Stevie Stone Says Tech N9ne "Set The Record Straight" On "The Baptism"
Exclusive: Strange Music emcee Stevie Stone provides advice for independent artists, including how to balance business and personal life and grow a fan base organically.
Stevie Stone was more or less living the theme of his latest album title, 2 Birds 1 Stone over the past weekend. He’s about one month removed from the “Summer Of Strange” tour, which also featured Krizz Kaliko and ¡Mayday!. On a Saturday that would qualify as an off day for most, Stevie is yet again engaged in more business. This time, business came in the form of an interview with HipHopDX, and upon being called for the interview, Stone was out prepping to spend some quality time with his family. For a man that spends hundreds of days—including Strange Music’s record breaking 2012 “Hostile Takeover Tour”—it’s nothing new.
Updating an old adage such as “killing two birds with one stone” with some depth and a personal twist can more or less sum up Stone’s career. The former Ruthless records product candidly talks about rocking crowds of less than 20 people prior to joining the Strange Music roster. And he’s just as frank about returning to and outgrowing those venues thanks to hard work and the backing of his current home. He’ll even throw a few not so subliminal shots to detractors by repeating a refrain he’s heard before.
“That quote, ‘Stevie won’t do no numbers,’ that’s been said before,” Stone offered. “But that was my message, like, ‘Hush. Numbers ain’t gone lie, because we’re out here touching these people.’”
It all ties into this latest album, which Stone calls “a roller coaster ride.” The ups of partying, the lows of missing family and friends and reflections on his own spirituality (“The Baptism”) are all featured, as Stevie runs through a gamut of emotions. If you’re unfamiliar with Stevie Stone or were just under the impression he couldn’t hold his own, this might be the perfect opportunity to engage with an artist that actually does what he raps about.
Stevie Stone Explains Balancing Family Life With Constant Touring
HipHopDX: How’s the “Summer Of Strange” Tour treating you?
Stevie Stone: We actually wrapped up that tour. I got home in about mid-July, so I’m off for a little bit before I get out on the Something Else Tour with Tech [N9ne].
DX: Gotcha. A big theme of your album is spending so many days on the road. Your career is one of the “Two Birds” that you have to deal with. On a personal level, how do you balance spending so much time on the road?
Stevie Stone: It’s just times like right now—when I do have a chance, I utilize my time. Right now, I’m back in my hometown with my family and everything like that. I’m taking advantage of that time, but it’s been a learning process. You adjust to being on the road so much, and you gain maturity as a man. I understand how to balance it out, and I make the most of every situation when I have it. That’s all I try to do.
DX: That definitely makes sense. I know you’ve been doing this since at least 2009, and probably earlier than that. What would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned in all these years?
Stevie Stone: Yeah, my first tour with Tech was in ’09…that was my first major tour. All the way around the board, I’ve learned about that balance and about utilizing my time like we talked about before. As far as the music, I’m just more organized, structured, conditioned and I have a better understanding of how to do shows. The meet and greet process and politicking with the people are aspects that I’ve really grown in since ’09.
DX: Yeah, those Strange Music meet and greets are no joke.
Steve Stone: Right, and we do that for every single show.
DX: I think HipHopDX covered the Summer Of Strange Tour stop in Los Angeles. At one point you, Krizz Kaliko and Gianni Cash were hauling this huge crate of equipment upstairs. When people see rappers with their iced-out chains, there’s a perception that you wouldn’t handle your own roadwork too. What’s the mentality behind that work ethic?
Stevie Stone: Well, it’s by all means. Usually, we do have people to do it. But in that situation, it was a task to fulfill, and we have a lot of manpower out here. We want this. We’re not going to put ourselves on a pedestal. So if we gotta go take our chains off, roll up our sleeves and help get stuff up in there, we’re gonna do that. This is what we’re living; it’s our dream. So we’ll do whatever has to be done in order to keep on spreading the word and spreading the music. If that’s what it takes to give the people what they came to see, then we’ll do whatever. That was a no-brainer right there.
