Tonéx is an acquired taste. One you have to be somewhat motivated to attain, but one worth fighting for. Oak Park, Tonéx’s brilliant masterpiece, is a horrendous, hateful disc that most pastors would set fire to. But this may be the most powerful, intuitive and effective youth ministry tool ever recorded. It’s something you simply have to experience. Pain all over the place. It’s like Tonéx has been in our homes, in our secret places. He’s confessing for all of us. For our secret moments, our secret addictions. A seminal work and, yes, I’ll go ahead and use the word—masterpiece. So why is Tonéx quitting now?

We don't cover the Gospel music industry.

The way we see it, there are any number of websites out there, some quite good, that cover the Gospel music business. Any number of places you can go to read about who's hot and when the new Fred Hammond CD's going to drop. Our passion, on the other hand, is for ministry—real ministry. With building up the Body of Christ, provoking us to think, to debate, to pray. To fight if we have to, but to get off our butts and stop lounging around being entertained by Fred Hammond and worrying about when the new Kirk Franklin album is coming.

So, no, we don't cover the music industry. Mainly because 99% of Gospel music bears only a passing resemblance to the actual Gospel, and the fanatic star system distorts and idolizes Gospel artists to the point where we foolishly worship them and make excuses for behavior we know, we absolutely know, is inconsistent with a Christian testimony. The Gospel music industry makes idiots of us all, plays on our apparent unfamiliarity with Christian doctrine, behavior and ethics, and counts on us to be both stupid and gullible. The overwhelming majority of the music plays to our emotion and not our intellect, feeding the Body of Christ a steady diet of empty calorie milkshakes while neither inspiring, challenging, or holding us to higher standards of a higher calling.

More than secular music, we must require standards of the personal example of the music makers themselves. I have a great deal of trouble receiving most anything from Hezekiah Walker, who sneers on four out of five CD covers, and I refuse to pay money for Kurt Carr's latest, where his attempt to butch up stumbles badly, Carr coming across like a startled moose on the cover. It's a turn off, all that ego, all that stupidity, all that whoring of the Gospel. And black church folk, in our ignorance, readily and eagerly pay for it, flocking to these sites in heated anticipation while idolizing these brothers who are clearly and sadly lost.

All of which is to say no, we don't cover the Gospel music industry.

So, imagine my surprise…

But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. —Galatians 6:4-10

“Sometimes with Christianity, people are so busy trying to convince others that they are saved that they do not deal with the real issues that happen when you leave church. I don't want to do this because it looks right, I wanna do this because it is right but I need God to help me and that's what the song speaks about.”

Back when José used Afro Sheen:
The Reverend A.C. Williams III, Pastor of Truth Apostolic Community Church in Spring Valley, California is also the “Nureau Ink” artist known as Tonéx. He’s also the Nureau Ink preacher known as N8ion (the number “8” representing new beginnings), but we’ll get to that in a bit. Tonéx is a twenty-something Bohemian ultra-hip artistic prodigy who, were he not pastoring might be running an art gallery/spoken word club down on Bleeker Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. His Elvis-style side burns notwithstanding, Tonéx, who describes himself as “26 forever,” is a Don Cheadle look-alike who has been given to distinct turns as a permed-up Prince/Lenny Kravitz type and a braided Ziggy Marley Meets Alicia Keys sort of look. These days, he looks startlingly normal, which is to say his music is so out there, you’d never expect this relatively normal, friendly-looking brother to be the cause of such ruckus.

“Nureau Ink,” Tonéx’s innovative combination of gospel and R&B (and so-named because it forces record stores to start a “new row” for projects that cannot be defined as either Gospel or “secular”) was first introduced on the Verity Records compilation WOW Gospel 2000. In September 2000, Tonéx made his solo debut with the release of Pronounced Toe-nay on Jive. Tommy Boy records’ The Hostile Takeover appeared the next year, with 02 (Verity) appearing in 2002.

