Rone
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Rone

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"Battle-Tested and Raw Life Approved"

Philly Rapper Rone releases his debut album The First Story

The fact that Rone is a white dude, is a product of a Catholic high school and a graduate of Penn State is not the story here. It could be; it could easily be. But it’s not. You can try, but it’s just not. The story of Rone is the story of another promising young rapper from Philadelphia and how with the release of his debut album, the First Story, this up and coming, free-wheeling wordsmith is poised to take his battle-tested skills (literally) to the national stage.

That’s the story here.

And this is The First Story, Rone’s debut album on Raw Life, the Philly-based label run by Dice Raw, the Roots associate and Philly rap legend. The First Story is a tight and well-crafted display of everything Rone can bring to the table- crafty and witty lyrics, a rat-a-tat flow and a burn it down bravado. Rone has made his footprint in the constantly wet cement that is hip hop with the countless YouTube videos of his rap battle exploits, but The First Story is his quest at legitimacy. Rone is serious. Rone is all business. Rone is a funny son of a bitch.

Proof, in the form of some of his best lines from past rap battles:
“I’m my Grandmom’s favorite grandson. Ask my Grandmom.”
“Another white kid who wants to be a black one. He probably used to ask questions, now he ax ‘em.”
“If you were any more laid back you’d be horizontal.”
“How can I do more white things than a mother fucking Viking?”
“Son even cheerleaders get Super Bowl rings.”

Rone is a young buck, born and raised in Philly. In college, amidst the rolling hills of State College, PA and the free time and time to kill that comes with college-living, Rone started rapping- getting drunk with buddies and recording freestyles on Garage Band. He discovered rap battles on YouTube and became obsessed. The dynamic of the rap battle and the skill and stage presence required to win one appealed to Rone and soon he was dabbling in as many as he could find, quickly earning a reputation as a dude to reckon with. Upon graduation, he brought that reputation with him back across the state to Philadelphia and through a mutual friend met up with Dice, who was immediately impressed by the clever, young rapper.

“Apparently in the meeting I was charming enough to warrant a little test songwriting session with a producer of theirs,” Rone says. The producer was Rick Friedrich, the man behind the Philadelphia Record Company and Bold New Breed Records, a prodigy of legendary producer Larry Gold, and a producer who has done work with the Roots, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Rhianna and more. The first song they cut was “Giving My Love,” which appears on The First Story.

“I thought of the hook as I was driving up to the building,” Rone says. “Sang it to Rick. He crafted a song around it while I wrote my verses. When I finished thirty minutes later, Dice told me to re-write my verses. I hadn’t planned to sing or rap, but they just told me to go in and do whatever. After fucking up one or two times I nailed the verse and the people in the other room were blown away. There was kind of a collective look on everyone’s faces- that we’ve got something here look.”

What did they have?

They had a dude who would do anything and say anything. Who was willing to put in the work and take his career beyond all the rap battles and YouTube videos that followed. Rone was signed to Raw Life and earlier this year, had two songs featured on the label’s compilation The New School Presents: What’s Next. Both of those tunes appear on The First Story, one of which is the prime-to-be-a-summer jam “200 Miles to Philadelphia,” which was produced by another up and coming Philly producer, Ritz Reynolds, who has worked with rappers Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa, in addition to being part of the brain trust behind the Philly band, Drgn King.

When it came to The First Story, patience was the name of the game and it was a lengthy process. Ultimately though it was a process Rone was cool with, as that first step is the most important. The majority of the album was recorded at Gold’s studio, in the Roots’ room there and over at Freidrich’s house. Rone found a kindred spirit in Freidrich as the two built most of the songs from scratch.

“I would just think of a hook in my head, just a plan old acapella hook and I would take it to Rick. We’d burn a little weed into our lungs and I would beat out a tempo on my chest or a table and sing the hook,” Rone says. “He’d (Friedrich) get the metronome, record what I did, then craft a beat around it. The songs would grow and get chiseled down until we had a product with which we were happy.”

