It’s not a headline you read everyday: “Record Exec Launches Rap Career.” The typical order of events is for a rapper to get hired to run a label or at the least become an A&R after a few years of the mic hustle. But Kevin Liles’ cousin Tony Austin is not used to doing things the usual way.
The Baltimore native started out as Liles’ driver and moved up the ranks at Def Jam records as an A&R helping to promote some of their hottest acts like DMX, Dru Hill and Ja Rule. It was one of his first jobs after serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking.
“I wanted to do things to stay in a certain lifestyle without going back to hustling,” he says of his transition to the record business. “For some people a 9 to 5 just won’t do. I’m one of those people.”
After Kevin Liles left Def Jam he linked Tony with Russell Simmons and he became the VP of Russell Simmons Music Group. But lurking in the background was Tony’s desire to be an artist. Even though he helped sign local talent like Comp to Def Jam he wants to do more to shed light on the Baltimore music scene.
“It’s just an itch that I had to scratch,” he says of his Gangsta Grillz mixtape, The Influence, and his forthcoming solo album. The first single and video, “Dope Boy,” serves as a formal introduction to Tony Austin the rapper but even he realizes that folks might need some convincing.
So in the inaugural clip of our “Day In The Life” series TheUrbanDaily rolled down to Baltimore and followed Tony around to observe the method to his madness. He took us to his recording studio, his old Baltimore neighborhood and behind the scenes of his gentleman’s club, The 2’O clock club.
In part one he shares what his experience at Def Jam taught him about making music and how he managed to stay out of the penal system’s revolving door.
Also check out Tony Austin’s video, Dope Boy! That’s actually his son playing him in the video as a young man.