Tabi Bonney Has Master's Degrees in Biology & Education, But He Raps
DC rapper drops The Summer Years and talks about working with Dame Dash
People get excited when hip hop mogul Dame Dash and producer Ski work together because they know it was this collaboration that produced the artist who now has everyone watching the throne: Jay-Z. Today, they're working with D.C. rapper Tabi Bonney, who definitely is no young'n in the game.
Bonney first came out with "The Pocket" in 2008, a song that matched D.C. slang with an uber-cool style and flow. Bonney graduated from Florida A&M with master's degrees in biology and education. He taught high school for awhile before becoming his own brand complete with record label and clothing line. In September, he dropped his new album The Summer Years, a collaboration with the aforementioned Dash and Ski, which with it's lead video "Parachute," extended our summer a few extra months.
Loop 21 talked with Bonney about his new album, his experience working with Dame and Ski, and also about why rapping about hustling is just not cool.
Loop 21: So how were you able to connect with Dame Dash and Ski?
Tabi Bonney: I knew Ski because a good friend of mine Haziq Ali recorded with him while we were in college. Another producer who was a friend of mine, who was working with Dame Dash, hit me up on Facebook and was like, "Hey I’m up in New York working with Dame and he heard your music, and he’s a big fan and he wants to work with you." So I was like, "Cool, let me know when I can come up there, like I can be there literally tonight," because I was just so excited. They said just come up here the next day so that’s how it all happened. And when I came up, that’s when I saw Ski, Dame and Currensy and it was just an automatic connection.
Loop 21: There have been reports circulating that Dame is struggling financially. Did that make you nervous at all?
Bonney: Not at all, I mean what I learned working with Dame is that a lot of people on the outside will say or do things just to make headlines, and I don’t know what they mean by broke, cause the stuff I’m seeing -- right now I’m literally upstate in one of his estates in upstate New York (laughs) so it’s all about what you consider broke. But yeah, my thing was it was all about working with a mogul and someone I actually looked up to who had such a wealth of knowledge, so for me to be able to just pick up phone and call Dame and talk to him about anything industry-related or just period is just such a -- I can’t believe I’m in that situation.
Loop 21: So what was the growth process between you first album and The Summer Years?
Bonney: I feel like I’ve tremendously grown from working with two legends, working with Ski to working with Dame, just knowing they’ve been through it, they’ve seen it, this is what they do. And the production that Ski has just brought out a whole other side of me. So I’m better lyrically, better at storytelling and writing overall so I think to date this will be my best album. Man it took about six months because of the back-and-forth between DC and New Yory because of Ski’s schedule because he was either working with Mos Def, or Jay Electronica, or Currensy, and people like that so we had to schedule a week out of every month so I could just sit down and work with him.
Loop 21: Are you in touch with DC fam and fans, and the issues facing African Americans in the nation's capitol?
Bonney: Definitely, I’m around a lot with my younger brother stepping out looking for a job, trying to find not only just “Job” but something he actually enjoys or would like to do, and it’s very scarce out there. Even if you have the skills to do certain things, a lot of jobs are already taken. The opportunity for it is already gone. I just think that there needs to be more opportunities so that it keeps certain people off of the streets, because I hate to say it but just being a black guy in urban society the easiest thing for you to do is quick hit the streets and make quick money instead of get a job.
Loop 21: You've never been one to make a big deal in your music about hustlin' or being a gangster. Why is that important to you?
Bonney: I mean for me it’s just been done too much and if you look at it, it’s just not cool. For me, being in the streets a drug dealer, there’s nothing cool about it. We tend to over-glamorize it. One of my best friends was locked up when he was 15 for actually murdering someone and have large amounts of crack on him, guns and so forth so for his whole life to be taken away is just horrible to me. So that’s really the bottom line about why I don’t rap about it because it’s just not even cool to me. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, but there’s nothing cool about selling drugs, and most of them who talk about it don’t even do it. And then even the ones who have been locked up -- it’s just who wants to be locked up. I’d rather be free as a bird next to beautiful women, and getting money and not having to worry about cops looking for me and having to look over my back. I think the perception of it has been tremendously skewed. Those who were hustling, those who were getting it, some of them made it ok, and a handful wasn’t making that much money for it to be risking their lives or being locked up forever. All the multimillionaires I know now didn’t do it from selling drugs.
Loop 21: Is there an overarching theme that encapsulates this album?
Bonney: Yeah, a common theme is definitely about love and being in a relationship and or breaking up just because that was something that was personal to me, breaking up and getting with another one, just that struggle of loving more than one person and being forced to have that ultimatum of having to choose who you’re gonna go with. Also the recurrent theme of being yourself and going after your dreams. That sums up my whole album.