Sonny Long is like the little wizard behind the curtain, using smoke and mirrors and bodyguards to appear larger than life. He sometimes seems unaware of the transparency of his game — during the photo shoot for this story, Long insisted on throwing up his hand in an "L" sign. Most people equate that sign with "loser," but he insists it stands for "Long."
Long talks about all the "big plans" he has for his company, SL Vision, a company he says is not incorporated but is trademarked and funded entirely by him. But SL Vision is not registered with the Secretary of State or the Better Business Bureau, and, in fact, there are at least three other companies worldwide using the name "SL Vision" (a Web design company in France, a Sri Lankan church in Canada, and a social project by the Sierra Leone government called Sierra Leone Vision). Long talks about how he's going to start a fashion line, but there's no evidence of it beyond some pairs of sunglasses he carries around and says he designed.
He says he's going to record with renowned R&B artist CeCe Peniston, but she would confirm only that they've been talking about possibly collaborating in the future. He says that he recently met with representatives of Diddy's label, Bad Boy Records, in New York, but nobody at the label would answer repeated calls and e-mails to confirm his claim. He says that Miami hip-hop label Slip-N-Slide Records also has approached him about a record deal, but label A&R rep Otha Davis tells New Times that Long hasn't developed enough as an artist yet. He also says unsigned artists sometimes pay to get their music featured on parts of Slip-N-Slide's Web site — particularly "On Da Grind," where Long's latest single was featured.
Long says his parents were both national recording artists but initially refused to even give their names. He says he's the founder of an athletic scholarship for youth, named in honor of his late cousin Terrence Harraway, whom Long says was the victim of a still-unsolved 1994 murder. But Long can't name a single recipient of his scholarship, and there are no records of any actual beneficiaries.
Long didn't give the names of his bodyguards, and his publicist, Pepper Berry, hasn't represented any other artists. Where did Long find them? All Long will say is, "When you work with people, it's important that they share your vision."
He's never had any major press. In fact, he hasn't given a public performance in the Valley, or anyplace else, since supposedly opening for Houston rapper Mike Jones at Arizona Beach Club in March 2006. He's never released an album, despite his assertion that he could "release a CD every day if I wanted to."
Basically, Sonny Long has done nothing, yet he's a legend in his own mind. He says he's worked with Valley hip-hop breakout Willy Northpole (who's signed to Ludacris' Disturbing Tha Peace label and will release his new album on June 23), but Northpole calls bullshit.
Northpole says his father and Long's father were best friends, and the two artists grew up together in Phoenix. "I have no reason not to like Sonny Long. I consider him a friend and I've known him for years, but he just lies too much, and I can't respect that shit," Northpole says. "There's no way I would ever do a song with Sonny Long."
When told that New Times was planning a feature on Long, Northpole says, "A lot of these guys out here are full of shit. They're good guys, but I wouldn't waste your time with that. Sonny was saying years ago that he was signed to Bad Boy Records, and I know the guys at Bad Boy Records, and they don't even know who Sonny Long is. He has no affiliation with Bad Boy Records."
But what about Long's publicist and bodyguards? "It's all bullshit," Northpole says. "And on top of all the bullshit, the music sucks. So why bother?"
Sonny Long has pursued a story in New Times since at least May 2005, when he told a reporter his album would be out that September (obviously, it wasn't). Pepper Berry approached music editor Martin Cizmar two months ago, requesting a music feature on Long. His press kit contains a laundry list of parties Long's hosted since 2005, but lists only one performance — the 2006 opening gig for Mike Jones, which we couldn't confirm. Pressed for a promoter to contact to verify that Long actually played that gig, Berry later asked that we not mention the Jones show at all.