Nominated for DMV Best VA Male Rap Artist in 2011, PHZ-Sicks is now making his mark on the scene with his recent release The Moment (available here). Here he tells us about the tedious two-year production process, family influence and Nelson Mandela.
Tell me a bit about your new album The Moment. Did the ideas for it come easily or was it quite an energy-consuming process?
The Moment was a two-year process. Just like any project, it starts off as one thing and turns into another. I started collecting beats and formulating the sound of the project before I started recording. The writing process follows soon after and sometimes I write to the beat but most of the times I don’t. Being a perfectionist in the studio, I start recording and then dissecting the songs – just trying to make it better and then turn better into great. It really is energy consuming on my part. It’s the reason I take a break from being in the studio once I finish and why I kind of hate being in the studio. The recording process is nowhere near fun in the beginning but once the magic starts happening and things fall in place it’s quite beautiful.
The title comes from a few things: The moment I take my music to the next level, the moment I can do my passion full time or the moment the world takes notice. This is a mix of conscious self-reflection, humour, lyricism, and pop culture – which in the end is who I am.
I can honestly say this is the first project that truly embodies who I am.
The album features Detroit rapper/singer Scolla, singer Alison Carney, DMV rapper Lyriciss and fellow Triple S crew member Seanny Greggs as well as production from Stompboxx Music, Best Kept Secret, Epik the Dawn, Kriss Liss and Kajmir Royale. How would you say has the collaborative nature of The Moment contributed to the overall sound of it?
It contributed a ton. Everybody who was a guest feature took each song to a new level. I would only give them a vague idea of what I wanted from them – because I want their creativity and for them to bring out the emotion of the track as well. It all came together and blended perfectly.
The production process really took off between my engineer Mr. Wise (part of production group Team Demo, who produced 50 Cent’s ‘Crimewave’) and I. We would take the production we had and bring out the emotion of the song. It could be as simple as taking out the drums or adding vocal backgrounds as part of the production. It’s this minute attention to detail that can bring the best out of a song.
You said that the beat of ‘Coming Down’ transported you back to the time when you were living with your grandmother and family in Mississippi. How important do you think your family was in you becoming a hip hop artist? Would you say it was nurture or nature at play there?
My family was important in building the foundation for me becoming an artist. Waking up on Sundays while my Grandma cleaned and Al Green blast through the speakers built my musical taste. Riding around in the car with my uncles listening to 2 Live Crew, Too $hort, Snoop and Dre, Big Daddy Kane, Onyx and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony added the hip hop element. As well as the constant watching of House Party and Purple Rain showed me how big music could be. Beyond that, I would say it’s nature. No-one else in my family ever went after a career in music. I’m the first one and it was my own immersion into hip hop that got me where I’m at today.
I love the way your name PHZ-Sicks has different connotations. I read that it came about by randomly putting your finger on the word physics in a science book and then altering the spelling to make it look more hip hop. Can you elaborate on the relationship of physics and hip hop?
Well, it’s hard to describe anything in this world without using physics. It was one of the reasons why I used it as a name. I want my name to be synonymous with the music, the same way the science of physics describes the world. As far as hip hop goes though, the waves created within the music are probably the only connection.
Would you say that hip hop culture is changing? How do you imagine it developing in the future? Could you ever imagine it being elitist and snobby?
Hip hop is already snobby and elitist because of those who consider certain music ‘real hip hop’ and the ones who don’t. That will always be there, but
hip hop culture is America’s culture.
The only true difference I can see coming is hip hop culture becoming more global than it is. With the shift to an EDM (electronic dance music) sound, such music is already aiming to be even bigger globally than it already is. There might be a time where artist in the US will be bigger globally than in the US.
The change I hope to see is that the sound of hip hop becomes more ambitious and huge. I’m talking about an orchestral type of big. It’s already slowly starting to happen with Kanye’s ‘Late Registration’ and ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ and with a few other artists following these epic sweeps of music.
What I would love to happen is for hip hop to start sliding away from the whole ‘keeping it real’ mantra to just making great music. It hinders a lot of artists because they feel they can’t make the music they want to because they feel it’s not good enough. That’s stupid to me if the music is actually great. Nobody looks at the violence in rock music and asks why they’re doing it. They take it for what it is and if it’s good music, they vibe to it. We have to get to that point. Once that happens and we stop the whole crab in the barrels mentality of trying to be king, we can all prosper in this field.
Do you have any favourite hip hop love songs?
You always have to start with LL Cool J’s ‘I Need Love’. Following that: Mase ‘What You Want’, Common ‘The Light’, The Roots ft. Jill Scott ‘You Got Me’, Lost Boyz ‘Renee’, A Tribe Called Quest ‘Bonita Applebum’, Method Man ft. Mary J Blige ‘All I Need/I’ll Be There For You’ and Reflection Eternal ‘Love Language’.
What were you doing when you heard about Nelson Mandela’s death?
I was on the train heading home from work. I opened my twitter app and saw the news that way, with the hundreds of 140 character eulogies to one of the most amazing human beings to grace this earth. I was born in 87 so by the time I was aware of Mandela in 1992, he was building the foundation of ending apartheid in South Africa.
The kind of love that was in Mandela’s heart is something we should all seek as people.
We all should aim to make a change while we’re here, no matter how big or small, make an impact in the life of those to come.
What can we expect from PHZ-Sicks in the future?
I’m going to continue pushing The Moment, doing shows, and releasing creative videos for the song over the following year.