IN THE NEWS | Tone the MoveMaker hopes to make Des Moines into a little Atlanta for hip-hop culture Susan Stapleton, Des Moines Register | 01/03/2022
If Antonio Roddy had his way, Des Moines would turn into a little Atlanta, where hip-hop artists come to be discovered.
Roddy, who goes by Tone the MoveMaker, decided to take all the skills he learned on the streets of the South Side of Chicago as a kid to create a business that supports the hip-hop industry in Des Moines.
He does it all from his third-floor loft space at Mainframe Studios on Keo Way, the art enclave housing 135 artists billed as the largest nonprofit arts space in the country. Taking center stage, a pallet of white T-shirts he designed and wrapped in plastic to look like bricks of cocaine, the ultimate symbol of his past.
“From the day I was born, cocaine's (messed) up everything in my life,” Roddy said. “So I always knew that I got these other options to make something happen. I just tried to be counter to all of that.”
Now the 38-year-old raps and lays down beats. His streetwear company does screen printing for T-shirts and merchandise, as well as his own designs. His embroidery machine, one of 15 such models in the country, stitches patches that look like works of art. He shoots videos and creates art from his Des Moines studio, where his corner loft overlooks downtown Des Moines.
As Tone says, “Same hustle, different product.” It’s a lesson he hopes to spread to others.
As a kid, Roddy grew up on the South Side of Chicago on 78th Street, where the “resources are low, desire is high and hustle is a necessity. My neighborhood is ground zero for systematic oppression, victims of mass incarceration, and police brutality leaving little money or brain capacity for creative outlets,” he said.
As Tone describes his childhood, everyone he knew was somebody on the street. He describes his father as the boss of the South Side, who went to federal prison for 10 years for money laundering. When his father left, Tone started to get in trouble, and his mom would make him stay home, sometimes for entire summers. He spent his time in his bedroom learning music and drawing X Men in what he called his dojo.
When his brother went to college at Iowa State, Tone followed and started a hot dog stand called MunchieZ Snack Stop, selling Vienna beef dogs on campus. He did get in trouble with the law once for possession of a small amount of cannabis that resulted in a misdemeanor.
"Once that happened, it was time for me to do something new," he said. His two stands closed in 2013.
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He also took advantage of the AV and design programs at Iowa State, using a friend’s ID to take classes and use equipment so he’d have the skills to create videos and artwork for those who wanted to get into the hip-hop scene.
Ready for a new challenge, Tone moved to Des Moines, where he saw more artistic opportunities. He started Welcome to the Dope Show, an underground hip-hop site with videos, beats, merchandise and shows. From that, he developed Designed by the Streets, streetwear that represented Tone and the “marginalized people from the streets” where he grew up. He worked as a promoter, putting together hip-hop shows at Vaudeville Mews before it closed in 2020.
His studio now serves as a dojo for creativity as well as a place to showcase his fashions and work on his budding hip-hop support business.
He's starting a program with students at North High School who want to become entrepreneurs. "Young kids want to be what I used to be," Tone said. "I can help them."
In September, he plans to put on a fashion show, but in the meantime, he wants to create red carpet events for First Fridays at Mainframe Studios, probably starting in March.
“It takes a strong person to do what I think I want to do,” he said.
Susan Stapleton, entertainment editor at the Register, wants to showcase more of the talented artists in Des Moines. Drop her a line at email@example.com.
Photos: Bryon Houlgrave/The Register