Tonéx’s music has been featured on previous films and soundtracks such as “The Good Song” on Sony Films “XXX: State of Union, “Off We Go” on Sony Pictures J-Lo /Ben Affleck Film Gigli, “Cry No More” on the HBO Film Prison Song starring Q-Tip & Mary J. Blige, and a theme song on UPN/Paramount Pictures One On One. He has also been seen on various BET programs, TBN, NBC, CBS, ABC, Motown Live, Hollywood Access, BET Style, TV One, Soul Train, and Showtime at the Apollo. Additionally, he has appeared in publications such as Billboard, USA Today, Ebony, Jet, Right On, Vibe, Sister 2 Sister, Jet, Upscale, Essence, Entertainment Weekly, and Black Beat Magazine.

In 2003, I bought Tonéx’s landmark double-disc set Out The Box because Wal-Mart had a lot of them. A head-to-floor rack full of them, they broke Tonéx’s last album like a secular album. Which I found curious considering Wal-Mart’s Christian selection is rather thin and, as is the case with most secular stores, relegated to the ghetto area of the CD bins. My curiosity at finding this Christian work up front, near the counter, and in enormous quantity—like the guy was Usher or something—helped me overcome my initial dislike of Tonéx.

That dislike was fueled mainly by his look. The pimp look. The Prince Wannabe look. Tonéx was once fond of perms and full-length furs, with a kind of arrogant sneer hidden behind mirrored aviators. It was a look I found off-putting in a Christian artist not only because I couldn’t possibly imagine Jesus wearing such a thing, but because it seemed so unoriginal and derivative. I thought, well, here’s some kid trying to be Prince. Already jaded by how simply dreadful most Gospel music is, I was in no hurry to give Tonéx my money.

For Out The Box, though, Tonéx opted for a more reasonable Don Cheadle thing (he looks, literally, like Don Cheadle’s kid brother). Which made it a bit easier for me to check out the 2-disc Out The Box, especially since it was on sale. Putting the disc on in my car, I thought the brother was on drugs. Out The Box starts with an interminable intro thing—something that was doubtless entertaining in concert but didn’t translate at all to audio-only. Sound effects and, well, more sound effects.

I despised the album for more than two weeks. But, being a black man who’d spent his money, I played it and played it, trying to figure Puzzle Man out. The live stuff sounded pretty terrible. Not sure if it was the mix or if it was the compression (it sounded overly compressed at the mastering stage), which made it sound harsh and brittle, tough to deal with those Jacksons samples and all of that crowd noise.

I think it wasn’t until I came across the wonderful, dreamy, Doesn’t Really Matter that I stopped and noticed how talented the guy was. A studio cut, Doesn’t Really Matter lacks the harshness of the live stuff and carries a very simple arrangement. But it was the writing, the earnestness and surgical precision of Tonéx’s lyrics and the playful spontaneity of the rhythm arrangements that made me give him a second look, and start combing back through what I’d considered an impenetrable mess of a CD.

I believe, therefore, that Tonéx is an acquired taste. One you have to be somewhat motivated to attain, but one worth fighting for. It was, like, once I “got” him, once I sort of understood where he was coming from, the music took on an entirely different perspective. And Out The Box went from being one of the weirdest and least accessible albums I own to being one of the most artistically brilliant.

Criticized for the length of many of the songs on his landmark Songs In The Key of Life (an album so long they needed to shrink wrap a special 33RPM single with it to accommodate the extra songs), Stevie Wonder once said, “Look, I do it first. Then somebody else can come along and do it neat.” He records what he’s feeling and he pursues his artistic statement, even if it doesn’t conform to established commercial guidelines. This applies also to Tonéx’s Out The Box, an utter mess of noise and more noise that you really need a kind of decoder in your head to understand. But, once that decoder has been installed, Out The Box becomes a wonderful ride (and real value; I love it when artists give you all that bang for the buck; Tonéx shoe-horning in 36 songs for a reasonable price, although that shoe-horning may account for the brittle harshness of the compression. That, or, the mastering engineer didn’t think to create different profiles for the live and studio stuff, which were clearly recorded and mixed differently).

