Adé Hakim On His Role in the Modern Renaissance And Being On To Better Things

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Adé Hakim, (AKA Sixpress) is a Bronx creative, who has been creating his own sound alongside sLUms the NYC hip-hop collective for some time now. He was credited with the production on Earl Sweatshirt’s recently released single “Nowhere2go” and is at the forefront of a new generation of artists in NYC.  He stopped by the WKDU station on April 20th for a short on-air playlist of beats themed “Black History Month Lives On”, and a conversation to discuss what he’s been up to, the modern renaissance, and his latest project: On to Better Things, along with much more. After our interview,  Adé went on to play a prodigious set with fellow New York producer Sporting Life at Big Mama’s warehouse to an audience of fans he was quick to unify.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To start, how much did, and does being from the birthplace of hip-hop, the Bronx, play a role in your music, both in your initial involvement and your creative process? 

Whenever you say the Bronx, anywhere in the Bronx is considered deep. Anywhere. But I really feel like it’s just a way people hide their true feelings for the Bronx. People are afraid of the Bronx, people disrespect the Bronx, you know, but it’s the birthplace of hip hop like you said. We are the most overlooked borough out of all boroughs, beyond New York, one of the most overlook boroughs ever. But um, how it affected my music? shit, my mom listened to Slick Rick all the time. Like when I was younger, Children’s Story. I know he’s from the UK, but he came out and laid the foundation while living in the Bronx. He came out and did his thing in the Bronx just like a bunch of other Bronx artists. My dad would listen to KRS-ONE and he really respected his, his lyrics and how he painted a message and stuff. But hip-hop has to expand no matter what. It moved from the Bronx to Queens to Brooklyn to Staten Island, to New Jersey, to just worldwide, from all over to the West Coast, you know, Philly.

You’re completely self-taught, right?

Yeah. Yeah.

So obviously there’s a lot of work that goes into being self-taught, especially to get to where you’re at now. What can you credit that drive to?

Well, I started off rapping. And the drive for producing came from knowing at really early, like really early age, that it was corny to rap on YouTube beats. So, the drive was to make my own beats and then I fell in love with beat making from there and kind of neglected rapping because a lot of people abuse the mic, you know, you have to respect the mic. You have to respect what you say and you have to respect what you dictate into people’s ears. Beats are more free. You can let loose. You don’t need to have any lyrics, you could just let the mind create an image for his own. Rapping is more manipulative. I was talking to my homie Last Name David about that. Rapping is more like you’re forcing someone what to see, so if you don’t treat that influence with caution, then you can make a big left in terms of influence, you can abuse that influence on the mic. I just focused on beats more than anything.

Just to expand a little bit, what is the state of sLUms and its members right now? Is it still a cohesive team effort?

Yeah. Yeah. To keep it a buck, the industry is going to be the industry. But sLUms is a brotherhood. Everybody in sLUms is thriving. We had to thrive together for us to be good independently. You know? We needed each other to ride out this long, you know, and yeah in due time we’ll come together. We started off as a collective communicating that we’re a group, but we also our own people. We’re our own individuals, so, yeah, we’re good.

When you are writing/producing, what kind of environment do you prefer?

Um, home, ha-ha, home.

Do you like to have people around when you’re creating?

oh, uh, I can, I’ve been getting better at it recently. My newer music has been with company, around company. As of the last few weeks, all I’ve been making is collaborative music. When people ask me what I’ve been working on or who I’ve been working with, my response is always like: “nothing much, yeah on my own.” But, shit, I worked with Sporting Life the other day, been working with Lastnamedavis, you know, working with Mike, Darryl, you know, King Carter. I’ve just been working with other people a lot as of late. Just taking advantage of being able to collaborate because I don’t do that as much I feel.

This past September you released the project On to Better Things, how long did it take you to complete it?

Well in London, I was finishing up Untitled Part One and Untitled Part Two and On to Better Things started like uh, let’s see what’s the oldest beat on there? I guess it would be…”Golden Niggas”, “this gold inside. It’s more than that hold” I think I made that around February. Yeah, it started around February then I dropped the first part of the project in September and then dropped the deluxe version in November.

Did you have goals or conceptual bottom lines going into projects?

Sunny Path was completely conceptual and that was the longest project I’ve worked on. It took like a year and a half. That project was focusing on how it was a trend at the time for emcees to rap about how depressed they were and how that’s when people will feel it the most. On my debut project, I had a song where I’m telling myself I’m lost. I remember how much people were moved by it, how many people were like, “Yo, I felt that one, I needed to hear that.” I thought it was cool, but I wanted to move people with a positive message, but it was hard because I was still figuring myself out. I could have a negative mindset sometimes, especially through my music. There was a lot of self-doubt before actually being really confident with myself. So, on Sunny Path I was going to experiment on staying in this sunny path, not just the dark, don’t absorb the darkness or the so-called shadows. That was the basis of the concept for Sunny Path. Knowing that wherever you’re walking, there’s light above you and it’s not just shining above you, it’s shining on your path. So just continue to be yourself because it’s your path. No one else’s same path. That’s what it was. The concept of On to Better Things was me disassociating myself from a lot of bullshit.

Did that tie into leaving the name Sixpress behind?

