Toni Romiti Talks "Trust in Me", Chris Brown, & Independence
Toni Romiti will never forgot the phrase her late-father lived by: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It inspired her first album, Lemonade (the explanation is immediately followed with a “thanks Beyoncé for stealing my name!” shoutout), but more than that, it’s also been the driving force behind Romiti’s determined, persistent mindset. She’s an independent musician, one of few female hip hop artists able to make that claim, and paving her own way is proving worthwhile (to say the least).
We sat down with Romiti just before her new single dropped (“Trust in Me” is out now) to talk Chris Brown, artistic independence, and being a powerful female in the male-dominated world of hip hop; check the full interview below.
So you just wrapped up a big tour right?
Yeah, it was like six cities, my first headliner, so it was fun.
Amazing, and how did it all go? What was it like being able to see your fans and see your music come to life?
Well, being independent, it was just really dope, because everything I was doing is all organic, so just to see everyone come out was really dope. Cincinnati and Chicago sold out which was really cool for me. And it was just funny, it was awesome. It was crazy, honestly.
Yeah, and I know “Trust In Me” is about to drop—how are you feeling about that?
I’m excited. This song is just one of those songs that I know is going to be super relatable in a sense where I just feel like it’s going to impact really well because the concept is dope.
Cool, is that also part of the EP that’s coming out this summer?
Yeah, I just haven’t really thought of a name for the project yet. But yeah, I’ve been brainstorming. I’m going to drop it on my dad’s birthday on July 21. My first project I ever dropped was on my dad’s birthday in 2014, called Lemonade. So thanks Beyoncé for stealing my name. My project came first! She came through and scooped my title [Laughs]. Now when people search mine, mine doesn’t even come up, but whatever!
Is there a reason for dropping it on your dad’s birthday? Does he have a special connection to your music?
Yeah, well my dad passed away when I was 12. Basically, for the first project, when I was a kid, my dad used to always say, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” And it’s really funny because Beyoncé named her album that for a very similar reason, but yeah. My dad was a really good person, so I just want to have his legacy live on through me in that way.
I love that. So as far as the EP as a whole, is there a narrative that ties up all the songs together, or is it more of a compilation?
Well, whenever I do projects, I don’t figure out the right order for the stories to go in. But all my music is really just about the things I’m feeling, and I put them together in a way that kind of tells a story, but I don’t write them in efforts to create a story out of it. They all have a similar vibe for sure.
I know you recently wrote a song for Chris Brown, right?
Yeah, so, maybe the first month that I moved to LA, back in August, I had a meeting with APG, a publishing company and small label, a branch off of Atlantic. And they asked me to come meet with them, asked me how I felt about signing to a major, and I said, “Well, that’s not really what I want to do right now.” So they asked how I’d feel about writing for someone, and I had never really thought to be a writer, but I’ll try it. I mean I write all of my own songs, but I never thought to write somebody else’s. So yeah, the first song that I ever wrote for somebody else of mine, I had this song, two weeks later I went to a studio session with one of my friends, and it was Chris Brown’s session and I ended up playing the song for him in person and he loved it. And I ended up sending four other songs to him, and he cut like four records that I wrote, but only one of the songs made the list that he wrote down on Instagram, so we’ll see. I’m hoping that he chooses this other song, when I just went to his show in Chicago, he played this song for me backstage, he sounded amazing, but he didn’t put it on the list on the album, so we’ll see.
That’s so dope!
Yeah, I’m excited regardless, just because growing up, Chris Brown was somebody that I literally used to always sing.
So what’s it like seeing him play your music, is that crazy?
Oh, it’s surreal, I sometimes can’t believe it, but it’s definitely a blessing. He’s really nice and he’s super humble, which is really cool. And he remembered me, so that’s all I really wanted in the first place. I didn’t even think he was going to remember my name, but he did and I was like, “Wow, I am humbled.”
It’s awesome when you admire someone and listen to their music, and you meet them and they’re actually really cool people too, because sometimes they suck and it’s disappointing, but that’s great.
I’ve had some disappointing encounters with people that I really like, definitely.
Do you think you’ll stay independent your whole career? Or do you just feel like you haven’t found a good match for a label?
Well, it’s definitely on purpose. Me and my manager, Jordan, we work so well together by ourselves, and I’m a very strong-minded person, and I’m very opinionated, so I don’t think I’d like to have somebody who I don’t really respect as far as art, tell me how to do my art. It’s also like, we’ve built all of this organically, without any labels, so it’s kind of like… I would sign if it made sense, but right now, it doesn’t—because, financially, I don’t really need money from them. If I could keep building my brand the way I’ve been doing it, then I can make more money. Not that it’s even about the money, it’s about the freedom.
Yeah, at this point, you have this amazing thing, and if anyone tried to go in and change it, it’d probably be terrible.
Yeah, I don’t know, I feel like sometimes labels try to go in and fix something that’s not broke. I’m going to keep doing it this way for a while and see what happens. I’m trying to keep my stock up. I’m trying to get the best deal a female has gotten in years, if I ever sign. But for now, independent is what I’m doing and I take pride in knowing that I’m probably the only independent female artist in hip hop that’s doing as well as I’m doing. And I say that in the most humble way. I just don’t feel like any female that’s actually independent, like I don’t even have a pub deal, so it’s like everything that I’m doing and spending my money on is out of my pocket, and it feels good knowing that I’ve been able to work this hard to get to this point.
I mean obviously the hip hop world is super male-dominated, but what is it like being a powerful female in that space? I’m sure you’re dealing with the same shit that all females deal with.
Yeah, it’s just interesting, it just depends in situations, like, I don’t know. I always like to be introduced to other men by other men, because it draws that line of like, you know I’m about business, I’m not just some groupie bitch that’s hanging around. So I like when other men introduce me to men that I respect, I don’t know, it just depends. I try not to make people feel like I’m flirting with them or anything like that. I want people to respect me for my art, not for anything else. I mean I want them to respect me as a person, in general, but like, I’m all about my business. It’s interesting though, it’s definitely interesting. Sometimes I feel offended. I feel like it is so dominant with men, it’s annoying sometimes. I don’t like the way they talk to me sometimes.
As far as the rest of the year, what are you most looking forward to?
Touring and the other cities that we’re going to do, I’m excited about that. And I’m just excited about dropping new music because I’m so proud of this new music that I’m working on and it just feels really good. I mean, every year I try to push myself to do better than I did last year, so I’m just happy. My last project, Just Like You had a lot of success, but I’m just ready to push myself and open new doors for myself.
Images courtesy of Nate Taylor
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