Music News

Sonny Long Is a Legend in His Own Mind

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One thing he has done is release three songs via the Internet, and on July 7, he says, he'll be releasing a new single.

A new single isn't quite "a CD every day," but, for Long, it's big news.


On a Sunday morning at the Kiwanis Park Recreation Center, Sonny Long is jogging around an indoor basketball court — wearing sunglasses, of course. He's promised to sing a couple of lines from his supposed new single, "Dance to the Music," while New Times videotapes it for the paper's Web site.

But when the camera starts rolling, Long suddenly changes his tune. He talks about how the new song is going to be like Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" in its themes of unity and struggle, but he says he won't sing lines from the single because he wants to "save that." So, instead, he sings a couple of lines that he says he came up with in the car on the way to the court.

He snaps his fingers to keep rhythm and begins to sing: "To my Arizona people who are struggling . . ."

Long's voice is strong and soulful, reminiscent of the smooth R&B stylings of artists like Anthony Hamilton or Luther Vandross, but he's still a bit rough as far as vocal control. Toward the end of his a cappella performance, he starts to reach for a high note, but it gets away from him and he has to recover with a couple of extra notes to bring the tenor down. It's a decent display of vocal talent, but nowhere near as clean as the studio music he's released.

And the music Long's released is sparse — those three songs on the Internet.

His last single, a Timberlake-style hip-hop/neo-soul hybrid called "So Sophisticated," was one of the featured songs at On Da Grind, a Web site created for up-and-coming artists by Miami hip-hop label Slip-N-Slide Records. Long's song was featured on the site after he sent a press kit to the label's A&R folks. Slip-N-Slide A&R rep Otha Davis confirmed that some artists pay certain fees to get their music featured at On Da Grind but wouldn't say whether Long paid for his exposure. Long says he didn't but could've paid for On Da Grind's "extra services" if he'd wanted to.

Some digging on the Web turns up a pair of older, more risqué rap songs on a music site called iSound.com, which allows artists to register and upload their music for free. Long's songs on the site are "I Like the Way," a paean to "poppin' Ecstasy" and "hittin' it from behind," and "Hustlaz Muzik," an ode to, well, hustling. The songs are more rap-oriented than the soul sound of "So Sophisticated," but Long says his "vision has changed" since recording those first two songs, and he doesn't plan to include them on his upcoming album, which has no release date. (His changing vision is also the reason he gives for not releasing an album in 2005, when he first told New Times he was going to.)

To his credit, Long's not without some important supporters. One of them is local producer Hejus Trife, a member of Valley hip-hop syndicate Man Up Squad, which also includes locally renowned rapper Cinque and Capital Records recording artist Jiggalo. Trife also recorded the song "Body Marked Up" with Valley artist Willy Northpole, now signed to Ludacris' label — on the strength of that one song, according to Ludacris.

Trife says he's worked with Long since 2005 and that they've recorded more than 50 songs at Trife's Muzik House Studios. "Sonny's style is what he says it is — gumbo. It's a little bit of everything," Trife says. "He's an extremely multi-talented artist that can sing and rap."

Long's claim that he plans to work with CeCe Peniston checks out with the R&B star, but they both say the collaboration's still in its formative stages. Peniston says she met Long "in the clubs" about five years ago.

"We've listened to each other's music," Peniston says. "We asked each other what kind of direction we want to go in — up-tempo, down-tempo — and what kind of subject matter we wanted to talk about."

Peniston says Long has a very good chance of making it in the music business. "I believe that whatever you put into the universe, whatever you believe to be true, I believe is always possible," Peniston says. "So I believe he has the ability to do whatever he puts his mind to, because that's how I am. I'm very driven and very determined. You have to believe in it yourself, and other people will believe in it, too."

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea
Mike R. Meyer