Tabi Bonney likes to keep busy. There's a new album ("The Summer Years"), a steady stream of dropped songs and mixtapes, a clothing line, a side career directing videos and an ongoing tour (he opens for Murs at DC9 on Thursday).
Also in the works: A movie project with Murs and Dame Dash (he can't talk about it) and a new free mixtape (it'll likely be out in December).
The D.C.-based rapper called in from the road to talk about it all.
You have a Masters in Biology. What were you planning to do with it before all this came up?
I thought I was going to be a doctor. That was the direction I was headed, but then I just realized my heart wasn't into it.
Did you learn anything in school that you could apply to the ecosystem of the music industry?
Definitely discipline and patience. You have to be disciplined to get through bio and pre-med and get through college. You definitely need the patience.
It seems you've been more prolific in the past year or two.
It was just learning that we're in a new kind of society in which you have to be real active. Instead of just doing an album in two years, you gotta do a couple in one year just to seem relevant. Because we're in the internet age, and people absorb things so much faster and then they're done with them.
Does a song like [the autobiographical "Summer Years" track] "Chasing" apply to your career?
Yeah, definitely, where people think I should have blown up or been farther along. Definitely.
What do you think?
I think everyone has their journey and path. I'm in it for the long run. To me, I'm making money, I'm still around. I'm touring. A lot of signed artists aren't even doing that.
Do you think it's hard to get attention these days? There's more local rappers than ever.
Yeah. Yeah. I think what works to my advantage is my originality, and also my visuals. I think that helps me a lot.
You also have a breezier, almost gentler vibe than a lot of rappers out there.
Yeah. I'm not that guy who's gonna attack a track, or be like “[Expletive!]” or anything like that. [Laughs.] That's not me at all. I just don't have that quote-unquote aggression or hostility in me, you know?
So who's your competition?
The only thing I could compare it to would maybe be a B.o.B. or a Kid Cudi? Something like that, maybe.
Do you feel like you're going more in a pop direction like [them]?
I would like to have a great balance. I always saw myself going in the direction of a Will.i.Am. I like the kind of music he does.
Yeah, I've been a longtime fan of my father's music, in particular his first album…I just always keep it with me and listen to it. When I was in the studio I handed it over to [producer] Ski Beatz and said, Listen to my father's album, and if anything strikes you, take it and flip it so we can put it on my album.
Did you have a sense when you were growing up of how popular your dad was?
I wasn't sure, because that was all I knew. He was already an artist when I was born. I remember going to shows, and seeing him on TV when we were in Africa and stuff like that.
Do you see musical similarities between you and him?
Somewhat. It's not distinctly where you could actually point it out, but as far as the vastness of just liking different sounds and stuff like that, definitely.