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Philmac Interview

Interview of the P-Funk Prince

.You're born and raised in Birmingham, AL and it is said that you later moved to ATL. Is that correct ?

Very close but slightly different. I was actually born in Gadsden, Alabama on March, 21, 1976. I moved to Birmingham, Alabama at the age of 7. I moved to Atlanta at age 19 after I graduated high school. I moved to Atlanta for 4 reasons: 1) to try to get in the music industry 2) to exposed to better career opportunities in general 3) to attend The Art Institute of Atlanta so I could pursue a degree in Media Arts and Animation 4) to get away from the crime. A lot of my friends were in the gang and drug lifestyle and even through I wasn't deeply involved in those activities I was still a "marked" man because I knew some of these individuals. Knowing the wrong people in Birmingham could get you killed.

.Do you still live in the south ? 

No I actually live in Northern California now. Specifically Sacramento, CA. I moved here in 2011 from Atlanta, GA for a job in the technology industry. So I guess you could consider me a "West Coast" rapper now. LOL. Just kidding. Even though I live in California now I was always be a "Southerner".

.Can you tell us some words about growing up in Birmingham ? 

It was tough for several reasons. My parents were Jehovah's Witnesses so I grew up in a very strict religious household. My parents spent a lot time focused on religion vs. careers so we were very, very poor growing up. Because of that we lived in really rough, crime-ridden neighborhoods. I grew up in the neighborhood of Ensley. You can Google about the crime rates in Birmingham and in Ensley. Overall Birmingham has a lot of black people, a lot of poverty and a lot of crime. Its the type of place that if you want to visit you need to make sure that you have a gun on you at all times. That's my recommendation. I used have a motto about Birmingham: Kill or be killed. Ultimately I don't feel like I'm a killer so I left Birmingham.

.What about the music industry in AL at that time ?  

There wasn't much of a music industry in Alabama at that time that I'm aware of. There is a rock music history in Muscle Shoals, Alabama but from a hip-hop perspective I'm not aware of much. I know that on the national stage there were artists like Dirty and Rich Boy but their careers were shortlived.

.How did you get into rap music ? Tell us how was the recording and releasing of your first album "P-Funk"? 

I really got into rap music when I was 7 living in Gadsden, Alabama. Because I was Jehovah's Witness, I couldn't listen to secular music. My cousins would sneak me hip-hop mix cassette tapes and the first groups I heard was UTFO and Run DMC and memorized their rhymes. I rapped as a hobby. When I was 15 I had a poetry project and I asked the teacher if I could rap and when I did the class went wild. All of my classmates and even my teacher told me I should pursue a rap career and that was the start. I'll never forget that date: January 21, 1991. It was pivotal date in my career. From there I booked some studio time and because I was niave I thought that the music and beats were already available for you in the studio. The engineer told me that "No you need to come in with music or create it". I made my first song "Piece" that day using the studio keyboard. I took that demo to a record store to get their opinion. The guy at the store put the cassette in the studio deck and blasted my music across the store. People started coming to the counter asking about where they could buy the track and that was really when I started to go all in with making an album. When I turned 19 I bought a Korg 01/w keyboard and started learning how to make beats. I bought the keyboard because it didn't have sample capabilities. At the time there were several lawsuits related to samples so I decided to pursue keyboard based original music. When I made all of the beats I really wanted to make a compilation album featuring myself and other rappers from Birmingham. The goal was for each track to feature a different Birmingham rapper. At the time these rappers wouldn't even show up for their sessions for what ever reason and I decided to just make the whole album by myself. I made the beats, wrote the raps and then recorded the album when I moved to Atlanta at various studios. I love to read so I read books on music production, mixing, recording, mastering and releasing music and those books helped me complete the process. I'll never forget on some of my studio visits I knew more than the engineers because I had simply read so many books about the recording process. When I released the album from my point of view it flopped because I didn't have any money to promote it. I didn't even know I needed to promote it. It was when I rereleased the album on digital platforms like iTunes in 2008 that I started getting contacted by email by people all around the world seeking physical copies. The album was originally released in 1998 so to see that in 2008 there was still demand for the album really blew my mind.

.People describe you as the "one man band" on your 1st album because you did almost everything alone & played each live instrument. How did you do it ? 

All of the music on the album was created using a Korg 01/W. I played the keyboard and created all of the sounds you hear on the album. The same keyboard that The Neptunes production crew used for some of the early hits.

