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  • Sai

PHOENIX INTERVIEW



It’s Saturday in late May, and the eve of PhoeNix’s latest, an EP titled Walkthru. In the past year, he’s released an album Redbird, as well as the second in the Crybaby Soprano series. When he picks up the call, he’s sparking a blunt, the smoke tinged pink from the lights above his head. We start by talking touring with Jack Harlow and Babyface Ray alongside Mavi, but quickly move to discussing it all: his beginnings, story, thoughts and goals. When I ask about the music that shaped him, he laughs, grumbling out, “I guess I’ve been influenced” before generously listing out tapes that he grew up on. He’s been in this game for a while, beginning in Texas as K. Mitch. He had a few small projects out under that name before adapting the moniker he’s got now. The story behind this one?

“I overdosed, twice, actually died. My mama was there. Shit. And then, I felt like, oh, I need to let my old ways die. Phoenix, life and death, all embodiment. Closest thing to having a pseudonym that’s not a pseudonym.” He’s gracious, honest, and open, smiling as he reassures me not to worry; “Drugs can’t kill me, and these fuck n***** can’t either.” I believe him.

He’s at The Bridge this evening, a studio in Charlotte he describes as “a creation hub that also serves as a catalyst to get paid.” It’s an easygoing, lighthearted atmosphere, and while we talk, various folks pass through the doors. This space became his second home when he linked up with his manager Cody, who runs the spot. He tells me the story of that day:

“Mavi dropped me off here. I ain’t really have nowhere to rap yet, I wasn’t really rapping yet. And, we was really just kicking it, it was on Thanksgiving! And I was kinda lowkey fake sad, because n***** wasn’t out there with their families and shit. But, you know. So n***** was here. My n****, we went and got some soul food, and shit, n***** just let me rap. If not all day, close to all day. And, let that shit happen for a week, two, three, got turned into a month. And we just got so cool, and then he turned into my manager. And I can honestly say bro, it’s been the most beneficial shit in a bunch of different ways. Even outside of directly music, you know, we’re real good. I like the team I have. And it’s not a huge team! It’s really my manager Cody, my partner Jo. Shoutout Sean Stanley, who’s recently been added because when Jo’s not around, he’s like the n**** who shoot all my shit. But he stay in Atlanta, and I be out here in Charlotte. I met Sean through Cody. But that’s it, as far as intermediate team of curation of content. Outside of that, of course gang is gang. Shoutout Backkkseat, KS, etcetera. But it ain’t no million people that we got involved in this. You know, real home, ground-up foundation type shit. Really, I put a lot of that on the Bridge. Shoutout to the Bridge, man. This is a wonderful studio to be able to come to and create man. A lot of good things happened here.”

A lot of good things indeed. TheBridgeCLT’s channel is home to a number of session videos from some of the brightest talents around. Among two from PhoeNix, you can see the likes of Fetty P Franklin and 10Cellphones, as well as his friends/contemporaries Mavi, Ahmir, Messiah!, Marco Plus and more. He never hesitates to shine a light or heap praises on the people around him. When I ask for recent album recommendations, he immediately names the latter four’s latest, and then mentions Smiles’ D.E.M.M.O tape a few minutes later. The Houston native has found community in Charlotte with the members of Killswitch and Backkkseat, and when it comes to his people he’s all the way serious. Today happens to be his longtime friend and cameraman Jomir’s birthday, and everyone is showing love. There’s whoops of welcome and cheer when he’s let in. Jo filmed a number of his older videos, as well the Redbird documentary, but as PhoeNix explains, he wasn’t just a videographer. “Bro, that’s my twin. Me and Jo was homeless together bro.… hell yeah. Me and Jo got evicted out of one of his spots together, we had to sleep in the car for like a month. And was just jumping from hotel to hotel. And that was like, the whole time period of making Redbird.”

Redbird is the project that I fell in love with, and I expressed as much when I reached out to organize this interview. We agree it’s overlooked; he even confesses he started to doubt the quality, before we both laugh about that. It’s full of twists and turns, and serves as a great introduction to him as an artist. The Houston roots are made clear early through the chopping and vocal sludge in this collection, but there’s the breakneck euphoria and rush of songs like "Cellphones" and the heartbreak in "Fly High" that make it impossible to pin down. "Homerun" is a BeatsbySav canvas, so you know the drums are knocking. "Truestory", the intro, is devastating, and he breaks it down for me:

“To this day, [Redbird] has my favourite intro. I don’t think it’s my best intro no more, because this shit, you know what I’m saying? But, it’s my favourite intro. That Truestory song is about my best friend getting killed in college. And I had came from this girl house, and pulled up on him and I seen that shit. I pulled up, and the cops had the shit taped off at my brother’s house. Just the whole situation, I remember going to therapy for like three years, and I had stopped outta nowhere, because it got to the point where they tried to force me to write a grief letter about the situation, and I couldn’t. So that was like my own form of that.”

Grief might loom in the music, but it isn’t at the forefront. He’s truly versatile, able to ride a hazy blunted beat and skip right into the pocket of trap heater next. Switching cadences isn’t a problem, and free association makes way for vivid tales. "Sky" has a jaunty piano central to it that’s reminiscent of Kevin Abstact’s "Empty." His philosophy about song length and curation is fascinating, and best understood by listening to his projects. They’re short, yes, but as a whole, “very complete, in sonic and sound, and conveying the story. I feel like we’re really in and out… It’s gon’ really frustrate people, because it’s good music but it’s over really quick. And I like that. I want that kinda sensation with desire, where people are like I want more of this. And then, if people don’t feel that way, then I kinda did my job wrong. Back to the drawing board, you know.”

