We all have that wise-old family member who seems to speak in life-changing parables, that although complicated seem to make all the sense in the world. Well, drop the old age, wrinkles and t-shirt tucked into some washed out jeans; keep the soul, wisdom and knowledge; and add a pair of adidas Rod Laver’s, a Jansport backpack, and a fitted baseball cap; you might have the makings of Nesby Phips-a young musician wise beyond his age. The line “Phips the Homie, but I spit it like your cool uncle” seems to capture the essence of what it is like to listen to and speak to this New Orleans breed multi-talented Emcee/producer/writer. I was introduced to the Music of Nesby Phips about a years ago and I was immediately intrigued by the combination of his voice, lyrics and laid back beats. What I did not realize is that I heard Nesby on tracks with his “Jet Life” affiliate Curren$y (Prioritize) and “Taylor Gang” front man Wiz Khalifa (Supply) prior to the formal introduction to his sound. After listening to the “Phipstape: B-Side” (my personal favorite) a few times through I went through the archives and downloaded “The Phipstape,” the project preceding the B-Side. At that point I realized it was no accident, the man had talent to match his over-aged wisdom.
After some scheduling back and forth, Mixtape Factory caught up with Nesby Phips during this years “South By Southwest Film and Music Festival.” Here are the results. Enjoy!
First, for the folks put there who don’t know who you are yet, state your name and where you are from?
Aight, My Name Nesby Phips, N-E-S-B-Y P-H-I-P-S. I spell it because everyone mispronounces it. I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana: Uptown to be exact.
Where does that name come from? Is that your birth name?
No. My birth name is Courtney Nero. It came as an inconspicuous name. My brother had his alias first. Which is Henry McCullough and I wanted something similar to it. So, I was trying to pick the most inconspicuous name possible and it literally came out of nowhere. I can;t even say I picked it. I popped in my head and I ran with it.
Speaking of New Orleans, for years all we knew was the Cash-Money Records brand of music. As of late we have had artist such as Curren$y, Jay Electronic and yourself take a somewhat prophetic/philosophical approach to music. Is this a recent phenomenon pr has this always excited in New Orleans?
Yeah, It’s nothing new. Thats the thing with New Orleans, nothing new arises, you know, outside of what is new in society. But as far as the spectrum of artistry down there, its very vast. You gotta remember Tennessee Williams came down there just to write….A Street Car Name Desire. Lenny Kravitz lives down there, Mos Def lives down there, thats the people that commute and migrate to there…because they see the spectrum. It’s kind of a perfect growing environment , kind of like Denver for Weed; New Orleans for musicians.
How Long have you been doing music?
All my life. I’ve always taken to instruments, I grew up with a upright piano in the crib. My momma played the flute and Picallo, my father played the flute, Picallo, an upright Piano and a saxophone. I took all types of lessons including the violin, but I always resisted it because I couldn’t get with formal training. But once I found out there was sequences for drum machines or whatnot and I could create the entire idea in my head, I was like boom…I’m doing it like this…know what I’m saying? The instruments were always there. So, like a kid has a ball to throw up against the wall, I had a piano to do that with. I would always do that and I would try to teach myself how to read music but I was so-so with it and as far as I could remember I wrote.
Sometimes we see producer try their hand at rapping or see rappers try producing but at times we have artist such as yourself, J. Cole, and Big K.R.I.T. who do both well. How did you develop all three, which do you prefer more?
And I respect both of those artists. I feel like they are my brothers. I don’t have a preference. It’s like having two kids, you can’t love one more than the other. You handle both of them differently, but I love them both. I can’t really separate the two because in my creative process both are involved. Sometimes it stops at the beat for me and other times it goes the whole length…like I did Supply with Wiz Khalifa, I didn’t send him just the beat, I sent him the beat with a verse on it…It was a complete idea that I had for it. I prefer both. You can’t love one more than the other, you just tend to them differently, they go hand in hand.
Which one did you start first, were you a producer first?
I was definitely a rapper first, but even before rapping I wrote my first rap when I was ten, quote unquote, but I have done poetry growing up, I would write short stories. I have all sorts of writing styles. And I made my first beat when I was 17.
You spoke about being From New Orleans and your family and being around music all the time. Does your being from New Orleans influence your musical sounds? How does it?
Definitely! Actually, more than the sounds, it’s the timing, regardless if it’s the vocalist here, the pianist here or the brass there, it’s a timing that we have that has like a swing on it…you know? Because it’s kind of how we talk. We are where we are suppose to be but we are a little bit off the map…Even in my lingo. We speaking English but we speak it how we speak it.
