On the Record: Tony Gardner ’15

College sophomore Tony Gardner, who raps as Tony G, brings his Nashville roots to the ’Sco stage this Friday, where he will open for breakthrough hip-hop artist Freddie Gibbs.

Kelsey Scult, Staff Writer

How has your rapping changed since moving from Tennessee to Ohio?

It has gotten to be more about me. Before, I had a group of friends that would all write and rap together, and we had similar ideas and things that we agreed upon — similar feelings about blackness. A lot of what we had to write incorporated that. Since I’ve been in Oberlin and away from them, my thinking has revolved around how I feel and how I am. It’s become more personal. It was already personal, but it’s more personal now.  At home, there is this concept of ‘black mad,’ which is really hard to put in words. It’s a movement that involves productive use of anger about injustice toward black people, men and women. We often will put historical references in verses — we all find common ground on that subject. You’ll hear a lot of Black Panther references, not so much Civil Rights Movement unless it relates to Malcolm X. It’s one thing that we all have in common; being black is what brings us together. We don’t have the same religion, the same sexual orientation or the same political beliefs, but being black is the one thing that instantly came to the forefront. But since I have gotten to Oberlin, as my music focuses more on me personally, I realize that is not the only part of my identity, so other things come out.

What do you think about the Oberlin hip-hop community?

It is pretty invisible. If you are into it, then there is a higher chance of you knowing about it, but a lot of people don’t know about the weekly freestyle ciphers that go on. It’s not super prominent, less collaborative.

What is the Nashville scene like?

Nashville hip-hop is really interesting. In terms of big names we don’t really have any. We have maybe two names of what you’d call famous people. In terms of people that are performing around town, we have a bunch of no-name wannabes. Nashville hip-hop is not really strong at all right now. I’m a fan of Juicy J, but that’s about it.

Could you talk about your musical influences?

In terms of production, I like gritty trap music things produced by Lex Luger and Young Chop, more recent stuff. Lyrically, I would say a big influence is Lil’ Wayne and Kid Cudi. I’m a real fan of ‘I don’t give a f***’ rap. I say what I want. If it’s me, I say it, because I want people to know me regardless of what others may think of it. Outside of hip-hop, probably Fall Out Boy. I used to be in a metal band, a hard-core/rap fusion, so I like a lot of different stuff.

If you could collaborate with any rapper right now, who would it be?

Kanye West is definitely what I consider an artist, as opposed to just a rapper.  I was a huge fan of his last album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — a masterpiece, in my opinion. I would want to be a part of something like that. Wiz Khalifa, I feel like he has a lot of fun on his songs. I have a lot of fun listening to his songs.

Do you have any musical plans for after you graduate?

This is what I want to do for a living. You know how it is with trying to become famous within an industry, more specifically within hip-hop and rap, but I definitely plan to continue recording while I’m here and then as much as I can after I graduate [from] Oberlin. Hopefully I’ll become a full-time touring musician.

Do you feel like Oberlin has given you any tools to start establishing yourself?

My initial response to the question would be no, just because I have looked into what it’s like to use the recording studios in the Conservatory and it is not so open to students not in the Con, and the process of getting one of those rooms is pretty difficult. But there are groups like The Black Musicians Guild, Hip Hop 101 and the Wilder Hip Hop Collective with some resources.

What do you think it means to have Freddie Gibbs to come to Oberlin?

I think it means a more diverse crowd of artists coming in the future. So far, from what I’ve heard, he is the only artist who has come to this campus that is like him; he is a gangster rapper out of Gary, Indiana. When I compare him to other people like Oddissee, Brother Ali, Kendrick Lamar that have come, he fits in a completely different category. They have things in common, like being socially aware to an extent, but the way he delivers it and the experiences he comes from are a little different, and the way he represents them are completely different. So I see this as being a starting point for a different crowd of people coming in.