Tony Shhnow makes music to make money
Weed plants place a stop sign in the center of the Brooklyn Made stage. The DJ plays a random selection of semi-decent rap music while Tony Shhnow pours a drink into a Solo red mug on stage. It’s Tony’s first tour with Cousin Stizz, and it’s his first time in Brooklyn last April. The Cobb County rapper wears glasses with gold semi-automatic guns on the sides, a green army jacket, a black Louie Vuitton belt and a pair of clean white Air Force 1s. Tony opened with “EVEN ON A SUNDAY,” a track made entirely of plug-in style beats. When asked to define the plug for a Zoom call, Tony replied, “It’s player ass trap music. It’s player ass hustle music. make money music Sometimes your girl doesn’t want to hear that you play gangsta ass shit all the time. Sometimes she wants to be serenaded.” With Plug, the instruments are synthetic and digital with compositions of tinkering bells, woozy flutes and slow drums. “Plug is super chilled, chilled stoner stuff. But it’s also the turn of Super Street Atlanta. I feel like there’s a duality,” ATL producer says to pop star Benny over the phone.
Plug music scores from Atlanta street bands spoofed on peer-to-peer sharing sites like Limewire and Frostwire and hosting sites like Datpiff and LiveMixtapes. “It was built on the traditional Atlanta. It blended traditional Atlanta with the internet age,” adds Benny. Inspired by the elegance of Zaytoven’s piano work, Plug adds a pop spin packed with explosive digitized synths and video game sound bits.
Plug Motivation is Tony’s new project, 24 tracks of moneymaking, design and drugs entirely produced by the plug subgenre’s most prolific producers: Big Emm, Cashcache, DJ YoungKash, Fashion Kor, GameBoomin, IceWater Black, JBand$, Mexicodro, Polo Boy Shawty, Popstar Benny, StoopidXool and Youngstill. Plug Motivation is hosted by DJ Yung Rell, bringing back the days of the old Gucci Mane in 2008. Tony carries the spirit of old Atlanta with tracks like “Dats Me” and “Work Like This”. On the latter, flutes and snares combine with dreamy synths, with Tony proud of his swag and clearly stating his bad bitch problem. The entirety of Plug Motivation was recorded in Tony’s kitchen, no fancy studio equipment was required. Tony draws inspiration from Gucci Mane’s Bird Flu 2, Lil Wayne’s No Ceilings and Carter III projects, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild while making the tape.
He seems excited to talk about the origins of Plug Motivation on our Zoom call. For High Times, Tony discusses Plug music, its purpose, his new project’s songs, and the difference between mixtapes and albums in 2022. He bluntly smokes a Metro Bloomin’ brand flower throughout the call and puffs between replies.
High Times: Last week you just dropped Plug Motivation. When did you start recording this?
Tony Shnow: I started recording what I was feeling as soon as I got off tour. Because Reflections was pretty damn near the end when I got off the tour. So Plug Motivation was definitely music I had fresh off the tour as I was trying to move on to the next project.
HT: Plug Motivation is a reference to Jeezy’s Thug Motivation. What made you decide to use that as a topic?
Tony Shnow: Well, Mexicodro came up with the title. I have to testify to him. I just applied my own style to it. I applied the theme to it. He picked the title and I just made it, I brought it to life.
HT: What I really like about the tape is that it brings back the old ATL mixtape aesthetic. What is the difference between a mixtape and an album? And I feel like Plug Motivation excels at that.
Tony Shnow: Certainly. I feel like a mixtape is raw music. it’s raw It doesn’t really look like polished shit. It can be music recorded in a kitchen or it can be in the trap. It could be, it’s something that’s not necessarily meant to be pop or on the billboards. I don’t want to be on the radio. I try to fall into the trap. I’m looking forward to the road. It’s not a project that aims to please the average listener. Mixtapes don’t aim to please your fans. That’s the biggest difference in my opinion.
HT: You also released the ShadowBanned mixtape before Plug Motivation. Rappers don’t do that anymore where they rap to each other’s beats for an entire project. It’s a lost art.
