In a time when hip-hop artists and rappers come a dime a dozen, it is rare that an artist remains true to the music’s intended art form. Chicago’s Tonio is “keeping the game real.” He owns his own music and business. His sound is reminiscent of solo performers who sang about either things that mattered in the community or fun, catchy lyrics with a hook.

You are a rapper.  How did you get your start?

I was 10 years old when I first started rapping.  It evolved into me owning my own company— Block 424 Records.  With me owning my own company, I am my own artist.

“Body, Body” is your latest single.  How has it been received?

It is real hot! The ladies love it. It has been received well. It puts them in a sexy mood, and that is how it was created — just pure sexiness.  I am marketing it through YouTube, CDBaby, Amazon.com and my website.

Is this channel of marketing typical?

It is the new age.  Normally, artists would want to run to major labels, but, right now, by the Internet being as powerful as it is, if you are able to capture an Internet audience and kind of have that as a foundation, you are able to make money, just as much money as you would with a major label.

Any thoughts on the current direction of rap and hip-hop?

I’ve seen the Ice-Ts, the Ice Cubes, the De La Souls and Busta Rhymes when he was with leaders of the new school.  I’ve seen it all.  As an artist, I appreciate the creativity brought into it, but, as an individual, I don’t like a lot of the phoniness. A lot of people are saying a lot of things they are not familiar with; that they don’t live.  So, because they are doing that, it is sending a false message to the people who listen to their music, and they are creating this false image, and they are finding themselves placed in positions in their careers where their careers are cut short.

For more information, check out www.toniochilife.com.