Yea, on to better things by just disassociating myself from stuff that wasn’t true to me. You know, I liked doing certain things for validation. I found myself doing things for validation, doing things that wasn’t really true to me. Like hanging around environments when I was no longer needed, mooching off of other people, hanging out in other people’s cribs, you know, living the real artist’s life in terms of hopping from couch to couch. I dipped out of my mom’s house for a couple months and I was struggling. So, I made a vow to myself that it would be the last summer that I was struggling and relying on other people to put some food on my plate. I was literally on to better things cause I had to break a cycle that I didn’t want to continue, you know, cause I’m getting way too old to act like a baby.

How do you feel about how it was received?

Oh yeah, I’m slept on it.

Yeah, I agree.

However, I’m totally content because the supporters and fanbase that I have are really strong right now.

It’s really special to have like a fan base like you do. Especially nowadays people are so apt to being fair-weather fans.

Cancel culture is big right now. People just want to cancel black men left and right. So you got to just be appreciative for what you do have in the moment. The fan base is amazing. I’ve been dropping these videos and it’s like there’s fans on different platforms and they all come together. I recognize them “Oh that’s the dude from Twitter or that’s the dude from Instagram”. But sometimes there’s people that solely know me through YouTube, or solely through Twitter. Cause not everyone has every platform, but they still find their ways to support. Some only know me from Soundcloud and they’ve mentioned to me that it’s amazing how much access the consumers have to content nowadays. So like, even if I changed my name once more and never tell anybody, someone would find out. Someone would find it and spread the word. It’s amazing.

Do you have a favorite track from On To Better Things?

Yeah. I love “Dance with Me”. “Dance with Me” is one of my favorites. I’ve had that since like March. That’s one of the older songs too. I performed it before I dropped it, I was performing it for a minute. Then I added an extended version, one that’s slowed down. But yeah, it’s one of my favorites just because of the pace of it, the overall feeling and the message. I give Thebe and Sage a shout out, that was cool. But, um, the, the main message was just to live in harmony, you know? Especially for the time that I wrote it, there was a moon cycle of harmony and love and no contentious energy. I don’t really know, but it was inspired by staying harmonious, you know, and it always feels good performing it. I’m gonna perform it tonight, I love that song.

You’ve said previously, that there is a modern-day renaissance happening right now, can you speak on that?

Okay, so at the beginning of the DJ set we just did, I said that I’m a producer and an MC. I’m also a videographer, editor, I work on animation and I’ve also done clothing designs. I tried to tell all my people, all my loved ones, and just anyone I meet that’s into art, that you don’t have to limit yourself as one type of artists. The idea came from an omen, a good omen I met on the train.

Tell me about it.

It was around the time Donald Trump got elected. Like right around election day. In New York it was hectic and, on the trains, a lot of people just wanted to preach, you know, because a lot of people are asleep and sheep, on the train especially. People view everybody who makes an announcement on the train as crazy. But this guy was speaking to me. He said, “we’re living in a renaissance period.” I can’t take credit for it. He said, “In 1920 there was a renaissance and now it’s come back full circle.” It inspired me because he was asking people on the train “what are you going to do in these times? It’s beyond the presidential election it’s beyond who’s in office, beyond political parties. There’s a lot of sick shit happening, but like, what are we doing? How are we going to control our own actions?” For artists, you can express yourself through many different platforms. I tell everybody that. For example, MIKE had been rapping since I met him and then he began producing and now he’s producing for himself fully in terms of making his own projects and mixing them. He can no longer be categorized as just a rapper, you know, he’s anything he wants to be.

The concept of the renaissance man.

Yeah, exactly. a renaissance man. So, I met that dude on the train, the good omen, and I think I shared that with Mike, the idea of us living in the renaissance period. But it doesn’t just apply to us, it applies to many. It’s not my message to take ownership of, it’s a message to spread! Because we all have something creative to bring to the table.

You are credited on the production of Nowhere2go, Earl Sweatshirt’s first single on Some Rap Songs. what does that mean to you?

Uh, that credit means, uh, we flexing. That’s, that’s a flex, you know, I think Earl was flexing on that song, flexing his flow. You know, the track wasn’t as lyrical compared to the rest. It was more about appreciating the beat and how you could flow on it. Daryl and I had produced that beat. Yeah, it’s just a very flex-worthy track. Not because of the co-sign or the production credit, the vibe of the track is a flex-worthy beat and it has flex-worthy energy.

How did that track come about?

I had already made a track before with Thebe (Earl). We started hanging out in the Summer of 2017 way more than we ever do now. We was hanging out, trying to understand each other more and he really gravitated towards my production. We cut out a track called “Veins”, the original one you haven’t heard. We cut that track and then I felt like we sparked something, sLUms and the whole New York helped spark something out of Earl, sort of to motivate him to complete the project because he was on his grind mode after that. So, I made that “Nowhere2go” beat with Darryl at my house and as soon as I made it, I thought about Thebe and I sent it straight to him. He sent it right back to me. Like he flew out of NYC back to LA, and once he touched down he recorded it and then sent it to me. I was a just a flex cause he shouted out, Mike, Medhane, Glen, Sage and all that. It was just a very bromantic moment, you know?

What was it like being at the New York stop of Earl’s tour? The energy on-stage looked crazy.

