“If somebody handed me a Sprite bottle for some money, I’m bout to open two of them muthafuckas,” Tony $antana slushes in between sips of a Rasperry Sour at Anaheim’s Packing House.
The 22-year-old encourages the often jettisoned tactics of today’s flyest rappers, who build their brands and portfolios quicker than they add to their catalog. $antana approaches today’s hip-hop scene in full grasp of the realities that sneak past the quality of music and onto screens around the web. Somewhat jaded by what Rap has become, $antana is eager to join the ranks and set himself in the conversations trading thoughts about music and its ancillaries two cents at a time.
“I don’t get how people move to LA and all of a sudden they’re in the industry. I don’t get it, ” he spins off, unabashedly, stumped by one’s ability to break big in an oversaturated industry of posers and gatekeepers. He applauds fellow OC native Yung Pinch on his ascension out of the county into streaming queues around the world but still finds himself “baffled” at the possibility of any person manifesting their wildest desires.
Why wouldn’t $antana hold tight a backpack full of suspicion after years of requesting access to a scene that many believe is organized by Freemasons and other high-order types?
Suspicious or not, the young emcee’s passion keeps him outside the game’s palace doors, recalibrating his strategy, like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, until a lever on the inside lifts and grants the son of Syrian immigrants entry to that which he’s worked over six years for.
His latest approach is a series of monthly releases that sync with the practices of rap’s most successful acts in 2017; press content and push it as quick as fans grow bored with previous releases. He has evolved his formerly strictly rap approach into a more concerted effort that includes him doing more of the grunt work, including sending out press releases and ensuring his material can be found on all platforms and streaming services.
His indefinite list of releases, called the “$antana Series,” finds $antana playing ball until his slugging percentage ranks him among the heaviest hitters.
The lead-off track “Temptations” marks the first release and widens the scope on $antana’s Jay-Z and Nas-influenced angles.
“This is about how people are so tempted to do things for money, do things for women,” he shares. “It’s about realizing that at the end of the day that shit don’t really matter.”
“When you ninety and you on your deathbed, you’re not going to think about the money you made, or the pussy you got. You’re going think about the relationships you built.”
It’s a thesis arrived at only after experience, $antana explains. And it works because it checks off the set of non-negotiables the rapper needs in his music.
“It’s real. It’s lyrical. It bumps. It’s melodic,” he lists off.
$antana approaches the track in the bludgeoning vocal style comparable to Bad Boy’s Shyne and employs East Coast wordplay —he uses one line to pose a Do or Die reference with a question if someone is down to ride. Later, he references Jay-Z’s track “D’evils” from 1996.
His latest cut also plays out like a reminder for him to stay true to himself as an aspiring figure in an industry where moral compromises and uncharacteristic behavior make up swaths of interactions.
“It’s a lot of dilemmas and choices,” he observes from the outside. “It’s just losing sight of who you are. Literally, temptations.”
The song is one of the several gems $antana hopes listeners unearth in his tracks that he intentionally packs with lessons.
“It’s about spreading something that can affect everybody,” he says of his musical philosophy.
But first is punching up that right combo of networking, resources, and outstanding material to land him behind the walls of the often-tried, hardly-pierced music game.
I listen to music. I write about it. I like hot sauce on my chicken.