For Chaye Tione, rapping is both a craft and a skill he can use to reach people. A Santa Barbara native, Tione first encountered hip-hop via a DJ Quik cassette tape, though three older brothers also lent a hand, exposing him to artists like Immortal Technique and Gorillaz. Still, it wasn’t until after high school that Tione began writing.
“I met a girl by the name of Daniella, and she exposed me to the slam scene,” the 28-year-old recalled last week. “There was an open-mike night, and even a competition in Ventura, but I think that coffee shop closed.”
It was at open-mike nights just like that one that Tione began testing the waters as an emcee. In conversation, Tione cites these pop-up, communal gatherings as the wellspring of the current Santa Barbara music scene.
“I think most [area] hip-hop artists have started to collaborate, and that’s going to strengthen the community. Otherwise everyone is just going to dissipate into the Internet,” he says.
Though he has plans for collaborative projects with S.B. locs like Elliott Niezel and Actafew, Tione admits that he uses the web to find musical partners. French producer Evil Needle supplied the beats for Tione’s latest project, a pairing that came together after Tione unearthed a wealth of instrumental beats on the Frenchman’s Bandcamp page.
“At first he would just post stuff, and if I liked it, then I would write on it,” said Tione. “I would rip it off the Internet and then push record.”
Exchanges like this have become part and parcel in music circles the world over, though the hip-hop community has been particularly vocal about this “sharing is caring” model.
“What’s been really cool lately is that people are just sharing,” Tione explains. “I saw one song, and then I clicked on a related link and just started writing. That became ‘Endless.’”
“Endless” is the first track on the collaboration between Tione and Needle, a semi-solemn ballad that showcases Tione’s innate gift for spoken-word poetry. Tione, who currently works as a barber at The Underground, remains earnest and thoughtful on the remainder of the record. “Whether I’m doing hair or I’m rapping, I’m going to invest myself in that,” he says. And that’s an investment we’re willing to bank on. Visit chayetione.com.