Oh yeah. I asked him (Earl) after the show, I said to him: “Did New York bring the energy?” And he was like, “Bro, like of course what kind of question?” ha-ha, he was looking at me, like “that is a stupid question.” But I just wanted to emphasize the fact that hip-hop started in New York. So regardless, if you’re a true MC and you’re serious about your craft and you bring that craft to New York, especially with somebody like Earl, with the fan base that he has, the energy is going to be like no other. I’m not going to say it’s the best, I’m not going to rank it, but it’s going to be special. The energy was amazing. There was mad people I knew in the crowd but I didn’t know they were there at that moment. I feel like there was a lot of love radiating there because a lot of people who’ve supported me- I’m just a regular dude, you know? I don’t consider myself to be a celebrity and I don’t think I ever will. That’s not me. But a lot of people who supported me saw me up there and were really inspired. I got to inspire a lot of people that day because we’re breaking boundaries of what can happen and what can’t. It is really just a stage, you know, it’s just a platform. I produced that track and I was like, “if I hear that beat, I’m running on a stage. I don’t give a fuck, there’s no invitation, but I’m hopping on stage.” It’s a flex, he came to New York to perform that and people who support me in New York were there too.

One theme, that as a listener drew me to your music from the beginning, is the honesty you elicit. talk to me about how important transparency is to you when writing?

Yeah. That’s why I take a long time to make writtens because sometimes I’m just on rapper talk shit mode and I don’t gravitate towards that for myself because I know it’s not true. When I open up about some family issues, when I open up about current living situations, that’s when there’s more meaning. I leave something behind in that track, you know? There’s more meaning when I’m not putting up a front or putting up a guard while trying to write something that sounds cool or sounds hard. It’s more like I’m leaving a part of me on the track for people to resonate with. Because we all one in the same, you know, we’re not too far away from each other besides class levels and privilege levels and all that, we’re still all human. We still understand emotion, and for the people who listen to beats and the lyrics on top of it, I just try to leave as much realness as I can behind. Less of a front, you know, we all have a mask too because that’s a part of being human in this society. We all have a mask. I just try to show my face rather than hide. It makes me prouder of the work.

Any word on what fans can expect from you in 2019?

Um, no, no. I mean I’m working a lot. I’m not working on anything specific but I’m working a lot. Working with Sporting Life on a lot of beats – those beats can go anywhere and everywhere. Um, I’m working with my blood you know, shout out to him or her.

Any other shout outs?

Um, yeah, shout out to all of sLUms, Slauson Malone just put out a project and also shout out to Plaza Llama, and AndyFrenchToast.

Andy was the one who did the video for the Ginger Tea, No Dairy and Roadrunner, right?

Yeah. Yeah. We also did “Dance with Me”, “World Full of Lies”, “Good people” and “Cold Awakenings” together. We worked on a lot of videos. Ashley had helped me with two videos while we were out in Saint Lucia. It was “Wise Guy”, “Nectar” and “Golden Niggas”  Also, shout out Lafi, she shot “Tomb Raiders”. We were in the Metropolitan Museum in the ancient Egypt exhibit, we’re not supposed to record in the museum but we were.

Do you want to talk about the philosophy behind Tomb Raiders?

Oh yeah. Yeah. I’d love to. The main message of that song is the fact that we as black folks are always pressured. Black men especially are always pressured every time we go outside that somebody is trying to shoot us down, somebody is trying to knock us down our square, or that someone was trying to stress us out to death. We stress ourselves out because that’s somebody’s dream. However, we don’t belong in the grave is the main message. We don’t, that’s not where we belong. We don’t belong in the tomb, and it’s really important to know your worth while you’re here. In ancient Egypt or ancient Kemet, Egypt is a Greek name for Kemet, There were so many tombs of black ancestors that got raided and all their tombs, the paintings on the tombs, which are beautiful, if you’ve been to the met, really beautiful but still, it just got raided. These people passed away and now their stuff is on display, their statues, their tombs are all on display. So if you connect that with today, we’re always being trying to get knocked off our square, but we’re worth something. For example, let’s say an artist passed away who got scrutinized their whole career. Once they pass away, you can separate people from their art and then their album gets pushed up so people can profit off of somebody’s death. It’s the same concept. Tomb Raiders is a feeling of being violated, you know? And I kind of connected it with the what they did in the Met to comment on how people act like you’re not worth shit but then they want to be you. And the first line is kind of saying “why am I trying to play smooth for the game?” Because “I make my mistakes cause I’m a human in pain” It’s really thoughts from all over the place coming into one song.
How does it make you feel?

It’s hard to explain, but this is how I’ll do it: I’m a Jewish man, right? I was raised Jewish, not religious, but taught the importance of tradition and our history, yet I don’t know about my ancestors much at all because the Holocaust really wiped it all out, all of our people’s possessions, papers and things like that were destroyed. I understand that I’m still important, even if my ancestors weren’t treated that way. It’s obviously difficult as a white man to understand exactly where you’re coming from because that’s a unique perspective to black men and women. But it goes back to the honesty, I appreciate that you’re being honest about yourself and also educating people.

It’s true. No, you’re right. I was kind of having trouble with trying to express that a lot of our history has been wiped out, you know. But the black history month lives on is an idea is to basically pay homage and give people a platform who didn’t get their due credit. As a producer, I didn’t and don’t get my credit a lot, you know, I know how it feels. I think I’ve played a huge part in sLUms success. Selma Burke carved out the image of FDR that was used on the dime, we all use dimes, you know what I mean? Just bringing light to the little things of how we get discredited for a lot of stuff, but man, life goes on.

