Tony Touch: No Wonder Why

Tony Touch’s 2000 album The Piece Maker is arguably the best album a DJ ever dropped. Underground and mainstream tracks, freestyles, skits, and every element that we love about Hip-Hop was seamlessly woven together in Toca’s deft mix. Touch scored two hit singles, a slew of fan favorites, and a true moment in time for […]

Tony Touch’s 2000 album The Piece Maker is arguably the best album a DJ ever dropped. Underground and mainstream tracks, freestyles, skits, and every element that we love about Hip-Hop was seamlessly woven together in Toca’s deft mix. Touch scored two hit singles, a slew of fan favorites, and a true moment in time for that dynamic period in Hip-Hop.

We’ve waited long enough for the second installment. Touch has a follow-up ready that’s sure to walk alongside the success of the debut. But there’s so much more to this Brooklyn legend than two albums. Tony has created some of the best mixtapes ever. He’s been a staple in the underground backlash on the mainstream. Touch isn’t just a turntable icon, but a respected MC, and budding producer.

It’s no wonder why, he’s the greatest DJ. Enjoy as AllHipHop talks shop with a keystone in the bridge of changing times, styles, and trends. As Tony prepares his new album, he also reflects on Big Pun, Hip-Hop diversity, bootleggers, and a few of his favorite things. Don’t sleep. How is The Piece Maker 2 a progression from the last two official releases?

Tony Touch: Well I consider The Piece Maker the real official piece. If you’re considering The Last of the Pro-Ricans, that was just like a commercial mixtape. I don’t consider that because none of the material was new except a few songs that were mine, but it was old stuff, ya know. So I consider this to be my second full-length official release. As far as progression, I’ve developed more as a producer and more as an artist, feeling more comfortable, and confident with what I’m delivering now as far as when it comes to beats and rhymes. Besides The 60 Minutes of Funk series and The Professional, The Piece Maker was one of the first commercial mixtapes. But you had rising mainstreams groups like D-12 as well as legends like Gang Starr and Wu-Tang on there too. This trait holds true on the second?

TT: Oh, definitely. Same formula, different lineup. This time I was able to get Redman, Erick Sermon, Def Squad this time. I got more Wu-Tang heads and switched that up a little with Method Man, Raekwon, and U-God now. RZA produced on this. I got the Bad Boy fam which is Black Rob, G-Dep, and P Diddy. I got another song with Sean Paul. We’ve got material with Large Professor, Pete Rock, and Masta Ace. That’s a joint that’s kinda hot. And you still rhymed on a lot of these?

TT: Yeah, I actually probably rhymed a little more on this one, connecting a little more with the artists lyrically. As far as the variety, we’ve got traditional Hip-Hop, mainstream, and underground. We’ve got Dead Prez, P Diddy, it’s all over the place. How does the sense of pressure affect you on a commercial release compared to your regular street series?

TT: Ordinary mixtapes, the work is already done for me. But you challenge yourself with original beats.

TT: That’s true. I try to get creative with it. I don’t feel that matters often because I don’t feel that I get enough creative material in one shot like I used to. Why do you think that is?

TT: I don’t feel that a lot of people are really stepping up their game. And also the industry, where it’s at right now, it’s all over the place, the direction has gotten a little crazy with labels and stuff like that, and people trying to sound like whatever’s hot right now. We don’t have enough leaders. Everything’s boring right now. Does that bring out the B-Boy in Touch more than the guy trying to hit us with the next exclusive?

TT: I like to keep it balanced. Right now I’m working for Power 105, a new Hip-Hop station in New York. So I’m in the mix up there on the weekends. So I gotta be balanced: playing the hits, commercial, and balance it out with stuff that I enjoy playing. Premier and Evil Dee have been really stickin’ it to the DJ’s who let the playlist control them, so to speak. You don’t allow your program to be decided for you, do you?

TT: I gotta cater to my audience, you know. Sometimes I gotta play stuff that I’m not crazy about, you know, or maybe I’m just tired of hearing. My ear is much quicker and so are the people that are involved like Preemo and lots of DJ’s, we get tired of songs quick that we play things out. Also, there’s not enough records coming out that are timeless, we’re so tired. But we gotta keep in mind that we’re catering to an audience that we gotta school them, and to do that, you gotta play what their familiar with, and in between, I always sneak in a heater. Every three songs, I throw in a heater. That’s my formula. You were the first real DJ I ever had growing up outside of New York. Being tied to Puerto Rico and other places, how often do you think that your tapes are really reaching the kids that treasure your ear and choices so much more?

