Otha Davis has been in charge of Slip-N-Slide records' online talent contest, On Da Grind, for four years. He says Long, who submitted "So Sophisticated" to On Da Grind, is one of the more popular ODG artists and that "there's definitely potential there," but he stops short of saying Long's ready for a record deal.
"Really, it's just a matter of, a lot of the times, just getting better-quality tracks and just working with producers on that aspect," Davis says. "I don't feel that 'So Sophisticated' is quite that track yet, but he's definitely headed in the right direction."
When talking about his music, Long likes to use culinary terms. He frequently expresses his disdain for "microwave artists," in contrast to his own slow-cooked approach. He wasn't born anywhere near the Bayou (he says he was born and raised in Phoenix), but that hasn't stopped him from referring to his sound as "gumbo music," with a potpourri of ingredients like in the popular Cajun dish.
"When you eat gumbo, you're gonna get shrimp, you're gonna get this, you're gonna get that," Long explains. "[My music is] not gonna be just rap. It's not just gonna be, 'Oh, he's R&B,' or, 'He's this.' It's gonna be more like, 'He's like the next Michael Jackson. He's like Sade. He's a Prince. He's a James Brown.' These are artists that are timeless artists because you can't classify them in any category . . . Music, in my opinion, should never be categorized anyway, because music is from the soul."
On a breezy Wednesday evening, Sonny Long is sitting at a poolside cantina on the roof of the W Hotel in Scottsdale. The sun is setting over the resort, and hipsters in hundred-dollar shirts are lining up at the bar and sipping cosmos near bonfires.
Long, dressed in a designer button-down shirt and jeans, colorful Ed Hardy shoes, and his requisite sunglasses, is nursing a fruity orange cocktail and talking again about his "brand."
When asked in a previous interview how he planned to get the market ready for his brand, Long had answered, "You don't build a house on fuckin' dirt. You get that cement and you lay that shit down. You go out there and you spend every dollar you've got to hire a publicist. You spend every dollar you've got to hire people to protect your life if you're worth millions. I'm not saying I'm worth millions, but nobody knows."
Long was initially loath to disclose his day job. He ultimately said he works in the insurance industry but refused to name the company or even give his title there. So surely he pays his publicist and bodyguard, right? And surely he wouldn't be offended by the question if he's already said spending "every dollar you've got" to hire publicists and bodyguards is necessary, right?
Wrong. When asked whether he pays his publicist and bodyguard, he says he does. When asked whether he pays them money, he's clearly offended.
"I'm not even gonna answer that question, because I don't know the reasoning behind the question," Long says, scoffing and shifting in his seat. "It's not important to me. It's not a big question, but the thing about it is, my people are taken care of. They're here because they're here. Whether they're paid with paper, or whether they're paid with knowledge, they're here because they're here."
"These are my friends," Long continues. "I can't have my friends around me?"
A lot of people have their friends around them, but their friends aren't assuming the roles of publicist and earbud-wearing bodyguard. If he were just going out to dinner and the press weren't around, would he bring his friends to an upscale place like Pure Sushi in Scottsdale?
"That depends if they're hungry," Long fires back.
It's the first short answer he's given to any question over four interviews.
Obviously, Long views himself as a visionary, a wearer of many hats: recording artist, promoter, entrepreneur, philosopher, educator, philanthropist. The lanky, 6-foot singer also considers himself a budding "NBA point guard" — even though he says the last time he played competitive basketball was at South Mountain High School at least 11 years ago.
"I'm gonna try out for the Suns," Long claims. "For real, that's one of my goals. There's been no talks yet. There's no talks. It's something that's been on my goal list. I was a basketball player. I love basketball to the point where, you know what, why not? I've got one life to live. I wanna do everything that's on my bucket list. I wanna be the best musician, I wanna be the best father, all these things. I'm gonna go for it.