Part II: The Future
The label controversy seems to be only one of many issues surrounding the prolific yet eccentric artist known as Tonéx. While the artist's music is definitely on the cutting edge, it is his appearance that has birthed a tremendous amount of heat from within the Gospel community. For most of his performances or appearances, it is not uncommon to find Tonéx clad in his trademark top hat and boa, along with assorted body piercing and other retro apparel. In addition, his performances are usually heightened by a stage filled with incense and candles. His stage presence is certainly a far cry from his Apostolic upbringing. However, the artist remains undaunted by the uncomfortable reactions of some. "I've heard it all. I've even been called a devil worshipper because of the candles and incense," says Tonéx. "These reactions are the result of pure misunderstanding. God is using a more radical approach in this day to reach people. The world is going into a new phase of life. As a result, God has to use more radical methods."
"I've made it a point to be as extreme with my appearance as possible for a reason. It's time for the church world to understand that they must not limit God and put Him in a box. The problem with the church is that they want to look the part but not act the part. David was anointed of God but he didn't look like it," exclaims Tonéx. "The church has made it so that they want people to be fixed up before they get cleaned up and that's not right. It is my mission to educate the church world that it's not about how you look but about the anointing."
"The look is an attention getter. I could do what I do without the body piercing and so on," continues the ordained minister. "That is not how I dress everyday nor is it how I go to church. That wouldn't be appropriate at that time. Some churches find my attire offensive and so if I'm aware of it, I'll try and comply. However, I realize that there are so many folks bound by what the church says they can and cannot wear and how they should and shouldn't look. What I'm doing is forcing the church to look past the exterior and into the interior."
While there are many who may say that Tonéx should tone down his act, he finds a greater purpose to continue his mission. "If I tone it down, it would defeat the purpose. I am defying the rules and regulations that the church has set up that are not inspired by divine authority. The church has placed hypocritical standards on Generation X and it's not right," Tonéx expresses. "I am seeing kids being delivered and showing them that you can have culture and have God. People should understand that if God didn't want this to happen, He could have easily prevented it."
As one of Gospel's ambassadors for the 21st century, Tonéx's musical style has certainly pushed the envelope and raised the standard for the progression of all music. As Gospel heads into the new millenium, Tonéx is definitely one of the artists destined to lead Gospel into a new era. He certainly has an optimistic and insightful view as to the direction of this industry in the coming years.
While the spotlight is currently on him, he prefers to inform us of who he feels will be an integral part of the next level of Gospel music. "Deleon Richards will be the Janet Jackson of Gospel music in a year or so. The Winans Phase II will also be blowin' up big time," states Tonéx. However, according to Tonéx, it's the MSS Dynasty that will change the way we see Gospel music.
"The whole MSS Records roster is really going to revolutionize the industry as we know it. Upcoming artists such as T. Boy, 5.0, 4th Element, Shelly Gaines, and Three-in-One are going to be names that will impact this industry in a powerful way," claims Tonéx. "These artists comprise the MSS Dynasty and they will set the precedent for Gospel music in the new millenium." The first project that we can expect from the MSS Dynasty comes in May and is titled, The Revolution. The first single expected to hit is titled "Can't Fade Us". "Mark my words. This single [Can't Fade Us] is going to change pop culture. It's going to lead Gospel into endorsements and the entertainment arena," proclaims Tonéx.
Tonéx is quite confident of the long-term effects of the MSS Destiny. "Timbaland revolutionized radio. Missy [Elliot] changed video. MSS is going to change all of media in the name of Jesus."
In addition, Tonéx is very upbeat about the direction with which Gospel music is taking. "In the new millenium, Gospel is going to outsell every other genre and will become the most prominent force in music by 2002. It will also be integrated into pop radio," says Tonéx. "Folks will be looking for substance and the morality of the music will catapult it." However, Tonéx does have one fear about the potential success of Gospel. "Success breeds emulators. There will be quite a few folks entering the business for its commercial success. However, the difference will be the anointing."
While Tonéx is definitely an artist of the future, he is also very aware of and affected by the artists of today. Here are some of his feelings on some of Gospel's current personalities:
about Kirk Franklin: "Circumstantial. He is a product of circumstances. His first song ("Why We Sing") took him one way. His label capitalized and it took him in another direction. Because of it, Kirk was able to break down many doors. As a result, Gospel is wanted in many more arenas than before and he's made it easier for me to walk through those doors. However good or bad though, Kirk is a victim of circumstances."
about Fred Hammond: "Prolific and WAY, WAY underrated. Fred was ahead of his time. He is a spicy artist with plenty of funk. No offense to Kirk, but Fred's work in 1991 on the #7 album (from Commissioned) was hotter than GP (God's Property) in '97."
about J. Moss: "He's on another planet. He is one of the only folks that seems to be heading in the same direction that I'm heading in. The only unfortunate thing is that the record companies don't seem to back the artists that he produces. He does some awesome work and can produce his face off."
about Dr. Bobby Jones: "A mogul. All of the Gospel artists have to pass his way. He currently has things on lockdown. He's done a lot for many artists who otherwise would not have gained any exposure. He did accept me with open arms."
about Tonéx: "Multi-faceted. Just when you think you've figured him out, he's got seven more characters to show you."
Tonéx indeed has a bright future planned. While in this year, he anticipates the re-release of Pronounced toe-nay , he also has planned a new release this fall along with a European release as well. In addition, he's looking to produce some prolific videos and a feature film by the year 2000. "It will be the first Gospel-oriented film that will have crossover appeal."
Further into the millenium, Tonéx looks to be a major player within the Christian marketplace. "In 10 years, I'll be pastoring and hopefully married by then," confesses Tonéx. "I want to tap into every entertainment source available including films and franchises. I want to show that world that it is not a sin to be prosperous."
Back to.... The World According to Tonéx, Part I: The Past
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