Phil Ade Discusses His Hiatus From Rap & His "R.O.S.E." Concept
Exclusive: Phil Ade chronicles the Washington DC Hip Hop scene and explains drawing inspiration from "Illmatic."
Phil Adé had something everybody in Hip Hop is looking for: momentum. After linking up with Raheem DeVaughn’s 368 Music Group and dropping three popular mixtapes in 2011, Adé had budding hype that was tough to ignore. Then he did something nobody in Hip Hop expected: he took a year off.
“I wanted to make a project that wasn’t just a collection of songs. I felt like that’s what I was doing,” he told HipHopDX. “I wanted to have something where everything meshed, as far as sound and the message.”
Nineteen months later, Adé releases R.O.S.E. (Result Of Society’s Evil), a spirited tape that boasts as many head-bobbing club cuts as introspective musings. With the help of DeVaughn, Sonny Norway and Bun B, R.O.S.E. stands as Adé’s most eclectic effort to date. A day after the mixtape was released, the rapper sat down to discuss his thoughts on the project.
Phil Adé Discusses His New Approach On “R.O.S.E.”
HipHopDX: Before we even get into R.O.S.E., tell me about everything that was going on leading up to your year off. That’s rare in Hip Hop. What was going through your mind when you decided to do that?
Phil Adé: You know, I started on R.O.S.E. not soon long after #PhilAdeFriday2 came out, and that was December 30, 2011. But I wanted to make a project that wasn’t just a collection of songs. I felt like that’s what I was doing. I wanted to have something where everything meshed, as far as sound and the message. I did a lot of recording for this project. Even now, there’s probably 60 or 70 songs remaining that I recorded for this project. When I started taking music seriously, there was never a time when I was just recording…making an arsenal of music. I was ahead of myself. But this past year, I’ve been just recording, and I have other things too. I’ve got the Royal Fam crew, and I’ve got artists that I work with. A group of friends of mine are also starting a clothing brand called Friends Of Ours. It’s a bunch of things that I’ve been involved in this past year.
DX: And how did that year influence R.O.S.E.? Is there anything in particular that you can pinpoint on the project?
Phil Adé: Definitely. This past year was good for me, because in the past, I felt that I was losing relationships with a lot of my family that were important to me. I was losing sight of that. I was going out a lot, drinking a lot, and I felt like I wasn’t in touch with who I really am as a person. Now I’ve got that back. I took some time to get that relationship back with my mother, my brother and my family. That all played a part in making the project, because that’s what the project is all about: how I started out, where I come from and how I ended up to be what I am. Throughout that year, it helped me see that. It made everything clear so that I could say what I had to say for this project.
DX: Given the fast pace of today’s social media age, what were the pros and cons of walking away from the game? What was the biggest challenge you faced in taking time off?
Phil Adé: There’s just a lot more music now. There’s a new artist every day. If you give people one thing, they’re already looking for more. So taking a break is—well, I wouldn’t say it kills you. But when you take a break, people lose their attention. The attention goes off quicker, because something else is always being put out.
DX: Then how do you get that attention back?
Phil Adé: With me, I put in the work from before, so there’s always that base of people who will support me. But at the same time, when I came back and started over, people were like, “Phil fell off.” I didn’t fall off. I didn’t lose the art or the skill of what I do. I just didn’t put anything out. But when people don’t see you, they don’t know that.
Phil Ade Discusses “Society’s Evil” And His Inspirations
DX: On the mixtape itself, you sample Barack Obama and 2 Chainz in consecutive songs. What do you think is “Society’s Evil” exactly? Who or what comes to mind?
Phil Adé: Society’s evil isn’t a specific person. It’s a combination of experiences and the people around you. That’s what I see it as. The message I’m trying to come with is that the bad things we see, and the bad choices we see being made, become the choices for us to make. After we see that and experience that, it’s our decision to be who we want to be. So it’s media, it’s our friends, it’s everybody. It’s anything negative in our lives that we see.
DX: Do you think that negativity is institutionalized, or should there be more personal accountability?
Phil Adé: Hmm…I would say it’s a combination. Each person is accountable for his or her own actions.
DX: No doubt. Right off R.O.S.E., on the first song, you say Nas told you “The World Is Yours.” Talk about your relationship with Nas and Nas’ influence.
