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Billboard

Watch West Coast Rapper Hi-Tone Deliver A Timely Message In "The Voice"

"I believe every artist is a spokesperson…"

Despite the fundamental role that Puerto Ricans and other Afro-Caribbean people played in hip-hop’s creation, Latinos are more often than not left out of the dialogue that explores the very origin of rap music. Yet Big Pun, N.O.R.E., B-Real, Pitbull, Immortal Technique, Fabolous and Juelz Santana, among so many others before them, are emblematic of a hip-hop narrative regularly in need of careful unpacking.

Today’s cadre of U.S.-Latino rappers – Kap G, Snow tha Product, Emilio Rojas and Princess Nokia, Nitty Scott, Bodega Bamz and Joell Ortiz, for instance – continues to carry the torch. Enter Tony “Hi-Tone” Valenzuela, a Chicano MC (and professional tattooist) hailing from California, poised to establish himself as a leading voice in contemporary rap for Mexican-Americans.

It’s been an arduous grind for Hi-Tone, 33, who dropped his first project, TFC, Vol. 1: Top of the Food Chain, in 2010. The tattoo aficionado has since released a series of other independent collections, delivered a searing freestyle on Sway in the Morning, earned the respect of industry titans such as No I.D. and built three successful businesses. Top of the Food Chain is his burgeoning clothing line. Papi’s Barbershop is a staple in his home base of Covina, California. And Hi-Tone’s TFC Music Group releases his music and is partnering with EMPIRE for the debut of his proper introduction to the game, Price of Admission.

Price of Admission’s lead audiovisual, "The Voice" (premiering exclusively on Billboard) is a high-energy, lyrical chin-check that examines Hi-Tone’s current status in the rap game.

It also delves into how people have been prejudiced against him as a Mexican rapper, and calls into question faux MCs while blasting our current president’s bigotry and deplorable policies.

"With everything that's going on in the world right now, I couldn't help but think we all have a voice and we can't be scared to use it. They can hold us back, box us in or push us away but they can never take our words from us,” Hi-Tone says of the song. “I believe every artist is a spokesperson for a group of people, and we hold a responsibility to them to represent how they feel. Now you're either going to love me or hate me, there's no in between. But stop looking at my skin color and start listening to my words because I am the voice.”

Get acquainted with Billboard's newest Artist on the Rise:

Name: Tony “Hi-Tone” Valenzuela

Age: 33

Major accomplishment: Earning co-signs from industry titans such as No I.D. (JAY-Z’s 4:44 producer) and delivering a searing freestyle on Sway Calloway’s renowned radio show, Sway in the Morning.

Recommended song: "All Down" featuring Tory Lanez

What’s next: After releasing a string of independent projects, Hi-Tone is gearing up for a much anticipated debut album, Price of Admission, set to be released on Dec. 15 via EMPIRE.

This article originally appeared on Billboard

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Ella Mai Puts The Ball In Your Court With "Shot Clock" Visuals

Kobe, KD, Kyrie, how about Ella Mai?

Marking her third official single from her self-titled debut album, the 24-year-old dropped a new video from her charting project, bringing "Shot Clock" to life in her B-ball themed clip.

The Colin Tilley directed visual captures the essence of the young singer, framing her unique style and iridescent vocal abilities. The clip captures the various parts of Mai's magnetic energy, as she stars in her own thematic love story.

The two-time Grammy nominee goes through the many downs that occur in relationships while the red beams of shot clock shine in the background slowly reaching zero, a neon indicator of her lessening patience, the singer finds herself alone.

This visual was released in the midst of the "Boo'd Up" songstress' first debut tour currently venturing through the United States and Parts of Europe. Check out the tour dates below to see if R&B's new golden child is coming to a city near you and watch her video for "Shot Clock" above.

THE DEBUT TOUR

Jan 18 – Berlin, DE- Festsaal Kreuzberg Jan 20 – Hamburg, DE- Grosse Freiheit Jan 21 – Copenhagen, DK – Vega Main Hall Jan 22 – Stockholm, SE - Berns Jan 24 – Oslo, NO – Rockefeller Music Hall Feb 12 - Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom Feb 14 – Seattle, WA – Showbox SoDo Feb 15 – Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom Feb 17 – Sacramento, CA – Ace of Spades Feb 19 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater Feb 20 – Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst Feb 22 – Phoenix, AZ – The Marquee Feb 23 – Las Vegas, NV – House of Blues Feb 25 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre Feb 27 – Lawrence, KS – The Granada Feb 28 – Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater Mar 2 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrew’s Hall Mar 3 – Chicago, IL – Concord Music Hall Mar 5 – Cleveland, OH – House of Blues Mar 6 – Toronto, ON – The Danforth Mar 7 – Montreal, QC – Club Soda Mar 9 – Boston, MA - Royale Mar 11 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Steel Mar 13 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts Mar 15 – Silver Spring, M.D. – The Fillmore Silver Spring Mar 16 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Sound Stage Mar 19 – Atlanta, GA - Tabernacle Mar 20 – Orlando, FL – The Plaza Live Mar 21 – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Revolution Live Mar 24 – Houston, TX – House of Blues Mar 26 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues Mar 27 – Austin, TX – Emo’s Mar 28 – San Antonio, TX – The Aztec Theatre