 

It’s a message that is really important right now for the public and political sphere. Thank you man. I appreciate you coming in and taking the time to do this.

Yea, of course, Word. Thank you man.

 

Twitter: @kingsunnydey

Instagram: @sunnywalkoflife

Soundcloud & Apple music: Adé Hakim or Sixpress

Deluxe edition of On to Better Things: https://6press.bandcamp.com/album/on-to-better-things-deluxe-edition

 

 

 

          

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Artist Profile: Freddy Guwap

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I recently was introduced to Freddy Guwap, an upcoming local West Philadelphia rap artist who has received some big-name cosigns in the music industry. We got a chance to catch up and discuss where he’s coming from.

What’s up man – how are you, and what are you up to right now?

Wassup fam I’m doing good, maintaining my work.

How old are you, and what part of Philadelphia are you from?

I’m an 18yr old artist born in Brooklyn, raised in West Philly 61st and Jefferson.

What kind of role does your music play in your life right now?

Music plays a big role in my life, keeps me out of trouble and it’s always been a dream to inspire others with my craft.

What kind of music/rap did you listen to growing up?

Growing up I listened to artists such as Soulja Boy and Chief Keef. It’s many other artists I listened to, but I don’t have a specific genre, it’s whatever that gets my attention.

What made you want to be a rapper?

What made me want to rap truthfully was my childhood friend Joshua who passed away a few years ago. Every day at lunch from 2nd grade to the beginning of high school they put me on the spot to rap, as he made beats on the lunchroom tables. It helped me get better and it’s a big part of how I make my music and why I choose beats with a lot of hard bass. I also had a friend named Tamir who passed away during middle school that was already into making music in the studio. Honestly, he inspired me to go to the studio because if it wasn’t for him being the only 7th grader in the studio, I probably wouldn’t have taken action to go and record. But after he passed, I took music more seriously.

How would you describe your style?

My style is indescribable it’s just Wapstar shit, ain’t no telling what I’m gonna record.

Young M.A. recently cosigned you, how did that come about, and how does it feel having the support of one of the biggest female rap artists out there?

The Young M.A co-sign came through my team, my manager and most importantly my music and work ethic. It feels good to have an inspiration like the Queen showing love. I’ve had many people show me love in the industry such as Slim Jimmi from Rae Sremmurd, YBN Nahmir, PnB Rock and Loso Loaded, that’s why I know it was destined for me to make it in music. But M.A. was actually genuine, it’s a few more who are too but not everybody is going to like you for your music, it’s about if you have a fan base behind you. 

She was into your new track Da Skeechie, it’s been gaining some traction.

Da Skeechie is the hottest song out, video shot by ShuggC the hardest videographer, you’re gonna hear a lot more about him too.

What can we expect in terms of the future? What kind of goals do you have for 2019?

I don’t know what the future holds but expect success. My goal for 2k19 is just to have an even better work ethic than I do right now, the more I work the more I’m going to see progress.

Any shout-outs?

I wanna shout out my family, my supporters and everyone on my team.

Thanks Freddy, appreciate your time, looking forward to what you got coming.

I’m looking forward to what I have coming too, we don’t know what else is in store. Thanks for your time.

 

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/freddyguwap

Instagram: @freddyguwapp

 

Human Head’s Stephen Silvestri In The Mix

Head to the back counter at Human Head Records in Brooklyn, where the shop’s excellent electronic music section resides, and Stephen Silvestri will likely greet you, pile of records & seltzer in tow. On an E-ZPass tip, I checked out the store for the first time, saw they were carrying some of my favorite labels (shoutout Is / Was & Vanity Press), got to chatting with Stephen, and had him do this mix 🙂

What’s in this mix?

I collect a lot of house/techno records from the NYC area from the late 80s to the early 90s so there’s a good smattering of that. A couple of UK records, some Detroit. I opened the mix with a track from Don Carlos the famous Italian house music producer. But the era is most definitely around 1989-1996. Always all vinyl! I’m not sure why I chose to focus this mix on this era but I guess it’s what I’m feeling currently.

What’s something you’ve learned (that you didn’t expect to) from working at record shops?

A deeper appreciation for visual art and typography. I am inundated with visual imagery working with records and you start to get really good at being able to determine eras of design preference. Some record art is totally pop art, some conceptual, some campy, some commercial, some political, etc. The spectrum of artistic design reflects the breadth of music which is obviously wide. But sometimes the visual is better than the music, or vice versa, or sometimes it doesn’t seem to quite match with the music or the content of the record. I could go on about layers of human behavior that I have learned about but that’s a whole other topic.

Continue reading “Human Head’s Stephen Silvestri In The Mix”

Live from the Batting Cages, an Interview with Hot Flash Heat Wave

Photographed by Ryce Salazar, Instagram @rysaphoto

Hot Flash Heat Wave continued their very first tour as headliners at Everybody Hits! last Tuesday, March 5th. After being led to the upstairs “green room,” I got the chance to speak with them about touring, good food, garage rock, and their new EP, Mood Ring.

