Tony Fields aka Tone B. Nimble is a DJ/producer/party promoter who has helped play an intricate role in the development of the famed All Natural label (he's also one half of the group that goes by the same name). He started DJing in 1985 while attending Homewood-Flossmoor High, and it was there that he met Cap D and fostered the unmistakable All Nat sound. Throughout the years, the label has released some of the most exciting local hip-hop albums, including the classics No Additives No Preservatives, Second Nature and Deep Rooted. Recently Tone has been busy promoting two new projects - Da Mornin' Afta by Primeridian and Music for A Saturday Evening by the Black Stone Theatre Collective, both of which are attempts to branch out toward a wider listening audience. With three more projects slated for 2009, it appears that All Natural is looking to make this its big year. Centerstage caught up with label head Tone B. Nimble to get the skinny on what fans can expect in the coming months, and to get a rundown of his top five favorite albums.
I was wondering if you could tell me about when you first got interested in DJing.
I started DJing in '85 with Cap D. We were basically playing electro, early house, and a little hip-hop. He got into production and rhyming, and I stayed with DJing.
Did you have any mentors along the way or did you just hit the ground running?
I basically learned on my own by watching DJs at parties and listening to the radio, specifically Hot Mix 5 (Farley "Funkin" Keith aka Farley "Jackmaster" Funk, Mickey "Mixin" Oliver, Scott "Smokin" Silz, Ralphi Rosario and Kenny "Jammin" Jason, who were resident DJs of the defunct WBMX 'Saturday Night Live Ain't No Jive' show).
Being a veteran of the local DJ scene, how have you seen things evolve over the years?
There used to be a lot more room for creativity and self-expression. People used to rely on the DJ to introduce new music. Now the audience basically dictates what the DJ plays.
When did you first link up with Cap D, and what was the idea going into the development of the All Natural label?
The label was Cap's idea, I was just assisting him, but over time I took over the label responsibilities. The basic concept was to release our own recordings and [those of] other like-minded artists.
What are some of the obstacles you've had to overcome as an independent rap label? Has the city been supportive of All Natural's voice?
There are too many obstacles to name, but I think technology is at the top of the list; file sharing, iPods, anyone with a computer can basically record an album. The city has been pretty supportive, but industry has changed and we need to make changes to reach our old fans as well as new younger fans.
What's the status of your relationship with acts like The Pacifics, Daily Planet and Eulorhythmics?
The Pacifics and Daily Planet are both inactive right now. Eulorhythmics will release an album later this year.
Any new projects coming up?
We are moving away from just hip-hop; we released our first album outside the hip-hop genre last November by the BSTC entitled Music For A Saturday Evening
. Cap also has two projects in the works: Black Mecca, a hip-hop album, and The Stranger, a new-wave project he's been working on. Our next release will be Rita J's Artist Workshop.
Can you give me a rundown of your top five albums?
First I should state that this an impossible question to answer, but here are some of my favorites:
A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders (Jive) 1993
Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (Loud) 1995
Stevie Wonder, Songs In the Key Of Life (Motown) 1976
Calender, It's a Monster (Pi Kappa Records) 1976
Jamiroquai, Traveling Without Moving (Sony) 1996
Numerous Fela Kuti recordings