Thee Tom Hardy Jumps “In the Mix” [DJBooth Interview Exclusive]
While the up-and-comer shares a last name with young-adult literature's most famous teenage detectives, the reasons behind Thee Tom Hardy's growing buzz are far from a mystery. Since joining production heavyweight 9th Wonder's The Academy/It's A Wonderful World stable, the young North Carolina representative (and freestyle series alum) has been steadily drawing savvy hip-hop heads into the fold with the help of his scorching flows, larger-than-life personality and uniquely unhinged brand of punchline lyricism, With The Curse of the Green Faceded behind him, the artist is preparing to unveil the Booth-sponsored second entry in his Hardy Boy Mystery series. Set to hit our mixtape page October 27, and heralded by reader-approved leaks “One for the Money,” “I'm Grinnin'” and “Fresh & Fly,” The Secret of the Green Magic is shaping up to be Hardy's toughest, and dopest case yet.
In this Booth-exclusive, six-question interview, Tom Hardy discusses the origin of his pun-filled lyrical style, his feelings on performing with Raekwon and other heavyweights in the currently-running Sneaker Pimps 2010 tour, and precisely what sort of “magic” he's got in store for his sophomore street release.
Constant wordplay and absurdist wisecracks are hallmarks of your lyrical approach. Did you set out to make listeners laugh, or did your pun-filled style emerge organically when you started writing rhymes?
I'd say it was a combination of both. For people who know me personally, they know I'm no tough guy. So that's one thing that I don't talk about in my rhymes. I was blessed to have had a pretty average, normal childhood and come from a strong and loving family - I didn't go through all of the same hardships that some of my peers had to go through. It wasn't a Silver Spoon type of situation by any means - and I had my little struggles here and there in school but to be all the way real I don't have that much else to say other than funny sh*t. (laughs) I was always that goofy white kid in my elementary and middle schools, which were predominantly black. So that was my little niche. I guess it's followed me to where I'm at now. But I do reach into myself and talk about deeper, more personal things from time to time, and I feel like those are some of my best songs. So I feel like, the more life experiences come my way, the more I'll have to write about, and I can start to shed that goofy image and show what's really up. But for people who listen to my music heavy, they already know who I am, that I'm a intelligent and thoughtful person. But on the surface, I guess I just come across as a silly dude. Hip-hop needs more people like that though, because taking yourself too seriously is never a good look.
The forthcoming second installment of your Hardy Boy Mystery Mixtape is intriguingly titled “The Secret of the Green Magic.” Can you give us a clue or two as to what type of magic you're referring to? And could you explain what a “Green Faceded” is, for those of us who are still a little confused?
The "Green Magic" is really just a fun and original title for a mixtape, the same as the "Green Faceded." My logo is that green, demented-looking smiley face and we've used that to kind of brand me as an artist. It's off-kilter and it's different, and since that's the direction my music tends to take most often, we stuck with it. We didn't name "Green Faceded" until after all the music was complete. 9th actually came up with that name. It has no meaning other than it sounds funny, especially to have the extra "-ed" at the end, that's kind of a Southern thing. If you thinks someone is fake, you might say they are "two-faced" but end up pronouncing it like "two-faceded." But we went into the creation of "Green Magic" with the title already in place, so some of the songs have an eerie or spooky vibe to them. Even if it's just punchline after punchline, the music behind my words is kind of different this go-around.
You're currently on the road with Raekwon, GLC and other prominent artists as part of the 2010 Sneaker Pimps Tour. How many pairs of kicks do you own, and which do you consider your favorite?
The Sneaker Pimps tour has been pretty dope so far. I would estimate that I have about 10 pairs of shoes, maybe 12. I'm still waiting for that "Rap $$$." (laughs). Different kicks for different situations. If you're a white boy you have to have at least one pair of those gray New Balances that cost like 64.99, those are a must (laughs). I love Nike but I never owned any Jordans growing up, and then I went to New York for a video shoot over the summer and got a couple free pairs of J's from Brand Jordan. Those are nice. But I've never really been a sneaker head. I just pick out whatever looks cool to me when I'm at the store. But my favorites are definitely the Air Max 90's. I've always had a spot in my heart for the little bubble in the shoe. (laughs) Always thought it looked futuristic and classic at the same time.
