As reported on the front page of his hometown paper, The Trentonian, hip-hop music lost another notable contributor over the weekend when Trenton NJ hip-hop producer, DJ, and sometime emcee Anthony “Tony D” DePula died tragically in a one-car crash on Saturday evening (April 4th) not far from his Hamilton, New Jersey township home.
Reportedly he was driving home to have dinner with his wife and two young daughters (ages 3 and 15 months) at about 6 p.m. after dropping off beats to an emcee client when he lost control of his 2002 Suzuki XL wagon and struck the fence of St. John’s Cemetery on Bunting Avenue not far from his home. The impact flipped the vehicle onto its side and the hip-hop artist, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was found unconscious at the scene with a severe neck injury. Shortly after being admitted to the hospital he was pronounced dead. He was only 42.
Tony D was instrumental in putting Trenton, NJ on the hip-hop map back two decades ago, along with such fellow Trenton hip-hoppers as Poor RIghteous Teachers (PRT), a group he produced. And Tony D will be most remembered as the producer of PRT's 1990 timeless hip-hop track (and only major radio hit), “Rock Dis Funky Joint” (check the video below, shot on the "Trenton Makes" bridge). Aside from the popular single, he also produced nearly all of the rest of the PRT debut album, Holy Intellect.
Tony D also produced PRT's follow up album, Pure Poverty, a year later. He then produced four tracks off PRT's 1993 album Black Business. Other artists that Tony D produced include YZ, King Sun, The Outsidaz, Method Man, Redman, and Cypress Hill. He also had numerous other production projects, including writing the score for the 2001 movie Snipes, which was a film about a fictional Philly rapper's rise to fame.
In addition to his production talents, Tony D was also a gifted rapper, often operating under the rap alias of Harvee Wallbanger, although he didn't pursue it as much as he should have in my opinion. Coincidentally, just about a couple of weeks ago I was re-listening to his great (but mostly slept on) 1991 solo rap album Droppin Funky Verses (4th/Broadway/Island), featuring the tracks "E.F.F.E.C.T." and "Check the Elevation," showcasing his rhyming skills, which were always fun and packed with clever put downs in the battle tradition. His emcee lyrical style had changed a bit on more recent recordings such as "The Boss is the Boss" -- see video below -- becoming less fun put downs and more aggro fueled rhymes.
Also in more recent years, he ran his own record label, Cha-Ching Records, out of his home. Since the news broke following Saturday's car crash, the late artist's MySpace page has been filling up with well wishes from friends and fans.