Stevie Stone On Why Krizz Kaliko Is “A Musical Genius”
DX: Along those lines, you and Kali seem to have some great chemistry on this album aside from moving equipment. You have a couple songs together where you’re both rapping and singing. How has that kind of grown as you’ve been on Strange Music?
Stevie Stone: I’ve always done some of that. But I think me maturing as an artist is giving me an opportunity to put more of that in my music. I come from a musical background of playing instruments, singing, rapping and all that. So it’s just me starting to implement more of that into my music.
But Kali and I do vibe really, really well together. We’re on the same type of harmonies as far as rapping and singing and orchestrating a record. We’ve been talking about doing that for a minute, and we made it happen on this album. Like you said, we’ve got three records. I think just by listening to “Phases,” people are going to see that he’s really a musical genius.
DX: You’ve got a voice that really stands out in terms of rapping and singing. Between you breaking out the harmonies and really understanding how fans react to those hard-hitting 808s, how long did it take you to kind of fine tune your voice as an instrument?
Stevie Stone: I’ve always been the type of person that has to feel the beat in my soul. It’s like I don’t choose the beat; the beat chooses me. I think it’s instinctive…it’s a feel. I never feel like I need to do a certain type of record. It’s always about what I feel when I get the beat. I’ll let the music lead me and guide me. But the beats I choose are all done instinctively. It’s got to touch me in a certain way for me to say, “That track is mine for sure.” I’ll know if I’m going to use a certain beat or not pretty quickly. There’s certain beats where as soon as I hear 30 seconds, I’ll already know, and say, “I want it.”
Sometimes, I’ll have to wait and vibe out on it. But once I’m sold on it, then I listen to it and let the music give me the words. It writes itself, if you know what I mean. I don’t like to force music.
How Strange Music Allows Stevie Stone To Grow His Fan Base
DX: Yeah, it’s an organic process. You’ve been able to carve out a nice lane for yourself without any major radio play or support from music channels. What’s the biggest thing an aspiring artist coming into the game needs to understand about going that route?
Stevie Stone: You’ve got to get out here, because it’s also about what you can do for yourself. It’s about spreading your music however you can. You have to get these fans and the people to like your music. Either with Tech or by myself, I just pride myself on getting on the road and doing these shows. It’s about building. You keep on climbing that ladder, and you can’t sit back and wait for anything. You’ve got to go out here and get it.
There’s millions of people that’s gonna love it, but I have to make sure it gets to them. Yes, the label is going to help and do what they can also. But I still have to do whatever I have to do—as much as I can. I carved out this lane for myself, and I learned the blueprint from Tech and them. I’m out here politicking and touching these people.
You might have a show… As a matter of fact, I did a show where there was only seven people in the crowd! But now, I go back to that same venue and there’s a thousand people showing up. As far as hitting the road, I remember my last days on Ruthless and at one of my shows, there couldn’t have been more than about 14 or 15 people there. Now, if I go back, I’ve outgrown that venue. We’ve gotta book a bigger venue, and that’s just a testimony to show persistence pays off. If you go out there, bust your ass and give the people a good show—whether it’s two, 200 or 2,000 people—you give them a good show. Then, the next time you come back, all those people that you’ve touched are gonna spread the word. They’ll tell their friends, “You missed a show! You gotta come check this out next time.”
That’s what it’s about. You’re planting seeds and letting them blossom. But you have to put the work in to keep coming back and watering those seeds. You need to keep coming back, doing shows and being accessible to the fans.
DX: How much patience does that take?
Stevie Stone: It takes a lot of patience. But it’s about building it from the ground up, and I love having it that way. That means you’re really working for it, and can’t nobody say that it was a given. As far as me personally, I’m focused. I’ve got my head down, and I’m working. You don’t expect a reward, but I’ve been learning that the reward comes when you least expect it. My career has taught me that if you believe and work hard, then certain things will happen when you least expect it. That’s what I’m about.
