Clarksville, TN – “I was programmed to self-destruct, but I’m not going to fail.” These are the words of Tony Bell, better known as “Truth” or “Big Tony” to those around him. Bell, 44, has been through a lot in his life and has been using hip hop music for the last nine years as an outlet for his creativity.
Bell has been called “truth” for a long time. “No matter what the situation was, I didn’t care what rolled off my tongue. I was known for hurting somebody’s feelings,” he said.
Bell’s upbringing was tough. He and his brothers were born in Clarksville and found themselves in foster care as infants. There was no stability—they were moved around constantly for six years. “A lot of bad things have happened in my life,” he explained. “Those bad things have led me to do some unpleasant things to get through. But those bad things make me a stronger person.”As an adult, Bell used to do fugitive transportation for the Davidson County Sheriff Department. He was also a nursing major at Austin Peay State University.
Bell credits his writing talents for keeping him on the right track. “I’m good with words. That’s all that I have,” he said. “Instead of my hustle being an illegal hustle, its a legal one. If I’m not doing something to better myself for my family, I’ll go back to doing the things I used to do out of a sense of urgency.”
In 2003, an incident in court enraged him. Searching for a healthy way to vent, Bell found a productive one—writing. One night, on a date with young lady at Olive Garden, Bell asked the waitress for her pen. “I had these words in my head and I wrote them down on a napkin. I’ve been writing ever since. I still have the napkin at home.”
Bell started to carry tablets around and let people read his poetry. Impressed, many of his friends suggested that he put his heartfelt words to music. Around Thanksgiving 2005, he announced that he was dropping out of college to pursue his music full-time. “The hell you are!!” his girlfriend replied. “I’ve never heard you sing. What do you know about music?” At the time, Bell was four years into his college career and close to graduating.
Rather than argue, the two struck a deal—if Bell failed at a music career, he would resume his education. Ironically, just as they came to that agreement, the phone rang. On the other end was someone with the connections to offer him free studio time. Not long after, Bell was in the vocal booth of a recording studio. He remembers closing his eyes and rapping in front of a microphone for the first time. Everything flowed so smoothly that Bell knew his calling at last. His debut album, “Controlled Aggression” was finished soon afterward.
Unlike some other rappers, Bell’s music isn’t boastful or random. He tells his listeners a story. Essentially, his music is an autobiography accompanied by music. Every lyric on each song is the truth.
Today Bell can look back and see that the vision he once had for himself is being achieved. “This all started out one day as a thought in my head in 2003,” said Bell. The long dreadlocks, the self-confident approach, the hip attire; all of it was what he initially envisioned.
However, there are still people that try to crush his dreams, something that Bell won’t stand for. “People have told me, ‘Fool, you’re a 44 year-old rapper. Nobody wants to hear that.’” But Bell has a story to be told, and has learned from the mistakes of those before him. “I watched a whole lot of hustlers before me, and I’m watching those same hustlers fall off.” He encourages young people to “push on” and do what they want to do no matter what their detractors say.
For more information on Bell and his music, visit www.reverbnation.com/tonyakatruth . He can also be found on Facebook.com under Tony A.K.A. Truth.