All of which is to say that, a year later, I was primed for Tonéx’s next Verity release. Only, that release never came.

“As a child I was spared from a lot of sadness because of the faith my parents instilled in me, and so I say in the song give me one good reason why, I can't praise God. I mean there are people my age dying of AIDS and honestly if it hadn't been for God's mercy it could have been me. I could be another black brother statistic... in jail or on crack. So how you gonna hare on me when I'm doing what I do, for the right reasons?”

Tonéx was born into musical family.
His father played saxophone for James Brown and Jackie Wilson and his mother sang in various girl groups. “I'm the youngest of six boys,” Tonéx laughs, “so I guess if I had been born with our talent my folks would have been like what's wrong with him?” Along with music, Tonéx’s life was shaped by faith. Both his parents are ministers and head up the Truth Apostolic Community Church in California .

Although his parents’ beliefs deterred Tonéx from listening to much secular music (although Tonéx admits he did check out his older brother's funk records on the low), Tonéx’s father made sure that his children had a knowledge and appreciation of genres other than traditional gospel. “Although I'm sure he didn't like the messages in some songs, he made sure I was open to classical, jazz... and music in general.”

When Tonéx was 10 he recorded a gospel record with his family and when he turned 13 he decided to venture out on his own. Dubbing himself Tonéx he began to hone his craft, working on songs in his family's basement. By the time Tonéx was 18 he he'd released his independent debut Silent X 516: the Self Confrontation. The following year he released Damage, also an independent release.

Then, two short years following the release of Damage, Tonéx would release his third CD pronounced toe-nay and the buzz would grow to such an audible level that it was only a matter of time before this exciting performer was signed to a major label. [From Sphinx Management]

Last year, Tonéx and his wife of four years, Yvette “Ms. Tonéx” Williams, divorced and his father, Pastor AC Williams II, passed away. Newly divorced and suddenly responsible for his father’s ministry while his masterpiece Out The Box went triple platinum and made him a superstar, 2005 became, likely the most challenging year of Tonéx’s life, becoming the drum roll to the startling events to come.

I want some church to give me ten thousand

dollars. I want to buy 500 copies of Oak Park and pass them out to every kid in the district. There’s only a couple of problems with this idea. First of all, no church is ever going to give me ten thousand dollars for any reason whatsoever. Black churches, most especially, are penny pinching nickel and dime affairs, having moved from frugal to cheapskate generations ago.  Second, no church is going to give me ten thousand dollars to buy a CD they’d be incapable of understanding, let alone one with an explicit content label on it. The first universal law of black church folk is they are intrinsically self centered and tunnel-visioned, fearful of things they do not understand and, in large measure, hostile towards progress and change. Oak Park, Tonéx’s brilliant masterpiece, qualifies on all of those fronts. It is a horrendous, hateful disc that most church mothers would rush to set fire to and Frisbee out of their Cadillac window on Interstate 25.

But this may be the most powerful, intuitive and effective youth ministry tool ever pressed onto silicone. Oh, wait—it hasn’t been pressed onto silicone.

This is, undoubtedly, the best Prince album Prince never made. This album is so Prince it out-Princes Prince. At least in terms of general creativity it’s hands-down a better album than 5157, the latest Prince release. In fact, Oak Park is the album you wished Prince would make if Prince still made albums that sounded like Prince. It is, hands down, one of the best albums I have ever heard in my life. A seminal work and, yes, I’ll go ahead and use the word—masterpiece. Oak Park: 92105 has, in one or two listening, earned a place among hallowed works like Earth, Wind & Fire’s I Am, Luther Vandross' Never Too Much, Chicago 17, Anita Baker's Rapture, Michael Jackson's Off The Wall, Quincy Jones' The Dude, and, yes, Prince’s Dirty Mind as a preeminent and profound artistic statement. An album you never need to hit the track-skip button. You just put it on, kick back and let the man work. It's a throwback to the days when artists created art: when an album was more than just a collection of songs thrown at a wall in an attempt to land a hit. These days of multiple-producer patchwork yield usually a grab-bag of songs but make no coherent or cohesive statement. Oak Park is a canvas that Tonéx paints on from track one to track twenty-four, telling tales of joy, sadness, pain, shame, redemption and most of all, hope.

