basic, commercial, hip-hop that was broadcasted by major labels. I love that different sounding artists, genres and styles of hip-hop are actually successful because they can gain listeners and establish a fanbase through the internet. The major labels no longer determine what the population is forced to listen to.
Oversaturation is the thing I hate most about hip hop. Though the internet is good, it has also led to an oversaturated market of people trying to be musicians. Today everyone has access to microphones, recording software and websites that allow you to post music cheaply and easily. yes there are more good artists, but unfortunately, there are even more bad artists.
Getting into this project you’ve put together, Rushing Greatness, you’ve definitely established your voice and personality all over every track. What were you hoping to accomplish with this album, this being your first project release, what impression did you want to leave on people?
My main goal of, Rushing Greatness, was showcasing variation, flow and lyrical ability. I wanted people to know that I could rap over any type of beat, while staying true to lyricism. Each song feels different and sounds different from one another. I have traditional boom-bap, followed by a trap beat, followed by a love song. The main thing I want people to take away from my music is the understanding that I’m my own artist. I don’t want people to say, Tone Royal sounds like (insert rapper here); I want people to say, This rapper sounds like Tone Royal.
What was your mindset like while in the studio? In general, what is the process you go through when putting a song together?
While recording in the studio, the main thing I focus on is cadence and emotion, I ask myself, does this delivery stir this emotion of the listener. I try to visualize what people see when listening to a song, It’s like painting a picture with your words. I have my own vision now let me share that same picture with you without showing you the actual picture.
Do you have an all time favorite hip-hop album?
Oh man, I can’t even narrow it down to one. All of Kanye’s albums are great. Blu’s, Below the Heavens, is up there. Kendrick’s Section 80, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP. I could do this all day, there’s way too many.
As an artist in music, what are you hoping to do and accomplish in the near future?
I hope that my music can allow me to visit a multitude of places and interact with great people. The main thing I want to do is be able to look back and not have any regrets. I don’t care about becoming famous or rich, I just want to be able to make good music that people truly enjoy. I want to say I wasn’t afraid to chase my dreams.
Any last words, comments, jokes, shoutouts?
Thanks for reading about me, I hope I didn’t bore ya. Just know I don’t take myself too seriously, I’m pretty much a goofy kid that enjoys rapping. Listen to the FREE album, ya’ll! Oh, and shout out to my grandma and any other person going through cancer. My prayers are with you and remember to stay strong.