Single-parent home, gangs, drugs, crime, prison and no way out but death. While it may sound like the makings of a classic 90’s inner-city film, it was the dark reality Brothatone faced growing up. But spared the fate that befalls so many urban youths, Tone found a way out—better yet, a new way of living found him.
Toney Frazier, better known by his stage name Tony Tillman, was born and raised in the projects of Arkansas. With only his mom around to raise and care for him after his parents separated, Tone turned to the streets to teach him how to be a man. At the tender age of 12, he followed his young uncle’s footsteps and joined a gang—the Crips. He quickly gained respect for fighting rival gang members, breaking in homes, committing robberies and being ready to kill whoever disrespected him. With his mom working long hours to provide for the family, there was no one around to counter what he was learning on the streets. His father tried talking to and disciplining him, but he rejected the advice of the man who had abandoned him years earlier. Engulfed in the street life, his violent behavior reached new heights when his 16-year-old uncle was shot and killed. Tone was suspended from school indefinitely for being involved in multiple altercations, and he was receiving death threats from rival gangs. Sent to live with relatives in hopes he would turn his life around, Tone landed in various juvenile detention centers across the South. He had taken it upon himself to carry on his uncle’s legacy; he was selling and smoking weed and was arrested for armed robbery and battery. Later, while on house arrest for attempted murder, he realized the other members of his gang had abandoned him too, as none of them came to visit. Depressed and alone, Tone battled with thoughts of suicide, stemming from his uncle’s death and the dead-end path he had chosen. But then came his awakening.
As providence would have it, Tone was riding in a police car to a courthouse one afternoon when a voice on the radio began sharing about the book of Revelation. So, while on house arrest, he began reading Revelation as God steadily worked on his heart. He distanced himself from his gang and promised a pastor that he would attend his church. Tone finally visited and began doing so regularly, although he was actually in pursuit of a female member of the congregation. Despite his impure motives, after a few visits, he heard the Gospel and gave his life to Christ. He was relieved, immensely grateful and awed by the reality that God had freed him from the bondage of his criminal past to find joy and peace in Him. Surprisingly, his old friends respected his newfound faith and let him pursue God without any opposition.
Armed with pen and paper, Tone began writing poems that reflected his new reality. Having taken to rapping and musical engineering as a teenager, but unaware of the emergence of Christian rap as an adult, he prayed for his ability to somehow be used by God. Thereafter, he was given a Cross Movement album, and while he didn’t comprehend the complex theological rhymes they delivered, he was inspired to follow in their footsteps. By the time he was 24, he had rapped at several church events and was advised to leave Arkansas if he wanted to pursue music seriously. With his wife deployed to Iraq, Tone decided to move to Tennessee; shortly after, he saw Lecrae perform and realized he wanted to spend his life ministering through music. He began traveling with Seventh Day Slumber, opened for Kutless and was constantly traveling around the nation sharing Christ. He released two successful albums, I Preach Christ and Interlude, and his platform was steadily increasing.
But while Tone’s life had been turned around, his sister’s life was headed downhill and her kids were suffering as a result of her drug addiction. Burdened to keep them from eventually turning to the streets, he decided to stop traveling for three years to care for his nieces before sending them to live with other responsible relatives. Having built a relationship with Pro during that time, once Reflection Music Group was founded, he was asked to join the roster. Still armed with an appreciation for what God has done in his life, Brothatone has returned with his comeback project Mic Check. The mixtape serves as a promotional tool to introduce him to new listeners and reintroduce him to those who’ve been questioning his absence.
As an artist, Tone aims to creatively deliver truth in an authentic, real-life manner that those who may not understand doctrine and theology can still relate to. He spends hours upon hours everyday listening to beats for inspiration and also serves faithfully with Fellowship Bible in Murfreesboro. Ultimately, his desire is to have a leadership position in the church to counsel others and influence people beyond his music. With years of gang banging behind him, he is confident that he has lost nothing and gained everything by following Christ. He is spurred on by the famous words, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”