Evan “Truthlive” Phillips is the co-founder and CEO of Interdependent Media, the indie hip hop label whose roster includes Tanya Morgan, Finale, J*Davey, and K’Naan. Interdependent not only puts out excellent indie hip hop, they do a great job marketing it, embracing new technology to create buzz for their artists and get them heard. For Tanya Morgan’s sophomore effort, “Brooklynati,” Interdependent created a website for the imaginary city. More importantly, they got people to actually buy the record.
Like so many other hip hop label heads, what Phillips really wants to do is rap. He came up with his name when he was in the hospital awaiting one of three open heart surgeries for Supraventricular Tachycardia- “Live Truth, Truth Live.” As you’d expect from someone who coined their rap name while awaiting surgery, Truthlive isn’t a ringtone rapper, and he doesn’t rap about getting drunk in the club or putting rims on his car. Like Chuck D, he’s got so much trouble on his mind, and uses his rhymes as an outlet, addressing the injustices of the world and the sorry state of hip hop.
Truthlive directs two songs at haters. “It’s Easy” points out how much easier it is to be cruel than kind:
“It’s easy to judge
It’s easy to hate
It’s easy to knock down
It’s easy to take
It’s easy to destroy
It’s easy to break
It’s easy to degrade
It’s easy to fake”
“Digital Courage” criticizes internet haters who use the web and the “bedroom critiques from the ComicCon gamers” He also spells out his mission statement: “It’s not about balling, it’s all about things that excite minds.” This is a recurring theme on the album: keeping hip hop real, and making music that speaks truth.
Truthlive speaks truth to power on “The Bush Years (We Don’t Need),” but his timing is off. The song was written during the Bush presidency, a president who critics thought was put into office illegally, whose administration saw blatant overreaching by government, spiraling deficits, erosion of civil rights, cronyism, and government policies like torture that many Americans thought directly conflicted with the values of this country. Now we have President Obama, and HIS detractors are saying he got into office illegally (since brown people voted for him, and brown people don’t usually vote), is blatantly overreaching the government, is causing spiraling deficits, eroding civil rights, and enacting policies (like trying to insure most Americans) that directly conflict with the values of this country. Truthlive’s criticisms of Bush end up a day late (a year and a half, really) and totally off point.
He hits more often than he misses, and the album is not all deadly serious. He gets romantic on”Poetry in Motion,” celebrates the good old days on “Remind Rewind,” and demonstrates his microphone skills on “Ready Set Go.” The latter song is one of the best tracks on the album, three minutes of Truthlive trading rhymes with Moe Green over a mellow soul beat.
Truthlive is a good lyricist, and his passion and sincerity are admirable, but his flow is lacking at times. He often sounds forced, and lacks the easy, natural finesse of a more skilled MC. This is particularly apparent when he goes head-to-head with better rappers, trading rhymes with Von Pea on “Remind Rewind,” Finale and Ras Kass on “Catalyst for Change,” and Donwill on “You Do You.” However, in the same way that a rapper with a good delivery can make up for spotty lyricism, Truthlive’s content compensates for his sometimes spotty delivery.
Jake One supplies all the beats on the album, coming off of his work with Freeway. Jake’s always had a talent for infusing old-school hip hop with a contemporary sheen, which is why he’s just as comfortable doing production work for mainstream artist like G-Unit as he is working with indie artists like Truthlive. The beats are consistently good, a nice combination of boom-bap and polish. They are also understated-none of them could be described as bangers. As a result, this album is more of a slow burn than something that jumps off your speakers.
“Patience” is a solid album, and not at all the vanity project that CEO records often are. Truthlive got behind the mic because he had something to say, not because he wanted the spotlight. Truthlive, with his label and his music, is filling an important gap in hip hop for rap music with passion, integrity, and lyrics that are as strong as the beats.