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Dallas, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2018 | AFM

Dallas, Texas, United States | AFM
Established on Jan, 2018
Band Hip Hop Jazz




"Q&A - With Amir "Tubad" Gray by Sylvester Cosby"

Contemporary artist Amir "Tubad" Gray developed his musical prowess playing horns on the streets of Chicago. His musical talents include playing instruments, writing and performing music, and producing music himself. His work has been featured on the likes of Revolt TV and Fox’s critically acclaimed show “Empire”.

N'DIGO became acquainted with Tubad doing the N'DIGO Foundation Gala of 2010, when he performed New Orleans style music for our guests as the entered the Symphony Center. Since then, his star has continued to rise and he's honed his gift and moved from Chicago to New Orleans.

He recently release his first single "Snonuf", a song that is a call to action for blacks and millennials. This demographic is often ignored but quickly they are becoming 'woke' to no longer being marginalized and overlooked. Tubad fuses jazz and hip-hop in the songs verses to touch young people and people of color. In a tumultuous time where consciousness is becoming more prevalent within the black community, “Snonuf” provides the perfect blend of awareness and musical joy.

So grab your coffee, tea or beverage of choice and get to know Amir "Tubad" Gray.....

N’DIGO: Where were you born? Describe your upbringing?

Amir “Tubad” Gray: I was born in the city of Chicago and grew up in the South Suburbs. I’m from a pretty close knit family. My dad was a truck driver and my mom was a hairstylist. Growing up, I had a lot of different music coming from all different directions: one grandma loved Jazz, while the other listened to Soul and Funk, my dad introduced me to the Blues, and my uncles and aunts were all into Hip-Hop and R&B. At the age of 2 my mother gave me a radio with no listening restrictions. I would listen to everything from Mariachi Music to Classical.

You are from a family of roller skaters. How did you become a tuba player?

Yeah, my great-grandparents met at a skating rink. And my mom skated until she was 6 months pregnant with me. So needless to say, skating runs deep in my family.

Well my first introduction to the tuba was on Sesame Street. Singer James Taylor and one of my now mentors Howard Johnson played the song "Jelly Man Kelly". Seeing that at a young age let me know that the tuba can do anything. But also growing up at the skating rink in Chicago you get to hear a lot of music. Some of the music that really used to stick out to me was James Brown and his horn section. I used to love hearing those records growing up.

Who or what influenced you to play the tuba or get involved in music? What attracted you to the tuba?

Being an avid roller skater made me want to create music just like the records I grew up listening to.

Me playing the tuba was just happenstance. I started piano lessons when I was 5 years-old but I would never practice. My mom took me out of the lessons. When I was in middle school, one of my homies joined the band. I begged my mom for a whole year to join the band. She finally let me join when she heard some of the other parents saying that it's easy to get a college scholarship if you play the tuba. And to be honest the rest is history. I was just happy she was going to let me play.

It was just so much music around me growing up. I feel like I came out the womb to music.

Do you play any other instruments?

Yes, I play trombone and trumpet on my new track “Shonuf”. I also play piano and produce on the MPC.

Are you self-taught or do you have formal training?

I was classically trained on the tuba at the Jacob School of Music at the Indiana University. But I'm self-taught on trumpet, trombone, piano, MPC, and Music Production.

What is a tuba player called?

A tuba player is supposed to be called a "Tubist". But I'll be honest I call myself a tuba player most of the time.

Why haven't you chosen the orchestra route?

I did at one point. My dream was to be the Principle Tubist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But as I moved further into the classical world in college, I found the classical world to be closed-minded, backwards, and quite racist to be honest.

From what I could see orchestras didn't champion young new composers, choosing rather to play older composers like Bach and Beethoven. Many of the ways they interacted with their audiences was still set in the 1800's. And in the history of the “orchestra” I mentioned there has only been one African American member since it’s founding in 1891. His name is Tage Larson and that didn't happen until 2002.

Also I thought it was kind of messed up that in most orchestras once you're in, you're in for life. So the young guys are looking at the vets like I love yah but when are you going to quit or die?, (LOL) but I’m so serious.

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When did you start performing in public?

I started performing in public when I was 14 years-old getting ready to go to high school. I was accepted into the Chicago Academy For The Arts and I was told that I would have to buy my own instrument. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me one, so started street performing in Chicago. My mom would ask people to donate while passing out flyers. You can watch this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyOV30sGox8) of her talking about it from 12 years ago. That's how we raised the money to get me my first horn.

Why did you move from Chicago?

I love my city!!! But I hate the snow. But seriously, I wanted a change of pace and to move to a warmer climate. I had heard of New Orleans and its musical history. Although I knew no one there, I was like let’s try it on for size.

What did you learn in New Orleans?

