It is just after 2 a.m. We are standing on the sidewalk outside of The Darkroom, a Chicago music venue on Chicago Ave. west of Damen, where Phillip Morris has just performed his album release concert in celebration of his new LP “The Truth Campaign.”
Phillip Morris: There’s lots of crunktasticness all over this album. New 808 hits, and lots of French beats by this French producer named The Truth Tella. I’ve been getting more comfortable expressing my thoughts through words, and translating that onto paper or onto keystyle better. It’s definitely an evolution of words, and musically it’s kind of a stretch because it’s more beats that are quote unquote “poppy.” And such.
I got to work with Alicia “Ya Yah” Townsend, who I have known but we never really got to do music together. Lantern from Agents of Change, we got to do a song together finally. Scarlet Monk, I had never worked with her before. Awdazcate, I have worked with him before, and he’s on there. Number 2, I’ve worked with him before. Yeah, Scarlet Monk, Ya Yah, Lantern. New collaborations.
JMS: You go into a process like this, and you feel like, “Alright, I’ve got something envisioned.” And then you start to get into it, and it starts to change, it starts to grow as you work on it…
PM: I thought it would come out a lot easier. It actually took a bit more time than we expected. I had some turmoil, lifewise. Was thrust into unemployment, had some emotional turmoil with the death of my father and such. Setbacks, but in a sense, stuff that strengthened the lyrics as well. All in all, I’m really happy with how it came out. I’m looking forward to seeing how people receive it. If tonight is a reflection of how people will receive it, then it seems like it will go over somewhat well.
Yes, I did rock a song about masturbation. It’s completely and utterly about touching my junk. I like to make some explicit stuff from time to time, just to, I don’t know. It’s attention-grabbing. As long as I can do it well, and tastefully enough, then I think I can get away with it.
JMS: You do have a lot of raunchy stuff. But obviously you have a real political bent. Do you think that art can create real change? And then, going further than that, can your music do that?
PM: I think it definitely can. I think both art and my music can. As opposed to trying to get people up and out and ready to topple the entire system at once, I like to try to change people’s way of thinking, which is why I say a lot, “It’s just a new way of thinking.” I think that’s the most important step toward any revolution – getting people’s minds geared towards it, getting people’s minds in the proper place. Really opening people’s minds up to different ways of thought, and such. And I think that’s an important step in any revolution – being open-minded and trying to attack it from all angles. Just live your life better. I try to emphasize that with people. Just overall positivity and compassion.
I feel the need to speak upon these topics because we coast through life so often without addressing the obvious, the elephants lingering and stuff. They made a movie about that type of behavior once, a little-known film called The Matrix. Blue Pills give me a shitty buzz. I like the red ones. But yeah, there’s injustices going on all around us and a majority of the reason they continue to go on is because not enough people voice their opinions about them. Sometimes it takes the injustice hitting “closer to home” before people even get motivated enough to complain, and that’s just the beginning of the process. So commenting on human rights abuses and the presidency serving higher interests are a no-brainer… problems can’t begin to change until they are addressed. And they all affect us, whether we are aware of it or not. We gotta be better people, dammit.
JMS: Who are the artists, or works of arts, that have inspired you to change?
PM: I’d definitely say Agents of Change have been one of those groups, artists. Scarlet Monk challenges me as an artist, consistently. Working with her and listening to her music is always, constantly challenging me, propelling me to do more. Rebel Diaz, artists like Olmeca and such, are very strong political messages that just make me want to get up and do more when I hear shit like that. It just makes me want to be more active. Immortal Technique back in the day did that for me. Watching a good documentary can completely propel me on a train of thought that I wasn’t even ready to think about, but I feel like I need to think about. Chilling with my kids and having experiences with my kids, which can be tough at times, can be very challenging and propel me to write differently. Shit with the city. Getting too many tickets on my car, kinda, forced me to change where I park… If you’re gonna use the word “revolution,” be about it, because that word has strong meanings and strong connotations. It’s all about not sitting on your ass and doing whatever you can in any shape, form, or fashion to create whatever kind of revolution you can, and to create the change that we seek, you know? This album just factors in. There’s a wide variety of political subject matter, but there’s some real emotional subject matter that’s breaking down some real feelings that I’m sure other people feel as well, but feelings that I had to come to terms with myself, and were even hard for me to express –
JMS: You’re talking about personal stuff?
PM: Yeah, and I think that can be revolutionary. Just admitting shit that you don’t want to admit to yourself, that’s gonna help you accept it, help you cause change, and hopefully affect your actions with the person you’re with. So even things like love and emotional turmoil can be very revolutionary. I think it factors in a lot of different ways. All men should accept the fact that we masturbate. That’s what the masturbation song’s about. And that kind of stuff. That’s not really revolutionary, but it kind of is.