For a debut, there is a focus and drive on The First Story that is often absent on such albums. I was initially drawn to Rone because of his command of his lyrics and the head strong determination and swagger in his flow. It was reassuring to find all of that intact with The First Story, an album that is brimming with some honest to goodness quality hip hop tunes. Besides the previously mentioned “200 Miles to Philadelphia” and “Giving My Love,” other highlights are “I Woke Up,” “Roadrunner” featuring Ricky Radio and the block party jammer “Come Home to Me.” Dice Raw shows up on the first track, “Against the Wall,” which was another Ritz Reynolds’ production.

Now what do the folks at Raw Life have?

They have Rone, a dude described as a “funny mother fucker” by Drew Daniels of Tsunami Rising and a dude who is undaunted by the “white rapper” label destined to be bestowed upon him.

“I’d be lying if I said there is no stigma attached (to being a white rapper,) but it’s definitely faded some. Look where we are. There are so many successful white rappers that if it is surprising you right now, then you are just truly out of touch with reality. Sure there might be instances where people are reticent to give me a chance because I am white, but that has forced me to have a high standard for myself and has encouraged me to step up every aspect of my game. It can even help in some cases…I get the White Men Can’t Jump wow-factor when I go up there, looking white as shit and then just tear it down.”

Clearly not lacking motivation and definitely not lacking skill, Rone is a man on a mission and a man looking to make the most of his talents- his side-splitting, thought-inducing and groove-ready talents. Not resting now that The First Story has been released, his plans for the summer are to promote it non-stop, play some shows, get into some rap battles and release a mix tape.

But wait, didn’t Rone also play the Roots Picnic?

“Nah, I went bowling instead.”

Rone’s going to pick his spots, which is cool. Spots won’t be a problem. But come on, sometimes getting a lane is.

Rone is not lacking street smarts, especially when it comes to bowling.

The First Story is out now and available on I Tunes. It hit #29 on the hip hop charts earlier this week.

Rone plays Milkboy in Philadelphia on Saturday June 23rd with Don McCloskey. For ticket and show information, check out Milkboy’s site. - 215mag.com


"Prepped and Ready"

“When people first see me get up to rap in a collared shirt, baseball cap and jeans, they’re probably thinking, ‘Oh, this white boy probably went to a private Catholic all-boys school,’” says 24-year-old Adam Ferrone, who goes by Rone. “Well, I’m just glad I can complete the circle for them, because I did.”

If you wouldn’t expect a graduate of Philadelphia’s reputable St. Joe’s Preparatory School to be stomping onto the city’s rap scene, you’d be thinking right. The Jesuit priests don’t often encourage their boys — whose parents are paying a pretty penny for tuition — to pursue a career in hip-hop. Without hesitation, however, Rone is proud to announce that the grammatical foundation he built at the Prep is his sharpest weapon.

“It’s an advantage if you’re a writer. It’s about how well you can use language and how dexterously you can move throughout the vernacular. See there, I just flexed a bit,” he jokes.

Six feet tall, 160 pounds, with baby-smooth pale skin and deeply dimpled cheeks, Rone hardly fits the typical mental picture of a rapper from the streets of Philadelphia. From the beginning, however, he has never apologized for his whiteness. In an early face-off with Union City, Calif., rapper Caustic, he brought down the house with this line: “I look better in a sweater/ having tools/ grammar rules/ politically correct answers/ wittier dinner banter/ propane igniting/ creative writing/ hiking/ biking/ pretty much any white thing.”

Ferrone was 21 and studying journalism and theater at Penn State University when he first discovered rap battling. Instantly hooked, he found that skipping class to watch great freestylers and practice rapping was a much better use of his time.

He applied to the world’s largest hip-hop battle league, New York’s GrindTime-Now, and brought with him his very large vocabulary.

To Rone, battling is a completely academic endeavor. He puts in serious, diligent work before the big day. “I have to think up the most intricate wordplay and schemes against them. … There’s just no excuse for me to not do well. I have college degrees, I have a reputation to uphold and I need to prove to myself that I’m doing the right thing with my life.”

