It was suppose to be a successful “coming-out” show. This year’s South X Southwest Festival was suppose to do for The World Famous Tony Williams what Woodstock had done for Santana, Jimi Hendrix and Sly & the Family Stone in the 60’s. Instead, it was more like Kanye at the 2008 Bonnaroo Festival. I remember that one well. I remember arriving at the small airport near Manchester, Tennessee at about 12- midnight, after the short flight from Atlanta, where Kanye had just rocked a Summer Jam show at Phillips’ Arena. I remember how exhausted we were when we walked down the steps of the plane (which, incidentally was owned by Ludacris and piloted by his uncle) and into the two black SUV’s that were waiting on the tarmac. I remember sitting in the backseat, only, half coherent and looking through the tinted glass as a bottle shaped female figure with huge hair walked toward the car through the darkness and thinking I must have been dreaming, until she completely opened my already half- jarred car door and stuck her head in. It was Diana Ross. If you think that in the last few sentences, I’ve been walking through some pretty tall cotton with some pretty high powered name dropping, maybe for the sake of stunting, well that’s not the case. I did it for a reason that I will expound on more later in this post.
Anyway, back to Bonnaroo. This was the event that Kanye was raked over the coals for and was accused of not showing up on time. I remember sitting backstage, while waiting for the change over from the Pearl Jam set to take place and thinking that “this shit is taking forever!” And so we sat and we sat..and we sat…, but we were there! After assuring us that they were equipped and prepared to handle the elaborate setup of the Glow In The Dark Show stage, the Bonneroo people flopped and let Kanye take the fall. I remember hitting the stage at 4:30 a.m and us giving the crowd 100%, until dawn.
Now, back to this past Saturday night in Austin, Texas at SXSW! This was a scenario that had an uncanny similarity to the series of events of the aforementioned. It it, also, uncanny that it indirectly involved Kanye, as well. This event marked the first time that The World Tony Williams had performed with a full band, since becoming The World Famous Tony Williams. It was the first time I had performed with a band separate from Kanye in over six years. This was to be the night that I would show “the world” that The World Famous Tony Williams was a capable and credible artist, independent from his, even more, world famous cousin.
For starters, after being billed as the headlining act for the Saturday night line up at Red 7 and placed into the 1:30 a.m. slot, I had to request a slot change a week prior to the show, after Kanye announced that there would be a G.O.O.D. music showcase at a different venue… at the same freakin’ time. Although, my focus these days is on building my career, it’s hard enough that we’re not working together like we used to without having to compete at the same festival during the same time slot. So much for escaping that shadow, but I’ll cut to the chase. Reports after my showcase are saying that the hype of my set fizzled due to me being late after a flight from France, while my band waited on stage seemingly doing nothing. In addition, there is speculation that plans for some of my high profile colleagues that I had anticipated dropping by, fell through at the last second and maybe took the luster of my show with it.
For this, I am torn between whether to turn this into a mere commentary or a full-on rant. After all, what is it that we artists live for? Attention, in any form, be it negative or positive means, at least people are talking and that’s all we, artists, can hope for. I guess I should worry when folks aren’t saying anything, right? However, this story has Bonnaroo written all over it and I wish to express that I feel I’ve been bamboozled, hoodwinked and led astray.
First of all, I’ve never been late for a show of any magnitude. The show organizers had obtained all of the specs required for pulling off my production several weeks prior to the event. Upon arrival, I was told by a (or should I say the?) sound man at the venue (Red 7) that he had not been made aware of the elaborateness of my production, until he had arrived at the venue a few hours, before. As the headliner, I was promised a sound check which I never received because of time. Therefore, needless to say that the first 25 minutes of my 45 minute set were spent with him trying to “sort things out” and when I hit the stage in white tux pants and my undershirt and hit ‘em with “Sorry I’m, I was in France or was that Milan?” and then broke into “I hopped up out the bed, turned my swag on, took a look at the world and said wassup, yeeeahhhh, I’M WORLD FAMOUS”, Austin 360.com implied that perhaps, I had pulled the shenanigans, as a stall tactic to wait on Kanye and Jay Z and of course, they never showed up. Oh really? You see, the club or some workers for the club or some the promotors or “some damn-body” put the story out earlier, in the day, that Kanye and Jay Z were feature guest of mine…. really? Maybe, they were a bit confused and maybe my timing was bad, but my intro had been planned for weeks. Maybe, they didn’t realize that I recently toured the globe with a guy whose stage was literally a planet. Maybe, they didn’t see me rising up from the pit 15 feet into the air on a hydrolic lift on the GITD tour. Did they really think that I’d hit the stage on MY showcase and just be plain ole’ normal?