You sowed the seeds for your current label deal with The Academy/It's A Wonderful World by approaching 9th Wonder after sitting in on a hip-hop class he was teaching at North Carolina Central University, and asking for a chance to perform in front of him. How did it feel to showcase your craft in front of a Grammy-winning producer with such vast experience in the game – was the experience exciting, nerve-wracking, or something else entirely?
That was a big day for me obviously. What's funny is I didn't even go to NCCU because I didn't have enough math credits to get into a 4-year university right out of high school. So I was enrolled at Durham Tech Community College which is literally right down the street from NCCU. One of my close friends Lance, from Thee Band Geeks, was taking 9th's class and told me about it, but it went on at the same time as my math class down the road. One day I just decided to skip it and sat in on 9th's class, then I went up to him afterwards and introduced myself. People approach him like that literally every day, but at that point I was extremely green, I was barely 18 and I was hungry so I just went for it. I didn't get to rap for him on the spot but I went up to the studio and played him a couple songs. It was exciting AND nerve-wracking. But over time, as I got better, 9th took me under his wing as his artist, and it worked out for the best.
The very first sentence in your official bio reads: “Don't judge a book by its cover.” Do you find that your skin color places you under more pressure to prove your worth as an emcee? If so, how has this dynamic influenced the development of your highly individual artistic style?
Being a white rapper has its positive and negative consequences. On one hand, you always get compared to Eminem, no matter what your voice sounds like (laughs). And with Em being as incredible an MC as he is, he sets the bar pretty high for other white guys who want to rap. I really couldn't tell you if it was more or less pressure on a white rapper because I don't know it any other way. No matter who you are, there's gonna be pressure to be good at what you do. I've always been the type of person who could get along with anybody and I try not to really go out of my way to exploit the fact that I'm white. But what I've found is that everyone - for the most part - seems to be very accepting of white rappers in 2010, as long as you're nice. The people that aren't accepting, are other white rappers, or white guys who WISH they could rap (laughs). It's like somebody told them there are a certain number of "slots" for white rappers and they have to be in one of those slots to make it. I fell into that trap last year and kinda dissed Asher Roth on one of my records, and I totally regret doing that because once I really listened to his music, he can rhyme. And a lot of times he's saying very positive stuff. He's done extremely well for himself and kind of opened the door for AVERAGE white guys who don't have crazy life stories, to get on. But I think the most common and worst mistake a white rapper can make, is trying to be something that you're not. It's so easy to tell when someone is faking. It's always important to be yourself because people are gonna respect that a lot more than playing dress-up. It's also especially important to respect the culture and the music, and to be rapping for the right reasons.
In the original Hardy Boy Mysteries, brothers Frank and Joe Hardy had two very styles of investigation: the former used logical deduction, while the latter made decisions based on gut feelings. Which do you find yourself relying upon more as you navigate the music business and lay the groundwork for your future career: your intellect, or your intuition?
That's a good one... Both equally. I try to be as logical as possible but when you're passionate and hungry and dedicated to doing your best, sometimes logic gets thrown out the window and you just operate with your gut. I use a lot of different words in my rhymes and so I think when people hear these uncommon words they can see that I use my intellect, even if my subject matter is completely juvenile and stupid (laughs). Overall it's important to use your intellect and intuition equally, and to listen to the people around you but not to just blindly follow others. At the end of the day no one cares more about your career than you, because all of your moves affect you personally. It's just important to be smart about things, in general, in life.
Final thoughts? Confessions? Shout outs?
Make sure you download Secret of thee Green Magic when it drops this week! I put so much work into these songs and so did the producers and my team. If you give it a shot, you'll find something you like. I want to shout out Brad & Thee Band Geeks, my label-mates on It's a Wonderful World, and 9th, and ASORE Entertainment. And last but not least DJBooth.net for holding me down! Peace!