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Premiere: Duck Down Records' Smif-N-Wessun Returns With Khrysis-Produced 'Testify'

It's been nearly 25 years to the day since their classic debut Dah Shinin' impacted in January 1995, but legendary Brooklyn duo Smif-N-Wessun is still representing the culture with authority and authenticity. "Testify," the premiere music video from their upcoming album The All, adds another notch to their storied catalogs.

"Testify" begins with old photos of group members Tek and Steele in their 90s heyday, but they don't spend much time there before getting busy with present day rhymes. Over a backdrop from Khrysis, the Duck Down Records duo confidently announces their return while solidifying their legendary pedigree. The song gives a short but sweet taste from The All, their upcoming album produced entirely by 9th Wonder and the Soul Council.

“9th Wonder and the Soul Council provide the perfect backdrop for Tek and I to deliver heartfelt lyrical content,” Steele told VIBE. “It’s a true tale of ups and downs, wins and losses, growth and acceptance. It speaks to the hearts and minds of ALL people; particularly our followers and fans of ALL ages and ethnicities.”

‘Testify” is a realistic reflective look back on our accomplishments and failures throughout our career and serves as a precursor to what you will experience on The All,” Steele continued. "This project is a reality check for SNW, one that reflects the struggles and obstacles that we’ve had to endure to survive at the level we occupy in the hip-hop arena. Some, bestow the “Legend” tag upon us (we are very appreciative of that) and we are chronicling that journey throughout the album.”

The All is scheduled for a February 22, 2019 release on Duck Down Records, and is available for pre-order.

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Leikeli47 Drops Video For 'Tic Boom,' Announces North American Tour

Leikeli47's 2019 is off to a great start. The VIBE NEXT star announced her upcoming tour to support her recently-released album Acrylic on Friday (Jan. 18), and subsequently dropped the music video for her song, "Tic Boom."

The neutrally-colored video featured simple-yet-eye catching choreography with dancers in trench coats and fedoras. In a statement, the masked marvel says that there is a deeper meaning behind the track, which was featured on Grown-ish.

"These young women are in a face off with their inner fears; that's why it sometimes may look like they're engaging in a face off with themselves," the Brooklyn-bred musician says of the song. "It's about facing whatever your Goliath is and chopping its head off. That's what 'Tic Boom' is about. It's about owning your moment, mastery, and doing it afraid if you have to."

As for the Acrylic Tour, it will begin on March 19 in Kansas City, MO, and concludes on Apr. 26 in San Diego, Calif. Check out the full list of dates below and cop your tickets today.

3/19/19 - Kansas City, MO - Encore @ Uptown 3/20/19 - St. Louis, MO - Fubar 3/21/19 - St. Paul, MN - Amsterdam 3/22/19 - Chicago, IL - Sub T 3/24/19 - Detorit, MI - Shelter 3/25/19 - Toronto, ON - Velvet 3/26/19 - Montreal, QC - Belmont 3/27/19 - Philadelphia, PA - The Foundry @ The Fillmore 3/28/19 - Brooklyn, NY - Elsewhere 3/30/19 - Washington, DC - Milky 4/01/19 - Boston, MA - The Sinclair 4/03/19 - Pittsburgh, PA - Spirit Lodge 4/04/19 - Atlanta, GA - Loft 4/06/19 - Scottsdale, AZ - Pub Rock 4/09/19 - Houston, TX - White Oak Music Hall 4/10/19 - Dallas, TX - Dada 4/11/19 - Austin, TX - Empire Control Room 4/14/19 - Santa Cruz, CA - Atrium @ The Catalyst 4/15/19 - Sacramento, CA - Harlow's 4/16/19 - Oakland, CA - The New Parish 4/18/19 - Portland, OR - Holocene 4/19/19 - Vancouver, B.C. - Fortune Soundclub 4/21/19 - Seattle, WA - The Crocodile 4/24/19 - Los Angeles, CA - The Roxy 4/25/19 - Santa Ana, CA - Constellation Room @ The Observatory 4/26/19 - San Diego, CA - Irenic

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