You're not going to shout off of this record. This record may not make you throw up your hands and run around your house hollering (although it just might). If you are over 35, you probably won't like it at all. Then again, if you're over 35, I have serious doubts you're reading this (or any other) website. This record should not be confused, in any way, with what we normally consider Gospel music. This album is, frankly, too real to be consider Gospel music, as most Gospel music is terribly ineffective preaching to the choir. Tonéx, here, could care less about the choir. He's talking to those left behind and ignored by the church—youth and young adults clustered in the back pews playing PSP and Game Boy and feeling each other up during service. The people no one ever speaks to—this is the audience for this CD, a work desperately needed and long overdue.

Oak Park stands as a genre landmark and will undoubtedly become a reference point and benchmark for urban Gospel music. It is a must-own for anyone—saint or sinner—and a musical work that transcends labels and categories. Is it a “Gospel” album? Yes in that it clearly proselytizes and proclaims. Is it a praise and worship album? Depends on how you look at it. The album certainly praises and worships God, but its purpose is to pierce the hearts of people who have either given up on God or who have never given Him a shot.

The album is searingly honest and emotionally moving. The listener will find himself hard pressed to not choke up in several poignant moments—one during which Tonéx is, apparently, blazing a joint. It’s difficult to explain how such a moment could make you cry out in praise to God, but it does. It’s… I have to find some words, here. It’s something you simply have to experience, the blunt honesty here. Pain all over the place. It’s like Tonéx has been in our homes, in our secret places. He’s confessing for all of us. For our secret moments, our secret addictions.

You’ve really got to trust me. Stop reading this and go buy this album now.

The thing that speaks perhaps loudest about Oak Park: 92105 is the parental warning label. Oak Park is the first Christian CD ever released with a parental warning label, which may be a brilliant marketing move. In fact, Tonéx, quitting, his feud with Verity, and even Verity’s lawsuit may all be part of some unimaginably brilliant marketing campaign, as the more controversial Tonéx seems, the more popular Tonéx gets.

Having listened to the album a number of times, now, I do have the smallest suspicion that the self-imposed label—which is likely to bar Oak Park from most Christian bookstores—is, indeed, some kind of gimmick. That or an over-reaction. If you don’t count a handful of utterances of the word, “nigga,” there really isn’t any notable profanity in Oak Park. Which was when, on closer examination, I realized the label doesn’t say “explicit lyrics” but “explicit content.” Okay, that there is on Oak Park. But there is nothing on Oak Park that is any more explicit than anything most kids are saying to each other every day at school, and nothing that comes even remotely close to the average parental-labeled pop CD. In a radio interview, Tonéx said he labeled the CD because of the strong themes that are inappropriate for younger listeners. which makes sense, I suppose, but thirteen year-olds definitely need to hear this CD while eight-year olds probably wouldn't even understand it, and thus wouldn't need the label. While I understand, I suppose, his thinking, I believe this is a work vital to teen ministry, and the label tends to keep the work in the hands of adults; over-protective mommies are simply not going to buy this for their kids (who undoubtedly have huge stacks of labeled CD's under their beds or on their iPods), and kids rarely buy Gospel CD's for themselves.

