STREAM ON ALL PLATFORMS HERE.
Barely a week ago I posted one of the best projects I’ve heard all year – Chief Tone and MeRCY’s new full-length Sophisticated Thuggery. The album is gritty, dark, raw and full of dusty beats and dexterous rhymes. I was so impressed with their work I had to learn the ins and outs of the project, how long they’ve worked together, what inspires them as artists, and who they are as people. As you read the interview below, BE SURE, to stream Sophisticated Thuggery at the top of this page.
Hey guys! Give me a brief intro on yourselves.
Chief Tone: What’s up everybody I go by the name Chief Tony… originally from Newark, New Jersey but currently residing in Broward County Florida. Half Puerto Rican half Jamaican (owww 😜 lol) & I love food, art, design (whether it’s automotive, industrial or clothing) music of course, traveling, meeting new people & seeing new things
MeRCY: What up, what up, the name is MeRCY. Born and raised near the Everglades of South Florida. Currently living in NY; however, everyone seems to think I am born from New York. A hip hop junkie. A Nike head and Ralph Lauren Polo addict. I’m into anime and draw in my spare time. Like my women thick and like my fried chicken. Listen to music and get to know me better.
How long has each of you been making music?
M: I’ve been making music for over a decade. My household felt like it was filled with musicians. I’ve came from the Golden Era…the Nas, Wu, Biggie, Mobb Era. I started rapping shortly after middle school and rocked out with my crew during lunch breaks and hallway ciphers. However, once I started doing shows and opening up for the likes of Action Bronson, Schoolboy Q, Smoke DZA, Cyhi Da Prynce…that’s when I started to take it seriously.
CT: It actually started for me in Middle School… around 96. I was in band where I learned to read/write music & actually orchestrate it so, along with that & being a fan of it since I was a child while hearing it throughout my households, that’s when I started creating… not rapping though lol, I was shy then & didn’t have my words altogether for the most part haha
How long have you been working together? How did you initially link up and want to work together?
M: Tone and I been working for years. Definitely over a decade. We initially linked up during our High School days. Thanks to my sister, Christyle. She introduced me to Chief and told me how dope of a lyricist he is. I instantly became a fan of his work and we just connected ever since.
CT: I’d say me & Mercy started collaborating over 10 years ago, maybe even longer. We were both in groups at the time & heard of each other through mutual friends & family, then finally decided to work one day & it’s been history since.
You dropped a HELL of a project recently titled Sophisticated Thuggery which I had to write up. Tell me about why you chose that title and what it means to you.
CT: Gotta give credit to Merc, that was his idea. Once I heard it though, I knew it’d be something epic. It fits because not are we only gentlemen, but we both have a street side to us, given the areas we grew up in & the people we grew to know. I think we’re great depictions of both so, the title was perfect!
M: I came up with the title. I found the title being musically fitting for what me and Tone represent in our music. I was watching Mike Tyson documentaries and he said something of the nature of being sophisticated but always viewed as a thug. It kinda stuck with me. It’s kinda like a split personality between gentlemen and a gangster. Someone that has class but knows the streets and the harsh reality that comes with it. The album plays the fine line in between those two characteristics.
I hail Sophisticated Thuggery up there with any Griselda release sonically and in quality. Do you draw any influence from them? Who are your influences?
CT: Aw man that’s love! Shouts out Griselda & Big BSF! They are definitely an influence but my other influences personally of today’s time, are artists like Jay Electronica, D Block, Nas, Black Thought just to name a few. Way too many to name.
M: Man, I really appreciate that and especially putting our album at such high regard! Griselda and others reminded me why I loved Hip Hop in the first place. It’s that raw rap at its finest. The street politics. The harsh reality. Hip Hop is a culture. Some of my influences stem from Mobb Deep Nas, Tribe, Outkast countless others.
How did you first get introduced to hip hop? Who did you listen to growing up?
