Tone Tank, One-Offs & One-Upmanships

Blake Gillespie

Tone Tank is an endearing personality. He’s a working class rapper, more likely to have encountered him behind the counter of a bodega, stacking beer cases into the back of a delivery truck, or as your bartender at a rap show rather than on stage. When Tone Tank heard Biggie say “don’t be mad UPS is hiring”, he dropped off an application. All the while, he remains Tone Tank lurking in the guest appearances, appearing on compilations, and amassing a catalog of unreleased material alongside equally enigmatic peers. Sick of sitting on it, Tone Tank pressed up cassettes that raid his vaults entitled One-Offs & One-Upmanships.

Tone Tank’s style is frank and born of the WKCR-era of Stretch & Bobbito Show exclusives and Fondle’em Records basement tapes. Sometimes he rhymes enlightened, other times his grouse demeanor stands in the way. His One-Offs & One-Upmanships ain’t here for true school salvation nor nostalgia. Tone Tank has his stories and observations strictly. On “Ellen Degenerates” he’s drowsy and yet lucid offering his upbringing as a series of unfortunate events in whiteness. He addresses his birth in the eras of white flight and white guilt sans naivety and keeps it moving on the humble, “if I was rich I’d be eccentric / but I’m not so they be like ‘I don’t get it’.” Never too serious, tracks like “Ringalario” with Snafu tap into the oddball stylings of the Jungle Brothers’ invention of “Jimbrowski” or Del the Funkee Homosapien’s “Mista Dobalina”, while his many collaborations with Serengeti cast Tone Tank as part of the same maintenance union as Cavanaugh.

Obscurity is a construct in the case of Tone Tank, but he rolls with the punches. Consider “The Sun Doesn’t Ask To Shine” as exhibit A. The track bares the “la musica de Harry Fraud” tag that’s embedded in countless popular artists’ most-praised singles, from French Montana to Action Bronson. Over Fraud’s wailing saxophone sample, Tone Tank explores interracial relationships in the least obvious of manners: through the bleeding complications of Great Danes. “Too much the same blood is no good like Great Danes / naw’m sayin? / I heard they get hip dysplasia.” Tone admits “sometimes I rhyme focused / and sometimes my mind wanders”—and he digresses against his better interest to baffling, yet funny results—but he never lets it deter from his message of doing what comes natural.

Purchase Tone Tank’s One-Offs & One-Upmanships on cassette via Bandcamp.

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