By Jessica Brodeur
VANCOUVER — Entrepreneurs and musicians have a lot in common. They take risk, strategy, and the desire to reject the corporate ladder in favour of perusing passion and dreams. Over the past few years, rapper Tony Mason decided to be both. After all, why shouldn’t a successful business selling rollies, a fashion line, and hip hop all collide – and where better to do it than Vancouver? In an East Van studio between touring, managing business, and discovering the latest smoking technologies (including a hookah vape) Mason shared some of his story and inspirations with BeatRoute.
BeatRoute: So, rollies are your business?
Tony Mason: I make them for Souja Boy as well and for this other artist Heat Wave, he’s signed to Red1 with Rascalz as well, he’s my brother, he’s the only other individual artist that I make rolling papers for. I have distribution for it so I have rolling papers forever, as long as I’m around to make them. It’s a business I put together with a couple of homies, one had a business making rice paper rolling papers and I’d been trying to get a business going for a few years now and they liked the idea. We did a little trial run about a year ago and I put them in a few shops and they sold out within the first week… These papers are papers that I wanted: thin, slow-burning rice papers from the tobacco distributor that I wanted, Raw.
BR: Do you design them?
TM: Absolutely, I had to come up with my own logos, its me and I have a designer that works closely with me, so I give him ideas and he designs it to what I want it and we put it together. The Soulja Boy ones we designed from scratch ourselves. The Heat Wave papers, he had some insight into that, and mine have my logo on them – those are the ones that went into stores.
BR: Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
TM: Hell yeah. I have my own clothing business called YnR, you can check out the website http://ynrsupply.com you can buy clothes, gear… YnR stands for Young & Rich. I made that in ’08 with my other business partner. Then [rolling papers] about a year ago, and I have my own chapstick, that’s going to be my next move.
BR: What other ideas do you have on the go?
TM: The lip balm, in the summertime I had a trial run with the company I’m going to be using and I’ve given them at a couple events. I’m not too focused on that I’m more focused on blowing up my rolling papers right now and the clothing line is in talks of making new, different design and bringing people from overseas into our circle of ideas to bring in different types of attire into our clothing line than the standards T-shirts, long sleeves… but creating more European / Japanese kind of stuff. I’m all about fashion, that’s another thing that I dabble in.
BR: So you have a fashion line, your rollie business, you write and produce music and music videos, where do you find time to balance all of this?
TM: It’s what I do, I have to find time to do it. I have homies that were with me for years and we got into business together, they handle things that I can’t handle if I’m on tour or something. It’s music that brings all of this stuff to life. I could have been a rolling paper guy or a clothing designer guy but there’s Zig Zag papers, there’s Raw rolling papers, there’s so many clothing businesses, so what would make me kind of stand out? What makes me stand out is that I have this lifestyle of living music, know what I’m saying? What makes me stand out is what I’m an artist. I have this crazy cool life in the music, I go on tour and do this, and my life looks fun but I have my own rolling paper so it’s a little novelty to my image. It’s like ‘what the hell, this guy raps and he has his own rolling paper.’ Same with the clothing design, same deal.
BR: How is your EP coming along?
TM: I’ve been writing an EP for the past several months, and a few songs that are not completed yet. It comes out in March. It’s been like seven months but I’ve been on tour and I just had to make time to do it because when I’m off tour then I’m handling business and stuff like that. It took me like a year and a half / two years to finish my album, my latest project. Tony Mason’s World, that I released a year ago. I record myself too so that I work on my time, I don’t have to wait for somebody else to come in. When I’m done recording [mixers and masterers] spice it up, they touch it up.
BR: Are you considering opening your own smoke shop?
TM: Mmmm, well my homies, my brothers they all have dispensaries. I’m already in with Red1 from Rascalz, he owns RedMed and also CannaClinic. It’s like one of the legends of Canada right now. We kind of run the shop together, when I’m off on tour and working on music I also help manage the store and run things back and forth, either being there to help out and he helps me. I’m almost an ambassador for RedMed and CanaClinic. They sponsor almost every show of mine, they throw money on my career, whatever I’m doing I elevate them.
BR: Are you from Vancouver?
TM: Toronto, raised in Georgia. When I was in Atlanta I was kind of in the wrong crowd, my parents wanted a change from me so they sent me out here. Was kind of forced to adapt to whatever the hell [was in Vancouver] and everything came to fruition. I was doing music and stuff but here is where I started my first business, where I started my clothing line and started doing rolling papers and wrote my first album, first official album released on iTunes. I call it home now, real talk. People say ‘where are you from’ and I say ‘Vancouver.’ It’s my foundation here, I have so much respect for here, man.
BR: Do you think that you’d have this business if you were still living in the States?
TM: No way. The only person in the States who has this business is Wiz Khalifa, and the only reason Wiz Khalifa has his business is because he has distribution from the same guy I have distribution from. You have to come to Vancouver to get that done. He doesn’t actually have my distribution, Raw just makes papers and makes a Wiz Khalifa line and put it in stores. He’s almost like a face of their company rather than a business partner. Raw didn’t come and was like ‘Tony, we want to use your name and make thousands of rolling papers.’ We sat down and had a deal, I make my own orders and have my own life and I have the source. I can do crazier things than Wiz Khalifa.
Catch Tony Mason on April 3 at Red Gate for his EP release party with many guests, tickets $10 advance $12 at the door, 8 p.m.BC, British Columbia, Red Gate, rollies, rolling papers, Tony Mason, YnR