M: I first got introduced to Hip Hop by my oldest brother, Gutta Man, who’s also a rap artist and was making beats for EPMD and Hit Squad back then. I remember watching MTV raps and peeped the music video for Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend” and instantly was blown away. Hip Hop took me by storm. However, I grew up listening to a variety of music from Mobb Deep to Nirvana. A lot of Hip Hop from the Golden Era played a significant role and a soundtrack to my life.
CT: My Uncles were the coolest men I knew growing up & I looked up to them a lot so, from the music they listened to, to the way they dressed and carried themselves was what kind of set the tone for me. Back then, it was artists like Redman, Wu-Tang, EPMD & Rakim who really grabbed my attention.
Going back to the album, how long did it take to complete?
CT: We did that joint on a weekend! It was great! The vibes, the support, the hunger… everything was there for those sessions so when you’re in the groove, you can accomplish A LOT in a short span of time. Mixing took a couple of days but, as far as the recording aspect, that was all done in a weekend’s time.
M: Haha, you want me to be real with you?! It nearly took us less than 10hrs to record the whole album. Features and all. It was really the most relaxing and easygoing process of finishing a project I ever done.
How did you collaborate on it? Did you work in the studio together, send files back and forth…?
CT: We did both. Communication is key when you’re collaborating with another artist in person or a far so, we had to do both on this project, but it wasn’t our first time doing that so, we already knew how to make it work.
M: I live in New York now and Tone lives in Florida. I would shoot a text about a song or concept about collaborating but this album was discussed years prior. We always wanted to do an EP originally but our schedules would be hectic at times or we would get distracted doing other things. We did manage to work together at the studio in the final stages but we were sending files back and forth before recording.
Are you happy about the reception of the project?
M: The reception has been great and I feel it’s just the beginning of great things to come. This project is well rounded and has something for everyone.
CT: Absolutely. This one hit different! My Aunt even loves it & she’s old school so too many curse words & vulgarity turns her off but she was rockin wit it haha! That & the homies man… it was just that full circle of love & support being felt from the release date until now, & I still couldn’t be more thankful.
What are your goals moving forward with it? Any plans on promoting, performing, etc?
M: I think Tone said it best. It’s all about keeping the consistency going and staying relevant. We’re currently working on connecting the dots and keeping our work out there to the masses.
CT: Me personally, I’d like to do everything under the sun with it. More promotion, shows, videos, merch… all of that.
When did both of you decide to take music seriously?
CT: I knew I always loved music & wanted to tap into all areas of it, given my upbringing, at a young age. I didn’t start to record until after High School though, but after my first tape, the reaction I got just solidified my passion & made it real for me. I can’t front though, there was a time I didn’t want to do it anymore & fell back on it to focus on other things, but fate brought me right back in & we’re here now!
M: I took rap seriously after getting great reception and how life-changing it can be for others and not just myself. Most importantly, I feel I am nice with it. I do this rap shit for real and do it for real ones that take it seriously.
What can we look out for from you both this year?
M: More sophisticated. More thuggery. Definitely more music straight up! I’m currently working on my solo project and Tone is working on his upcoming solo effort. We’re staying busy. We just wanna keep this shit going. We got good music. We got good people around us. We got a good amount of supporters looking out for us.
CT: Merc & I are both going to release solo efforts this year, following this body of work, so make sure you all tap in with that because we do not plan to disappoint!
Any last shoutouts or thoughts?
CT: Yeah shouts out to all the people that continually support us & keep us focused & driven. Without yall man, I don’t know where we’d be. Shouts out to the producers sending us that heat, engineers that keep our music crisp like Veuve, & everyone adding to our inspiration, knowingly or unknowingly. This for YALL!
M: Shoutout to everyone that’s been supporting my music and Tone’s music. Much love for everyone and anyone that took their valuable time to check out our work. Shoutout to the whole iLLustrious crew. Jorge. Trav. Solid. Bishop. Everyone in Broward. All the A1s from day 1. Your gratitude is my latitude. Thank you for this interview especially. Peace throughout.