When senior Raymond Anthony Resto released the cover to the lead single of his upcoming hip-hop mix tape, “Heartless Summer,” he expected a response. But what he did not expect was just how much talk the bold cover would create in the small and close knit African-American and Latino community of the Oswego State campus.
Released at the end of August, the cover to Resto’s “Henny Truth” features an intimate picture of Resto with his ex-girlfriend, also an Oswego State student. The female’s face is blacked out.
According to Resto, also known as Tone Billz, “Henny Truth” is the perfect lead single because it focuses on a recent bad break up and the strong emotions that followed. This theme is also present in the remainder of the mix tape.
Resto worked with graphic designer Devin “MRQ” Hu to create the cover that has brought campus publicity to his music. The 22-year-old has received mixed feedback about the design. Resto explained that most people find the song to be strong but the cover to be too much.
“My first reaction was, woah, I’m not gonna put this up,” said Resto, who has worked with MRQ since his freshmen year. Resto explained that MRQ came up with the concept and that he initially thought it was a bad idea. After asking a couple of his friends, he decided the cover will attract the attention he needs.
“It’s getting people,” Resto said. “And then they said when they saw it it made them want to listen to the song. A lot of people are responding to it. They are saying they like it, it’s catchy and saying they are listening to it more than once.”
Through connected friends, Resto has been told that his ex-girlfriend is unhappy with the picture, but, according to Resto, they have no contact, which made it hard for him to approach her about the image.
“I feel that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It’s a picture of a good moment,” Resto said. “But at the same time, I wanted people to get where the song is coming from. In no way was I trying to disrespect her.”
The strong feelings of heartbreak are evident in not only his songs, but in the straight forward title, “Heartless Summer.” Resto explained that the summer away from her helped him handle his emotions.
“I kind of drifted away from love,” Resto said. “That [relationship] did not work. I don’t know why it didn’t work, there’s a reason why it didn’t work and now I can’t see myself in a relationship at this point in my life, so I am heartless in that aspect.”
Love is not the only theme in “Heartless Summer.” Resto, who grew up in Harlem, addresses the prejudice that ethnic youth have to endure due to their appearance in the song “Judgment,” which also features Oswego alumnus Shavaar.
“It’s about me looking like that, but beating the statistics, and being in school and bettering myself no matter how I look, no matter how I was brought up,” Resto said.
Resto grew up in a harsh environment. With his father in jail for the majority of his upbringing, he faced a world trying to bring him down.
“In school, elementary and junior high school, I had teachers telling me that I’m never gonna be anything,” Resto said. “That I wouldn’t make it to college, that I wouldn’t be successful, that I’d probably end up in jail.”
Resto explained that his stage name, Tone Billz, was influenced by his upbringing. Tone is short for Anthony and Billz is “just a clever way of saying money.”
“When you are from neighborhoods like me, you aspire to get money and to be better than what you grew up with,” Resto said.
The mean streets of Harlem were completely different from the slower pace of life he was introduced to his freshman year at Oswego State. It was then that he discovered his rap skills. According to Resto, he was supposed to play in the basketball varsity team at Oswego State and when that did not work out he became depressed. He started expressing himself through writing and when his close friends encouraged him he started taking it more seriously.
Resto receives support from his family, including his father, who was just recently released from jail. His father was in jail for 15 years, an experience that Resto believes has a strong effect on his music.
“But we kept in contact, he always called and wrote us letters,” Resto said. “Instead of a father-son relationship, we have, like, a friendship because he missed out on all those years of raising me.”
Resto, who wrote 11 songs of his mixtape in one month, likes to keep his music honest and bases most of it on life experiences.
“It’s a progressive mixtape,” said Resto, who for the most part is a one-man team. “It starts at a certain point and then it shows the growth as I was going through the summer.”
Resto said he is influenced by the storytelling of rappers such as J Cole, Jay-Z and Kanye West.
“They are bringing the art of rap back,” said Resto, who explained that he writes in silence after listening to the beat because he finds the beat distracting. . “They are drifting away from that party, stripping music that everyone is doing.”
Resto explained that his goal as a rapper is to stay away from dissing and offending people. Hip-hop is a way to express his emotions.
Resto is currently in talks with different record labels. Once he graduates in December with a degree in Business Administration, he plans to shoot music videos and, along with his mother, launch his own fashion line, which will go hand-in-hand with his music and his identity.
“Heartless Summer” will be released Sept. 10 and be available on Soundcloud and HotNewHipHop.com
Moraima Capellán Pichardo