Meet the emcee endorsed by Curren$y, DJ Toomp, Ski Beatz and others as he explains reworking Miles Davis classics, and being a Pete Rock fanatic.
Sometimes it feels like there are a million cloned rappers in Diamond Supply Company shirts and retro kicks peddling their street albums (read: glorified mixtapes) at any given moment. You’d be forgiven if you couldn’t pick any of them out of a lineup. Just don’t lump Nesby Phips in with the rest. Incidentally, you may also catch him rocking a shirt with the Diamond logo and a fresh pair of Bo Jackson's. Oh, and he also has a few mixtapes (Phipstape and B-Side) out too. But he's also down to talk at length about Andy Warhol and being an '80s baby who's a certified audiophile in an MP3 era.
If Phips doesn’t register yet as a household name, take note of the household names he’s endorsed by: DJ Toomp, Dame Dash, Ski Beatz, KLC and Curren$y, among others. In between reworking Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew with Ski, Nesby is working on a video channel with Creative Control, painting, and this music thing. All of which means in the not-too-distant future, his biggest problem may not be recognition but having enough time to complete all of the projects he’s working on. May we suggest grabbing a clone?
On To The Next Ones: “It’s not to say the cats before us were any less intelligent, but we have a more intellectual approach. Look at the wordplay and you’ll see it’s not about gangsterism with us. It’s about lyricism, persona and maintaining who you are, because we’re just some cold niggas. All of the rappers you know about—me, Curren$y, Lil Wayne, Mack Maine—we were all gifted students."
“We didn’t change anything; we just brought other stuff to the forefront. You have to remember that before Bounce, before Rap, and anything else, we were the birthplace of Jazz. New Orleans goes deep, and there’s a certain timing that all musicians have whether you’re a vocalist or an instrumentalist. We’ve got this swing, and it’s our own timing. That’s on top of having our own dialect, subculture and heritage. New Orleans is the most un-American American city. There are so many layers to the city, and we’re just another one being peeled back and revealed for the rest of the world.”
Large In Any Medium: “I’m a visual artist as well, and when I became an adult I really got into painting and wood-carving. I’m a very hands-on kind of dude, and I even do contractor work on houses. I’m a big sponge, so I try to draw inspiration from everything and always look for new approaches. With art, it’s all about preference, so I like to pay attention to even the smallest things. One thing can inspire another, no matter what medium it’s in—painting, beats, you name it.”
Connecting Japanese Beer And Bo Jacksons: “I heard Ski playing this beat when I walked past the room to get my bag and leave. Zoe Kravitz had this performance at the gallery, and I was about to go, because I was drunk from drinking Japanese beers all night. So I’m just freestyling on my way out the door, and after about two or three lines, Ski was like, ‘Man, fuck that. Write that down nigga!’"
“My buzz was coming on so fast that I was writing big as fuck. I could only fit two lines on a whole page. I would’ve been flipping pages forever trying to read that. We have this huge screen with a moving board in front of it, so I got my lovely assistant to help me. I made this board with a page tacked on to each section—eight pages with two bars apiece. And I got all 16 bars in front of me just spitting like that. It was the most fun verse I’ve ever written, and it came out how it came out.”
It's Gotta Be The Shoes: “I lost all my shit in a freak accident, and those Bo Jackson’s were the first pair of shoes I ended up copping. In conversation with someone, I was making a point, and to emphasize it, I said, ‘Word to these Bo Jacksons.’ It was like putting something on everything I own, and at that time, those were all I owned.
“It all came together. Bo Jackson played two sports just like me, because I’m an emcee and a producer. When I say, ‘Check mic one, two, three, four’ with the emphasis on three, four—34 was Bo Jackson’s number. Me, Big K.R.I.T. and Smoke DZA went to Santos one night, and K.R.I.T. had on the Deion Sanders’. Bo and Deion were the only two niggas to play two sports like that; in real life K.R.I.T. was a baseball nigga, and I was on football. We both rhyme and produce, playing these two sports, so I want to get us to do a Deion Sanders versus Bo Jackson tape.”
From Analog To Digital And Back Again: “I prefer to sample vinyl, so [my father’s] records are near and dear to me. I never knew, as a kid when I was scratching those motherfuckers up, that I would later make a career using those albums. [Before Hurricane Katrina] the collection was upstairs in my man’s crib, because I was in-between cribs. They were on the second floor and made it through the flood, but there was mad looting afterwards. Someone stole my [Ensoniq] ASR-10 and my Roland Fantom keyboard too. Everything happens for a reason, because that threw me into the Digital Age with all of these different programs.
“What I’m most proud of is that I converted DJ Toomp from [Propellerhead] Reason to [Apple] Logic. Whenever he gets a new program, he buys a whole new laptop just for that program. So he ended up getting a Logic laptop about a week after we met, and that’s my personal little badge of honor that I wear. My man DJ Maxmillion also showed me a lot about the history of Hip Hop culture, my showmanship and sampling. Once I was done with B-Side, I sent it to him, and he dropped it on a four-track tape. It put a fatness on it with a little hissing, and I ended up converting it back to digital about an hour before releasing it on the Internet.”
Three Kings: “'Toughpills' was originally a Sheek Louch beat by Pete Rock that I just had to have. Mecca & The Soul Brother by Pete Rock & CL Smooth was the first Rap tape I ever owned. Everything else prior to that was dubbed cassette copies. So I’m a big appreciator of Pete Rock. I don’t want to say a fan, because I really appreciate what the nigga does."
“Toomp and I instantly hit it off due to me showing his artist, Re some things about how to approach being an artist. There’s a big age difference between them, so I kind of bridged the gap. My first meeting with Toomp probably lasted about six hours, and very little of it was about music or business—we just kicked it. Toomp used to be a barber too, so we were sharing trade secrets. He was telling me how to roll my joints tighter, the best way to shave your head bald…that type of stuff.
“KLC [of No Limit/Medicine Men] was a natural relationship that came through Calico the Champ. That developed through us having a mutual respect for each other as artists, so look for our Fat Tuesday project to come out under Adderall Records. We’ve been in talks with Pharrell, among other people. Jive [Records] is a possibility too, because Mystikal is in the studio hearing our work all the time.”