In 2010’s industry-minded crop of Rap fans, it’s hard to gauge what is the dream job: rapper or A&R? Tony Austin hopes to achieve both.
HipHopDX recently spoke to Austin about his newfound start into the Rap world as an emcee and found that Tony’s ambitions to be an artist aren’t really new at all. “I’ve had the passion to be an artist for a while. I call it my little itch. You know, I just decided to just give it a shot real quick and see what happens to get it off my chest,” said the industry vet. “It’s always good to start from the bottom and build your foundation. That way, you can stand on your own two feet in the end. Even being connected and everything, you can’t fool the public, so I can only give the people a part of me and hope that they accept it. Being connected [to the industry] a little has allowed me to test the records and they’re being received really well. That’s why I did it from my own standpoint, with the Gangsta Grillz [mixtape].”
“Connected” could be an understatement. Tony Austin was an executive A&R for the most-profiled Rap label, Def Jam Records. There, he worked with such artists as DMX and Buddafly. Throughout that tenure, he remained an A&R consultant for the Island Def Jam parent company.
Having gone from label driver to label executive in his first run at the industry, Austin asserted that he’s ready for the hard road to Rap stardom. “Some people care about what others think, and I don’t happen to be one of those people. I just go to work and keep my head down, and keep it moving. I don’t think it will make people minimize me because I’m sure that if a person was in the same positions as I was, that they took would take advantage of it to pursue their goals. Some people just don’t have the heart to pursue what they really want, so they talk about those that are making moves. That’s just a part of being a hater.”
It’s bigger than Rap, as Austin hopes he can play a role in showcasing his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland properly. Within the city that famously played backdrop for The Wire, Austin owns elite nightclub, The 2 o’clock Club. By linking with another famous Interstate 95 warrior, DJ Drama, Austin delivers, The Influence a Gangsta Grillz-branded mixtape that features Gucci Mane, Beanie Sigel, OJ Da Juiceman, Yo Gotti and many others.
Working in A&R you’ve had to develop a lot of artist Tony hold himself to the same training and developmental tactics of other artist trying to make their mark. “Oh absolutely you know a lot of artist come out and they can be local or regional but operating from an A&R’s mindset. You already know that you’re going to have to push it like it’s a national campaign. You have to treat your project on a broad scale. I hold myself up to the same standard whether I’m recording with Jay-Z or 50 Cent or whoever.”