TT: I just try to represent the culture man, and keep it thorough and not compromise myself. It’s some authentic s### when you listen to me at a party or on the air, or cop the album, it’s usually something that’s authentic and pure. And my affiliation with Rocksteady Crew and the history I have with those guys, people expect me to keep it true school. I feel that there’s a market I haven’t put all my energy into, and that’s the Latin market. I got a few songs on the album that are catering to that. The mixtape game done changed. People are remixing Jay and Nas. Every crew now has a tape DJ to leak exclusives, there’s mash-up’s too. How do you feel about the present evolution of the game?

TT: CD’s is what killed the whole mixtape market. The fact that everybody can get their mix at home and everybody’s sharing music online. You got people selling mixes three for five dollars in the street now. It’s good because at the end of the day, and I recommend to anybody trying to get their name out there, walk around with your material. As a DJ, that’s like having a business card always available. For me, it’s a thing I do for promotional use only. I give out stuff in the street, that’s for me right now. You don’t have enough outlets anymore that are pushing mixtapes because of the strictness of the industry. One thing you can’t bootleg is me, not yet anyway. So people are hearing my tapes and it’s getting around and the positive thing that comes out of that is shows and sponsorships and things like that. You can turn a six into a nine, you know? You’re such a versatile DJ and your playlist can go in a hundred different directions. Would you be offended as a DJ if somebody approached you like, “Yo Touch, I want you to do this party, but there’s a theme to it like only do ’91 through ’94 records. There’s a theme. Do you like the challenge, or get frustrated that your decisions are predetermined?”

TT: I get people that hire me for parties and they have different themes. Some people do 80’s, old school, or house party, or reggae. That’s not out of the ordinary. Your “5 Deadly Venoms of Brooklyn” tape is revered by many as one of the best mixes ever made. The concept was ill. How and why did you do that at the time?

TT: I was taking the whole collaboration of DJ’s to a new level. Usually two DJ’s were getting together and making tapes. Me and Doo Wop had been doing the Diaz Brothers and different things like that. Five DJ’s, we were all from Brooklyn. We are all friends and Preemo, Evil Dee, PF Cuttin, we were always running into each other at D&D Studios. It was kinda like a D&D thing. It was definitely something that felt really good to put out. Making it, a lot of time was put into it. I enjoyed watching the reactions of people. In London, they played the whole thing on the air. It was hot. I remember the first time I checked you as a producer on the Sunz of Man record. Do you feel taken seriously as a producer, or is the DJ image hindering you?

TT: Nah. I mean, I haven’t really put as much energy into it as I think I could’ve on the beatmaking tip. First commercial release I did before the Sunz of Man record was Tim Dog. I’m still growing and developing. That’s something I definitely plan to conquer. I produced something on the Bobby Digital 2 album. The track on the new record that is really incredible is “Out Da Box.” That’s a crazy record, and a special moment. To spotlight one track, talk on that one:

TT: Just watching Large Professor come in and watching him and Pete Rock vibin’ together was a great moment for me to be in the room with these guys. If I remember correctly, Masta Ace came after everybody had laid their stuff down. It was me, Pro, and Pete. We picked the beat out. Large laid his verse. It was a blessing and great opportunity. Large Professor is somebody I’ve always admired man as far as producer and MC. He’s Hip-Hop all the way man. Actually, I did something with him on the 50 MC’s. Was most of The Piece Maker 2 recorded in D&D, before it shut down?

TT: Some of it. I recorded stuff there. I know you held a room there. How’d it hurt you to see that great landmark close down?

TT: Sometimes change is inevitable man. Sometimes we don’t like it, it hurts us, but we have to adapt. I was upset about it. A lot of good times were there. A lot of material of mine came from there. I don’t think there’ll ever be a spot like that again as far as going up there and interacting and got Gang Starr in a room, Black Moon in a room, and you know. When I was working on my 50 MC’s tapes, I used to just go up there and book time and not even have no sessions. Just catch people strolling through. I caught Redman like that, and Canibus, and Big Pun. That’s actually how me and Pun met was in D&D. Just coming through with D.I.T.C. At any given moment, somebody was strolling through. It’s sad, you know. I’m kinda used to dealing with change. I’ve worked in different studios before, so ya know. Going out in historical style, was there a mixtape back in the early 80’s that really pushed you to do your thing?

TT: It was probably like ’86. Cash Money from Philly, I had a recording of his. His skills are incredible. Electro-Funk kinda stuff. This kid Grandmaster Vic in Queens did a block party and that was a big tape from ’85-’86.

Get The Piece Maker 2 next month on Koch Records, and look out for a Diaz Brothers album by year’s end!