The label refers to, I suppose, Tonéx’s unflinching dissection of issues of sexuality, violence, identity and purpose: things every teenager alive obsesses over every day. Oak Park fairly excretes the DNA of teen angst and teen struggles, the terrible vise most Christian teens are caught in where they struggle with matters too shameful or too embarrassing to even tell their peers or parents. Feelings, a dreamy Joni Mitchell-esque lullaby layered over a Karen Carpenter sample, sums up the secret hell many young people (and quite a few old ones) are in; trapped in habits too shameful to even talk about. So, rather than get help, we merely pretend everything’s fine while we’re secretly dying inside. Here Tonéx’s lyrical skill has him effortlessly traversing the tightrope between support and exploitation, until the song dissolves into a weeping plea for help as angels reprise Tonéx’s best-known work, the anthem Lord Make Me Over.

The CD is, hands down, the best youth evangelism tool I’ve ever encountered. It validates the fears and insecurities of the young while not preaching, not lecturing, but introducing Christ in as literal and relevant an implementation as I’ve ever heard. Most gospel tracts are utterly useless, written by people who have no idea (or refuse to deal with) the real struggles we all face. Oak Park is probably the most powerful and effective tract available for urban youth today, its effectiveness increasing by repeated plays as the music gets into your blood stream.

I can't imagine why nobody is talking about this CD. Other than sporadic mention of it as being “controversial” because of its labeling, I have not, at this writing, read any in-depth discussion about Oak Park or its significance in the industry and in youth ministry. This puzzles and disappoints me, that so important a shot can be fired and nobody who actually covers the Gospel music industry for a living seems to notice. This is a tremendously important work, one I pray will not be followed up by the sneering likes of Walker and Carr but instead opens the flood gates for artists as anointed and intuitively gifted as this one.

The PraiseNet Oak Park Review

On January 22, 2006, Tonéx posted
a long and rambling statement to a page on MySpace.Com. The statement, like much of his music, proved enigmatic and oblique, with the singer lashing out at the music industry, his label, and seemingly Christians in general.

“I can’t take the fakeness no more,” he wrote. “I’m wide open and now I’m like y'all take a hit cuz I ain’t got nothing to lose. I’ve lost everything so you really can’t hurt me anymore than I’ve already been hurt. And that’s what hurts. So many people call themselves ministers but they don’t minister they COMPETE.”

“Tonéx IS NOT leaving ´Gospel´ to go sing the dreaded ´R&B´. Tonéx is retiring from an industry and religion that has completely stripped and cut and scarred his heart to the point he feels there’s no repair.”

How do you “retire” from a “religion”?

“I’m all about kingdom now. And in my pursuit of the real Jesus I leave your fictitious, vindictive country club and cancel my membership to the industry and denounce it. I don’t fit in and I don’t want to. Whatever my mission is for God I wanna do it with the right heart and the right spirit.”

This was pretty much the shot heard ‘round the Gospel world, as it triggered a feeding frenzy of speculation about what this rant meant and what it signified. Out The Box, Tonéx’s 2004 release, was a huge step forward for both Tonéx and urban Gospel music as an industry. Verity records, the Gospel arm of the Zomba Label Group (essentially Jive records), had gobbled up GospoCentric Records (an independent label and home to major artists like Kirk Franklin) and become the 800-pound gorilla of the Gospel music industry. Tonéx, a curious also-ran, had exploded with Out The Box, becoming a major name in the business and gaining respect and acceptance beyond the Gospel industry. It seemed win-win: Verity gains another valuable artist, Tonéx continues to challenge and expand the arty form, and we all get great music. What could be wrong with that?

Well, I don’t actually know. Tonéx’s rambling statement, which is no longer online (although I did read it in its entirety, I neglected to copy it), was short on specifics. Just vague suggestions of money problems and financial conflicts with ZLG. However, over the years I have heard repeated complaints that Verity and other Gospel labels tend to employ rigid 1960’s-era Motown-style artist contracts that pay their artists pennies on the dollar while holding them to exclusive deals and taking huge chunks of their publishing. I have no way of knowing if this is the case with Tonéx, but the singer's whining fits this general profile.

