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Rock House not only introduced Atlanta's second bass artist on the national stage, it also marked an ambitious leap in Mr. Mixx's bass production. With samples that ranged from Queen to Average White Band to Yellow Magic Orchestra, the record (along with other Mixx tracks of that period) pointed to bass music's potential to be more than simplistic booty shakers. By Rock House's release, though, Shy D has already broken from Luke Records in a royalty dispute, and Tony would soon follow as [label owner] Luther Campbell slipped deeper into his legal morass.
As other rappers – Raheem the Dream, Kizzy Rock, Kilo – followed Shy and Tony into the world of Miami bass music in the late '80s, Atlanta became a sort of colonial outpost of Miami hip-hop. While the Atlanta act Success-N-Effect earned some national notoriety after signing with Miami's On Top Records, acts that stuck with local labels usually remained local. Raheem, for example, was a star in Atlanta clubs such as My Brother's Keeper and Sharan's Showcase, but his records – put out on his own Arvis label beginning around 1988 – never reached very far outside Atlanta.
More than a decade later, after Tony Rock left music, worked in the accounting department at Georgia Pacific, then took up playing bass and renamed himself Woodchuck, his band, El Pus, performed on a bill with Atlanta soul singer Joi. OutKast's Andre Benjamin had shown up to lend support to his friend Joi and, after watching El Pus' set, approached Woodchuck to ask him for bass lessons.
"'You look familiar. I know you from somewhere, I can't figure it out,'" Tony recalls Andre said.
"I said, 'Maybe you know the person I used to be: Tony Rock.'"
"He was like, 'Oh, shit, Tony MF Rock! You and Shy D made it possible for us. We wouldn't be here without you. You're a legend.'"
Excerpted from the forthcoming Da Capo Press book Third Coast: OutKast, Timbaland, & How Hip-Hop Became a Southern Thing by Roni Sarig. Copyright © 2007. All rights reserved.
Editor's note: Both MC Shy D and Tony Rock remain active in Atlanta's music scene. Shy D DJs every Tuesday night at Bigelow's on 2564 Gresham Road in Atlanta (404-241-5777). And Tony Rock, aka Woodchuck, continues to do production work and frequently collaborates with hometown soulster Anthony David. To hear classic Tony MF Rock tracks from his 1989 release Let Me Take You to the Rock House, visit atlanta.creativeloafing.com.
Music Issue 2007