Phil Adé: That song, “Nas Told Me,” I was talking about the influence that Hip Hop had on me. In the beginning, I’m like,“Hip Hop was my father figure / What was mama supposed to do?” That’s kind of the truth. For the past few years while I’ve been doing music, I haven’t had my father there. I feel like this was a vital time in my life, where I was making a transition from being a boy and becoming a man. So a lot of the people I looked up to became father figures, and I was trying to follow in their footsteps. When I started rapping, Nas was the artist that I listened to faithfully. When I was just learning the skill of rapping, flow, cadence and all that, I was listening to a lot of Illmatic, a lot of “Halftime” and “The World Is Yours.” That’s where the title of that song comes from.
DX: Did you ever meet Nas?
Phil Adé: I haven’t met Nas. I’ve been in the same room with him a couple times, but I’ve never met Nas.
DX: What would you say to him if you met him?
Phil Adé: I would just say thank you. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing at this level if it wasn’t for him.
Phil Adé Reflects On “The Dreamer” & Working With Bun B
DX: “The Dreamer” is one of the mixtape’s most introspective songs. What inspired those lyrics?
Phil Adé: “The Dreamer” is perfect because it follows “Nas Told Me.” That song’s about me having the inspiration to live the life I want to live. And “The Dreamer” is about how this is your dream, and now you have to step out there and do it. It wasn’t just a song about me, it’s about anyone who has a dream. Don’t make it seem like it’s so far-fetched, because you can do whatever you want to do. In the song I’m like, “Too much of y’all lack vision / Too much of y’all lack faith.” If you believe in something and you have a plan, go for it. When I left and decided to rap, my whole family was against it. Now I’m able to do it, go on tour and make money. I’m doing it now.
DX: Tell me about that line, “Hundred million, that’s to be expected / Since Barack got reelected.” What did you mean by that?
Phil Adé: That’s just me talking to myself. Like, “Damn, I can make a hundred million dollars. If Barack can not only be a black president but also get reelected, why can’t I make a hundred million dollars?” That’s what that line’s talking about. If he can do that, I can do what I want to do.
DX: I feel that. How about working with Bun B on “2 AM?” Did you guys get to chop it up at all?
Phil Adé: I was able to holler at Bun B when I was down in Houston with Rockie Fresh. That was mostly done through e-mail and mutual friends. I did meet him though, and I got to chop it up a bit. As a matter of fact, I met him for the first time in DC. He was here for a Red Bull event, I got the chance to chop it up with him then and we eventually got to do [“2 AM”]. But I also met him in Houston.
DX: What’s that relationship like with Rockie?
Phil Adé: I’ve known Rockie since the beginning, when I was still recording in my friend’s room with a laptop and a little microphone inside of a sock. That’s when I met Rockie. I remember some people sent me a video of him—he had no music recorded—and he was just rapping in his dorm room or something. His camp said he had a record and wanted to do it with me. It was a freestyle over “Feelin It,” the Jay Z joint, off his first mixtape. We never got around to doing it, but we obviously hooked up later, and we’ve made music together since.
DX: Do you have a favorite song of his that you’re not on? What about a favorite Bun B song from the UGK days or the solo stuff?
Phil Adé: Rockie, I’d say my favorite record of his...damn, I don’t know, because Rockie has a lot of joints. I know one for sure I like is that joint “Come Around,” that was on Driving 88. And “You A Lie” is still probably my favorite Rockie joint. The one with Rick Ross, real talk, that’s probably my favorite.
DX: You featured rappers like him and Shawn Chrystopher, electronic acts like Metronomy, big names like Raheem DeVaughn and local dudes like Phil Da Phuture. How did you balance all those collaborations, keeping things local but also appealing on the national scale?
Phil Adé: It’s not something I really thought about. [It’s] just whatever sounded good at the time…whatever we were trying to do. I just make the music and make whatever sounds good to me and whatever fits the sound of the project.
Phil Adé Breaks Down His Place In The DMV Rap Scene
DX: Well speaking of local dudes, what’s your relationship like with Wale?
Phil Adé: We’re cool with his people and his whole BOA camp, like Le’Greg Harrison and Black Cobain, but we’re not really in contact. We did do the record a few years ago that was on The Letterman, the remix to “Hollywood.”
DX: What about DJ Kool, Fat Trel, Tabi Bonney? Who have you seen open doors for the DMV scene, and what’s next for it?