DX: That definitely comes through on “Relentless.” You say, “Trials built a better man / What don’t kill you make you stronger.” A lot of rappers talk about grinding, but they never give people the story of what went into all that …
Stevie Stone: Well those are the phases and stages in life that you still have to overcome. On the whole album, I cover all that. It’s just things that a lot of people will hopefully relate to, because they’re going through the same thing. It may be different obstacles, but they surpassed that. It’s about being relentless in everything you do. My message to everybody on those records is motivation. It’s like, “Go get it. You can accomplish anything in the world that you want.” Life ain’t easy, but you’ve got to overcome, believe and have faith without losing sight of your goals and your mission.
DX: Is that the hardest part? It seems like we’re in the business age, and you kind of hint at that on “Hush,” when you say, “Stevie won’t do no numbers.” how do you balance the boring yet important parts of the business like SoundScan numbers and whatnot?
Stevie Stone: I enjoy that aspect of it too, and I do have a team that helps me handle it. It’s a strong team, but that just goes hand in hand with the fact that I’m a business. The entity of Stevie Stone is a business, and we’re out here selling it. The business aspect is definitely important, and the music is more important. You hear people say it’s 90% business, and it is a lot of business that goes into it. But you just have to be on top of that as well.
That quote, “Stevie won’t do no numbers,” that’s been said before. But that was my message, like “Hush.” Numbers ain’t gone lie, because we’re out here touching these people. Like you said, there hasn’t been any real radio push or video on BET and stuff like that, but we’re still doing it. It may be under the radar, but it’s growing. And I feel it every single time I go back to these venues. I’m checking my social networks—reading my tweets and everything—and I know it’s growing. I believe in it, and so we’re rolling.
Why Stevie Stone Isn’t Worried About “The Baptism” Being Recieved Poorly
DX: No doubt. I won’t keep you too much longer, but I did want you to talk about “Baptism.” That’s a pretty powerful record. How did that song come together?
Stevie Stone: My dude Josh “Karbon” did it, and he actually sent it to me when I was working on Momentum. I think it speaks for itself; it’s just pure. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…it’s like I’m baptized. I’m blessed. It’s through God that I’m able to do all things, and that’s what it’s about.
White Jesus came…Rittz came through and killed it. I think Tech came in, and what he did was so beautiful. Anybody that has any doubts about his spiritual beliefs—‘cause you know they always talk about that with Tech—will get the truth. He set the record straight more so than I’ve ever heard him. Before I did my first show, and before I even signed with Tech, I was a fan. And I’ve never heard a record where he said, “Jesus, I am your servant.” He ended it like that, and that was just beautiful. That’s what “The Baptism” was about, and I think it’s gonna be a fan favorite. Both of them guys came and murdered the track just like I felt they would.
DX: For some people faith and religion are touchy subjects. Some artist’s don’t want to alienate certain fans or risk sounding preachy. How did you strike that balance?
Stevie Stone: Well, you know my father was a preacher. So that’s instilled in me, and I give them me on these records. I didn’t look at if it’s a touchy subject or who’s going to like it or not. I’ve never thought about that, because I just let the music guide me. My father passed in ’03, but my father was a preacher. My mother is very, very heavy in the church, and I’ve got a brother who’s a preacher. So I got a lot of family that’s real deep up in the church, and that’s just my faith. The thought of it being touchy never crossed my mind, because it’s going to be a message that somebody wants to hear. And I think I’m gonna concentrate on those people.
Even if people don’t agree with it, as long as they talk about it…whatever they have to say about it. I definitely think it’s going to turn some heads, and people are gonna listen up like, “Whoa.” Tech and Rittz both did some epic verses on that record, and I can’t wait for the people to hear it. There’s talk of a video too, and if we get the visual too, it’s really gonna be crazy. We’re trying to make it happen while we’re on this tour. Rittz isn’t going to be on the tour, so we really gotta try to find a way to get all three of us together. Hopefully it happens, though.
Get ready to go on a roller coaster, because it’s gonna be a little bit of everything on the record. From partying to pain, we cover it all. I talk about the road, my personal and family life, and it’s all me. Strap on your seatbelt, pop it in your tape deck or CD player and roll—2 Birds 1 Stone. Himmie!