There are a number of incredibly dope independent record labels that have sprouted up in the underground market within the past few years. One of our favorites is Tuff Kong, a business operated in Rome, Italy and spearheaded by Cunsino. Using a variety of colorful vinyl and incredible artwork, the label focuses on quality music. One thing that sets him apart is he produces quite a bit of the content he presses. He caught everyone’s attention with ‘Tommy DeVito’s Breakfast’ an EP collaboration with Griselda Records’ artist Benny the Butcher. He had released many dope singles featuring Meyhem Lauren, Big Twins, Guilty Simpson and the Winners’ SageInfinite.
The man is not letting up, having just teamed with CRIMEAPPLE for the 4 track EP ‘Salud Y Plata’. This features a more relaxed CRIME, floating over Cunsino’s groovy and melodic backdrops. The vinyl is a light blue birthday cake-themed colorway, with a pocket square included in the packaging. As stated, Cuns does not cut corners in his music or packaging and presentation of Tuff Kong releases. Here’s what he had to say:
RD: How long have you been producing?
Cuns: Around 2003, I was doing some electronic music a bit before that with a tracker on my PC. I first started to see myself as a real producer in 2007. When I landed some placements on some Italian albums.
RD: Aside from producing, you also run Tuff Kong Records. What are some challenges running an indy label? And on the flip side, what are some of the returns?
Cuns: About a year and half ago I founded it with my man Dom, without him Tuff Kong would just be a name in my mind. The challenge is for me to bring some tasty, classic music. Still be alive and strong to keeping working on it. The reward is the appreciation of the people, respect earned from cats I consider to be the most skilled. It gives me an opportunity to work with some amazing talent people whose work I have admired.
RD: Despite being a young company, Tuff Kong has quite a few releases under its belt. What is your favorite thus far?
Cuns: Answering with all my heart, I have to say ‘Torch’ featuring Conway the Machine. That song was the first release (TK001) and it helped give us an identity as a label, about the mood of the music and the overall aesthetic as well. As far as full projects, it might be V-Don and Eto’s ‘Omerta’ EP. We put out music we would buy anyway for ourselves, no following trends or being politically correct.
RD: You have worked with members of Griselda Records regularly, are they your favorite crew at the moment?
Cuns: They’re definitely one of the best crews around nowadays, they have already inspired many younger emcees in a short period of time. There is a a lot of stunning talent out there; Roc Marciano (a godfather of this movement) Eto, Daniel Son, CRIMEAPPLE, Willie the Kid, Smoovth, Hus Kingpin, Pounds, SageInfinite and Recognize Ali are favorites.
RD: What about fellow producers?
Cuns: DirtyDiggs, V-Don, Big Ghost LTD, Chup and Billy Loman come to mind. Giallo Point is another one for sure. Fellow Italians Sunday and J.O.D. come to mind as well.
RD: What inspires you to create? Do you sit down and dedicate a certain amount of time, or work as inspiration comes?
Cuns: Usually I go to my work station randomly, when inspiration hits. I believe my personal emotions in that moment inspire, just follow the wave of my mind and see where that takes me.
RD: Who are some artists you aspire to work with?
Cuns: There’s so many, so I’ll keep it short with 2 names. One is a dream and the other more of a hope. (hahaha) Ghostface Killah and Roc Marciano. I am working on a project with a legend, in my opinion one of the illest ever, but that a surprise at this time.
RD: What can we expect from Tuff Kong and you personally for the rest of 2018? Any future projects you can talk about?
Cuns: Working on a very cool project with the talented John Jiggs, the rest I have to keep secret. We want a TK release to be like a Christmas present, to be a bit of a surprise when announced.
We’ll be keeping tabs on Mr. Cuns as time goes on, as you should.
Salud Y Plata can be purchased here. https://www.tuffkongrecords.com/collections/frontpage/products/salud-y-plata-7
Tuff Kong bandcamp https://tuffkongrecords.bandcamp.com
Follow Cuns @cunsino (Twitter) cuns_music (IG)