It’s the Monday after Tabi Bonney’s performance in Brooklyn’s hipster capitol, the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and he’s at a studio in Chinatown dressed in a black hoodie, pants, sneakers, and shades. Here, he’s shooting scenes for his music video to "Top Notch," a dub-step infused ode to girls who live for flashing lights and luxurious taste--a song on his latest album The Summer Years. Bonne. He usually directs his videos but today he’s handed over visual control to New York’s creative it girl Vashtie, who he takes directions from without contest. It’s evident his go-with-the-flow attitude has worked for him since his song “The Pocket,” off his first album A Fly Guy’s Theme, built him a buzz in Washington, D.C. in 2006.
Five years later Bonney, born in Lomé, Togo and raised in the diamond district, has made a following with his ability to adapt his laid-back rhymes to beats he cliques with. In the past he’s worked with more than one producer, but for his latest effort, Tabi linked with Bluroc’s top man, Dame Dash, who gave the green light for Ski Beatz to produce The Summer Years, released in September. In between a break during his video shoot, Bonney spoke with a cool humbleness on this latest project, joining Murs on the Hip Hop and Love Tour, recently performing with the kid show Yo Gabba Gabba, and working on his first film with Dame Dash. He is the quiet storm to watch. --Natelege Whaley
VIBE: You’re always touring but what song gets people the most hype when you come out?
Tabi: It's the first song I did of course, "The Pocket," and this song that I have called "Parachute" - the one that I just dropped. People get hype to that. I notice a big crowd response to that.
How do you deal with living on the road?
It's cool. It's great to be in different cities and see you actually affected people and certain people come out with a CD they bought years ago that they just want signed or some of your clothes that they brought with them to the shows. So now that everything is virtual you see people now and they keep tweeting you and they keep saying 'Hey I'mma big fan' and to see that from D.C. to Toronto, Canada.
You performed with Murs for Yo Gabba Gabba. How did you feel about it
Yea that was crazy because I'm never around kids at all. You know I don't have kids and you know I'm just not around them. It was just weird because I never had heard of Yo Gabba Gabba before that. But it was something that Murs got invited to and he just like brought me along and we just performed our song that we have together called "Hip Hop and Love."
Do you know when that will air?
Well it was Yo Gabba Gabba Live! So I guess it's just a touring show, and I think they're going to have us on the actual TV show. Right before us Lauryn Hill came out I saw Bethany from Real Housewives (of New York) or something came out after us. So it was wild. So they said we're gonna do it again in Reno. And they said Mike Tyson's a big fan of Yo Gabba Gabba.
So today you're shooting the video for "Top Notch"?
Yea, “Top Notch” (Material Girl). Madonna has "Material Girl" so instead I called it "Top Notch," just like the hip-hop version.
How can you describe the track in your own words
It's just more of like the sexy vibe. When I wrote it, I just envisioned just being in kind of like a glamorous environment around those type of women who are just materialistic but not in a sense of being shallow. So it's just the style of it more-so but not talking about the shallowness.
So is that the type of woman that you go for?
Actually no. It was just something I actually decided to write about. But it's actually not the type of woman I go for at all. (Laughs)
Most hip-hop music videos don't have diversity when they show women. But I notice yours do. Do you have a particular thought about that? Or do you choose based on.
Yea "Top Notch" is the only one in a while that I haven't chose my own because I just let Vashtie do her thing. But usually every one of my videos I usually pick a girl that I would talk to myself in real life; that I'm attracted to. And most of them I try to pick have never even been in videos before too because I hate that regular typical video girl, so I try to stay away from that. But most of them are actually girls that I would talk to myself and some have been where I just happen to either talk to or try to talk to.
Do you have any other upcoming projects that really stand out like this one?
I guess it would be the next step I'm shooting a movie. It’s Damon Dash, Murs, and this girl Mckenzie Eddy in December in Miami. So that's a route I always wanted to go into They're still working on the script.
Going back to the album and hooking up with Dame Dash. How did that go down?
Yea someone hit me up on Facebook saying hey ‘I'm a producer, I'm working with Dame Dash in New York. I've been a fan of yours for years, I just put Dame on to your music and he loves your style and stuff and just wanted you to come up here and meet him.’ And I was like ‘I could get there tonight or come the next day.’ Which I did and I just drove up. Met Dame. I was scared because you know how Dame is. He's the complete opposite. Real humble, welcoming, so that happened. So then I saw Ski, who I already knew. And he was like 'o you already knew each other?' and he was like ‘alright well then let's get to work.'
How was your chemistry with Ski Beatz?
It was great, I worked with Ski before. It was just a great environment. Curren$y was around a lot, so just seeing artists like Mos Def all through it, Jay Electronica, just seeing those artists create on the spot, was something new for me because I was never able to write in the studio. I would always have to take the music and go in my own environment without people being around. But with this, everything I recorded on the studio on the spot.