Washington D.C.: Home to the first African-American president, Ben’s Chili Bowl and their famous half-smoke sandwich, and Tabiabuè Bonney. Never heard of him?
Well if you shorten his born name down to just “Tabi Bonney,” then you’ll realize he’s the artist who first made headway a few years ago with 2006’s ‘The Pocket’ and ‘Doin’ It’ featuring Raheem Devaughn.
If you dig a little deeper, then you’ll also figure out he’s not the average artist that comes into Hip-Hop with the usual “tales from the ‘hood” story, closely in part because the MC born in West Africa is the proud owner of two college degrees from Florida A&M (also attended by Common and Dead Prez).
Speed up his life to the present time of 2009, and his latest album Dope [Click here to read review] is among one of the freshest products to be released in some time—not to mention so is his fashion line Bonney Runway. So how does the fashion designer/MC/double-degree holder feel about his life up to this point? Well that’s exactly what you’ll have to find out below.
iHipHop.com: When did you first get into Hip-Hop?
Tabi Bonney: I got into it when I first came over here from [West] Africa, and I heard people like Salt -N- Pepa, EPMD, and Special Ed all on the radio. That’s when I really had a feel about, and I wanted to be involved somehow, but I didn’t know that I was going to be rhyming.
iHipHop.com: Originally being from West Africa, did you have a little bit of a culture when you first moved to the states?
Tabi Bonney: Well, I’ve been back and forth ever since, so it wasn’t really a culture shock. It was more like just hearing Hip-Hop for the first time, or just really being embraced by it. That’s what really made me recognize it.
iHipHop.com: How do you think you’ve grown musically from A Fly Guy’s Theme to your new album Dope?
Tabi Bonney: There was a lot of growth… Year after year hopefully people continue to grow… I would say that I got a little bit more lyrical, and little bit more focused when it came to the direction that I want to head in, and how I want to come across.
So I would say it’s been a huge growth, and just falling back in love with the essence of music—just remembering how people were different, and that they aren’t the same as they are now. Back in the day you couldn’t say one artist sounded like anybody else, or dressed like anybody else.
iHipHop.com: You’re also releasing two more albums Fresh and Superstar all three months apart. What gave you the idea for that project?
Tabi Bonney: It was really supposed to be one album, it was supposed to be; “Dope meets Fresh, Fresh meets Superstar.” I was going to try and combine everything into one album, but I just felt like I couldn’t convey the messages because the styles were so vast, so it didn’t fit as one album. I’m always one for “less is more,” and I didn’t want to give the people like 20 tracks more on one album.
I just felt like I could focus more by releasing them in different installments, and just taking people along for the journey, instead of just for one time. I’m a studio of music, so I just took a step back and looked that this whole mixtape thing, so I thought why not do it on the level of an album—or really like EP’s that comprise as one album.
iHipHop.com: Not worried about the people getting sick of you quickly just because of the fact you’re releasing your projects close together?
Tabi Bonney: Nah, I don’t think so because when you look at Dope, it’s only nine tracks. So I think taking 3-4 months to release another one is really a long time to me; you know what I mean? I’m not worried about over saturation at all, because like I said before, you see what people are doing on the mixtape circuit, and artists like Lil Wayne can do it, and get away with it.
iHipHop.com: How happy or excited were your parents when they realized your weren’t putting your degrees from Florida A&M to good use?
Tabi Bonney: [Laughing]… They weren’t happy about that at all… I used to always fight with them back and forth about using my degrees and getting a job. It wasn’t until they actually heard my songs on the radio or saw my video on TV that they were finally okay with it.
iHipHop.com: Speaking of videos, you also direct your own music videos. Is that a case of you cutting out the middleman, or were you always interested in directing as well?
Tabi Bonney: I’m a really visual person, and when people talk, I try to visualize what they say. Just starting out by hiring a director, of course that was too much money, and still your point wasn’t getting across like you really wanted it to be. So I was like, “Why not pick up a camera myself, and shoot it how I see shooting it?” I was fortunate enough for my work to be at that level where the national networks accepted it.
iHipHop.com: So with directing videos, making music, and maintaining your clothing line Bonney Runway, when do you have time to sleep?
Tabi Bonney: [Laughing]… You really don’t… You just find the time, and I get about four hours a day, and then I might just take a quick power nap if I’m really tired…
iHipHop.com: How would you describe the music scene in [Washington] D.C. Is Go-Go pretty much still at the forefront, or his Hip-Hop being well represented?
Tabi Bonney: Its really becoming Hip-Hop… You still have Go-Go, and [Washington] D.C. will always have that foundation of Go-Go. But now you just have that scene where everybody is into Hip-Hop, and everybody’s a rapper. So we as a city actually feel like we have a chance at making an impact, and that dreams can come true. So right now there’s a lot of people rapping man, and a lot of talented people out in this area too.
iHipHop.com: Obviously you’re an artist with originality, but do you ever worry about people not catching onto your movement just because you go against the grain?
Tabi Bonney: Not at all, because I think the people need that different choice and variety. Not everyone wants to hear about trapping on the block; you know what I mean? You can’t eat the same cereal for breakfast every morning, you might want to switch it up and have waffles, English Muffins, or some eggs. So I think with me providing that variety is more of a good thing, as opposed to just being cropped in with the rest of the crowd.
That’s why I think a lot of artists are having trouble getting out there because they sound like every other artist, and they’re on the same thing. When it’s all said and done, I’m selling myself, and you can never lose by being yourself and telling the truth.
iHipHop.com: What’s been one of the toughest challenges in the music industry for you so far?
Tabi Bonney: I think everything is an obstacle, but I’m just really enjoying the journey man… I’ve been blessed to even have the spotlight on me, or people taking a liking to me to even care to listen to my music or know who I am to buy my clothes, or want me to direct their video. So I can’t say that there is one particular thing that’s a true challenge, because for me it’s about enjoying the journey and overcoming every obstacle…