Well, judging by the dozens of videos on YouTube, he’s on the right path. It’s not just the surprise references and rapid-fire wordplay. It’s also the way the crowd reacts. No one expects the white kid from the suburbs to show up, let alone destroy longtime battlers in front of their followings.

Rone has taken on some of the best battlers from around the world, such as Australia’s 360, California’s Okwerdz and Canada’s Tricky P. And with each victory, he accumulates the necessary respect to continue advancing in the battling underground. It’s like passing a test, only cooler.

It didn’t take many of these hot mic massacres before Philly rapper and Roots associate Dice Raw recognized the rising star.

“Being a white rapper, you have to be able to battle,” Dice says. “When I went to Rone’s battles, I saw somebody who had great rapping potential. It was nothing but charisma, it was funny, but he was still tough and just smart.”

Dice summoned Rone to the Raw Life studio to see if there was chemistry with producer Rick Friedrich.

Friedrich — who has seen and worked with countless talented Philadelphia artists under the banner of The Philadelphia Record Company — immediately saw a Renaissance man in Rone. “He’s a singer, he’s a rapper, he’s an actor, a comedian, a talk show host. … He smiles and makes eye contact.” The most impressive trait that his producer has seen in the kid, however, is in his dedication. “A lot of artists want things, but when Rone wants something, he gets it.”

Rone’s debut album, The First Story, was released on Tuesday; this Saturday’s gig at MilkBoy doubles as a release party. As Friedrich says, “When you hear all the songs together, a character emerges, an artist evolves. It’s the same with any artist you really love; people like the person that they’re left with after they’re done listening. … It’s the Rone experience.”

To all his former classmates at the Prep and neighborhood friends who are blown away by the transformation of that nice little boy they once knew, his friend and manager Mike Wallace assures that, “he was always witty and intelligent. I think he finally just found the perfect channel to show it all off.”

Co-managers Ryan Thomson and Wallace agree that Philadelphia is an ideal-size pond for Rone. He’s working with The Roots network, which gives him access to the world of hip-hop, and locally, his fan base is growing daily. In less than two years with an account, Rone has accumulated more than 5,000 followers on Twitter and 6,000 Facebook fans.

And then there’s his blood entourage, his family. His father and sister, both physicists, and his mother, a nurse, may not understand what Adam is doing, but they know his potential. His grandma watches all his battles and sends handwritten critiques to his mailbox in Manayunk.

“They have given me confidence,” says Rone. “Caution is to the wind, so I’m gonna go out there and fuck everyone up, ’cause my momma said it was OK.” - Philadelphia CityPaper


"Philly’s Rone show’s a different kind of soul on The First Story"

Adjacent to Philly’s sprawling Temple University campus and the gated windows of its brick-and-mortar off-campus housing is the more indigent sections of Philly; the 3/4 houses, sketchy and super-dusty corner stores that don’t appear to actually sell anything, the enveloping unease of urban poverty and unfriendly faces. This is the Philly you know from Jay-Z’s wholesale usurpation of their rhyme style and swag in the late 90s when he drafted Freeway, Beanie Sigel, Young Gunz, and State Property to Roc-A-Fella during the label imprint’s peak. It’s the Philly you know from Meek Mill videos and songs, from Philly Swain, Reed Dollaz, Tech 9, E Ness, Bill Collector, and Rosenburg Raw batles. It’s the Philly that Gillie Da Kid showed off during the advent of 2006/2007's Weezymania to call Wayne’s street cred and bonafides into question.

That is not the Philly that you will get on Rone’s The First Story. And that’s definitely for the better. Rone’s Philly is more of a mix of the area’s rep for having incredibly technical rappers and a rich musical legacy like, more directly, the educated chops and open-mindedness of a group like the legendary Roots crew. Initially coming into the public eye as a part of Charles Hamilton’s sad gradual downward spiral (i.e. the “white kid battles Charles Hamilton” vid of Worldstar fame), he built on that initial notoriety from 2009 to now as one of the most talented battlers in Grindtime and King of the Dot. Renowned for a spitfire take on Philly’s famous sing-song flow and a cutting wit befitting his background at Penn State, he was the definition of “different”; he didn’t pretend to be a thug or particularly violent in his rhymes or presentation, he didn’t try to hide who he naturally was as a white kid going to a good college, and he rarely, if ever, took the easy route in dissecting his opponents in the ring. So it’s no surprise that on his first full-length he delivers something slightly different from what even those familiar with him would expect.

