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‘Gimme My Ring,’ a victory anthem
At the age of 14, just two years after arriving in Cedar Rapids, Antonio “Tone Da Boss” Chalmers sought and achieved emancipation. Recalling that time in his life, he regarded the coffee shop window with a contemplative gaze.
“My mother was struggling — I wanted to lighten her load and become independent. I got connected with Foundation 2 and the Jane Boyd Community House — got my own apartment and started working as a youth leader. They kept me in school and I graduated early at 16. I was actually able to start earning college credit at that age.”
At the same tender age, Antonio was introduced to what would become a lifelong passion: music and digital production. After completing all of his high school requirements, he was able to leverage dual enrollment. This meant his high school covered the cost of college classes. A computer science degree with additional coursework in business laid the foundation for early dabbling in digital media, and he ventured into marketing, building websites for local businesses.
I saw you recently doing a local charity event. It was school supplies, right?
“Yes — that is part of the work we do with Big Bang Foundation, a nonprofit we started to give back to the community we grew up in.”
When Antonio became a father, he put his own business efforts on the back burner for a more stable job. This enabled him to earn steady income and lend his digital marketing expertise to the Jane Boyd Empower (now Entrepreneur Edge) program, supporting one of the organizations that had been instrumental in his own journey to independence.
“I was working at GoDaddy when they started the partnership with Empower. I began to realize what I was doing — telling people to find the courage to pursue their dreams while I wasn’t pursuing my own. The wake up point was the pandemic. I was stuck at home during the shutdown, went through a divorce, and had time to really think about what I wanted in life.”
When GoDaddy announced a corporate restructure in June of 2020, Antonio’s job was one of the 134 impacted at the Hiawatha branch. It was at this point that he decided to devote himself full-time to building T1 Entertainment, the independent record label he founded in 2017.
“Doing music is a lot more difficult than I thought it should have been. I just wanted to be an artist — but I needed web design, business management, branding, marketing … It was only 10 percent doing what I loved and 90 percent running a business and building a brand. I started T1 so I could handle the business side, and let the artists enjoy the experience of making music. It was really my way of allowing them to revel in the love of music, and helping them skip a few steps that I had to learn the hard way.”
Will you share a memorable experience or story from an artist you have worked with?
“Isaac Jordan was my first pop artist. He is a gay Black man who wasn’t getting the proper notice. He went from no shows, and under 100 streams to headlining Iowa City Pride multiple times, Cedar Rapids Pride, and has tens of thousands of streams now.”
What does it mean for you to watch them succeed?
“It's motivation. It started with me living vicariously through them, and then during the pandemic, I knew I wanted to get back into music myself. I have a lot to write about, and I give voice to experiences people are afraid to write about. It became my therapy.”
Talk to me about ‘Gimme My Ring’.
Antonio breaks into a wide smile.
“I was writing this dark breakup album — Gimme My Ring was originally like, literally give me back my ring! But my friend Chuck convinced me to turn it into a victory anthem. That’s how it evolved into this powerful, inspirational song. The album had been out for a year — released in March of 2021, and Golden State used it in their NBA Championship Parade video in June of 2022.”
Who is the first person you called?
“Chuck Crawley. Go check the Warriors page and tell me this is real!”
What has happened since then?
“Streams have gone up 14,000 percent since that video came out. The song has gotten a crazy amount of radio play on FM and XM stations across the country.”
Tell me about the project you’re working on now — The Iowa Music Awards.
“The awards show is a black tie red carpet event. It is designed as a way to celebrate and give back to artists of all genres from across the state who are putting their all into their music without the recognition or acknowledgment they deserve.”
Why should people support the arts?
“Being an artist doesn’t have to be an impossible dream. Community support is what makes it possible for people to do what they were born to do — to use their gifts to uplift, to encourage, to inspire. Music is the one language that we all understand. It brings together all walks of life. We may not agree on many things, but I guarantee we can find some music that stands as common ground.”
What are you looking forward to?
“Helping more people realize their dreams. Empowering more like minded people to help each other and elevate each other's success.”
For tickets to the Iowa Music Awards, visit www.iowamusicawards.com
To support Big Bang Foundation, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sofia DeMartino is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: email@example.com
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