Before their own tour and growing popularity, Hot Flash Heat Wave started as many other bands do: in a garage. The band is made up of Adam Abildgaard, Ted Davis, Nick Duffy, and newest addition (who plays his guitar upside down), Jared Johnson. Adam, Ted and Nick all met in high school and played with the garage scene in the Davis California area, a town just west of Sacramento. Abildgaard explained “It’s all you’ve got when you’re 16. It was great,” and incredibly true and challenging fact.

The DIY scene, as the bandmates explained, allowed them to create their own platform for themselves and their friends in a time when they were too young to play real venues. Not fitting into the normal scene at their high school led to an interest in going to garage shows to meet other people who didn’t feel as though they fit in either. The scene was an odd, yet close-knit group of people who felt ironically close with other outcasts.

From bunkers on the beach of the Secret Show Society to various house venues, Hot Flash Heat Wave found their popularity was growing. They said they miss playing DIY shows, treasuring that part of their lives they had, calling it “magical.” The band said they felt as though in that time, people truly appreciated the music they were seeing because of the closeness of the audience and the band.

Because it was their first time ever headlining, Hot Flash Heat Wave said the experience of touring was very different… both stressful and cool. Earlier this year, they opened for The Frights and toured alongside the surf-punk band. They explained that there is much more inspiration to perform for people who are actually showing up to see your own band. This is different from being an opener or supporting band, they said, because they felt as though they were trying to “win over” the audience with the first impression of performing as an opener.

Touring on the East Coast seemed like a different country to the bandmates, who appreciated “all the bricks,” in Philadelphia. Through touring, Hot Flash Heat Wave has discovered that every area of America is cool in its own way and have found that there is an incredible amount of like-minded people. This was proven especially in Florida when the band was expecting a low-energy scene but were surprised to perform for kids that were going absolutely crazy for their music.

With exposure to so many different places comes exposure to endless restaurants and food stops. Some of their favorites included Voodoo Donuts, and an extremely hospitable, on-the-house korean joint in Austin TX. The Keyboardist and guitarist, Jarred Johnson, went on about this restaurant in specific, which is located next door to the well-known venue Barracuda’s. He said after the workers refused payment and tip, he felt as though someone had “Punched (him) in the heart.” As for Philadelphia, singer and guitarist/ singer, Ted Davis, was disappointed when he received a philly cheese steak that was missing the cheese…. He forgot to say “with,” I am assuming, a critical use of philly slang.

As of right now, Hot Flash Heat Wave is re-inventing their sound, which can be heard in their newest EP, Mood Ring, which is “lyrically more personal.” Their new music, as explained by Adam, is a more psychedelic take on their west-coast surf style. He went on to list a few other influences which included 80s synth, R&B, 70s, and soul. This is different from their last album, Soaked, which they explained as having a more 60s/ Beatles-esque sound.

If you have listened to their music, one would notice how unique each album is from the others, but the Hot Flash Heat Wave sound still exists. They explained how it is fun to reinvent their sound and how there shouldn’t be any rules when making new music. “It gets stale if we do it over and over again,” Adam said.

The band was also able to do an AudioTree session. They explained they were very nervous about the session, as they did not know the seriousness of the opportunity prior to accepting the offer. It was explained as extremely comprehensive but was still a really cool experience.

The music videos Hot Flash Heat Wave releases are endlessly artistic and visually stimulating. When asked about the process of such videos, drummer Nick Duffy explained that they partnered up with Boredom, a company that helped them make the trippy, cartoon video for Raindrop as well as the retro, chaotic Gutter Girl video. He went on to describe how Raindrop, specifically, was a large production that included over 30 artists and custom costumes. Ironically, one of their more successful videos, Glo Ride, was filmed all by the band on an old camera and the vision for this video was simply wanting to be “emo cowboys.” The singer and guitarist, Adam, was especially excited about the Glo Ride video because he was able to ride a horse for the first time, exclaiming “It’s about damn time. Get me on a Horse!”

With the success of their latest EP and tour, Duffy said to “keep your eyes peeled,” for a new record that will hopefully be on the way this year, following Mood Ring.

After the interview with the three extremely friendly, passionate bandmates, the show began with Field Trip and Early Eyes, two incredibly energetic and charismatic bands. The venue, Everybody Hits! Was lit up with christmas lights for a makeshift stage, as there was no actual stage, allowing the bands and audience to be right up close and personal with each other. Hot Flash Heat Wave particularly took advantage of this and took the mic into the crowd to dance with the kids who came to see them.

Photographed by Ryce Salazar, Instagram @rysaphoto

An intimate show came to an end when the band did two encores and they jokingly refused to do “the whole walking off and coming back on again thing.” Hot Flash Heat Wave proved their spot as headliners with an absolutely kick-ass show, following the interview which showed me the incredible process of getting out of the garage and headlining your own tour.

Artist Profile: Wes Phili

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I had the pleasure of chopping it up with local independent rapper Wes Phili on how he’s been, where he’s been, and what went into his debut album Black Flower.

First of all, how old are you, tell me about where you are from, and what kind of influence where you are from has had on your music.

26, from North Philly. Grew up seeing both sides of the fence. Divorced parents; Mother, a lawyer who would eventually move to a more quiet area just outside of Philly. Father, a working man living in one of North Philly`s several hoods. My music comes from my experiences growing up in both, along with having lived in NYC in my later teens & early 20s. Philly is an MC`s mecca…long history of battle rap and great lyricists just like its brother NYC. Reppin Philly is askin for that torch…and by default you can’t be weak on a mic if you wanna carry that…bein nice at ya craft is showin respect to those that paved the way for you.

