I try to tell people LOL, I made a living outta making fun of myself...

Synthesizing a singular eccentricity and nonstop grind, Sonny Bonoho is one of the scene's most stridently unique talents—well-known to anybody who's ever touched a mic in town, but perhaps unknown to a lot of fans. Something tells me that with his upcoming LP, Phone Phreak, and his bicoastal grizzly, all that's about to change. Striking a very different stance than his outrageous, Coogi-suited, cowboy-booted party-life debut, Life of a Backup Singer, Phreak makes his next move his best, taking a soulful approach familiar to those who know the deeply spiritual MC/producer/hustler.

"People gonna expect what I did last time—a lotta humor, comedic, up-tempo type songs—but I didn't wanna go that route," Sonny tells me. The inspirational, uplift-a-mofo party plan present on this album reminds me of the about-face D.Black took on the masterful Ali'Yah, which is only right, seeing as Black gave Sonny his name in the first place. "Years ago, I took an internship at Union Gospel Mission, becoming a youth leader. Two of the kids I worked with there were D.Black and Fatal Lucciauno, just some hard knuckleheads," he laughs. On a trip to the Wildhorse Canyon Camp in Central Oregon, Black, making sport of his mustachioed mentor, called him "a ghetto Sonny Bono," cooking up his future stage name. Jokes aside, Sonny bore witness to an early spiritual awakening in both of the young rappers who'd become the bedrock of Sportn' Life Records, calling it "some of the best times of my life."

But anyone familiar with the Masters of Deception, Legion of Doom, or 2600 might ask, why the name Phone Phreak? Many moons ago, as a teenager, Sonny was in a long-distance relationship with the girl he'd later marry who gave him a "code number" to call her long distance for free, which he used for years. Then just recently, while working on his new album, Sonny happened upon the story of John Draper (aka Captain Crunch), the OG phone phreak who first learned that he could control phone lines with just a whistle found in his namesake cereal box. Titling his album such, Sonny was contacted by phreaking legend Mark Bernay, who, while not a hiphop fan, was taken with Sonny's concept and provided some valuable insights.

"I wanna hack into people's lives through my music," says Sonny. "And I wanna hack into the opportunities only a select few get—the Bumbershoots, Block Parties, and so forth." Rest assured, with tunes like the gorgeous half-crooned hit "Judge Brown" and "I Know," featuring his Georgia homeboy Playboy Tre. So don't miss his album preparty at High Dive on October 10, featuring a set of new music from his manager YZ (the firebrand Trenton, New Jersey, rapper familiar to anybody watching MTV Raps in the early '90s), a rare set from Sir Mix-A-Lot protégé E-Dawg (his "Drop Top" being a certified 206 classic), and hosted by local impresario Gene Dexter. As Sonny himself would say, "What's that called?"