.Did you start by the beats or the topics and lyrics ?

I started with the beats. I made all of the beats first. Then I identified themes on what I wanted each song to be about. Next I would create the chorus for each song and then lastly I would write the lyrics. 

.When did you learn to play guitar, piano, drums...? 

My first instrument was actually violin in the 8th and 9th grade as I was classically trained to play that instrument and learned how to play orchestral pieces. In my advanced violin classes I had to write my own music notation. I took the learnings from that and self-taught myself how to play piano. I'm still learning how to play guitar and actually don't play drums through a drum set but through a keyboard.

.Do you have your own studio ?  

I own a pre-production studio, The Phunky Studio, which really consists only of my keyboards, guitar, and iPad with Auria Studio App. I go to fully equipped recording studios to record the music and especially vocals to have access to more pro equipment and professional recording and mixing engineers.

.Your sophomore album was due to be released around 2008 and to be called "The Prince". What happened with that project ? Was it released ? 

My 2nd album was supposed to be "The Mack" and was supposed to be released in 1999. I scrapped that project and started working on "The Prince" and it basically got shelved due to starting a family and raising a son. He is now 14 and more self-sufficient which has allowed me more time to focus on music. Lastly I'm 100% independent which unfortunately means I have creative and financial responsibilities for the projects. The great part is that I have full creative control. The bad part is that is very difficult to do everything 100% on my own. For my new projects I'm bringing in more engineers and musicians to help share the workload and seeking financing through Kickstarter to help fund the projects.

.If not, did you use some of the songs on your new project, which is due to be released in 2021 ? 

Yes I'm using all of the instrumentals from the "The Prince" album on the "War In Heaven" album. I actually hit writers block writing the songs for "The Prince" album which led me to revisit the overall direction. Some of the themes from "The Prince" album are still on "War In Heaven" but instead of making those themes a full album I've tried to distill them down to a single song. So there is a song on the "War In Heaven" album called the "The Prince".  The overall concept of "The Prince" is based on me being inspired by 2pac's Makaveli album. I loved that album and I went back and read "The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli after the album was released. I met 2pac in 1995 and was working with a producer that worked with him and I was trying to secure him as a guest on the "The Prince" song. Unfortunately 2pac passed in 1996 I couldn't make the collaboration happen.

.Can you tell us about this new album ? 

"War In Heaven" is focused on how we are all impacted by the Bible and specifically how the Book of Revelation describes a war in heaven between angels led by the Archangel Michael against those led by "the dragon", identified as the devil or Satan, who will be defeated and thrown down to the earth. You can think of the album as an extension of the song "Prophecy" from the 1st album.

.Do you still rap & play live instruments ? 

Yes I still rap and play live instruments. On the new album I actually sing and rap on the album. 

.How does it sounds ? 

To me the album sounds like a kaleidoscope of sounds. Musically the final outcome has rock, alternative rock, alternative hip-hop, electronic. There will be lots of bass album which ties back to my first album and specifically the song "P-Funk". Lyrically the album focuses on the "War In Heaven" theme from the perspective of my life, sex, relationships, travel, ambition, greed, lust, money, love, God, Satan, Jesus, Angels & Demons. Pro-production demos for the album are available here:  

.Tell us a few words about your musical influences ? 

From a producer standpoint: Dallas Austin, Dr. Dre, Organized Noize, The Neptunes, Quincy Jones, Glen Ballard, Bomb Squad, Babyface, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, RZA, DJ Premier, Timbaland. From an artist standpoint: 2pac, The Notorious BIG, Public Enemy, UTFO, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Souls of Mischief, Hieroglyphics, Wu-Tang Clan, Boyz II Men, ABC, TLC, DJ Magic Mike, Michael Jackson, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, Jimmy Hendrix, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Twenty One Pilots, Eminem, Nas, Redman, Queen, The Beatles, The Prodigy, No Doubt.

.Did you work with other rappers or rap producers ? 

I don't really work with any other rappers or producers. I really wanted to work with 2pac and the Notorious BIG. I met both of them but was not able to work with them before they passed away.

.What do you think about the evolution of southern rap music since the 90's ?

I feel mixed. My favorite southern hip-hop acts were Outkast and Goodie Mob and they both have basically retired at this point. I do like Migos though.

Thank you to Philmac to contact us and to share all these informations. Be on the lookout for his new album and for the repress of "P-Funk" album !

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