Single-parent home, gangs, drugs, crime, prison and seemingly no way out but death. While it may sound like the makings of a classic 90s inner-city film, it was the dark reality Tony Tillman faced growing up. But spared the fate that befalls so many urban youths, Tony found a way out—better yet, a new way of living found him.
Born Toney Frazier and raised in the projects of Arkansas with only his mom around, Tony turned to the streets to teach him how to be a man. At the tender age of 12, he followed his young uncle’s footsteps and became a Crip. He quickly gained respect for fighting rival gang members, breaking in homes, committing robberies and being ready to kill whoever disrespected him. With his mom working long hours to provide for the family, there was no one around to counter what he was learning on the streets. His father tried disciplining him, but he rejected the advice of the man who had abandoned him years earlier. Engulfed in the street life, his violent behavior reached new heights when his 16-year-old uncle was shot and killed. Sent to live with relatives in hopes he would turn his life around, Tony landed in various juvenile detention centers across the South and wound up on house arrest for attempted murder. Depressed and alone, Tone battled with thoughts of suicide, stemming from his uncle’s death and the dead-end path he had chosen. But then came his awakening.
As providence would have it, Tony was riding in a police car to a courthouse one afternoon when a voice on the radio began sharing about the book of Revelation. He began reading Revelation as God steadily worked on his heart. He distanced himself from his gang and promised a pastor that he would attend his church and after a few visits, he heard the Gospel and gave his life to Christ. He was relieved, immensely grateful and awed by the reality that God had freed him from the bondage of his criminal past to find joy and peace in Him. Surprisingly, his old friends respected his newfound faith and let him pursue God without any opposition.
Armed with pen and paper, Tony began writing poems that reflected his new reality. Having taken to rapping and musical engineering as a teenager, but unaware of the emergence of Christian rap as an adult, he prayed for his ability to somehow be used by God. By the time he was 24, he had rapped at several church events and was advised to leave Arkansas if he wanted to pursue music seriously. He began traveling with Seventh Day Slumber, opened for Kutless and was constantly traveling around the nation sharing Christ. He released two successful albums, I Preach Christ and Interlude, and his platform was steadily increasing.
After taking a hiatus to care for his relatives and having built a relationship with Derek Minor (then Pro) during that time, once Reflection Music Group was founded, he was asked to join the roster. Tony (then Brothatone) returned with his comeback project Mic Check, which served as a promotional tool to introduce him to new listeners and reintroduce him to those who’ve been questioning his absence.
As an artist, Tony aims to creatively deliver truth in an authentic, real-life manner that those who may not understand doctrine and theology can still relate to. He spends hours upon hours everyday listening to beats for inspiration and also serves faithfully with Fellowship Bible in Murfreesboro. Ultimately, his desire is to have a leadership position in the church to counsel others and influence people beyond his music. With a criminal past behind him, he is confident that he has lost nothing and gained everything by following Christ. He is spurred on by the famous words, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”