He’s devised a formula as well: “I try to always master having a really good three track run, having a good intro, and having a good outro. And if you follow that equation, successfully do it each time, 60% of your project gonna be good every time. Because, the first impression, the last impression, and that three song run.”

Even with a clear formula and a vision like his, luck never stops playing a part. Having fallen in love with the sonics, I had to ask who’d been producing these songs. He mentions himself, Wulf Morpheus, Malik Burns, Jaylace and inFull, before dropping a surprising anecdote. A YouTube producer, ProdByNev, contributed almost half of Redbird without even knowing. As he tells it,

“it was this n**** on YouTube, beats I was ripping. I ain’t even remember that I was ripping them, Produced by Nev. and I used like, 4-5 of them hoes for Redbird. And so, shit, I think.. Which music video was it? I forget which one exactly, but I was running Instagram ads… So one of the people that liked it was him, he swiped up and said like “Bro, you know I produced like 4 songs on Redbird?” Like, this one, this one, this one. I was like, no way, bro send me your YouTube page, send me the beat links. Sure enough, he sent me the page and I was like “Oh shit!!!”. Even more lit. It was so cool that he was cool about it; he could’ve definitely got my project pulled down. But he was like nah, you’re fire, I like your rapping, and sent me more beats! So shoutout Produced by Nev, I really gotta love it.“

No formula is going to be able to account for all the variables. I reached out to Nev, and he told me how a copyright strike led him to finding the album: “I remember making that beat [Greyfeel] and hoping someone would do what he did on it. I loved the song, the direction and I listened to the whole project and I heard "Feel Something," which is another song I produced on Redbird. I was going through a lot at the time and beats were the last thing on my mind, but it brought me motivation again. I reached out to him in maybe mid-December of last year, and I’ve been sending new beats every month hoping something comes of it. He’s got a refreshing sound that I would love to help build and be a part of as a producer.”

The urge to build is strong in his presence. On top of fostering the community around him, he preaches forever motion. He’s constantly making plays, on the move and working at his craft. In the weeks since our call and the EP releasing, he’s teased a few different songs, with new rapid-fire and staccato flows over a whole different range of beats. He’s not prominent on social media; in fact sometimes it seems like it’s ultimately a distraction to him. His Twitter disappeared early this year, and his Instagram went with it sometime this month. He doesn’t plan on stopping this pace; Walkthru is just one more step along the road. But he’s proud of this project, and it shows. After listening through the EP a few times in the week before we talk, I can’t help but be convinced of his ascent. Redbird hooked me with its honesty, and Crybaby Soprano 2 made me double down, maybe even off American Gangster alone. But Walkthru is where he steps into an entirely new level. He’s confident, composed, and in charge of the story. It’s undeniable.

During our chat he makes an offhand reference to a collab project with the relentless Marco Plus, to expand upon their song Walk Hard on CS2. If all goes as planned, it could be a breakthrough. But what does that even mean, when so much is happening at once in the scene? From all the fresh collabs and posse cuts, to the classic albums dropping, we’re watching in real time as this movement expands and the collectives grow. They’re doing their thing down South, representing hard for the region. I consider myself lucky to witness. As for the rest? Fuck em.

 

*** This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. ***


Sai: Damn, you were on that tour with Babyface Ray, right?


PhoeNix: Yeah!!


I’m not the biggest into Jack Harlow, but I loved how he put you guys on that.


P: *laughing* Ayy, look bro. Shoutout Jack Harlow bro. Jack.. Shoutout Jack Harlow bro.


Okay, if he’s got your stamp of approval that’s all I need to hear.


P: I’m definitely part of the Jack Harlow agenda man. He’s a really nice young man. Especially even beyond putting Mavi on tour, allowing Mavi to bring n***** like me and his friends, putting Babyface Ray and all of fuckin’ Daisy Lane on that bitch too. That’s turnt man. Shoutout Jack Harlow.


I’m tryna catch them in Toronto. They’re here next week, I love Los and Nutty man.

[this got cancelled, they didn’t let Face in]


P: Bro! On the tour, they was actually supposed to do a Toronto date. But Babyface Ray nor Mavi could make it. So I think Toronto, for the Jack tour, was just Jack and the homies. Like, who he grew up with, honest where he’s from. They didn’t get the full Toronto crème de la crème tour experience.


I gotta see Face next week then man. (nope)


P: Oh yeah, facts. Fun fact: I’m opening up for him in Charlotte!


That’s crazy. You’ve been holding it down in Charlotte, you and Mavi, Ahmir and them.


P: Shit, trying to. I’m really not even a native from out here, I’m really really, like really really a Houston n****. Even to this day, my home is still out there. I’ve just been grateful to come out here off the strength off my partner Mavi. ‘Cause, the way me and Mavi even met is wild, bro. For the first two years we knew each other, we didn’t even rap. Like when he posted my shit, when you seen Redbird, we hadn’t even rapped together.


Damn!