What kind of hip-hop scene, if any, were you exposed to growing up?

“The Infamous” by Mobb Deep was the first album I ever owned. That was my introduction to rap as a kid…and I was hooked. From there, I then moved on to albums like “Illmatic”, “Enter the 36 Chambers”, “OB4CL”….and the rest was history.

You said recently you are in Japan for the time being, tell me a little bit about what you’re up to, and what the change has been like.

I came out here just for a change of scenery to help me reflect on my life and figure out what I really wanted to do with it. Felt like I was in a bubble back home, and I needed to get outta that and find a place of solitude away from everything familiar, where I could breathe and think clearly.  Still a working man, but my free time is almost entirely spent on perfecting my craft.  The goal being to live completely off my music soon.

In a sentence or less, how would you describe your style?

Eclectic… I`m a little a bit of everything and future releases will reflect that.

Who do you listen to music-wise? and who has inspired you? Hip hop related or not.

I listen to anything and everything. If it sounds good, I`ll listen to it; regardless of genre. Recently though, my playlist has been filled with a lot of Roc Marciano, Mick Jenkins, Mach Hommy, (Illmatic – I Am… era) Nas, Lupe Fiasco, and Black Thought. All of these MCs have elite pens, and you can learn something different from listening to each. No matter how much I improve, I`ll always be a student of the game.

You said it took about a year to complete Black Flower. When you first started did you intend for it to take that long?

Absolutely. I like to take my time when making music in general…and doubly so with Black Flower. Black Flower was me really challenging myself lyrically and content-wise. In my opinion, storytelling is what separates your average artist from your truly great ones…and instead of doing that with just one track, I wanted to challenge myself to do it throughout an entire album. One single story told throughout 10 tracks. A lot of effort went into this project, and I feel my penmanship grew with each track I wrote.

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What does your writing process look like? I.e., medium, ambiance, company etc.

Complete solitude. I lock myself in my room and tune out everything around me, focusing only on what`s directly in front of me.  There`s an interesting story from Nas`s early career about how he went “missing” for a day or so. He was found in a room that he rented just for writing, with papers filled with rhymes and verses scattered everywhere and all that. I`m not much different.

What goals, if any, did you have going into the creation of Black Flower, and do you think you achieved those goals?

No grand goals or schemes…I just wanted to test myself, tell a story, and create a listening experience as best as I could. If the end result attracted an audience & fanbase, cool. If it didn`t, also cool. This was more for me to experiment with my artistry and push my boundaries further. Do I feel I accomplished that? Absolutely.

How do you feel about how it’s been received thus far?

I`m pleased. I haven`t really been heavily promoting the album or anything I`ve done to keep it real… I`ll just finish something and if I like how it sounds I`ll put it out there, then will move directly onto the next thing. I`m assuming most are finding out about the album through word of mouth, and the feedback I`ve been getting back has been entirely positive. This just motivates me to continue taking my time to make sure everything I release continues to be of quality.

Tell me about your relationship with JLVSN, and how you two worked together to put together an album like this.

JLVSN is the god and is one of the most talented producers out there by far. He reached out to me letting me know he was feeling my sound, and proceeded to send me pure heat. Everything he sent me I connected with instantly, and knew immediately I was going to make an album with dude. Much more will be coming from us both soon.

What was the process behind choosing samples and some of the theme-central intros/outros?

I`m a film addict and I wanted to do something with that…so I decided to make a film through music. Once I had an idea in mind for the story I wanted to tell, knowing what to use for the skits came naturally.  As for the samples, I knew what vibes and feelings I wanted the listener to experience on each track, so it was just about choosing samples that could bring those to light.

Only two features on the album, but Heem Stogied and Estee Nack definitely stood their ground, tell me a little about your relationship with these two, and how these features came about.

I first heard Heem Stogied on one of Mach Hommy`s earlier joints and thought dude was ill. So, I went on to check out his King Stogied Dump Gawd tape and was like damn…. dude raw as hell. Whole style from the flow, energy (unmatched here), cadence, and lyrics…all the coldest shit man.

I got put onto Estee Nack from the knowledge god Nick Gauder (fadeawaybarber). Listened to a few tracks of his on SoundCloud and was like yo…his talent is ridiculous. The rhyme schemes, unorthodox flows…there’s layers to his shit man…and those adlibs…no words man shit crazy.

They both came through and were perfect fits for the album.

How did you link up with Camouflage Monk? He has an insanely elite group of collaborators and you seem to fit right in skill-wise.

Camouflage Monk is God…you know it, your friends know it, and anyone else that`s up to speed with the renaissance going on in hip hop right now knows it. No doubt he`ll be revered in the same respects as Knxwledge, Madlib, and the likes real soon. I reached out to him and had him check out a track I did with Nicholas Craven (another god) and he was feeling it so we connected. Expect more from him & I soon too.

Based off some of the really personal songs on this album like What A Man Wants it seems like despite having been through a lot of strife, you have evolved to a very pragmatic outlook on everything. Speak on that a little.

“What A Man Wants” is the most personal song I`ve ever written. A lot of that song drew from previous relationships I`ve experienced, and in particular, touched on some feelings that I never got a chance to share with my woman that I loved, who had passed away in the middle of me making the album. Took a lot to write that song and finish it. It had my own personal experiences mixed with the story I was telling on the album.

