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Executive Diversions
Business Observer Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022 8 months ago

Hip-hop hooray: Attorney embraces rap music as a side gig

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Tony Halmon, a.k.a. Tuqui, lights up the stage as Tampa’s rapping lawyer.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Executive: Tony Halmon, an attorney at Steinger, Greene & Feiner in Tampa who specializes in personal injury and employment law. A Tampa native, Halmon recently returned to the city after some time in Miami. 

Diversion: Rap music. Halmon, 31, has gained notoriety as Tampa’s rapping lawyer. He writes and records his own songs with assistance from his brother, Mike, who helped him get started and referred him to a local DJ. Halmon performs under the stage name Tuqui — a childhood nickname. His music can be streamed on Spotify, and a video for his song “Oh Lawd” recently debuted on YouTube.

“There’s a time and a place for the ‘street’ message. The violence and gangs, though, I don’t necessarily think rappers have to go that route.' Tony Halmon, an attorney at Hamilton, Miller and Birthisel who writes and records rap music in his free time

Origin story: Halmon began writing his own rap songs, rather than just free-styling over beats, during the summer after he graduated from high school. While a student at the University of Central Florida, “I was in a fraternity, so I started performing,” he says. He also began recording mixtapes of his music, using a mic and recording equipment provided by his brother.

Paper chase: The rigors of law school, however, led Halmon to put his hobby on the backburner. “I kind of lost sight of it,” he says. “It wasn’t until I graduated and started practicing law that I started to use music as an outlet.”

Hold court: Rap music proficiency has helped Halmon become a better lawyer. As his mic skills have improved, he says, he’s gotten better at improvisational speaking in the courtroom.

“A lot of my songs start off as freestyles,” he says. “I'll play a beat, and I'll kind of mumble a melody or cadence. And then I just blurt out the first few words that come to mind and take it from there.”

He adds, “In terms of the legal profession, when I start an argument, I don't outline my whole argument verbatim. I have bullet points that I want to address to the court or the jury. Then the nature of storytelling kicks in, in both arenas. I might start by saying, ‘you know, everybody has to be responsible for their own actions.’ And then I just segue into my case.”

Positive vibes only: Unlike a lot of rap music, you won’t find lyrics glorifying violence in Halmon’s songs. That’s partly by design, but also because of his background. Acknowledging his upbringing “in the suburbs,” Halmon says, “the overall message I try to send in the music — to youth specifically — is, ‘you don't have to be a gangster to succeed in this world or to be cool. You can go to school and still be a cool guy.’” The video for “Oh Lawd,” for example, shows Halmon donning a custom-tailored suit as he gears up for work, set to a background of lyrics such as “charismatic gentleman making profits off intelligence.”

Keep it real: Halmon raps about what he knows, and so he doesn’t begrudge rappers who trade in, shall we say, grittier subject matter. “I don’t think I can reach the kid in New York with a single mom who’s never home and doesn’t have food on the table as well as a Jay-Z could,” he says. “There’s a time and a place for the ‘street’ message. The violence and gangs, though, I don’t necessarily think rappers have to go that route.”

Rapper's delight: At first, Halmon was concerned potential employers might look askance at his side hustle, so he started bringing it up proactively in job interviews. During the interview at his previous firm, Hamilton, Miller and Birthisel, a partner there, Jerry Hamilton, "wanted to hear my music on the spot,” Halmon says. “We concluded my interview with him listening to ‘Oh Lawd.’ And his comment was, ‘you wrote that?’ He was bopping his head to it; he embraced it. I’ve gotten really positive feedback. A Sumter County judge reached out and commended me.”

Under the influence: Halmon is a big fan of Kanye West’s early work, particularly The College Dropout, West’s 2004 debut album, which was notable in the way it departed lyrically from the popular gangsta rap themes of the 1990s and early 2000s. He also cites J. Cole and T.I. as major influences on his style. “I have a song in the works — it’s already recorded, but we haven’t shot a video — called ‘Make ‘Em Jump,’” Halmon says. “It’s kind of my ‘Kanye’ coming-out party. It’s got a really soulful beat with a positive message.”

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