Dfw.com, even, commented that my demeanor on stage changed visibly, after I was supposed to have received a message on stage that possibly signified that my guest were not showing up. No sirs! Imagine, preparing for weeks for one- 45 minute showcase and being told half- way into your third song that you had time for one more song. You’d be obviously or shall I say, visibly, pissed too! Additionally, I kinda’ take offense to Dfw.com referring to my guests as unknowns. Could they seriously be referring to my guest Rockwell Knuckles, Kyle Lucas, and/ or STS (Sugar Tongue Slim)? I’d be willing to wager my house that, if you asked any of the attendees at any of the 6 zillion hip hop showcases last week, that no one would regard them as such. Wait, HOLD UP (NATE DOG voice, R.I.P.)!! Isn’t this SXSW festival that you’re covering designed with the intent to showcase and promote the independent artist? If so, why come off like my show is maybe a dissapointment because Kanye or Jay Z didn’t drop by? I guess my other friends are unknowns compared to the popularity of those guys. Allow me to introduce them:
Rockwell Knuckles is from the north side of St. Louis and is making a strong charge at being my favorite rapper. Really. He is definitely in my top few. He played at the Sunday Swagger with Big Sean, Wiz, Chiddy, Bun B, Kendrick Lamar. His most recent mixtape, Choose Your Own Adventure is a must have for the collection. Look for Rocky Knuckles X The World Famous Tony Williams collabs in the very near future.
Kyle Lucas is from Marietta, Ga. where it’s always sunny and he’s the frontman for the group Vonnegutt. Vonnegutt was featured on Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Leftfoot on “Follow Us”. Also he was seen around Austin performing Showcases with Big Boi this year….. I guess Big Boi fraternizes with ‘unknowns’ as well. Wait til you hear their cover of Weazer’s “Put Me Back Together” on their next project, the song features The World Famous Tony Williams and Knowledge from Kids In The Hall.
STS, also, was featured on The Roots album How I Got Over and is from the group Money Making Jam Boys which consist of himself, Black Thought (The Roots Crew), Dice Raw, Truck North and P.O.R.N. You could have caught them at this years SXSW at the 10 Deep Showcase. MMJB’s new mixtape The Prestige: Jam Boy Magic is in my player right now and is absolute fire. Listen to what Big Boi has to say about STS and the rest of the crew.
I guess I’ve made my point that these writers are probably not credible hip hop writers. Maybe, if they’d gotten your hands on a copy of my mixtape The World Famous Tony Williams: FINDING DAKOTA GREY, they’d know that World Famous ain’t scarred to feature ‘unknowns’ as they refer to them. Like the world needs one more 16 from Jaye or Ye, or any other mega m.c. I should know, check the pedigree, I’ve been on a few joints with all of ‘em…. You know, I really DO hang around in bars- and hang around with stars … LIKE BADU….. Oh, my bad, I forgot the ‘LOL’. But when given the chance, I’m gonna shine the light on the small names with the big talent.
All I know is that when we hit the stage for our 20 minute, we gave the fans a world class presentation. My only regret is that, while I sat in the 8′ x 5′ green box at stage left that they so appropriately called “the green room”, I didn’t have a Sharpie so that I could have partaken in what seemed to be a tradition of tagging those green walls, like so many that had been there before me. It would have been great, just to leave mark mark on history- I did it at the Chicago Theater, The Fox in Detroit and even the Apollo in London, because I WAS THERE… just like last Saturday at the 2011’s SXSW mega expo… I WAS THERE!