Interviews

Ton3x: Blend (Part 2 of 3)

After discussing his decision to return to the music industry in Part I as well as the opportunity to star as Jimmy Early in DreamGirls Ton3x answered several questions about his new single “Bl3nd” and his relationship with not only the Church but with other Gospel musicians who have in some ways made Gospel “cool” for young adults in Part II.

Singersroom: I have to ask you about “Bl3nd (Blend).” The content of that song is so inspiring and so true to both the young and the more seasoned because you talk about being yourself and not necessarily conforming to other ideals. Do you feel like conformity is a major issue not only in education and business, but in the church in terms of distributing the message?

Ton3x: I believe that there’s a fine line between compromise and concession. With compromise, many times your standards or standpoints are diluted to be a peacemaker but not a peacekeeper. When you make peace just to avoid an argument you really haven’t created an element of you being a peacekeeper.

Concessions however, means that I adapt to an environment to broaden the awareness of what it is I represent. I may pull back here to be launched here just so that the overall theme of what I represent is there.

Blend (Bl3nd) for me meant…not to be the antisocial, rebellious, narcissistic, over the top, two middle fingers up and screw the world and just do it your way… that’s not the theme. The theme is “why do you feel you have to look, act and sing like them to have success?” … then you wonder why you don’t find it, it’s because even they know that’s not you.

It’s one thing if they know you’re just going to play the game but it’s quite another when they know there’s more to you than what you’re giving. They know you’re dumbing down something to try and fit into their world and that could be music; that could be the corporate world… that could be anything. People know when you have something unique that you’re trying to dilute or dumb down just to make a hit or just to be accepted. It’s better to do it your way, because your way (the original way) is the way God intended it or else he wouldn’t have made you the way you were.

I think it’s a very strong message but at the same time polite. I felt like it was a polite way of saying…”do you and respect others originality”. I felt that was the way to open up this album and it’s not one of those preachy, screw everybody else type of messages.

You’re unique in God’s eyes and if you’re good enough for God’s eyes then everyone else… if you just do you…they’re going to see that. Even if they don’t agree or like it, they’re going to respect it.

Singersroom: I admire the fact that you are daring enough to be yourself in Gospel. Especially since some may deem your approach too secular or going too far. How do you feel about the new movement of more Pop/R&B infused Gospel music with artists like Deitrick Haddon who, like you, have sort of made it cool to listen to Gospel ? Do you feel, like I sort of believe you have, that you’ve pushed the envelope and helped to open the door?

Ton3x: A lot of people honestly don’t give Deitrick enough credit for his contributions before I even came out. His first album was “Live The Life” with V.O.U. Besides myself he was the only person I had heard of that used mainstream samples in Gospel music.

Now John P. Kee actually used interpolations of pop hits in Gospel music. He was the first person that I heard do that in modern Gospel, which has of course been going on for years.

The song he (Deitrick) had, called “Holiness,” on his first album with V.O.U., sampled “Walk On By” by Isaac Hayes (which the Notorious B.I.G. used on his album). He was unheard of. He was on the East Coast and I was on the West Coast and we were both from the Apostolic faith and same organization so it felt like I had a brother that understood where I was coming from.

To answer your question, just as much as some may say I’ve paved the way. There are so many unsung heroes that never got the proper recognition. Like Brent Jones and T.P.Mobb, who single handedly – whether the rest of the world knew it or not– before there was a Kirk, “Stomp” or any amount of dancing that was allowed in the conventional choir setting or church, Brent Jones was doing that back in 89′ and 91′.

Hip Hop and DJ’s with the choir…it looked like they were copying someone else when they are indeed the originators.

I feel like we’ve all open doors for each other. I feel my fashion risks and ventures have opened up to be acceptable.

To particularly black gospel audiences dread locks were not necessarily permissible when I first came out, but Dewayne Woods has found success with his image and Tye Tribbet – the same thing I was crucified for. I do see myself as more of a fashion and stylistic or if you want to say it (and it’s funny) icon now that I look back on it. There was a level of courage that it took to pull that off but honestly at the time I didn’t know what to be afraid of. I was just doing what I always did. I was just being me.

I was just the one that represented a whole underground breed of believers that just didn’t want to compromise their expression and made it okay and alright. To see that, that spirit has carried on to generations that don’t have to go through what I went through. That’s what I’m happy about.

It was very hard sometimes to hear some of the horrible things and to be treated a certain type of way at certain congregations, concerts and tours. But if that is what it took to make it where these kids now can do other things, I’m glad to be named among the Deitricks, J. Moss’, Brent Jones’ and all of them. I think we helped each other.

Singersroom: For me it’s sort of weird to see kids walking around singing Deitrick Haddon songs at school and different places. It’s kind of like “Wow… Gospel is cool now.” Because you know, back in the day it wasn’t necessarily cool to be listening to Gospel at school, on the bus or wherever you were as a teenager.

Ton3x: That’s right. (Laughs) not at all.

Singersroom: Yeah. It’s crazy now to see that…but in a good way.

Ton3x: You’re right.

Stay clicked to Singersroom for the third and final portion of Ton3x’s three part sit down (Read Part 1 Here). Speaking further about “Unspoken” and even artists that have inspired his career, including Janet Jackson, Ton3x more importantly answers poignantly for the first time…. his stance on the LGBT community and explains what he meant in an interview regarding marketing and performing to an LGBT audience. —— By: Interview By: Njai Joszor

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