Anthone Ray talks origins, lessons, and new music (Q&A)
We talk with artist Anthone Ray about his early Gospel influence, converting his family into fans, and staying rooted in CHH. From his youth group rap origins to performing on stage, we talk his transition and the lessons he learned as an artist along his career. Anthone Ray wrote, mixed, and produced his latest project Mark My Words, (which made our end of the year lists for 2018) is available now everywhere.
NH2O: How is the project release coming along?
Anthone Ray – The release of “Mark My Words” has been phenomenal! It excites me because of not only the feedback, but what it has set me up for. New eyes and new ears are tuned in now and I’m grateful.
NH2O: We have been familiar with your stuff here for a while at New H2O, but please give a quick breakdown on where you are at currently and how you got introduced to music
Anthone Ray: First off, shoutout to New H2O for always showing me support. I’m currently promoting and pushing my latest EP “Mark My Words” which I wrote, mixed, and produced, but it didn’t happen overnight.
I got introduced to music at a very young age: My parents were strict on what I listened to when I was a kid. They’ve loosened up a bit now which is hilarious and pretty cool to me being older.
I grew up on The Winans, Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, pretty much anything Gospel. It wasn’t until about the 3rd or 4th Grade I got introduced to Rap and CHH at around the same time. By the 6th Grade, I was into The Cross Movement, Peace 586, Ludacris, and Master P all at the same time.
NH2O: For me growing up I never got introduced to CHH, the closest thing was likely Will Smith, but with all things considered what was it that kept you in the CHH lane and making music for Christ as opposed to slipping off and doing something completely different with your gift?
Anthone Ray: Wow! That’s crazy, but I know a few people who have had similar introductions to CHH like that so, that’s not too far fetched.
To be honest, it’s been my faith. I’ve always made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t waste a God-given gift for me alone, but to use it as a platform to Christ and for Christ. I’ve seen CHH make a lot of shifts and turns, but I’m always reminded that my faith goes beyond a mic and a crowd. I’ve been tempted to go another way numerous of times, but I’m always convicted because I know my call.
NH2O: You mention that you knew your gift was a God-given one. What was the event or the moment that stood out to you where God specifically communicated that to you? What impressed you to acknowledge that your ability to make music was heaven sent?
Anthone Ray: Simply by the feedback I was getting from it. There wasn’t a defining moment, but I saw that it was more than the beats and lyrics. For someone to feel encouraged in their faith, convicted, or for someone to feel like they needed to draw closer to the Lord through my music is awesome to me. Yeah, I put forth the effort to make it sound good, but I can’t make people feel that way. I believe God can only do that.
NH2O: Can you elaborate on the reaction of your peers/family/friends when you showed them your music and what their expectations might have been and their response?
Anthone Ray: Most definitely. When I started rapping, I started doing it within my youth group at my church. My friends liked what I did, but I kind of knew people thought it was just a hobby for me. Mainly because I was trash when I started. Lol. It wasn’t until I started releasing mixtapes online and getting booked at other churches when I start getting reactions. From friends to random people online saying how this song impacted them and how this song was just what they needed.
The expectations and response started to grow and increase. It took a little minute for my family to come around, but now they’ve seen the growth. My Mom was always supporting me, but I had to show and prove to my Dad and Sister. It wasn’t until 2-3 years ago when my family saw me perform at a local festival when they start having high expectations for me to keep growing in my craft. It’s dope to hear my Dad play my music in his car because I know he actually enjoys it.
Things are much different now from when I started in my earlier years as an artist.
NH2O: As Christians we share a common goal which is to get the gospel out to the world. I think as artists, things like streams and views, or even show attendance might overshadow that most important goal. In what ways have you seen the gospel get communicated to the people who listen to your music?
Anthone Ray: It’s easy for things like numbers, streams, and clout to overshadow the goal of sharing the Gospel because we are human. I’ve dealt with it myself. As an artist, I desire a platform, but I’m always brought back to why I wanted the platform in the first place. It’s a constant battle, but I think it has gotten a lot better for me to recognize the purpose of why I’m doing this. Being able to create music is a great feeling, but I have to always go back to the goal.
I’ve shared and still share the Gospel on and off stage. Also, through my music on previous projects. For a minute now, I’ve been writing about my life from a Christian worldview and perspective. It helps me reach to all people without compromising my faith. It’s been a blessing to receive text messages, have face-to-face convos with people, and get DM’s from peers because of my belief in Christ.
NH2O: Can you describe one of those text messages or convos you had with someone?
Anthone Ray: One of my now dear friends who now attends my church was once battling with his faith, but told me after hearing a free EP I released 3 years (which I thought was rushed and was my worst project) made him want to draw closer to Christ.
I’ve seen people who have fallen away from the faith or backslid be encouraged and inspired by my music. I’ve also have had encounters with people who have cussed me out about my music being “freakin’ sick” or being “the real deal” at local shows so, it’s great seeing the message getting out there and having conversations after I’m done with my set. It’s dope to see where the music can take me in the way I’m presenting my creativity and my faith.
NH2O: What does success look like for you at this stage in your career?
Anthone Ray: Success to me now is what I’m doing online or through social media with my music translating in real life. For example, selling out a show on my own, building relationships with people not just through DM’s, leading people to Christ in real time, etc. That’s my focus what true success means to me.
NH2O: What advice would you give to yourself 4-years ago?
Anthone Ray: The advice I would give myself 4-years ago would be don’t be jealous of others, God sees your faithfulness, and stop trying to prove everybody wrong. Have that same energy you did when you fell in love with Rap.
NH2O: What kind of lessons have you learned?
A: That’s a great question. I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the span of so many years of doing this. I learned that I needed to educate myself in music and the business side of it. I’ve also learned that I can’t live off of past accomplishments and settle. I have to continue to grow in what I do.
NH2O: When you’re creating music, what is the trigger in your mind to let you know you’ve reached the end and this is the song/album that it needs to be?
Anthone Ray: The trigger for me is a deadline I set in my head or feeling I got my point across. I’m a big fan of sequencing my music and making sure it flows sonically.
NH2O: Bucket list of artists to work with?
The Cross Movement
Noah “40” Shebib