On songs like Heist! You do some really quality storytelling, which has become a less followed path as of more recent times, what inspires you to do so?

The challenge of doing it. Storytelling without sacrificing lyricism…and by that I`m referring to all the similes…metaphors…entendres etc. that are a trademark of hip hop. Making a story interesting but easy to follow while still maintaining a certain level of wordplay ain`t an easy feat…and learning how to do that was a difficult but enjoyable process

What is your favorite song on the album? 

High Tension is my personal favorite, then after that would probably be Pipe Dreams. High Tension, because as someone else put it, it`s got an abundance of “flavor”. Pipe Dreams because it takes me back to that old The Infamous & Hell On Earth era Mobb Deep sound.

Will you be returning to Philly anytime soon? What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get back?

Definitely… that’s home. Cliché but likely grab me a good Philly Cheese Steak…been a while…damn.

What can we expect in terms of future releases, collaborations etc.?

Big things…and I mean BIG things starting this year and going into next. Both in the underground scene and outside of it.  A massive release with THE ONE AND ONLY God sorcerer Evilldewer, and a few high-level collabs. Stay tuned.

Any shows?

Absolutely. Plan on making a few trips back to do some shows around the end of this year and throughout the next. Maybe even sooner if the bag is right.

Thank you for the interview and the music Wes Phili, looking forward to what you have in store.

Appreciate your time king. Peace to you, and salute.

 

 

Listen to Black Flower here: https://wesphili.bandcamp.com/releases.  

Instagram: @wesphili

Twitter: @wes_phili

A Conversation with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal

Image from Primary Talent International

Above the Fillmore lies a secret world with red velvet walls and giant sectional couches, dim lighting and high ceilings, surrounding a bar. This secret world is known as The Foundry, a small upstairs venue that is part of The Fillmore which presented a Secret Boy, AKA Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, on Wednesday of last week, February 27th, after the recent release of his album “Suffer On.

Wicca Phase hails from Scranton, PA, so this night in particular was chosen as his tour-opener and release show for his new album Suffer On which came out on February 25th. The 5 openers ranged from rap to hardcore and included Choice to Make, Guardian, Lil Zubin, Fantasy Camp, and Angel Du$t. Later on in the night, Wicca Phase, whose off-stage name is Adam McIlwee, walked on-stage eager for his first show on tour.

Commenting that he expected 150 less people to be at the show, the whole room was packed with fans of all the openers as well as Wicca. Although Wicca Phase is best known for his goth sound with long, droning, emotional lyrics, he was incredibly charismatic, often breaking out into smiles and laughs at the end of verses. His unique voice is unheard of in the traditional rap scene, with his drawn out and deep moaning lyricism, a genre of rap that is incredibly nichey that seems to only be successfully executed by groups such as Goth Boi Clique and Misery Club, which he is a part of.

One could say his alternative lyrics and approach stem from when he was in in the band Tigers Jaw, where he can be heard singing similar themes of heartbreak and uplifting music paired with the harsh realities of being young and unhinged. When asked about this, he replied saying he writes songs the same way he did when he was in Tigers Jaw, and being in the band helped him develop into a better writer.

In addition to his entire family and girlfriend supporting his home show, a familiar (and tattooed) face, Lil Tracy, made a cameo from the sidelines of the show. It was obvious that McIlwee had an incredible support group as his friends and family alike enjoyed the show just as much as the screaming kids in the audience.

After chants for an encore, Wicca Phase came back out and performed “Absolute in Doubt,” a song he collaborated on with the late GBC member and friend Lil Peep. An emotional end to an incredibly intimate show was the perfect way to kick off his North American Tour.

“It wasn’t somethin’ that I thought aboutBut, knew that you were absolute in doubt”

After the show, I waited… and waited… and waited until the floor cleared and Wicca appeared again to collect some of his belongings from the stage and greet the fans who hung around after the show. I got the chance to have a short interview with him with the last few minutes he had. I leaned over the barricades to ask a few questions…

)O(

Why did you choose to have your album release show in philly?

Adam: It’s the closest place to my hometown where people will actually come to a show, yeah.

Okay, so GBC seems to have started the whole emo-rap genre, do you feel like you have personally contributed to the creation of it?

Adam: Uhhhh, maybe inadvertently, I just wanted to do, like electronic music and this is what happened.

Can you elaborate a little bit on your name?

Adam: Uhh, not too much, it was given to me by an internet artist that I knew and I asked her for a name and that’s what she came back with, um I think it was kind of a troll, like, uh, that I was just going through a “Wicca Phase” and but it stuck.

So did being in Tiger’s Jaw, a more alternative band, help create your style that you have now or did you just want to do something different?

Adam: No, it probably did, I only… I only know how to write songs one way. And I wrote songs like that in Tiger’s Jaw and I write Wicca Phase songs the same way, but I got better at writing songs while I was in Tiger’s Jaw because I practiced.

)O(

After the brief interview and a few pictures, it was apparent that Wicca truly was happy to have dedicated fans who enjoy the different type of music he creates. Even more so, performing seemed to be something he will never take for granted, as I could tell he was trying to deliver the same emotions and feelings he had when creating his music to the crowd in front of him.

