Despite the fundamental role that Puerto Ricans and other Afro-Caribbean people played in hip-hop’s creation, Latinos are more often than not left out of the dialogue that explores the very origin of rap music. Yet Big Pun, N.O.R.E., B-Real, Pitbull, Immortal Technique, Fabolous and Juelz Santana, among so many others before them, are emblematic of a hip-hop narrative regularly in need of careful unpacking.
Today’s cadre of U.S.-Latino rappers -- Kap G, Snow tha Product, Emilio Rojas and Princess Nokia, for instance -- continues to carry the torch. Enter Tony “Hi-Tone” Valenzuela, a Chicano MC (and professional tattooist) hailing from California, poised to establish himself as a leading voice in contemporary rap for Mexican-Americans.
It’s been an arduous grind for Hi-Tone, 33, who dropped his first project, TFC, Vol. 1: Top of the Food Chain, in 2010. The tattoo aficionado has since released a series of other independent collections, delivered a searing freestyle on Sway in the Morning, earned the respect of industry titans such as No I.D. and built three successful businesses. Top of the Food Chain is his burgeoning clothing line. Papi’s Barbershop is a staple in his home base of Covina, California. And Hi-Tone’s TFC Music Group releases his music and is partnering with EMPIRE for the debut of his proper introduction to the game, Price of Admission.