And what would you expect from Rone? Asher Roth. There, I said it. In all fairness, it’s been said in rap battles before and there is definitely a surface parallel there. Where the follow-through drifts from expectations is that, unlike Asher, Rone has his own voice – high, pinched, and naturally fluid like a woodwind instrument – and it often sounds like he’s actually enjoying himself. Tracks like “Little White Lies” are seemingly delivered through a constant wink and grin, reinforcing that he doesn’t have any pretensions toward acting too-cool on the LP or as an artist.

The other thing is, dude has much better instincts regarding productions choices. Whereas Asher peaked on a shrewd reinterpretation of a Weezer track, The First Story is incredibly musical without falling on some Jason Mraz-style fratboy cliches. Every track contains a healthy dose of live instrumentation and singing (Rone handling most of the heavy lifting on “Giving My Love Away” and the in-the-round crooning of “Against the Wall” sounding reminiscent of Lou Rawls), creating a sound that’s at-once similar to recent Roots albums and singular in an era of hyper-digital hip-hop production. Everything’s petty warm, well-worn, and natural, with the notable exception “Little White Lies”, a curveball that sounds an awful lot like early Le Tigre. Even the synthy knock of “Come Home To Me” has some tastefully layered guitars supporting it, indicating the level of thought and insight that went into the music on the album, which is honestly some of the most inspired stuff you will hear from any battle rapper.

No slouch in the booth either, Rone combines a well-crafted 12-track album with his extant talent on the mic to drop a debut LP that doesn’t need to be evaluated on a battle rapper or freshman curve. It’s as quality as it is readily marketable, although obviously not being beholden to the limitations of underground hip-hop is easy when you produce a work with absolutely nothing to do with the backpacker traps and blog-baiting of modern underground rap.

A/V proof? We got that. Check below for the album stream via Soundcloud, the first visual from The First Story (“Giving My Love”), bonus vid “Rock Paper Scissors”, and links to Rone info, updates, and music. - Rapmusic.com


Discography

The First Story Album (2012)
Disneyland For Grown Ups (2013)
Young and Unemployed (2013)
The Truth (2013)

Photos

Bio

Fans of the Grindtime and King Of The Dot battle circuits already know Philadelphia native Adam Ferrone, a.k.a RONE, for his intelligent, comedic, on-the-fly punchlines and charismatic command of the audience. He rose from complete obscurity to the top of the cards, taking on battlers from dozens of cities, with scarcely a blemish to his record. Conquering the country's competition lead to international opportunities, and in a short career, Rone has battled the best of Norway, Australia, Canada, England, the Philippines, South Korea, Sweden and Finland.

Where other battlers hit a wall in the music realm, Rone has seen immediate success. Rone graduated from Penn State with degrees in Journalism and Theatre in June 2010 and by 2012, he came out with his debut album the First Story. The First Story received immediate and unexpected national acclaim, even charting in it's opening week. Rone also sports an impressive performance record as he has played shows up and down the East Coast, from Providence to Miami, from bars and colleges to major venues and festivals. He has played all types of shows, from acoustic sets, to DJ sets, to several piece bands. He has opened for or played shows with acts from Black Thought, Action Bronson, Pusha T, Asap Rocky, T-Mills, Wiz Khalifa and countless others.

Rone has a distinct sound and a unique, insightful narrative. He is deeply involved with the production of his music. Rather than the simple producer-sends-rapper-beat relationship, Rone takes on a load of the production role himself. This results in hip-hop that not only draws from other modern hip hop, but that draws from rock, blues, swing, reggae, country, funk, neo-soul, and surely a few others. It results in a moody journey, but also a malleable style that can give just about any audience a taste of something satisfying. And any audience that appreciates true musicianship, lyricism and showmanship will be in for even more of a treat.

In addendum: Ladies love me. I'm on my Cool J.