• Drake Silver

Tone Tone, a Detroit rapper, hopes to inspire with the opening of his Toney Island restaurant.

Tone Tone has been a beloved hip-hop figure and vital mixtape voice in the hearts of Detroiters for years. Now, the 36-year-old seasoned rapper is making his way into their stomachs: on Saturday (Mar. 27), he will open his Coney Island restaurant on the city's Eastside, just minutes from his childhood home.

Tone's own creations and savory soul food picks will be served at the 24-hour pick-up-only Toney Island, which pays homage to his music and culture by serving classic Detroit Coney classics including chili-cheese fries and Coney dogs alongside Tone's own creations and savory soul food picks. The artist and father of two hopes that his company will act as a motivator for local youth and big dreamers, citing Nipsey Hussle as an example.

Tone explains, "Everyone isn't going to be gifted to hoop or gifted to rap." “We want to make [entrepreneurship] a new wave in the neighborhood.”

Tone tells Billboard about the restaurant's inspirations while wearing an iced-out chain with a picture of his late grandmother in the middle. At Toney Island, Detroit's rich musical past will take center stage, from the Berry Gordy Chicken & Waffles to framed portraits of late city icons such as Aaliyah, Aretha Franklin, J Dilla, and Proof lining the window sill.

Tone is one of the local icons honored at the restaurant. The rapper has long been a fixture on Detroit radio stations, and he recently signed a contract with Empire Distribution, which counts Kendrick Lamar, Anderson.Paak, and Snoop Dogg among its clients. Tone's first big Empire album, the mixtape Baby Unk 2, features Detroit favorites including Icewear Vezzo and YN Jay, and is highlighted by "100 P's," a trap-heavy track with DaBaby that was recorded during a joint session in DaBaby's home state of North Carolina.

Tone says, "This restaurant elevated me from a Detroit legend to an icon." “Everyone is talking about it like it's a hit song.” Akon, producer Jazzy Pha, and former NBA great Chris Webber were among the congratulatory texts and phone calls.

Tone focused on his own journey when creating the menu. He states, "I remember going to get chili cheese fries for basically $2.25, that's it." “I wasn't even able to get the wings with it.” Tone was an 18-year-old aspiring rapper at the time, recording vocals in a friend's closet. All changed when his breakthrough single "I Ain't Playin Witcha" was released. Tone reports that crowds started to assemble outside his family's home on a daily basis, prompting him to evacuate.

Tone's modest roots continue to inspire his efforts, even though he no longer uses closet recording booths or eats two-dollar meals. In honor of Wendy's 4 for $4 sale, the nearby Manor projects, and his own early struggles, he coined the "4 for 4 Project Dinner" for the menu. The meal consists of two sliders, chips, and a soda, and it will satisfy the appetite of budget-conscious customers.

Tone is proud of his family's decision to open a Black-owned Coney Island on Detroit's eastside. “You're going to come in here and see all Black people; the supervisors, the staff, they're all my blood relatives,” he says. Tone hopes to provide opportunities for passionate local chefs through his thriving company.

The restaurant's logo is a photoshopped picture of Antonio Jr., the rapper-turned-one-year-old entrepreneur's son, wearing a Jesus piece, tattoos, and Cartier buffalo horn glasses, dubbed "Buffs" by Detroiters. Tone, who is preparing to franchise Toney Island and release several singles and videos, emphasizes the importance of legacy: According to him, 20% of his masters under Empire Distribution are in his son's name. “He'll remember he was a part of this fifty years from now,” Tone predicts.