P: Nah, for the first two years we knew each other we didn’t even rap together, it was just like oh you rap really well, and you rap really well, and I like you. And I opened up in his first show in Houston. Pandemic happened; everybody’s life went to shit for like a year and a half, two. And I remember one day, just randomly, he was calling my phone like “Mitch, how you been?”. *laughing* I was like *confused* “Mavi??”. Like, it was just so random and odd. It was in the middle of the pandemic, the last thing I expected. But shit, we just got to talking, and I flew out to Atlanta, probably three weeks after that conversation. And we ended up playing another Houston show. Because like, after a year and a half had passed, it was like shit, time to be back outside. Jack Harlow tour happened. Hop off that, come to Charlotte. Crybaby Soprano 2. Then what we’re doing now.


Jeez! I love that tape.


P: Man! It’s - I love it too, it’s one of my favourites. It’s just, I shouldda mixed it better. *laughing* but I like it for music’s sake. Out of all my projects.. I don’t know, I like all my projects a lot. They like kids bro. I love all my projects. I don’t even got no favourites. But I can honestly say - ever since you and me had talked that first time, through DM.. I went back, and I’ve been listening to Redbird. Because I’ve been sleep on Redbird. The fact that you even knew something… like, everybody be like nah, Redbird really the sleeper of all of them. Because of how long it is, I guess it feels more complete. It’s not like, a little in-and-out. It feels like a full on experience. So, I appreciate that.


Nah, I meant it.


P: And I think Redbird does a good job of showing, like, at least a sneak peak of what my range is.


Oh yeah, for sure. I was going to say, you definitely rep for the South hard. I can see that Houston influence just from the chopped-n-screwed stuff on Redbird, sounds incredible.


P: Born and raised, man! All I know. That’s the- man, Screwed Up tapes, Z-RO, Big Hart, Moe. Shit, even my father grew up in the scene. Slim Thug. Mike Jones, Paul, everything! All of it! It’s all I know. It’s really what I was raised on. 8Ball, MJG. Like, all that Southern soil man. I think for Crybaby Soprano 1, and Redbird, you got lil glimpses of it. You know, how I get into pockets that are kinda confusing, like “I don’t know where this n**** from.” But I think on this one, the shit that drop tonight at 12AM, it’s no debate. It’s like, “Oh, this n**** is from the South.” Southern, like, if you don’t understand what Houston or the South is, I think this do a real good job of conveying that.


I love that Southern talk man. I was going to say … I wanted to ask about Southern influences, how you linked up with Mavi. But yo, it’s honestly just really nice to sit and talk to you and hear all this.


P: Aw man. Well, just to give a brief bit about Southern influence. Honestly bro, I’d have to say, the biggest one out of allll of them: Wayne. Wayne. He ain’t like everybody else bro. You gotta understand, Wayne really ran a whole generation. Like, it was a point in time where Wayne would get on your song and it’s not your song no more. Bro, what Youngboy is to the kids now, Wayne was to us. I say, Wayne, 3 Stacks, and then.. Houston is so big, I can’t even name one collective, it would be so many like - I said Screwed Up Clique, then you got UGK, and you got, shit, more modern shit like Travi$, Maxo. Fun fact, in high school, when I was a freshman in high school.. nah, middle school bro, 7, 6, 8th grade, we was all listening to - transferring outta that DatPiff mixtape era, going into like, beginning Soundcloud era. Maxo Kream. He had a tape in the city call Retro Card. And he was still in high school at the time. Deep in the swamp, which is like the southwest part of Houston. And shit. I ain’t going to lie, that kinda influenced a lot of everybody’s shit. You have to hear Maxo to kinda understand the ways, but it’s definitely there. And of course Sauce Walka. Duh. *laughing*


I gotta go back to that Maxo tape, thank you for putting me on, damn.


P: Nah, nah, Retro Card, definitely. He did a remix, a remix to "Rigamortis" by Kendrick and that shit was so tough. Like so so tough. To hear somebody Southern, with that kinda dialect and cadences similar to mine from an area I’m from get on shit. But to me, influences, I don’t know. Specifically Houston influences. All them mixtape CDs n***** used to play, we’d get em at the barbershop, slide in my uncle truck and listen to all the time, and then blended in between that would be some Wayne. And a lot of more shit too though. A lot of more shit too. Like, Jay was played heavily throughout - Jay and Pac was probably played a lot a lot a lot. And Young Jeezy. Cause my momma favourite rapper was Tupac and Young Jeezy. She got a thing for bald n*****. Them n***** was played a lot. So that’s why I think I got.. it’s certain ways I rap that n***** kinda, it be hard to identify exactly, region-wise where I’m from. Until I let that shit out. That’s why I lean into it so much. Cause I love being such a Southern man. The South is the best place to be bro.


Yeah! I know I’m from the North, but I love how hard you rep for the South.


P: Aw, bro! South man, that’s where all my shit be popping. Like, we the south, and etcetera etcetera. I don’t know, it’s a large stereotype in hip hop with the whole “Southern people are dumb, or slow, or we draw our words out like this”, and it’s so.. Nah bro, we really the coolest. We set all the trends. Like, Atlanta been running the rap game for the past 10 years. Bro, everybody and their mama started saying drip, when Sauce came through on his way. So I don’t know, I don’t be understanding too much of that. N***** let A$AP Rocky make a whole project off of literally our sound. We take a lot of ownership and claim to this Southern shit, because we where this shit started.


I love that, I love that. I noticed guitars play a role in your music, you might pick some beats that other folks might not. Is that a Houston, Texas thing?


P: Uh, not so much. My thing about guitars really be bro, sometimes when I’m rapping, especially when I get in that singing-rapping bag, I feel like drums’ll condition me to rap a certain way, so most times if you listen to shit like “Serious”, “Speed”, where it’s bare minimum drums and just guitar and synth looped, it’s cool little sounds in the background… I get to walking in that bitch. It’s no debate. I can dribble whatever way I want to, and so it be a little more fun. That’s what that shit be about. The only shit I say bleed into my influence from the city, it’s kinda more like, if you hear on Redbird, all of the songs that are slowed, double time, chopped, and then of course it’s naturally how I talk, but that’s gonna be like, in my music regardless. I don’t ever have to make it a point to show that. I have no choice but to talk like a certain person, because that’s, shit, all the language that I have access to! *laughing* That’s where I’m from, that’s where all my friends from, where I grew up, so. I just try to, if anything, add other pieces into this. Because I feel like the main foundation, I’m already a Southern man, so what other little shit can I figure out and add on to make it different? That nobody else has done here. I’m just trying to figure it out. I feel like each project is me getting closer and closer to figuring it out. We almost at album time! It’s almost album time.


So, Walkthru, is this an EP then?

P: Yup. 8 songs, it’s an EP. So, after the tour, once I touched down in Charlotte and got acclimated.. I can actually trace it back to the exact day! My mans just walked in, his name’s Cody. I was out here in the studio I’m in right now. It’s called the Bridge, in Charlotte. And Mavi dropped me off here. I ain’t really have nowhere to rap yet, I wasn’t really rapping yet. And, we was really just kicking it, it was on Thanksgiving! And I was kinda lowkey fake sad, because n***** wasn’t out there with their families and shit. But, you know. So n***** was here. My n****, we went and got some soul food, and shit, n***** just let me rap. If not all day, close to all day. And, let that shit happen for a week, two, three, got turned into a month. And we just got so cool, and then he turned into my manager. And I can honestly say bro, it’s been like, the most beneficial shit in a bunch of different ways. Even outside of directly music, you know, we’re real good. I like the team I have. And it’s not a huge team! It’s really my manager Cody, my partner Jo. Shoutout Sean Stanley, who’s recently been added because when Jo’s not around, he’s like the n**** who shoot all my shit. But he stay in Atlanta, and I be out here in Charlotte. I met Sean through Cody. But that’s it, as far as intermediate team of curation of content. Outside of that, of course gang is gang. Shoutout Backkkseat, KS, etcetera. But it ain’t no million people that we got involved in this. You know, real home, ground-up foundation type shit. Really, I put a lot of that on the Bridge. Shoutout to the Bridge, man. This is a wonderful studio to be able to come to and create man. A lot of good things happened here.


Yeah it looks really nice. I’ve seen a few videos of the sessions and stuff like that held there.


P: Oh, you tapped in! Turn up!


Nah, I had to!


P: Yeah! Fetty P Franklin’s shit was here, Mav had one here, Messiah! had one, Ahmir, Marco. 10cellphones has been here if you’re hip to him.


Woo! Marco Plus, that guy is nasty.


P: Yeah, Marco Plus. Hard!! Oh man. Bro I’m biased, because Marco is literally one of my favourite human beings, but Marco got one of my favourite ones. That shit was tough. And because, you had to be here while bro was recording. Bro was really on walk-down type shit, because you know Marco don’t write?

…No way. That’s crazy.

P: Oh no. Marco don’t write. That’s what me and Marco have in common.


That’s wild, I would have never guessed. Nah.


P: Nah, he’s probably going to walk through this door within the next 10-15 minutes. Today Jo’s birthday, and that n**** coming out here because we about to work on this collab project.


Damn bro! You’re really dropping all of this heat right now, I can’t believe you said collab project. This year is going to be crazy.


P: Oh, bro, I’m trying. You gotta keep in mind, I did Redbird. And we waited liked, what, 4-5 month stretch. Crybaby Soprano 2. And then shit.


Yup, you had last year in the bag.


P: That’s what I’m saying. So, now I just wanna go into overdrive bro, I really need to drop mad good music though. And none of it’s forced. I promise it’s so calculated, and put together. Like, this Walkthru shit, I really really feel like people gonna love it. It’s very complete, in sonic and sound, and conveying the story. I feel like we’re really in and out. None of the songs are.. I don’t think… yeah, no songs are longer than 3 minutes, and it’s only one 3 minute song. It’s gon’ really frustrate people, because it’s good music but it’s over really quick. And I like that. I want that kinda sensation with desire, where people are like I want more of this. And then, if people don’t feel that way, then I kinda did my job wrong. Back to the drawing board, you know. But I don’t think I did my job wrong.


Definitely not! That’s the thing, it’s got hella replay value, because it’s these moments of brilliance, super gorgeous production. And you have.. I meant to ask you this later, but you have great choices in production. You gotta tell me about some of the producers you work with too.


P: Aw man. Well, shoutout to myself, because I produce. Shoutout to Wulf Morpheus, he’s super hard. Let me not forget nobody. Shoutout my n**** Malik [Malik Burns], he did the intro and outro on this joint. I know so many more producers… Shout Turk Money, I haven’t got no beats from him yet but he’s super fire. I also wanna shoutout inFull, dumb fire Charlotte n****. Jaylace, dumb fire.. Oh my god, I smoked too much weed, now I can’t remember everyone’s name on the spot. Mad producers, and I’m very thankful for all of them. I don’t wanna leave anybody’s name out, and exclude them. I’m thankful for everybody. It’s a lot of people, over the little span I’ve been rapping bro, in these lil nooks and crannies of the world, know about my shit and just be like “Nah, let’s work”. OH! Main one. ProdbyNev. He’s so fye. And let me tell you why he’s so fye. Because he made probably 40% of Redbird, and we don’t even know each other. I didn’t even know he did it.


What? That’s insane.


P: So, it was this n**** on YouTube, beats I was ripping. I ain’t even remember that I was ripping them, Produced by Nev. and I used like, 4-5 of them hoes for Redbird. And so, shit, I think.. Which music video was it? I forget which one exactly, but I was running Instagram ads. And, this n****, you know, was one of then like, 13,000 views, 1000 likes, whatever whatever whatever. So one of the people that liked it was him, he swiped up and said like “Bro, you know I produced like 4 songs on Redbird?” Like, this one this one this one. I was like, no way, bro send me your YouTube page, send me the beat links. Sure enough, he sent me the page and I was like “Oh shit!!!”. Even more lit. It was so cool that he was cool about it; he could’ve definitely got my project pulled down. But he was like nah, you’re fire, I like your rapping, and sent me more beats! So shoutout Produced by Nev, I really gotta love it.


Nah, that’s a really crazy story, I gotta check him out for sure.


P: Nah, he’s super hard. A lot of them beats where you be hearing, it’s just them synths and like, maybe at most a little bass in the background, no heavy drum, snare kicking on that.. That be him! And I be walking them bitches down.


The outro track, Crybaby Soprano 2. That’s got a crazy beat, crazy instrumental at the end, you know what I’m talking about?


P: Oh, this how you know I do too much drugs. I gotta think about what the outro track on Crybaby Soprano 2 is.


Haha, it is-


P: OH! Serious!! Serious! No, no no no no no no no. Bro bro bro bro bro, listen. “Serious” is literally one of my favourite song ever, like, period. You gotta understand wy it is though. It’s not even about the quality of the song. When me and this n**** Mavi was on tour bro, every, like every long stretch of drive - because we didn’t have no sprinter, we was in the Denali going state to state. So, certain shows, we’d have to perform and jump right in the truck and drive for like 2 days. So that’d be the anthem, *starts singing* “Put a big body on road,” that’s where that whole thing came from, big body whip Denali, like, facts. That’s one of my favourite songs. But, yeah, I don’t know. Don’t put this in there, but I definitely ripped the Serious beat. That’s another Youtube. I don;t even know. But shoutout to them, cause that beat OD hard.


Haha shoutout to them for real. You’ve got a thing for outro tracks too, you got a good outro on this one as well.


P: I try to bro! Like, that’s how you stay good on your projects. I try to always master having a really good three track run, having a good intro, and having a good outro. And if you follow that equation, successfully do it each time, 60% of your project gonna be good every time. Because, the first impression, the last impression, and that three song run. Because, if your first three songs are good, chances are, people not gonna.. Nobody wants to keep going. I’ve never heard of a project that had three bad songs first and then the last eight was good. N**** know, that is not how that works. *laughing* but, hell yeah man. I try. I’m tryna get better at it. It be a little - I be hard on myself bro. For a minute, it’s crazy, you wouldn’t believe it. I started thinking Redbird was bad.


Oh man, you’re straight tripping. You gotta be kidding!


P: Have you seen the Redbird documentary?


..I did not know that existed. You just blew my mind.


P: Oh, bro! There’s a whole hour documentary on it. On YouTube. It shows like, the whole buildup making Redbird. Type in “PhoeNix, Redbird The Conversation”.

You fully put me on, I didn’t know this existed, thank you bro!


P: Oh nah, bro it’s okay. It’s really one of them gems in the cut, but the fact that you appreciate Redbird, you’ll see that and appreciate that a million times more. Jo shot that though, Jo definitely shot that one.


Shoutout to Jo again, that guy is real as fuck. It’s his birthday today right?


P: Bro, that’s my twin. Me and Jo was homeless together bro. No, not really my twin, but figuratively, without being born from the same mother. My twin.We was homeless together, hell yeah. Me and Jo got evicted out of one of his spots together, we had to sleep in the car for like a month. And was just jumping from hotel to hotel. And that was like, the whole time period of making Redbird.


Oh wow.


P: and then n***** just stumbled into some pretty good money that got consistent. And shit.


I was going to say, a lot of your music, I wouldn’t say it’s driving music but you talk about cars, being on road and moving around a lot. Like, the experience.


P: Nah, I do! Cause I be on road a lot. I uh, you know, I’m on the road a lot.


Yeah, I hear you. I listen in the car a lot too, I feel that.


P: So that’s where a lotta that comes from. Just a lot of traveling, and having to get it in anywhere, at random moments, anywhere. That’s what I feel like all of the team be good at. Bro, the Bridge, what the Bridge is, is literally like a creation hub that also serves as a catalyst to get paid. That’s it, like, for real.


That’s a great name for it then.

P: The Bridge? Oh yeah, facts. Shoutout to him for that. Yeah man. This is the guy man. Cody’s the man with the plan. *turns camera around*


Ayy, he’s the one I emailed right?


P: Yeahhh!!! He the one that told me - look, when he told me, he showed me the email, he was like bro, look at this! I was like no way. And he was like nah, I think it’s real.


*laughing* I know, Canadians sound fake!


P: Aw, I been a felon for the last three years. But my shit gets expunged this year. So I’m getting to touch road - I get my passport and shit, n***** definitely gotta come to Canada. I wasn’t able to come to the Canada show when they was about to go. That had me sad. So when it got canceled, I wasn’t happy, but I was like yeah, I ain’t gotta miss Canada. I was feeling super OD depressed when everybody was about to go to Canada and I wasn’t. *laughing*


Nah, you gotta come here. I’ll catch you.


P: Oh yeah, I gotta pop out. I heard you guys got the real island tings!! Pretty pretty island tings.


*laughing* You aren’t lying. There’s a big West Indian and Caribbean diaspora here, pretty dope culturally.


P: I’m fucking with Canada already. But nah bro, this shit super fire. Like, the fact that you knew about Redbird.. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. Because the time period it took to go through making that bro, it was a really really, like, murky part of life. And I like that project a lot! I feel like it fell upon deaf ears, but it’s one of the ones, as my shit go up, when you go back catalog, it’s like.. Cause Redbird, to this day, has my favourite intro. I don’t think it’s my best intro no more, because this shit, you know what I’m saying? But, it’s my favourite intro. That Truestory song is about my best friend getting killed in college. And I had came from this girl house, and pulled up on him and I seen that shit. I pulled up, and the cops had the shit taped off at my brother’s house. Just the whole situation, I remember going to therapy for like three years, and I had stopped outta nowhere, because it got to the point where they tried to force me to write a grief letter about the situation, and I couldn’t. So that was like my own form of that. So that’s probably like, my favourite intro.


Oh wow, I love that song, but that story makes it a lot more powerful. I think that’s what hooked me as well; you were talking about the importance of a good intro, outro and three song run. That record’s basically - however many songs are on there, it feels like a run all the way through. The flow of it is crazy, the storytelling is crazy. It touches on so many of the sounds you expand upon later.


P: So how’d you - you got put on through Mavi tweeting it or Instagramming it or something?


I think - yeah, it was Twitter. I don’t know if it was Redbird, or when you dropped American Gangster with him, but I know he was tweeting about you a bunch before that dropped.


P: Nah, yeah! Shoutout to Mavi. Mavi’s been putting me on his social media for two years now. And the world is finally listening. He’s like the best A&R ever. But not A&R, he a rapper. That’s really my guy, it’s really a family-knit thing over here. One thing I could really say, none of it was forced. Like, even from my relationship with Cody, my manager, it was like at first it was like aight, we just two n***** chilling in the studio on Thanksgiving. Aight, you rap cool so you can rap on my shit. To aight, I actually fuck with you. All of them too, same thing with Mav, same thing with.. A lotta love, a lotta love man.


What are you most proud of off this new stuff? “2step” hit me really hard, and I keep going back to all the features too, everyone brought their shit.


P: Ooh, most proud. Uh, I’d say.. What I’m proud of, I’d say is the completeness of it all. You know like, I feel like it’s no filler, I feel like I tell each point pretty bold. And, full course meal wise, it doesn’t feel like it was lacking this, this, this, and I get out of there. So I appreciate that. And my standout favourites bro, I been listening literally three times a day, every day since I finally got it sequenced inside of the lil Apple Music shit on the computer. And it changes by the day to day bro. I’d say this: I like “Floor Plan,” a lot a lot, because I feel like bro, that’s the best rapping I’ve ever done on an intro from like, beginning to end. Like, it just like, “Oh okay, this is why no one can fuck with me.”


Yeah, you gotta notice. Love your intros man, you don’t let them enter without noticing.


P: And I like the outro a lot. But that’s biased, because I be making intros and outros to be that! But, if I had to pick outside of intro and outro - what you would say Cody? I say “Off the Head.” Yeah. “Off the Head.” It’s always fun rapping with my friends. I would say Fuck Em. “2step” is hard too. I don’t know bro!!! My first favourite, Imma go ahead and cash in my vote on “Off the Head.”


Nice.


P: But if I had a sleeper pick? “Choreo” for sure. I feel like, I be fucking with “Choreo,” like damn.


Yeah! “Off the Head” is a good one. You and Mavi always sound so good together man.

P: Yeah, I like rapping with him! It’s funny we ain’t rap that much together. Like, me and that human being have like 3 songs, 3-4. Nah, 5 now. Eh. we got… we just started though. But this is like the first year me and him started rapping, so I guess that’s why it don’t feel like that much. But then this year… yeah we got a few. *laughing* we got a few. Yes, we got a few. I’m excited for this shit to come out man. I’m anxious. We finna be in a lil hotel, it’s finna be cool. We got a lil penthouse, it’s my patna - it’s Jo birthday!


Yeah, Jo! Shoutout to Jo!! Send my regards to him once he pulls through. You told me he shot a lot of your stuff right? *(Jomir)


P: Man. What!!! He shot River Turn. he shot Homerun. He shot Fuck Em. He shot.. You don’t even know about this song, “22.” That’s some mad old shit. I don’t even think it’s out no more.


When did you start? … Like, how far back should I be going?


P: Oh, nah that not out no more. You wouldn’t be able- but, I dropped my first three songs in high school, but deleted them. But they went viral when I was in juvenile. That shit was turnt. And when I went to college, I dropped like… I wanna say I dropped a tape but I pulled that down. But I dropped four songs that are still there. Because I can’t even find out the login. They got like, mad views. But they hard. Like, them are like the songs I want to still be out from me being a super young n****.


Did you always go by PhoeNix from back then?


P: No. I used to go by my name. Like, Keegan Mitchell. K Mitch. And so, I dropped Mixed Emotions and Babyboy, two projects under that. One got pulled down because I had a popular feature on there, and the label wasn’t fucking with that. So, that had to come down. And one got pulled down.. Because I wasn’t seeing the money from it. Because I had bad business with one of my first managers, it sorta frustrated me and I stopped rapping for like 2 years.


Damn.


P: I was off that shit. But, nah, you starting at a good point. Redbird is the only traceable start on the internet of my existence.


Okay, I thought I was tripping. *laughing* from my view, you came outta nowhere and I had no idea how. Like, Mavi just found you.


P: Nah, I like that! I like how it feels - I feel like the city’s best kept secret man! I be feeling like I came outta nowhere.


You really are. And, Charlotte in general, all them guys are way underrated nationally.


P: That’s the only thing bro! I need people to stop associating me to Charlotte so heavily. And I love Charlotte. At least stop associating in the extent of like - that I’m a Charlotte artist. ‘Cause that do so much discredit to like, my Houston upbringing and how far it’s pushed me. But yes, Charlotte is like - bro, my number one streams are in Charlotte. Bro, Charlotte.. I feel like backwards Drake. I love the city bro. I definitely love Charlotte. I can’t find no negative words to put to it. I only have love for Charlotte. But, I am a Houston Texas artist, a Houston Texas man. But shoutout to the 4! I love the 4. Like I really do. And it’s so much good shit out here man. And I couldn’t dare take credit for none of the good shit out here, you know. I just come out here and appreciate it and integrate with it. And let it nurture me.


This isn’t really a music question but I gotta ask. You’re in the South, I’ve always wanted to come out there and just try a bunch of different food. The culture seems incredible.

P: Yeah, come to Texas! Go to Houston, Texas. Go to Dallas, Texas. Charlotte food… Nah, Charlotte got some spots, I’m capping. *laughing* But it’s a growing city bro, that’s what it is. So they got a lot more on the way. And I think that’s why I love it so much. Because it’s growing real fast. They on baby Atlanta time. And I think if you get them in like 5 years, with the help of my boy Mavi, and the rest of Killswitch, and [Lord] Jah-Monte, and their just, cultural life - ‘cause it’s a lot of culture out here bro. They’re their own people, you know. And they have a very beautiful and rich culture as far as even in the South, they own food, what they do… it’s Queen City man! You just gotta come out here and experience it. I definitely got a nice love for it. It’s real hilly, as far as the terrain. They got pretty colour, uh, they leaves on they shit. In the seasons, you can actually see the change of seasons. In Houston, the biggest thing for us in fall, some shit might be all red, all yellow, but it don’t be like multicolour palette and shit. I came out here, and looked at this and was like, oh shit, shit really beautiful!! I love it. I love it, I can’t lie. Good people too.


I’ve got some music questions, about stuff you grew up on, mixtapes you ran the most in high school.


P: Um, mixtapes.. I don’t even wanna shout a lot of these lame ass n***** out.


*laughing* Okay, let me rephrase that.


P: Nah nah, it’s cool. I’m… I’ve been influenced (grumbles the word out jokingly). Wayne, the whole the Drought series, No Ceilings, and Sorry for the Wait. Chance, 10Day, and Acid Rap for sure.


Damn, real high school mixtapes for sure.


P: Isaiah Rashad, Welcome to the Game. Mick Jenkins, The Waters. Mac Miller, Faces. What’s the name of Kendrick’s shit, I can’t remember. Overly Dedicated. All of Drake, literally. Comeback Season. The other one, So Far Gone. Bro, mixtape runs are so big ‘cause I really lived through that era. Wiz Khalifa for sure bro. Taylor Alderdice. Kush and OJ. He has one of the more classic mixtape runs. Curren$y too, Meek Mill shit, Lil Snupe, the RNIC one, before he died, RIP him, rest his soul. Kevin Gates, “Satellites”. Bro, I was a real mixtape junkie bro. I was listening to everything. I may be Southern, but for real for real, everything.


I love that.


P: Like, you probably don’t even know who Short Dawg is.


You caught me, I’m lacking. Do I need to know?


