Tony's Story: Why I Love Hip-Hop

As a kid, I was always surrounded by an eclectic mix of music from all Latin sounds like salsa and merengue to freestyle and dance. In between the music my parents played, Hip-Hop was always there for me.

My love for Hip-Hop developed after my Uncle Ivan (rest in peace) put me on when I was a toddler. I literally jumped around to House of Pain. He hypnotized me with Biggie’s music. 2Pac guided me through all the changes as I grew up. After my family got cable, I became addicted to MTV. I can still remember being amazed by videos like JAY-Z’s “Big Pimpin’” and P. Diddy’s “Bad Boys For Life.” MTV News was my introduction to music reporting thanks to Sway Calloway, Kurt Loder, Suchin Pak, Gideon Yago, John Norris and later on Rob Markman, Shaheem Reid and Jayson Rodriguez. It didn’t hit me at the time, but those brief breaking news hits on Tv and online would turn into the foundation of my aspirations to become who I am today.

My love for the genre grew during my middle school and high school days. At 12, I got my first rap albums, Ja Rule’s ‘Pain Is Love,’ and JAY-Z’s ‘The Blueprint.’ Eventually I built up a massive book full of albums, but once I had access to Limewire, it was a wrap. I discovered more songs by Nas, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, ATCQ, OutKast and UGK and began making my own mix CD’s.

Growing up in Florida, 2 Live Crew, Poison Clan, Trick Daddy and Trina were all over the airwaves. Naturally I became a fan just off the strength of their sound. “Doo Doo Brown,” “Nann” and “Pull Over” were played on nearly radio station. As I got into high school, the Dirty South was blowing up. YoungBloodz, Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz, Ying Yang Twinz, and a young Pitbull, Ball Greezy and Ice Billion Berg were the future of Hip-Hop in my young world at the time. The crunk era was the first musical fad I witnessed come, get big and eventually fade away. I still love all the records from that time and always will. Yet, it was also a crash lesson in how the music industry works, which intrigued me enough to look into it more closely when I was in high school.

In 2005, I picked up my first issue of XXL. The Game was on the cover with his hands wrapped in a black banana. In my search to find the cover story, a card fell out of the magazine. When I realized it was the subscription form, I filled it out and began getting the monthly issues sent to my house. That was the start of my love for hip-hop journalism. A couple of years later, I was reading an issue with Nas on the cover when I thought for the first time, “damn I wish I could make stories like this.” In that moment, I knew I’d always love Hip-Hop especially if I wanted to write about it.