Now that NYC is in phase four of the city reopening I thought it might be fitting to remember Phaseone. Not only phase one as in the beginning but also Phaseone, the rapper.
The 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic changed everything. I've been a stay at home dad for a few years now- working from home as an artist and as a teaching artist at Thrive Collective and so my work/home life balance and routine have been anything but conventional for quite some time- but this Quarantine life!? This is different.
The NYC shutdown came out of nowhere- Yo, Cuomo! I wasn't ready! Who was? It was like the city that never sleeps got grounded and sent to bed early- indefinitely. I understand. For the greater good. Anyhow, just like that- there I was sitting on my couch in basketball shorts and a button up, drinking lukewarm coffee at 5:00 pm on a zoom meeting, trying not to get hit by strays as my kids traded shots in an epic Nerf gun battle that felt like a scene straight out of Hanna. (It's a series on Amazon.Have you seen it?) The Nerf war was so intense that I had to hit mute on the zoom meeting and shout at the kids- "I got next!."
One thing that the quarantine has taught me is how to continue tracking the speaker in a virtual meeting while getting hit with random flying objects or how to stay on subject during a virtual presentation while my kids inch their way into my peripheral vision and proceed to mouth and sign their demands aggressively and relentlessly-without end. Anyhow, among all of the life changes that had to happen extemporaneously (new word alert!!!) was the process of creating and sharing art. Artists everywhere were scrambling, trying to figure out how to pivot in order to continue creating and connecting in a new and unprecedented environment. I was not the exception. I missed playing shows at Sofar Sounds, and rapping with kids at after school Hip Hop programs. I was a sad rapper. And a sad rapper is a very sad thing.
As I thought about how to proceed I came across a video by fellow Bronx Emcee Phaseone. Phaseone is NYC Hip Hop. The brother is dope on many levels and I've been fortunate to rub elbows with him on various occasions. The video featured Phaseone rapping remotely to music played by his bandmates, who were playing remotely, in what seemed like a Zoom video format. I loved it so much that I called Phaseone and asked him about it. We had a great conversation about the supposed new normal brought on by the pandemic, the need for art especially in times like these and his creative process in making the video that caught my attention. He was super gracious and literally explained the magic step by step. I absolutely cannot just gloss over that last sentence - He was super gracious and literally explained the magic step by step- That my friends, is sometimes- perhaps too often a rarity in NYC, and certainly in Hip Hop. But as I said before, this brother is NYC Hip Hop. And NYC Hip Hop is about community, it's about sharing and building and cyphering and jamming. So it makes sense that he would take time out of his day to teach me something that wouldn't necessarily benefit him. I got it, ran with it and remixed the process to make it my own.
The outcome was "The Quarantine Jam". A video series featuring artist friends and I collaborating remotely- highlighting musicianship along with freshly written rhymes most of which were written, recorded, filmed and posted on social media all on the same day. I needed that assist- and I'm super grateful to the brother Phaseone for the no look pass that got me to the basket in a time of need. Although the quarantine has brought about much isolation there has also been a level of connectedness, creativity and resourcefulness that perhaps was either lacking or simply taken for granted in the past. I'm hopeful that we're on the right side of this thing and that we're moving forward to brighter and better days. So as we navigate phase four lets say thanks to Phaseone for the inspo and the info and let's turn up the volume on the music that was born during the quarantine. Thanks for watching!