My name is Tone Pérignon and I am an artist and musician from Detroit, Michigan. I am a rapper/singer-songwriter, creative director, model, designer, and influencer. My first visit to Shanghai was back in 2010 during the World Expo which completely opened my eyes to a whole new world outside of my current reality. My parents took on a work assignment here a couple years ago and I finally took the 14 hour flight over here to visit them, safe to say that after a few weeks I was completely sold. I’ve been living in Shanghai now for a little over a year where I plan to dive deep into the exploding Hip Hop and popular music industry.
I’ve always loved music and it’s been a pretty big part of my life but I really started to embrace Hip Hop culture when I was in middle school. I became completely obsessed not only with the music, but also the fashion, streetwear style and the lingo, which would often serve as inspiration for my drawings and paintings. When I got my first MacBook I started experimenting making beats and wrote and recorded my first songs on GarageBand. Making music was purely a hobby at that point, but I began to take rapping seriously as I entered college and needed something therapeutic to keep myself preoccupied. I lost my grandmother my freshman year which was really difficult for me, but writing lyrics became my escape and I haven’t put the pen down since.
In terms of modeling I never thought this was something I would get involved with [laughs]. I’ve always had a love for fashion and even designing clothing—but I never pictured myself as the mannequin. As a foreigner and as a black man in China I recognize I have a unique look that is in demand so I’m taking full advantage of it! I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities for growth and I can’t wait to see where else they take me.
This past year has been monumental for the spread of Hip Hop culture in China thanks to The Rap of China TV program and I’m excited to witness and contribute to it firsthand. People are looking for authenticity in this game and I’ve been met with the upmost respect here. I’ve realized above all how important energy is when it comes to my art. It’s been amazing how open people are to the music even though I’m sure they can’t always understand the lyrics. I’m looking forward to collaborating with more Chinese artists and touring to more cities across the country and Asia.
My favorite thing about Shanghai is how welcoming it is for creative people. It really seems like if you have a vision and drive you can do just about anything here, and that’s really refreshing to see. It’s motivating seeing your peers gain success by working non-traditional jobs. I also love how international and diverse it is—I literally have friends here from all over the world and it’s a great opportunity to learn from different cultures and build with them. I think my least favorite aspect is that the metro ends so early! I lived in New York City for a bit and that’s one thing I definitely miss, the 24 hour subway. But with taxi/didi fares so low how can I complain?
I’m not too big on bars these days but there are a few spots you’ll catch me at when it comes to Hip Hop: I love Arkham, they’ve thrown some amazing events at the new venue over this past year. I’ve also spent many nights partying at ASL which has quickly made a name for itself here as an urban elite spot, and I can’t forget Ninja Shanghai either, playing Hip Hop 7 days a week and supporting underground talent.
I’m always shacked up working somewhere so I’m always ordering food on Elema, I love Mediterranean food so I like to order my fair share of falafel from Brothers Kebab. If I want some bomb healthy food I’ll grab a salad from Holy High, who might I add have the best packaging in the game right now! If I’m feeling a dope Asian-Mexican fusion I’ll grab a DUMBO ORIGINAL veggie burrito. When I'm feeling boujee I'll go check out Where Gastro Club in Xintiandi. I enjoy the atmosphere and they have a truffle dish that's absolutely amazing.
I’ve been working hard this past year on a number of different projects that I will release in 2018 but I am very proud of my most recent collaborative project with my best friend JVERN. We named the EP DRIP: Don’t Rest In Puxi, and it has been received very well in both China and the States. DRIP can be found on Netease, Spotify, iTunes, and all other major music platforms for download or stream. The biggest challenges thus far have definitely been on the marketing end—like how do we best promote to the target audience? But we’ve been perfecting the strategy and are ready to start rolling them out in 2018.
I’m taking it one day at a time but I’m certainly preparing myself to do business in China indefinitely.
You can check out all of Tone's work on his site, or follow him on instagram @toneperignon
Photos provided by Tone Pérignon from ShyBoy (cover), Marcin, and 1807 Streetwear