I learned a lot. From playing in Jackson Square, to having the opportunity to work with legends like The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Treme Brass Band, and even working with really cool people like Wynton Marsalis' brother Delphio Marsalis (who gave me some of my first gigs in the city). He took me under his wing and I can never show my gratitude more.

Let's talk about Shonuf. What's the meaning behind the song?

The idea for the song “Shonuf” came about when I was out with my family watching the movie “The Last Dragon”. The villain in the movie is 'Shonuf' and when you first meet him, he does this monologue where his minions say “shonuf” after every sentence he says. At that time all I had was the hook:

We gone tell em what it is (Shonuf}
We gone do it do it like they never did (Shonuf)
They tried to tell us we would never get the win (Shonuf)
But gone keep playing them tracks they can't resist (Shonuf)

"Shonuf" is a call to power to all those who have felt marginalized, African-Americans, Millennials, etc. I just kept hearing my friends talking about how they felt powerless under this president and like their vote didn't count. I just have this overarching belief that there is more good in the world than evil. When the good people start getting louder there won't be any room for the rest.

Where did you record it?

I wrote the hook in a movie theater. Then I made the track at my house when I got back to New Orleans from Chicago. After that I recorded the trumpet and vocals at a friend’s (Danovan Bettis) house.

Did you leave Chicago to purposely record it?

Not at all. It just happened that way. What's crazy is the hook was written in Chicago while visiting my family. Still after all these years Chicago is still inspiring me.

What's your favorite city to perform in?

Every city is unique and I enjoy connecting with different people. I've performed all around the world. Switzerland, Ireland, Qatar, Poland, Czech Republic and Germany and practically every mayor city in the United States.

In music, how much is art and how much is entertainment and where is the balance?

There is music that is just art and there is music that is just entertainment. The stuff I enjoy has a little bit of both.

Who is your favorite musician?

That's a hard question and depends on what style and who you count as being a musician. I love Jazz, Hip-Hop, Classical, The Blues, R&B...I even find myself checking out other producers sometimes. I just love art that speaks.

In music, how much is art and how much is entertainment and where is the balance?

There is music that is just art and there is music that is just entertainment. The stuff I enjoy has a little bit of both.

Who is your favorite musician?

That's a hard question. It depends on what style I like and who you I deem as being a musician. I love Jazz, Hip-Hop, Classical, The Blues, R&B...I even find myself checking out other producers sometimes. I just love art that speaks.

Do you have any tips for a young musician who wants to start a career in the music business?

No, one can tell you what you can and can't do. No one can tell you what is possible. If you can conceive it just go for it. Live without regrets.

What makes a musician a great artist? Talent or time?

It's a little of both. Talent in the long run doesn't matter in my opinion. Talent is great but if you aren't grinding and hustling for your dreams it doesn't matter. I think time shows who will persevere.

What is the best advice a musician gave you?

The best advice I've ever gotten was "Stay right there young fella!" from Uncle Benny, the founder and band leader of the Treme Brass Band. When I first started playing with him, he wouldn't let me do anything fancy for months. He knew I could do more but he wanted me to just play simple and worry about feel. I definitely learned the dignity of simplicity from him.

What is the best advice your parents have given you?

"The best revenge is success." I've been through a lot doing this music thing. My mother and I were attacked on the Metra train, my family being attacked by the cops when I was 17. Racism, financial struggles, haters. Sometimes it's not even worth attaching those problems head on. You succeeding is all the revenge you need.

What motivates you to create music? To be a musician?

Life motivates me to make music. I make music talk about things I went through. To inspire myself and others and sometimes just to entertain. If I feel some kind of way I feel like I'm not the only one and if say my peace, I might just help someone else through their day.

What besides music interest you? What's your favorite food? Restaurant?

I playing chess, roller skating, listening to audio books, and exploring the city. I became a vegan last year in March so I've been experimenting a lot with different foods. But my go-to, I make a bomb Vegan Egusi Soup which is basically Nigerian Greens.

When it comes to my favorite Vegan restaurant in Chicago, it's got to be Soul Vegetarian on 75th St.

So what's next for you? What are your future plans?

Only God knows. But it's a blessing to be able to express myself everyday.

Follow Amir "Tubad" Gray on www.tubadonline.com
Instagram @tubadrip
Facebook - Amir Tubad Gray

Support "Snonuf" on the following outlets:




www.tubadonline.com - N'digo Magazine


Shonuf - 02/20/2020




From playing on the streets of Chicago to working on tv shows such as Fox's "Empire" and MTV's "You Are The One". Moving to New Orleans and playing stages all over the world. Tubad is a Genra-Bending RApper, Producer, and Multi-Instrumentalist The Hip-Hop Tuba and Trumpet Player Bringing Sexy Back.  He’s Not Too Good. He’s TuBad.

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