The Break Presents: Rob $tone
In hip-hop today, one song can move an underground MC into a hot commodity. That's what happened with Rob $tone. Following a house robbery gone wrong, the San Diego native went to the studio with his friends and crafted "Chill Bill" in May 2014. The song, which samples a melody that originally appeared in the 1968 psychological thriller Twisted Nerve but was made famous in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 cult classic Kill Bill Volume 1, garnered over 15 million plays on SoundCloud organically.
San Diego has never produced a hip-hop star -- sorry Nick Cannon -- but according to $tone, the city has a rich history of talent that's always been neglected. "I would describe San Diego’s hip-hop scene just overlooked," Rob $tone tells XXL while in New York. "There’s a lot of talent in the city and now it’s starting to come together like crazy."
Because of the popularity of "Chill Bill" and a collection of quality projects in $tone's catalog like his 2015 effort, Straight Bummin', the 21-year-old signed to RCA Records in April of this year. This is another testament to how the Internet has totally changed hip-hop.
"The Internet was everything because that’s the only place I put ['Chill Bill']," he says. "I didn’t do anything but put it on SoundCloud and YouTube and tweet about it a little bit. It didn’t get any blog coverage until I had close to 10 million plays on it. I met with a few labels but I knew RCA was the right fit for me. They’re really artist driven because they care about artistry a lot. My life’s a lot faster and I do some cooler shit. Aside from that, I’m still me, I’m out here flowing with it."
With his upcoming mixtape, I’m Almost Ready, in the works, Rob $tone is trying to put his hometown and his crew 1207 on the map. Take a ride to Lemon Grove with Rob $tone below.
Name: Rob $tone
Hometown: San Diego
I grew up listening to: "2Pac, Dr. Dre, Master P, Steel Pulse, Gregory Isaacs, Wiz Khalifa, Kid Cudi, Erykah Badu, really all of the 1990s R&B because my mom had me on game. My dad showed me a lot of music. He has a crazy CD collection. He showed me a lot of new people and we used to make CD’s back when I was in elementary school. He really introduced me into finding music.
"I started [rapping] right after high school because my boy Spooks that’s on “Chill Bill” with me, he had been rapping since freshman year. He was trash at first but by senior year he was actually pretty good. So I was like damn I can do it too. He gave me that push and I started going to the studio with him out in Lemon Grove. Then I moved out to Atlanta and I was going to school. I would go to the studio late at night on my off time, but I didn’t like college anymore so I came back to San Diego. I was just recording from there, all the time.
"It was always a dream of mine but I never believed I could do it until I did it. I decided I wanted to do it when I was 5. I saw Lil’ Bow Wow’s video 'What’s My Name' with Snoop Dogg and they were running through the middle school. I remember sitting in my living room playing with my toy and I was like I want to be a rapper. I thought it was tight, watching all the girls running through the school locker rooms. That’s what really led me to want to be a rapper. When I decided to do to, after seeing how Spooks' progress, I sat at my computer one day and I was just like, 'Yo if [you] want to do it, you gonna do, you can be anything you want.' You have to dedicate your life to it. From that day forward, here I am. Rob $tone.
"I wrote my first song immediately after that talk I had with myself. I already had my pen and paper out. So it was literally just from that day forward."
Most people don’t know: "My favorite genre of music is reggae. I’m way more into reggae than rap. My dad just showed me Steel Pulse and growing up [and] I started getting into the weed culture so I started feeling it even more. It’s not even the weed that drives me to love reggae, it’s just the whole vibe, the energy that [reggae] puts out.
"Steel Pulse, Barrington Levy, Martin Campbell, Gregory Isaacs of course, all of the legends, but I really like Martin Campbell a lot. I also like, even in Cali Reggae, Tribal Seeds, Fortunate Youth, Iration, there’s a lot of different reggae artists."
My style’s been compared to: "I think my sound and my style is just me because I’m very diverse and vast with the music I listen to and my songs are all different. I got emotional stuff, I got bangers and I got chill wavy shit. It’s all over the place for me so I can’t really put a finger on it. I compared the most to Wiz Khalifa just because I’m so into weed and I rap about weed a lot. My whole vibe is just chill and I guess people get the same vibe from my music that they get from Wiz’s."
My standout records or moments to date have been: "'Chill Bill' was not too long after I moved back to San Diego. I moved back in March and we made “Chill Bill” in May.
"I woke up that morning, linked with J. Davi$, we already planned our little bad activities the night before, then we went to go pick up Spooks. We were going to scope out the house, but as soon as we were going to get out of the car, a cruiser comes driving down the street. I got back in the car and closed my door. [The cops] come back and ask what we were doing, we all just said we were coming from the trolley and going to school. They called the U.S. Marshals and they put me and my other homie in the back [of their car] because we’re the black guys and they just had Spooks and J. Davi$ outside because they look white [laughs].
"[The cops] were talking to them and they let us go because they didn’t have anything on us to arrest us. So we walked to Spooks house and J. Davi$ had the beat and he played it for us. I had only wrote my verse, I didn’t write the hook yet and then we went to the studio and I finished my whole verse. The hook was originally my whole verse but after we recorded they wanted me to add back in the second part of my verse and make it the hook. Instantly we knew it. My brother tells me today, 'I remember you telling me you knew you had one as soon as you made it.'
"I knew it the whole time. Nobody else knew it but me. It takes a lot to fucking sit and say, I’m going to drop out of college, fuck a job and I’m going to dedicate my life to being a rapper and make it happen in two years. It’s wild. It definitely gives me crazy confidence about myself, but I’ll never let it get out of control. "
My goal in hip-hop is: "I just want to spread the truth. I would love to be a superstar, a fucking icon, but if that doesn’t happen I would be a-ok as long as I spread the truth and everyone takes that truth."
I’m gonna be the next: "Big influence, because I’m the truth. All I know is truth and the truth has a great influence on everything."
Standout: "Chill Bill"
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