His set was filmed which you can check out here:

My Neighbor, the Pop Star

Photographed by Malcolm Lombardi

I first met jxsh on June 8th, 2018, online. Well, a lot of people first met jxsh online. The definition of met may change depending on who you ask, but in this day and age I would say it is appropriate to say we met before we could shake hands in real life.  I followed him on Instagram after seeing he was planning on going to Drexel University, the same as I was in the fall. I remember seeing an ad he posted for wanting videos of people across the internet “doing anything that isn’t talking.” So, I sent a clip of myself skating up a quarter pipe and he replied with “oH SICK” (if you have ever texted Josh you would find he is a fan of random capitalization.) A few weeks later, jxsh sent me the link to his new music video for “POMEROY,” an internet-inceptious montage of the people he has befriended through his DIY music.

I wondered if I would ever meet jxsh, from Cleveland OH, in real life or if he was even still planning on going to Drexel with his rising popularity. We didn’t talk for the rest of the summer, but I kept up with his music, blaring it as I drove down the Jersey rt. 22 highway. As September approached, perhaps the latest school to start was Drexel and I found myself moving my childhood bedroom into North Hall on Race street in West Philly. After getting situated, our RA called for a floor meeting. As the freshmen living on the East side of the fourth floor shuffled into the common room, I noticed a pair of yellow Golf Le Fleurs under cuffed dickies and a dark green Golf bee print collared shirt from my criss-crossed position on the floor. Then, I looked up to see jxsh’s signature grown out bleach blonde hair. This boy I followed over the summer, child of the internet, Loverboy, lived 2 doors down from me. What are the chances?

I ended up becoming good friends with all of his roommates who I would occasionally cook with, watch movies with and do stick-and-pokes with in our cinder block living room. That’s when I came to know him as “Josh,”  and now, after a bold but slight name change, you will all know him as “Josh Maison.” Although he is an incredibly friendly guy, I would usually find him in his room with headphones on, hunched over his computer. I didn’t need to ask what he was doing, just his stance showed the determination and avidity he was putting into making his own music. While I would be hanging out with his roommates in his living room, I would occasionally pop my head into his bedroom to just talk for a few minutes and I always found the same thing: his headphones on, laptop out, microphone positioned and working– always working on music. I decided to follow the process of his new single to figure out how a young DIY artist in 2018 does it.

Getting updates from Josh was always something different. He would either say “nah this is trash” and completely remake the project he was working on, or eagerly lead me to his desk and play me demo after demo. That is the respectable thing about Josh- he is humble. He needs to like his own music to release it, something that is so rare amongst the ever growing population of sell-outs in the music industry. However, after a few months of following his process, there was one night where we sat in his room and listened to demos he and his two best friends Dom and Riley, professionally known as Ghost Boy Sora and Riley the Musician, were making together. It was interesting that all of these unreleased skeletons of songs already had names. I questioned Josh as to why and he revealed to me that the title is the beginning of the song… before lyrics and production. The listener can feel this in the tracks, as the music these three make together engage the mind visually. Listening to the dynamic production style paired with Josh’s experimental lyrics and vocal sounds creates a song that transforms the room the listener is in into a complete sanctuary of experiential music. With most of his songs having four layers of vocals, the concentration and dedication to the making of a song is truly art created by three young visionaries.

Walk the Talk by RILEY THE MUSICIAN, Ghost Boy Sora, and Josh Maison

https://open.spotify.com/album/4wJEJ9UM8AQuBM0WHk4PRC

Josh’s latest song, U&I, paves a path going through the gates of heaven, as Josh requested this to be the plot of the production, saying “when we made U and I, I sent Riley some stuff me and Dom made and I said I wanted to make something heavenly electronic. My heaven, my happiness.”

The production plays with bright metallics, soft vocals and abrasive contrasts. U&I has a progressive sound about it, like something good is about to happen. It sounds like you’re going into heaven. His heaven and happiness is something that only seems to be attainable through the trio that is Josh, Riley and Dom.

I got to speak with Riley The Musician about his process as well. We face timed, closing the distance between Kansas City and Philadelphia, another reminder of how important modern technology is to DIY artists in this millennium. After creating “Walk the Talk” with Josh and Dom, Riley explained to me that he and Josh just clicked. They now make music together non stop, going through dozens of demos together Riley produces before creating a song. Along with this process, Riley was open about how if Josh believes the production of a song could be better, he tells him, something important in the trusting process between two creators. Riley ended the interview by telling me, “Josh just has good ideas,” something simple yet incredibly accurate.

Josh against the Philadelphia Skyline, photographed by Malcolm Lombardi

Spending my time with Josh Maison made me feel as though I was viewing something bigger than everything around me; like something inevitably large is going to happen and the thrill is not knowing when, but hopefully soon. Everyone around him believes he will blow up and are humbled by the possibility of their friend becoming a real, breathing pop star. Interviewing him in his small room showed me how anyone with a determination and a deep love for anything could make something beautiful.

All speculative fame aside, at the end of the day, I know Josh Maison as Josh from room 408, a kid who loves heaven, striped shirts and making good music. But throughout his rising popularity, he is still humble enough to sit down in a tiny dorm room with his friends, suck down boxed passion fruit juice and say, with a smile, “Guava is my shit, dude,” as the demo of a future hit plays softly in the background.