AUSTIN, Texas — His fans know him as Tone Royal, a popular hip-hop artist from Austin with a growing national following. Away from the stage, he’s Ray Villarreal, one of the arena announcers for the San Antonio Spurs basketball games.
Recently, his bosses at the Spurs reached out to him to create a song for a public service announcement in the form of a hip-hop music video that would be used to re-enforce the World Health Organization’s “Five Steps” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“It wasn’t easy to do, but I had it ready to record in a day,” Villarreal said. “It was the hardest song I ever had to write.”
The result is a soundtrack for a 60-second video that’s been shared across TikTok and other social media outlets frequented by kids and teens. According to the Spurs, the video seems to resonate with a young audience.
Among the health steps covered in the video and expressed in Ray’s rapid-fire delivery are the importance of hand washing, social distancing and no hand shaking, all delivered as Coyote, the Spurs’ mascot, dances and pantomimes to the words.
“It’s been real popular,” Villarreal said. “I hear from school teachers who want to use it as part of the online studies they’re sharing with kids these days. They like the message as a way to reach kids about taking responsibility to avoid spreading the virus.”
The assignment came at a good time for Ray. His long-sought dream of performing at South by Southwest this year was denied when the conference was canceled by the virus scare.
"Most musicians I know are having a tough time," he said. "But I just want to say to them to keep being creative and to do your best, and this will pass in time."
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