by Eric Hunter
Hip-Hop has been one of the main sources of self-expression across the globe for generations. In the Bay Area, we have a tradition of using rap music to generate revenue by using the “out-the-trunk” underground independent grind. Since the early 80s, rappers in the Bay have been known for pressing up their own records and selling them on the street from block to block.
I respect the hustle, entrepreneurial spirit, and ambition to have ownership of your art, instead of allowing yourself to be exploited by the corporate mainstream music industry. The respect I have for this game leads me back to an often overlooked, historic, cultural hotspot; The streets of West Oakland. I tapped in with a real rap veteran known as Big Toine, to share his experience of making music and tell his story from his perspective.
E Da Ref: What sparked your passion for music?
Big Toine: My first passion was basketball but music has always been a part of my upbringing. My passion for music comes from my little brother who passed away. He was the rapper but he didn’t want to do it alone. The love of music just grew on me.
E Da Ref: How did the atmosphere and environment you grew up in shape You as an artist?
Big Toine: We grew up at the beginning of the crack era, so once we hit a certain age we jumped right into it. Even through the storm, it taught me to grind and be independent.
E Da Ref: How many projects have you released and which one would you say is the most successful?
Big Toine: I have four projects to date. My 1st one was called “Peep Game.” Then I put out “Put It Down,” “Ultimate Plan,” and “Faceoff”. My most successful project was the first one, “Peep Game.” It was easier and more lucrative back in 1995 because if you wanted the tape or CD you had to personally go get it, now with streams and stuff it’s a little more tricky.
E Da Ref: You’ve seen the transformation of the rap game from slangin’ CDs to streaming platforms. Which way do you think is better?
Big Toine: I’ll have to say CDs because now you have to put your music in other people’s hands and hope for the best. You still have to do everything you initially had to do to make your project move. It’s pros and cons on both sides of it but I rather keep my music in my own hands.
E Da Ref: What are the pros and cons of being an independent artist compared to an artist signed to a record deal?
Big Toine: The pros of being independent is being in control of your own music and you can actually see the progress. The cons are the process is slow and labels can be hard to deal with.
E Da Ref: What is the latest project or single you put out? Are you working on any new music?
Big Toine: I just dropped the single “Carry on” produced by Dj Daryl along with the video out now on all platforms. On April 10th I will be releasing my next single “Street Shxt” featuring C-Bo and Marvaless, produced by my guy Bank $inatra on all platforms as well. Plus we’re working on a new West Coast Offense album and a new album with Brody Loc entitled
E Da Ref: What is West Coast Offenze? That’s a creative name. Is there a deeper meaning behind it?
Big Toine: West Coast Offenze is a group consisting of two artists, Mac Reem and I. My homie Killa bee thought of the name way back and it stuck with me so instead of Big Toine and Mac Reem we decided to use the name. We’re from the West Coast and when we make music, we make plays to score.
E Da Ref: You’ve collabed with some legendary high profile artists. Do a quick roll call of the artists you worked with.
Big Toine: I’ve done songs with a lot legendary artists like San Quinn, Dj Darryl, Saafir, Seagram (R.I.P), Biaje, Laroo , Lil Keke and my personal favorite Mac Dre and Lil Keke with all my production work by the one and only Dj J Cutt. And I got new projects with C-Bo Marvaless and J Stalin.
E Da Ref: Describe the experience when you recorded your first song.
Big Toine: When I did my first project, “Peep Game“, I was a little nervous because I wanted it to go so well but my voice sounded a little shallow. After I got that first song done I felt like throwing up.
E Da Ref: What advice would you give to young up-and-coming artists?
Big Toine: Do what you love, stay grinding, and never let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. Also never think that anything will be handed to you because that’s not how it goes.
Journalist Eric Hunter (E Da Ref), an Oakland native, is Minister of Public Relations for the Black Riders Liberation Party and Co-Editor of African Intercommunal News Service. He writes for Black New World Media and the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau headed by JR Valrey. Hunter can be reached at email@example.com.