It is possible he signed a lousy boilerplate contract, as many bands anxious for a record deal do, and now that he is rising toward the top echelon of the Gospel industry, the strident rookie contract—which tends to leverage heavily in favor of the record company—may seem unfair. Additionally, provisions for rate schedule upgrades were likely not built into the entry-level boilerplate contract.

For record companies, this seems fair since they’re taking the lion’s share of the risk. I have no way of knowing how much money Verity invested in Tonéx, but I am aware that, these days, record labels take as little risk as possible. Twenty years ago I used to shop demos around of bands and singers. Now, nobody listens to demos. You have to come in with a completed master, ready for pressing. The record company will usually not put one dime into your career, but will manufacture your CD (at your expense; these costs come right off of your payments) and then toss it out there in the world with little or, more likely, no promotion at all. It’s up to you to get out there and sell the album, spending your own money to tour and visit every radio station and church you possibly can.

What many people do not realize is, simply having a CD out doesn’t mean you’re rich. Quite the contrary, if Verity is signing non-union contracts, there’s no telling what the signing advance is (union rules require a minimum $150,000 signing advance. If Verity is non-union, they can pretty much make up a number, including paying only one dollar ($1). I’ve known several artists, signed to major deals, who were still working day jobs. Still doing session work. Broke. I’m not saying this is the case with Tonéx, but I’ve seen his road act. It’s like MC Hammer 2006: lots of people jumping around, lots of theatrics, lots of musicians. Each head up there on stage represents a paycheck.

It’s possible Tonéx is indeed broke. It is also possible he is crying broke because he’s stuck in a lousy contract. A contract he may have realized was lousy when he signed it, but one he wants to renegotiate now. It’s possible Zomba, who, according to a May 2nd press release from Tonéx’s camp, filed a $1 million lawsuit against the singer, is trying to coerce Tonéx back to work (and get their hands on Tonéx’s new Oak Park: 92105, one of the most important Christian albums ever recorded). Tonéx’s Prince-like “exit” from the music business, followed by a Prince-like renaming (he is releasing albums under the name “N8ion”) followed by a Prince-like independent label startup (Tonéx is now releasing projects under his underground Nureau Ink label) could all be tactics to force Zomba into renegotiating a fairer contract. In fact, it seems inevitable that, despite Tonéx’s newly-set up legal defense fund [see below], the two parties will, indeed, arrive at some fair (or fairer) deal.

None of which is meant to suggest this is indeed what’s happening. But this is, indeed, what is likely happening. Tonéx is likely getting ripped off. By his own admission over on GospelCity.Com, Tonéx’s Out The Box was an ambitious project:

“It was over 136 tracks that were mixed. There were so many hard drives that had to be put together through ProTools. This recording had the largest number of tracks ever recorded in gospel music history. They usually only use that many tracks for John Williams scoring “Jaws” or something like that…so this was a monstrosity of epic proportions not only for the production value but the whole mix process. That’s why the project took so long.

“We had to keep pushing the record back because this was such a major piece. We had to edit 4 hours of music that we had to tie into maybe 150 minutes. There was so much good stuff. It was very difficult to me to capture…I wanted to capture how the crowd felt me – not just the songs, but how I talk with my crowd, how we have an experience together.”

If there were cost overruns and production delays, those were certainly charged back to Tonéx along with penalties and interest and anything else Verity might come up with. “I went WAY over budget,” Tonéx said.

“The more they saw as I kept turning stuff in, they were saying, “He needs more. He needs more.” They just keep supporting it. The radio support has been incredible….”

But he goes on to praise his record label, with whom he was happy at the time,

“…the label let me do exactly what I wanted to do this time. It had a lot to do with the corporate change….just really capturing the brainchild of Tonéx. It took a risk. It took [guts] to really go out and support something that has really never been done before and just know that this guy knows what he’s talking about and trust him and fund it.”

