“When I was 13 I started making music, and I showed it to my dad. He said he would be okay with me rapping as long as I didn’t cuss in my music.” – Ali Tomineek.
Eminem unarguably stole the show at the 2017 BET Hip-Hop Awards with his scathing “The Storm” cypher directed at Donald Trump, but one session that may have gone unnoticed is the Young Spitters cypher featuring verses from Los Angeles’ Cozz, Atlanta’s J.I.D, Epic Record’s Kodie Shane and Sprite Hot 16 winner, Ali Tomineek.
I’m a busy man, I really am. It’s not something to brag about because it gets exhausting. I’m always working even when it doesn’t seem that way, but this is not about me. While doing my daily social media sweep, I stumbled upon a post from BET asking its readers to vote for a winner between Phoenix rapper Ali Tomineek and Detroit’s T-Latrice in the Sprite #Hot16 rap competition. It didn’t look that much engaging at first but as a hip-hop purist and a curious M-fucker, I calmly peeped the link and played back both videos on offer. No shade to Ms Latrice but after listening to both freestyles, it was clear Ali was getting that “W,” — That’s when I reached out to Ali’s management to request an interview session. Due to [undocumentable] reasons, we struggled to find middle ground on how to go about it so the damn shit dragged longer than I would’ve liked. Thankfully, Ali’s team understand these things so they found an easy way for us to get around it.
Ali’s full presence was felt at the 2017 BET Hip-Hop Awards after he emerged winner of the highly contested Sprite Hot 16 competition this season. The Young rapper/actor from Arizona has managed to stay clear of profanity despite Hip-Hop’s bitter-sweet relationship with lack of empathy. Not one to quickly follow trends, Ali remains focused in using his music to bring happiness to the lives of his fans and those that truly need it. Creative-HipHop had a quick catch up with Ali about his BET experience and his career.
[Side-Note] My reach out to Ali was way before the BET cypher or the winner of the Hot 16 challenge was announced so I’m not trying to jump on the hype.
How has the response been since BET, any noticeable improvements?
It’s always dope picking up new fans, seeing them join the squad, and start to be a part of all the positivity that we spread. After the BET Hip Hop Awards aired I can already feel my fan base continuing to get stronger.
Excluding myself, how many others have tried to ride your wave since the BET cypher?
A lot of new fans are popping up since my BET cypher, but that’s because they weren’t introduced to me before, they didn’t know about who I was. So I look at it as a compliment, for anyone “riding my wave” or joining the squad to see what it’s all about (and we’re all about Be You 31, which means to be yourself)It’s humbling. If somebody decides to take time out and be interested in what I’m doing I have no other choice but to be thankful.
Yourself and T-Latrice were the final two at the Sprite Hot 16 contest. Have you reached out to her, maybe do a possible track together?
I think T-Latrice is very talented, I haven’t reached out to her, but I do think that’s a good idea to do.
Was the BET experience all you thought it would be?
Yeah it was an amazing experience! I had the chance to spread my message on National TV (obviously dope), got to take a quick vacation to Miami (also dope), and spend the day around Hip Hop’s biggest influencers, it just reminded me that all hard work eventually does pay off!
Arizona is not a regular feature in rap, so how big exactly is hip hop in AZ?
The city of Phoenix Mayor, Greg Stanton, has declared November 11th to be “Arizona Hip Hop Day” and the city of Phoenix will be having their 3rd annual “Arizona Hip Hop Fest” so you can see Hip Hop is pretty big in Arizona.
Is it difficult being an upcoming rapper from Arizona?
I believe everything starts with a mindset, if you think something is challenging or “difficult” then it will be. If you believe something is easy to do, then it’ll be easy. I’ve had fun on my journey being able to make a name for myself in a place where it’s not too common for Hip Hop artists to reach success. But now, due to how much technology is available, reaching success is easy even if you’re from Arizona, a magazine like Paper Man all the way in South Africa can know about who you are and even do a story on you.
Have you ever considered relocating to New York to seek better career opportunities? If No, Is it something you plan on doing in the future?
With the technology available to all of us today, you don’t “HAVE” to be in New York, LA, or anywhere in particular, but you do have to be you. When you do that the world will come to you.
I have a decent enough understanding of 31 Squad but can you break it down?
“The 31 Squad” or “The Squad” is something that my fanbase decided to call themselves. The number 31 comes from my debut album entitled February 31st and on that album, a song called “ThreeOne” explains how 3 + 1 = 4, and there’s 4 sides to a square. I believe that square represents all of us because it is perfect (the angles and sides are all equal) and each one of us is uniquely perfect. So basically, the number 31 represents every one of us and the idea of striving to be the most perfect version of yourself everyday. That’s what me and The Squad rep.
Most times, when rappers choose to do certain things differently, it’s usually influenced by their upbringing and things they experienced growing up. Did any such thing play a part in how you approach you raps?
When i was 13, I started making music, and I showed it to my dad. He said he would be okay with me rapping as long as I didn’t cuss in my music and as long as I made sure I was the best at it. So I said ok, and to this day I’ve charted #1 on Billboard in the Heat Seeker Mountain Region, I’m in a Movie releasing in 2018 called High Strung: Free Dance, I just came back from the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards as one of the Cypher participants, AND I have my name on a Sprite can. So I guess you could say it all worked out pretty well.
Hip-hop and profanity is like jam and bread, what made you decide to be different?
Off top, I would have to disagree because Hip Hop itself has a lot of different genres, from country hip hop, to Gospel hip hop, Trap, Mumble Rap, and Gansta Rap. But Hip Hop has been defined as ONLY Gangsta Rap which is an art form of profane lyrics. I listen to all hip hop and I hope the world can embrace my style.
What are the chances of you using swear words in the future?
I’m a human being just like everyone else, so profanity is not unknown to me but I just choose not to use it in my music at all, right now its not my plans to do that in the future either.
How did “High Strung: Free Dance” happen?
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity of having director Michael Damian directly reach out to me. He DM’d me on Twitter based off of my “OneTake Contest #FridayFlow” video, he asked me if I’ve ever had any experience with acting. So he was very excited to hear about how I’ve been in plays and starred in my own Halloween short film. So that goes to show even if you’re in Arizona you can influence the world if you believe in yourself.
You’re so young but yet you do so much charity work, why?
I believe Hip Hop is not about who’s the best it’s about what you do when you have the mic, now it’s my turn. You don’t have to wait until everyone in the world knows your name. You can help people by using any platform that you build. Why wait?
Your “Make A teacher Smile” campaign is beautiful. How can people be a part of it. Do you accept donations, how does it work?
First off thank you, the best way to be a part of it is by downloading my new album “I Ain’t Sorry 2” from iaintsorry2.com. I use some of the proceeds from my album to give back to the community. But if you want to “Make A Teacher Smile” just do something nice for your favorite teacher to show them you appreciate them and say thank you!
Would you like to work with rappers outside your demographic?
Yeah, one rapper I’d like to work with and also go on tour with is Chance The Rapper.
Where would be your dream venue to perform in and why?
I’ve always had visions of Headlining a sell out show at Madison Square Garden. That’s somewhere I will be?
What’s your honest opinion on Donald Trump?
Trump always says “Make America Great Again”. I think The USA is the greatest Country in the world, on paper. But we, the people, haven’t lived up to our full potential ,so our greatest days are still ahead of us. There have been 45 Presidents since the birth of this country, Democrats and Republicans and I believe the way a man carries himself in the oval office will determine the legacy that he leaves.