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Interview with Singer-Rapper Von Tae: From Social Media Viral Sensation to Industry Praise

DeVante Eugene Jones, better known as Von Tae, is a singer, songwriter, and rapper hailing from Calvert County, Maryland.

He first gained attention on social media in 2019 when his controversial single “Contagious” went viral under a J. Cole tweet on Twitter. Von Tae has received praise from industry veterans such as Senior A&R Earl Johnson from Roc Nation, actress and comedian Luenell, and Kandi Burruss from the 90’s R&B girl group Xscape, among others.

Born in Maryland, one of six children to Gladys Lake and Scottwyn Plater, his mother worked various jobs, including as a tobacco farm worker, while his father was an architect. In July 2001, Von Tae and his three younger siblings were placed in a foster home due to unfortunate circumstances. 

Raised by Sylvia and Charles Booth, Von Tae was surrounded by gospel music and spent much of his time in church, strengthening his faith in God. He attended Sunderland Elementary School and joined the school band, where he learned to play various instruments including the recorder, clarinet, saxophone, and flute. 

In his formative years, Von Tae became a fan of R&B, soul, and hip hop music, citing artists such as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Usher, Missy Elliott, and Luther Vandross as major influences on his own music.

In 2007, Von Tae and his sister April formed a dance group called K-Crew, which was managed by their cousin Patrice. The group performed at talent shows and local events, gaining a reputation in their town. Von Tae also joined a non-profit dance team called Dance Empowerment, which was started in Fresno, California by Wayne Hurley, a background dancer for Kevin Federline.

In 2011, after graduating from Great Mills High School, Von Tae discovered his passion for writing and recording music with the help of a classmate who gave him his first recording equipment. He released his first recorded project, Broken Boundaries of Existence, in January 2012, featuring a mix of love and heartbreak themes. In January 2014, he released a follow-up project, My Own Religion, which showcased his rebellious side and included music with rock elements.

In July 2015, Von Tae took a break from singing to showcase his rap skills with the release of his first mixtape, #VONTAETAKEOVER (Volume 1). This mixtape included remixes of popular songs by Chris Brown, Missy Elliott, and Rae Sremmurd and Nicki Minaj. In 2017, he released his EP, Young Man Ambition, featuring the single “Hunnit Bandz.” In 2019, he auditioned for American Idol as well as Diddy and MTV’s reboot of Making The Band, but production was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Known for his powerful and expressive voice, Von has a strong stage presence and energetic performances, often engaging with the audience and culminating in him literally running through the crowd. As a versatile artist with a unique blend of lyrical prowess and high-energy performance style, Von Tae is absolutely one to watch in the hip hop world.

In this in-depth interview, Von speaks to Beats, Rhymes & Lists about his early introduction to music, shares his experiences working with industry veterans and what he’s learned from them, as well as his future plans and what’s next for his music career.

How did you first become interested in music and when did you start creating your own material?

I’ve always been very passionate about music and the lifestyle growing up. I used to watch all of the E! True Hollywood Stories, Access Granted type shows on my favorite artists and listened to a lot of old school music that my family exposed me to. I started singing around seven and professionally started writing and recording music when I was sixteen. 

You’ve received praise from industry veterans such as Senior A&R Earl Johnson from Roc Nation and actress Luenell. How has this recognition impacted your career and what have you learned from these experiences?

I’ve been so blessed to have crossed paths with so many industry veterans and it’s always an amazing feeling to be recognized by the people that I look up to. I’ve been praised by Keyshia Cole, Tank, Kandi Burruss and it’s an amazing feeling. They’ve shared their platforms with me and now I’m able to reach a larger audience. So many new fans have joined the wave and are riding it with me to the top. 

Can you tell us more about your musical influences and how they have shaped your sound and style?

Some of my musical influences are Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Bobby Brown, Rich James, Luther Vandross, J. Cole and others. These artists inspire me through their ability to make you feel something through their music.

They’re original, they push the envelope and they also inspire me through their persistence to be great. They’ve taught me that it’s okay to be different. That’s helped me a lot over the years. 

Your music often tackles themes of love and heartbreak. What inspires you to write about these topics and how do you hope your lyrics resonate with listeners?

Everyone can relate to love and heartbreak because we’ve been through it. It doesn’t even have to be dating romantically, it could be with friends and family. My music comes from a real place, mostly all personal stories through song. I hope that my fans can see that we have so much in common. I cry, I love, I get discouraged and everything else, but I also have that strength to keep going.

You’ve had the opportunity to audition for shows like American Idol and Making the Band. Can you talk about these experiences and how they have affected your career?

Yes, so I auditioned for American Idol and Making the Band a few years ago but unfortunately both shows were canceled before I had the opportunity to make it to the TV rounds.

American Idol was bought by another TV station and redid their process and Making the Band was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both amazing experiences that I won’t ever forget. I’ve made some really great friends with other talented singers as well through the process. 

You’ve mentioned that you were raised in a foster home and surrounded by gospel music. How has your upbringing influenced your music and what role does faith play in your art?

I actually have a song called “The Reason” and it’s a gospel hip hop record. Obviously I don’t make gospel music primarily but my faith in God is why I continue to do music. I know that this is what I was born to do.

I don’t listen to much Gospel music to be heavily influenced by the sound but my faith is truly what fuels my passion for the art. Gospel music also is very raw and vulnerable. I tend to be that way in all of my music.

Your latest release, “Contagious,” went viral after being tweeted about by J. Cole. Can you talk about this experience and how it has impacted your career?

So I tweeted the song to J. Cole and his fans gravitated towards it during the Black Lives Matter movement. It became so popular that people were doing reaction videos to the song and were completely blown away by the message and my delivery. That song has brought on so many new fans and people who respect what I do in ways I can’t even imagine. 

What can fans expect from future releases from you and what goals do you hope to achieve with your music going forward?

In the future, expect Von Tae to do what only Von Tae can do. I’m currently working on a new album, singles and continuing to release song covers as well in the meantime to hold my fans over. Next year will be my biggest year yet. So many surprises and major announcements are coming.

A few of my goals are to get featured on more major blogs like Complex, Pitchfork, etc. I would love to sign some endorsement deals, more supporters so I can start touring, building a band, maybe a record deal and continue to build my brand. I also have some plans to step outside of music a little and do more acting and alternative media work. I’m excited and I can’t wait to make it all happen.

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