Phil Adé: It’s happening right now. Wale was the first. What’s crazy is that when I first got out on the scene here, it was pretty much just Wale, Tabi Bonney and me. And that was pretty much it when I first started…when Wale was on my first mixtape. And now we’ve got Fat Trel and Shy Glizzy’s buzzing heavy. Lightshow’s buzzing heavy too. These guys are getting national attention, looks in Complex and “MTV Jams.” Trel just signed a deal. But I don’t think it’s still at the level of Chicago or New York or anything like that, but it’s getting there.
DX: What makes the DMV so different from Chicago and New York then? And what does it need to get there?
Phil Adé: I think it’s just the diversity. Everyone out here has their own sound completely. All the artists out here can be distinguished very well. Trel brings that other side, and he was probably the first artist from the streets in DC. Wale isn’t really a street dude, he’s the first dude to really combine Go-Go and Hip Hop and make it sound good. Shy, with his voice, there’s nobody in the Rap game that sounds like Shy Glizzy. And with me, I do a combination of a bunch of stuff. I like a variety of different music, like I’ll rap on an Electronic beat or a Trap beat. I’ll rap on whatever. And of course, Tabi is a more eclectic artist. Just out here, it’s real diverse. Everybody’s in their own lane.
Phil Adé Reveals His Dream Collaborations & Favorite Tour Stops
DX: Are you rapping about anyone in particular with “Xscape” or “Simply Beautiful?”
Phil Adé: Uh...no. It’s not anybody in particular. But I’ve been in those situations, where there’s someone I’m interested in and she sees my lifestyle, or whatever it is, and I just have to tell her to hold up and take her time and see where things go. That’s really what “Xscape” is about. With “Simply Beautiful,” that’s just me being observant. That’s about a host of women I’ve come in contact with. Women that obsess over looking like whoever’s on the magazine covers, like Beyoncé or Rihanna or whoever it is. And they’re not being themselves.
DX: Who was your favorite producer to work with? I know you did a lot with Sonny Norway. Tell me what it was like to work with him.
Phil Adé: It was cool. We’ve been doing music forever now. What he makes is the most comfortable for me to rap on or even sing on. I probably enjoy making music with him the most. And those songs that I did with him, I’d say they’re the most—I wouldn’t say standout—but the most different and eclectic. “Nas Told Me” is Hip Hop, but there are African drums in there. “City Lights” has almost an Electronic feel with the Skream sample. Sonny always comes with something different, but it’s always tight. I have the most fun working with him.
DX: Any producer you’d want to work with in the future, aside from Sonny?
Phil Adé: Oh man. Definitely Pharrell, I’d have to say Pharrell. Real talk, I haven’t heard a bad song from Pharrell ever. I love the way he produces.
DX: How about an artist you want to work with that we wouldn’t exepct?
Phil Adé: Man, I mean it’s been done already before, but I’m really a fan of Coldplay. Kanye did it, and Jay did it, but I want to do it now. I’d love to work with them, and I’m a big R&B dude.
DX: You talk about what you have to do to make it big with “One Time.” When do you see yourself taking that next step?
Phil Adé: My problem was trying to separate my life from my business. I was having trouble with that in the beginning, I was either doing one thing or the other. And I think now I know what it takes to balance them both. I’ve got to stay on the course that I’m on right now and I’ll be good. On “One Time,” I was originally talking about artists that sell their image or sell their souls to get to that level. That’s not necessarily what I think it takes to get big, but I that’s the path that I’ve seen some people take.
DX: And tell me about this tour with The Kid Daytona. Are there any spots you’re hyped to hit?
Phil Adé: Yeah, I’m hyped to do The Studio [at Webster Hall] in New York. I love performing in New York City. That’s a test city; if New York is rocking with you, everybody rocks with you. And we’re planning on doing L.A. also. I love doing those cities…Atlanta, all those. Those are the cities that, if they rock with you there, the likelihood is that everybody rocks with you.
DX: For sure. Last question—what’s your favorite track on the mixtape, or what song do you think people will react most positively to?
Phil Adé: Me, I like all the songs on the tape. I’d say the most fun song on the tape right now is the outro. It goes hard, it’s something to sing along to. I’d say after that would be “Xscape,” because I’m just a fan of smooth shit.