What motivates you to make music? When you are writing, how do you come up with a concept?
I live life and I write it down. There is no motivation other than waking up and going through my days. The stuff literally pops up and comes in my air. It’s beyond me, I am just a vehicle, not to sound too artsy fartsy but thats literally what it is.
Do you consider yourself conscious rapper in a sense? What do you even think about such labels?
I do so much. What people hear and all that I have created are two different things. So some people categorize me as that and I don’t think thats a bad title at all. Being that am alive I would love to be conscious. I would hate to be a comatose rapper…I am true to the moment, if you will. I got songs about shaking ass believe it or not. I also have a kids songs called “Baby Blues.” I’m also writing a children’s book with my kids but I also have a song called “feel good” that is a personification of music as a woman in our sexual relationships and I translate it over into my career. I go all kinds of way with the music…remember I come from a writers stand point so I can approach it from any type of subject.
In “The Avowal” you state
“…Don;t be caught up in my flesh and bone
or what I do it a metronome,
thats just what I put the message on.
To help the shit to go down easy,
digest my dialect, speak slow if needed.”
Can you explain to the listener what you meant by that?
Don’t worry about the man, don’t be a fan of me…all this music that I am making. Listen to what I a, telling you in the music. My momma always figured I would be some kind of preacher but I guess this is how I am doing it. I try to put something in all my music, even my ignorant shit: I try to put some weight in it. When I say “thats just what I put the message on, to help this shit to go down easy-these days people are kind of simple minded so you kinda gotta slip the pill in their food. You know?
What is your impression of the current state of hip hop?
The current state of hip hop is a very loose, misguided young female. Somedays she will wear her glasses and sit in the front of the class and the other days she will skip school and wait for the teacher to get off and such his d*ck. Know what I’m saying? Hip Hop is wild right now. Both ends of the spectrum have to exist…it’s called balance. So just like you may have cat that self-righteous like myself you got kids on the other end of it spitting quote-unquote ignorance. I study the game from everything, I learn from stupid people as well as geniuses. Hip hop…she wide open brah and I’m all over the place, I can’t front. To some degree she is a mess but within all that mess there is beauty to be found that’s still why I do what I do.
In the current state of hip hop how do you think artist such as yourself have been able to make the indie route work?
I don’t really look at it in that context as far as being an Independent artist and my grind and all that. I literally wake up everyday and chase feelings. The feeling that I got when I first made a beat…alright? It just so happen that within all that process some relationships were developed, some songs got put out, some songs didn’t. Again, it’s just me staying true to the moment. It got me where I am thus far and there ain’t no telling where it’s gon’ take me because my only goal is to recreate the feeling when I made it. I just kind of do what is going on right now, everything else beyond that point is extra to me. I can’t really control how people like it, what they do with it weather I am independent or signed ’cause if the situation is right I will be signed, trust that. Right now it’s just make it how I make it, get it out to who I can get it out to so I let others define that.
What’s next for you? What’s your five year plan?
My five year plan? You know what? I gotta revamp it. My plans was to score films. I started this years off scoring a film so I gotta revamp it. I don’ know, but I definitely want to do more of those. I have a skateboard film coming my way, I got the children’s books coming, creating more music and more song writing…Kinda bending this whole being a producer/song writer aspect because it’s more than an MC with me, again, because I touch all genres.
What else you want to tell the people, the fans checking for your music?
I just want to thank everybody for f*cking with me and the respect level that I receive for my music. I never receive too much hate. Some people tell me I should worry about that but I never receive too much hate. I love it and that fact that cats tell me I inspire them in things I wasn’t even setting out to do. You can’t be mad if you inspire the murfucker to do something right, to be even more true to themselves. Yeah, I just want to thank the fans and stay tuned to what I am doing because I don’t even know what is about to happen and if you like what I have done thus far…lets wait and see what happens, you might really fall in love with me. Besides that, to all the aspiring MCs out there, because there are so many of them-not to discourage you from doing that but don’t let it be the only thing you doing and don’t put it all on the line for that because you gotta name your price and everybody is trying to jump in this game and getting the game and their art form confused. The industry preys on those who are just willing to just through themselves on the fire in the name of being on or being the man. Educate yourself because this is a dirty game and it all boils down to intellectual property at the end of the day and if you don’t know what that is you lost in the shuffle. Life is real so get realer.