Tuff Like Iron. An empress known for her commitment to spreading a message of power, higher awareness and truth. An indisputable artist in every way, Tuff Like Iron's strength perseveres through her music. Underneath her outer demeanor of courage, lies a genuine passion to create music that not only answers questions, but also creates the ones that will free the mind. Her lyrics are a meditation for all truth seekers.
Tuff Like Iron's debut album, Ironic, was released this July. Distributed by Tuff Gong International, Ironic is a 17 track compilation of her top works featuring collaborations with The Gideon, Jahdan Blakkamoore, Dequeen and Alika. The album epitomizes Tuff Like Iron's vital mission to consciously represent the voice of the people.
KingstonToLA recently sat down with Tuff Like Iron to hear more about what it takes to produce relevant music and the creative process to get her material out to the world.
KNG2LA: How does all this happen? How does an artist go from making music to sharing it with the world?
TuffLikeIron: It's about motivation to get it done. You know I mean? Most times people have something they love that speaks to them you know. But the way the system is set up it's like there's so many responsibilities and things that have to be taken care of on a daily basis, whether it be you know people have their job and their families and things they have to maintain. So it's like, can you put that aside or make a way to balance it with your passion or what speaks to you. But I believe that most people have something that they love. Give it the time, give it, energy build it.
KNG2LA: What's your ultimate goal?
TLI: I have so many. My brain is like a corporation but not in a negative way. Just in terms of different things that I would love to spread into and be able to support, encourage and continue to motivate people. With a more hands-on basis rather than just with the message and with the music. I give thanks for the fashion and everything you know what I mean? I would love to be able to get my work on a level to which I can set up a studio where young artists can come through and be able to record. We could teach people engineering and little stuff that we could, to be able to empower the people. That's what my mission is about. Empowering people. So we're using art, you know, to empower.
In the spirit of uprising, watch the video for Tuff Like Iron's "Tune In" here:
KNG2LA: Do you recognize that you're seen, as an empowered woman?
TLI: I hope so. That's what I'm trying to do so I want to make people feel like they can get out there and do it. If I could do it you could do it.
KNG2LA: How did the name Tuff Like Iron come about?
TLI: It's actually a name I've had since I started my clothing line when I was 18, in Brooklyn. That was the name that came to me. I was trying to summarize through my experiences on certain things you know, growing up in New York it's not an easy place. It's definitely a grind. You're on the grind from you're small because New York is just a grind place. Going to Yard and ting from I was young. I always was inspired by reggae music from the tropics and natural vibes and the food and coconuts.
KNG2LA: Where do you feel the most love?
TLI: It's hard to say you know love a just love still so be it, with the love all bout. I would say maybe, Jamaica.
KNG2LA: Where have you been the most surprised that they were listening to you and loving your music?
TLI: Sometimes people link me for some dub or some jingles from different places like, I think I might have had some from Serbia. There's a sound everywhere just like you all have a sound system. I mean for instance there are people that know the music from like Sardinia Islands and places that I've never even heard of. I am lucky to get messages almost every day. I recently got one from Rodrigues Island. Big up Rodrigues Island. It's reaching people who know me all over, so I do give thanks to them. It's good to see there are a lot of people passionate about roots and culture because it's something we have to preserve and keep going, we have to push some life into it because people will try to change it into something they want it to be.
Watch the video for Tuff Like Iron's "Orange Peel" here:
KNG2LA: Do you think it's gotten easier for women in roots reggae?
TLI: I don't know if the women are just tougher or it's easier. But, there are definitely a lot of great female artists doing their thing right now. And you know I support that to the fullest. Big Up all of dem!
KING2LA: What are some of your favorite past influences?
TLI: As a youth I grew up listening to Bob Marley first, that was my first artist. One of the first things I can remember in life is being three years old and listening to "Stir it Up." So from then my parents are both into reggae music and also into rock music you know at that time the whole punk rock scene and the reggae scene was it. It was close and they were both friends with Bad Brains. Bad Brains was a punk rock band based in D.C. but, the members of the band are Rasta. It's one of the first original black punk rock bands and they're given, in my book, high rock star status. What made them special is that they also would stop in the middle of their set and switch and play a reggae song.
KNG2LA: Were your parents musicians?
TLI: Yeah my father, big up my big father, Julian. Julian Cambridge he plays the drums, steel pan, he also plays keyboards but he's mostly a drummer. He was like you could play the other instruments. He also records vocals, you know. So, it's definitely a thing in the DNA. For the record nuff artists inspired me as a young person. I would listen to Black Uhuru and Israel Vibration, these were the groups that my parents turned me on to.
KNG2LA: So what don't people know about you - what is something that people may be surprised to know about you?
TLI: Something people may be surprised to know? I don't know. I studied Tai Yoga massage. I studied that in Trinidad and did a course and I learned a lot actually.
The learning continues as Tuff Like Iron's music spreads conscious knowledge worldwide. Listen to more from her debut album Ironic, now available on all digital and streaming outlets.
Check out one of our favorites "Smoke Next To Me" here on KingstonToLA: