Phillip Morris: Chicago was kind of slowly eating away at me
Photo courtesy of the artist
Chicago indie rapper Phillip Morris has definitely gained traction with Minneapolis fans over the last few years -- so much so that he recently decided to move here.
He first began to make a name locally through his connection to Sean Anonymous, and recently dropped a full-length collaboration, entitled The Sick and the Dead, with Sean's group Wide Eyes. Morris has quickly made himself a presence in Minneapolis, and Gimme Noise caught up with him to talk about his album release show on Friday and his other assorted gigs around town.
Gimme Noise: Tell me about working on the album with Wide Eyes.
I work really well when I don't have to think of a concept for a song. Collaborating I can just do that a lot more quickly. I overthink it when I write my own stuff. That's why I come out with an album every two years or so. Working on this album was really tight. I also got to know all the members of Wide Eyes a lot better by working on this album. I already knew Sean pretty well, but got to know Tony Phantom, DJ Name, and Dimitry Kilstorm a lot better through the process of it. It's some of the best stuff I've written in quite a while to be perfectly honest.
That's when [former host] Lizzo was on tour, and Lizzo was like, maybe you should move into my room, and I was like, cool, you live with Sean Anonymous and that's my best friend! Those things fell into place with no work on my part. I'm a firm believer in signs. I took the plunge, and here I am.
The first question I ask when I teach these workshops is "Who can tell me the four elements of hip-hop?" Usually not a single kid can tell me the four elements of hip-hop, so that's already a problem. So I like to educate them on the history of how it came over with Kool Herc, the sound systems and how that came over from Jamaica, the famous birthday party, two turntables and a microphone. But yeah, I love it. I've done workshops and performed for grammar school kids, high school kids, college kids, and it's always the most fulfilling part of being a musician for me, actually being able to influence the youth and the future. Being able to use hip-hop to draw them into something positive was awesome.
That's how I got started writing creatively. Started getting into music in general around 7th or 8th grade, and started listening to hip-hop in high school. I started writing raps kind of as a joke in high school. Once I got to college, I went to University of Illinois for a year, the first time I ever ate LSD, while coming off of that trip, I was just like, I wanna rap seriously. That's what I want to do. I was still a horrible, horrible rapper at this time, but that was the turning point. Instead of rapping as a joke, this is what I really think I can do and be good at. My parents always emphasized vocabulary and very much wanted me to be wordy. So I just started practicing and a few years later became good enough to start recording stuff I was comfortable with, and after that became good enough in my eyes to get in front of people on a microphone that I didn't know, who weren't my friends. It just took off from there. I used to produce quite a bit too, before I even started rapping.
I was making beats, and then just had accompaniment so I could rap over it. Still dabble in that, but not as much as I used to. I produced my entire first album and some of my second album, one track on my third album and maybe a couple on my fourth, but it's taken a backseat because I kind of drive myself crazy making beats, tweaking knobs and sliding faders a pinch. It'll wind up being 4 am, I'll start writing raps while I'm making a beat. A half-finished rap and a half-finished beat and just be really high and tired. That's taken a backseat, and I try to just focus on writing. I think that's made my writing stronger and enabled me to really find my voice.
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