Tony Shnow: Yes. That’s why… But for me it’s hip hop. That’s why I did the BBC project. i won’t lie to you I was one who rapped on the beats of other people who were my colleagues. But I felt like I had to wait a second until it was the right moment. And right now I feel like it was definitely a good moment for it.
HT: Do you think this whole streaming era has ruined the identity of mixtapes these days?
Tony Shnow: Yes. It did a bit. It did a bit. But I still feel like there’s a place for it. I feel like people just have to, we have to adapt to that, dude shit. They don’t really see the leading artists doing that. Folks, the rap game usually mimics whatever the leading artist at the time is doing, dude shit. At the time Lil Wayne was doing that, Tyga was doing that or Jacquees was doing that or Young Dro was doing that. Multiple artists were doing that at the same time. But you don’t see the leading artists like Drake or Kendrick or J. Cole, you can’t tell by looking at them. You will not imitate it.
HT: How important is it when someone hosts your mixtapes? Because DJ Yung Rell hosted some of your tapes.
Tony Shnow: Yes. I feel like this role is a lost art form in hip hop. So it’s important to me to keep pushing it or keep pushing that narrative shit because I feel like hip-hop needs that. I grew up with that. A lot of these kids don’t get to see that. You know what I mean? It’s almost like a narrator.
HT: I think it’s definitely a lost art form because you don’t hear DJ Scream or Evil Empire that much anymore.
Tony Shnow: Because a lot of the older guys are fucking successful now, they don’t do it anymore, they’re just fucking successful. So you don’t have time for that. They changed companies. They might have a label now, or they might have a clothing line now. They’re just not into it. Because like I said, to get back to the main point, no one calls them to do anything. you feel me Tyler was the last big guy I saw doing it.
HT: On Plug Motivation you kept the sound exclusively with plug producers. Why did you keep it so comprehensive? What inspired this?
Tony Shnow: I was already planning to do a plug project. nope When ‘Dro gave me this title, I felt like I had to stay true to the plugin. I had to stick to that. I feel like there is a misconception about plug music. I made the project just to clarify what it is. I even used the old connector. I’ve tried to show you all exactly what connector was and what connector is now.
HT: How important was it to get everyone’s input for this project?
Tony Shnow: I think it was very important on the producer side to make sure I tapped into every producer that was a part of the Beats Plugs shit and the new culture. I feel like I can rap. So I leave everything else to them, I try to make sure I work with the best producers or the best DJ, the best director.
HT: One of my favorite songs is “Hell’s Hot” because I’ve never heard you so angry. why were you so mad
Tony Shnow: I dealt with this girl and really, it was a reaction to her. She just texts me, “Hell is hot. I hope you burn nigga.” I said, “All right. bitch fuck you
HT: This is nasty text.
Tony Shnow: on God. So I answered. I only use music sometimes as my therapy. So that’s it. I honestly didn’t even know I was going to keep this song. People just started liking it.
HT: Based on the few drill songs you have on the ShadowBanned mixtape, how do you feel about drill music and how do you feel about the culture?
Tony Shnow: It’s cool. I like it a little bit. I’m not gonna lie to you like I’m a super big fan of this because I’m not really into rap that talks too much about guns or violent shit. I’m just super not heavy on it. I thought Chicago’s drill wave was cool, but I didn’t look at it that much. It’s just not me, I’m more of a fan of pure player music. Speaking of making money or smoking weed. I like Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y or Lil Wayne. I like Gucci, but I don’t like his songs when he talks about shooting shit all the time.
HT: That is understandable. I can tell you’re on the fence about exercise music.
Tony Shnow: Yes. I’m like, uh As I said, I just want to make it a little more players. I really fuck, I fuck, what’s this guy’s name? Damn, what’s the guy’s name? They dropped the Too Slizzy Too Sexy tape.
HT: Cash Cobain and Chow Lee.
Tony Shnow: yeah bro i fuck with them Something that moves the heels. Do not get me wrong. The drill shit is cool. But I like the songs where the hoes get moving with the girls. You know what I mean? I want girls to dance. I don’t want to shoot; I have no distance [laughs].