Tony Touch has dropped some legendary mixtapes over his two-decade-plus career. After his three-part 50 MC’s series during the late ’90s and Piece Maker I and II that dropped in 2000 and 2004, respectfully, the mega DJ, producer and occasional rhymer has worked with some pretty major artists. Touch is set to release Piece Maker 3 (50 MC’s Reunion) on July 9, which will double as Toca’s 100th mixtape—that’s right, triple digits—but this tape is no ordinary project. This time around, he’s infused his two mixtape brands, Piece Maker and 50 MC’s, into one huge project. “I feel there is a really strong demand for it, so I thought the Piece Maker III was perfect right now,” he said. “People are thirsty for some real rap shit, more substance, lyrical content and beats that have that authentic New York sound.”
Tony Toca’s storied background in hip-hop culture began with him as a b-boy in the early ’80s and has encompassed contributions from a collection of celebrated lyricists ranging from both old and new generations over the many years that have followed. On this new project, you get to hear tracks with collaborations from artists such as Busta Rhymes, M.O.P., Sean Price, Black Thought, The LOX, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Action Bronson, Twista, Bun B, KRS-One, Fat Joe, Redman, N.O.R.E, Slaughterhouse and Eminem. The DJ—whose real name is Joseph Anthony Hernandez—swung by the XXL offices to discuss his new project, the history behind his mixtape series, why he chose to drop a tape now and his favorite artist that he’s worked with over the years.—Emmanuel Maduakolam (@ECM_LP)
XXL: I just want to get a short background on you for the young people who may not know your history in hip-hop.
Tony Touch: I started putting out mixtapes here in New York in the early ’90s, ’91, ’92. It wasn’t until ’96 that I did my first 50 MC’s mixtape. It was actually my 50th hip-hop tape, so I presented it as an anniversary tape. It was pretty groundbreaking, opened up a lot of doors for me, and [I got] a lot of notoriety off of that. [It] featured artists like KRS and Onyx and Boot Camp Clik and stuff like that. Guru was on the first one as well. So once that came out, that’s when the ball started rolling, [I] started getting booked overseas and everything just took off. Everything stems from the mixtape movement.
My mixtapes are always numbered so it’s easy for people to follow and keep up in case they were missing any volumes. So when I got to no. 50, that became the first 50 MC’s—mixtape no. 50. And ironically this is actually my 100th mixtape as well.
That’s how I’m presenting it as well. It’s mixtape 100, the Piece Maker III, Return of the 50 MC’s—there were actually three titles to this project. And the inspiration again just comes from, you know, grassroots hip-hop, the New York sound. I took it back to the original, the whole cypher, MCs just getting together, spitting, just straight lyrics. I got a radio show on Shade 45 every Tuesday, been there for about eight years, [and] I’m always getting artists to come up and freestyle on the show every week, and people seem to be into it. We throw them up on YouTube, every year we do the best of’s, and the response has been great, so I felt people are into that whole thing. Like when BET does their BET Awards, the cyphers [are] the most anticipated part of the show. People just want to see motherfuckers freestyling, going hard, spitting. It’s been eight years with the station, and shout out to Eminem and Paul Rosenberg and those guys, I secured that and it’s been full speed ever since.
One of the campaigns I did for this mixtape was, 50 days prior to the album dropping, I committed to virally dropping 50 webisodes, small 5-10 minute clips of footage I collected over the years. I was a camcorder fanatic since the early ’90s, and I documented a lot of my sessions and studio with guys and tours and shit. I’m posting 50 webisodes for the 50 MCs, [and] we’re about halfway there, with 25-26 days until the album comes out. You can kind of catch the timeline of my come-up with all these artists I work with.