Additionally, Verity released Out The Box wide—extremely wide for a Gospel album—and pushed it like a secular CD, which inevitably meant promotional costs and shipping costs for all of those CD’s shipped out—and shipped back to Verity after the promotion ended. Sales through record clubs are traditionally excluded from artist royalties (they are considered promotional copies), and online sales continue to have negligible impact on overall sales. By shipping these huge numbers of CD’s during Out The Box’s initial release, Verity surely charged the manufacturing and shipping (both directions) costs to Tonéx as well as any other promotional efforts (Tonéx’s numerous Bobby Jones appearances and so forth), and I’ve no doubt some other book cooking was going on.

Unconfirmed figures for Out The Box put sales at 3 million copies. So, how could Tonéx be experiencing financial problems? It’s possible Verity is also recouping monies advanced from Tonéx’s previous releases and tours. Again, nobody’s talking about specifics, but this fits the profile. In the Radio Free KJLH interview, Tonéx said he receives no advances from Verity (which speaks to the rumors of Verity exploiting artists), and mentioned Out The Box went gold (500,000 units sold). At standard wholesale ($8), Out The Box earned Verity, minimum, $4 million. If Out The Box made $4 million and Tonéx doesn’t have furniture in his apartment (as he claims in the interview), there’s a serious problem somewhere.

“I had many offers to do pop and R&B, but I never went through with it. There are a lot of people who do similar things to what I do in R&B but I wanted to use gospel lyrics. I address issues that many other Christian artists don't' address. For instance in a sexual context, I don't sing about what I'm going to do to a woman. I sing about what I've already experienced and the pain that it caused me. So, on a song like ‘Taxi,’ I'm talking about the downside of premarital sex, but it's still a pop song.”

So, is Oak Park Tonéx’s final curtain call?
I sincerely doubt it.  All he really needs is a white knight record label to buy out his Verity contract and, perhaps, give him a hands-off distribution deal. Sony/BMG would be the likely candidate, a media conglomerate that dwarfs Zomba. But, as impressive as Tonéx's skyrocketing popularity is, put in perspective with secular pop music, Tonéx likely exists just below the radar of most media giants. But his potential seems unlimited. I’m not (quite) cynical enough to take this for a marketing ploy, but I don’t believe for a second that we’ve seen the last of Reverend Williams.

Regardless, his vision, his very inaccessibility, has doubtless opened doors for future generations. While certainly misunderstood or, perhaps, understood only on a surface level at the moment, Tonéx's music will doubtless endure for generations, and many artists yet to come will trace the roots of their ministry back to some guy few people of that future time will have ever heard of, and to the landmark recordings that changed and evolved an art form forever.

Updated 08.08: (from Wikipedia)  In March 2007, a reconciliation with Zomba Label Group was announced, which would be a joint venture for his Nureau Ink label. The deal was struck under the auspices of new Zomba president Jazzy Jordan (who has previously guided the careers of R. Kelly and Salt-N-Pepa). However, as of June 2007, another split with Zomba was announced. In the wake of leaking the vitriolic and profanity-laden song "The Naked Truth" along with several similarly themed blogs and videos, the artist faced much scrutiny within the conservative Gospel arena.

Tonéx is now writing and producing songs for upcoming projects by Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Brandy, Usher and Danity Kane. Meanwhile, planned release date for Stereotype: Steel & Velvet on September 11, 2007 came and went, with an apology on YouTube referencing the album without specifying any details. He is currently releasing albums exclusively at his
official store.

The PraiseNet Oak Park Review

Christopher J. Priest
14 May 2006


Excerpts From Oak Park: 92105 Copyright © 2006 Nureau Ink. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpts From Radio Interview Copyright © 2006 102.3 Radio Free KJLH/Taxi Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpts From Text Interviews and Tonéx Photos Copyright © 2006 Their Respective Copyright Owners. All Rights Reserved.
All Other Text Copyright © 2008 PraiseNet eMedia. All Rights Reserved.