P: Okay, he’s popular in Houston. And he was signed to Young Money later on. But the most notable verse you’ll probably remember him last for, is, do you remember the Ab-Soul tape? That had.. Not tape, second album, that had “Stigmata” and shit on it, had Dash and em? The song.. "Waverunners." "Waverunners" had a verse from Short Dawg on it. That was probably the last mainstream notable things from him. He definitely was - in middle school? Mixtape series? Yeah. Before he got signed to Young Money? Definitely was listening to Short Dawg. And like I said, Screwed Up Clique tapes, etcera etcera.


Who’s someone you listen to heavy that people might not expect? Something you don’t tell people often.

P: Yeät.


*laughing* You’re tapped in with the new stuff too huh.


P: Boy what?? I listen to everything!! As long as I like it. And as long as you not doing a whole bunch of cap.


Alright, alright. In that case, let me ask you, what are your three favourite projects released this year? Or this year and last year.


P: End of the Earth. The Souf Got Sum 2 Say. and PERFECT 7. Aw, that’s not fair, you gotta give me 4. And Timeless, by Ahmir.


That Messiah! project is crazy!


P: Bro, Cody. we was at Baby’s Alright, New York, when bro performed it all the way through for the first time. Ooh. Hard.


Down to the art and everything, yeah, definitely one of the best of the last year.


P: Bro!! The best thing is, we’re all friends. In real life.


That’s beautiful. I can tell. Well. I don’t want to say I can tell, I guess I could have been wrong, but I felt like I could tell when I was watching the videos, seeing you guys rap and have fun with each other.


P: Aw yeah, nah. You definitely, like - the chemistry is there. When can like , call each other and you understand each others’ art, it be like literal layups. Like, I could pull up, like aye I got this, and I already know one of them gon’ go on there. Or if we all collabing on some shit, it be like boom, here you go, and then here you go. It’s very efficient, I like to say. Oh!! Fun fact. My manager Cody bro, he’s an engineer. He engineers the Bridge and owns the Bridge. Like, this is his shit. Like, this is his place, all of that. Bridge is him.


Damn!! Nah, he’s doing work. I’ve seen the Bridge stuff, I’m a big fan.


P: I know!!! OH! OH! I can’t hang up on you, but Jo’s outside, I gotta get Jo and Marco Plus. I’mma keep you on the phone though.


Aight, say happy birthday!


P: Hell yeah, the Bridge!! *as he walks to the door* TWIN! This is him. I’m in the middle of an interview. This is Jo.


This begins a brief, surreal bit where PhoeNix’s phone gets handed around. He extends me over to Jomir, and we exchange pleasantries, me telling him I love his camera work and wishing happy birthday. Then, he gets the phone back and proceeds to introduce me to Marco Plus, telling him he’s in an interview. Before we resume talking, I’m convinced of the magic that is inherent to the Bridge.

P: It’s my first interview. See I got famous friends man. Marco Plus be stunting on me, you know what I’m saying. He got classic albums out and stuff. I just got here to Charlotte myself. N***** is here. *to Marco as they enter the studio* I know you wanna get high. Aw bro, I just got finished telling him my favourite projects of the year. End of the Earth, Souf Got Sum 2 Say. Timeless. Perfect 7. But he only gave me three, four, and I really wanted to keep going. My n**** Smiles dropped some crazy shit this year too. Are you hip to Smiles?

I’m not, but please keep putting me on.


P: You gotta get hip to everybody. That’s Backkkseat. There’s more people, another collective. Like, that’s Marco’s shit.


How’d you choose the name PhoeNix? What about it sticks out to you?


P: Really easy. I overdosed, twice, actually died. My mama was there. Shit. And then, I felt like, oh, I need to let my old ways die. Phoenix, life and death, all embodiment. Closest thing to having a pseudonym that’s not a pseudonym.


Wow, yeah, that’s very literal, I can see why that means something to you. I’m really glad you’re still here.

P: Aw nah, it’s good. Drugs can’t kill me, and these fuck n***** can’t either.


Why’d you call it Walkthru?


P: Oh shit. The literal definition of a walkthrough is just the demonstration of an area or a task. And I’m just demonstrating to these n***** how to be that n**** while existing. My whole life is a walkthrough.


*laughing* that’s dope


P: Deadass. Like, I’m not laughing. I’m so serious. I done a lot of shit that I don’t think these n***** could do.


Yeah, it’s not funny, just makes sense honestly. You don’t mince your words.


P: Yeah, I be tryna keep shit simple. Jo dropping phones and shit. But nah, that’s definitely it. That’s why I named that shit Walkthru. It really wasn’t nothin’ too complex. And I tried to play with the names, to keep it, you know, playing around like, anything that had to do with feet, and “Floorplan” taking up space within that regard. So, “Choreo,” “2step,” but then after a certain point I started running out of words. So I just started naming them shits.


Damn, I really didn’t even realize … with the names and feet and all that.


P: Nah, facts. And “Decorated,” just by chance started to work out.


That song is beautiful.


P: Appreciate it! That’s Ahmir on that joint. Marco Plus would’ve been on that tape too, but.. I tried to tell you.


I need to hear more PhoeNix-Marco Plus stuff, you guys are killing it together, just fire.


P: See, Marco Plus!

 

INTERVIEW BY SAI.

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF PHOENIX.

EDITS & DESIGN BY J.


https://music.apple.com/us/album/walkthru/1626224672

https://open.spotify.com/album/68zK8JqchF9hd5ZcmZUgil?si=F-T7HupjTR6bcIcKitrB5g















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