Chill Moody: Philly Artists’ Inside Man

Photography by Derek Brad

West Philly’s Chill Moody is on the move. And he’s taking the Philly hip-hop scene with him. Collaborating with both local and international artists, travelling back and forth to New York, flying down to South by Southwest – it’s no wonder XXL had their eye on him for the Freshman Class of 2016. His music spans the spectrum from fun to important. His lyrics are thought-provoking and challenging – and clean. He also puts out content. A lot. We got to rap with Chill about Philly, the state of hip-hop, and fighting for independent artists from the inside of City Hall.

Trocadero Theatre Philadelphia, Pa March 6, 2016

Chill Moody performs at the Trocadero Theatre – Philadelphia, PA

Rock On Philly: How was SXSW?

Chill Moody: It was great. It was like third or fourth time down there. Hands down, the most productive trip I’ve had down there. Made a lot of connections. Top notch shows. The REC Philly show was sold out. By the time I performed there was like eight-hundred people. Jazzy Jeff headlined. There was a lot of spontaneous connects. I stayed up with Black Thought till like 3:30 one morning just sitting around, drinking aged bourbon, and talking hip-hop. I got on Sway in the Morning just from being there. That’s been something I’ve been trying to do for years. It just so happened they were doing a live broadcast on the south side and it was hopping distance from my hotel. I just rolled over at 5 in the morning.

ROP: How would you describe the hip-hop scene in Philly? Is there anything unique about its voice or message?

CM: Right now, it’s thriving. Just going off the Freshman cover nominations, there’s so many Philly artists. Way more than ever before. We’re being represented better, people are paying attention to us as a hip-hop scene. We’re reclaiming that spot in the music industry as a power house. And, you know there’s a lot of different styles and sounds. There isn’t just one Philly sound which is cool. I’m excited about the hip-hop scene right now.

Trocadero Theatre Philadelphia, Pa March 6, 2016

Chill Moody performs at the Trocadero Theatre – Philadelphia, PA

ROP: What producers are you working within Philly?

CM: I got my in-house squad. I work with Wes Manchild, Hank McCoy, Mike Jerz. He’s from the area, but he’s in LA now. Me and Wes are working on a project now that’s due out in May. This new kid named Butch, goes by the name Oddkidout. Me and him got a killer record coming out soon.

ROP: You’re Philadelphia’s Music Ambassador. What does that mean exactly and what kind of responsibility comes with that?

CM: What happened was: Councilman David Oh started an initiative two years ago, The PHL Live Center Stage Initiative. He deemed me the Philadelphia Music Ambassador in collaboration with that particular Initiative, but it’s gonna be a lot bigger. It’s basically me being the liaison between the independent artists of the city and the actual city. It involves me and the elected officials. It affords me a lot of opportunities to make sure that these artists are represented well. I’m in City Hall and I’m in the press conferences fighting for the artists’ rights.

morning motivation. now available via @AppleMusic | #hiphopgotmehere #nicethings #ChillMoody link in my bio

A photo posted by Chill Moody (@chillmoody) on

ROP: So, you’re fighting for the little man for recognition?

CM: Well, yeah–for recognition, for grants for the arts, [and] making sure the laws are representing artists’ needs in the city.

ROP: That sounds like a heavy responsibility.

CM: Yeah, but it’s something I want. I have nothing but pride for my city, so I definitely am the right guy to do it.

ROP: Your style is refreshing and enlightening. Your music is referenced when people argue that not all hip-hop is lowest common denominator music. How would you describe your standards for your lyrics?

CM: I try to make sure I don’t take any bars off. I don’t want to waste any bars. I want to make sure everything I say, even if it sounds simple on the surface, there’s something under that. Not too complex, but it’s gotta be clever. Something other than just surface lyrics and within that put some messages in there on social issues when it makes sense and feels right. I don’t ever try to force anything. I want to make it something worth listening to.

Trocadero Theatre Philadelphia, Pa March 6, 2016

Chill Moody performs at the Trocadero Theatre – Philadelphia, PA

ROP: Despite hearing some expletives in some of your songs’ samples, you are not big on cursing. Is there a reason behind that?

CM: It’s funny a lot of people don’t even pick up on that. It’s definitely a conscious decision. The reason behind it, honestly, is my mom is a huge fan of my music and always putting people onto my stuff. And, I don’t want my mom being like ‘hey, listen to my son’s music’ and there’s cursing all over it.

ROP: Are you a momma’s boy?

CM: Yeah, I guess so.

ROP: What is hip-hop’s place in addressing social issues? You have spoken out about police brutality. Do you feel a responsibility in speaking to your fan base about these matters?

CM: I feel like I have that responsibility just as a black man. Period. It just so happens that I rap. So I have a voice I know people are listening to. I know people are watching my moves and sometimes they wanna hear what I have to say about certain issues. I try to make sure-  I have a voice I gotta use it. It doesn’t always have to be a song, it can be a tweet or an Instagram tweet, but I gotta use it. I got younger cousins and nephews and nieces and I try to make sure they have someone to look up to and that happens whether music is involved or not.

Trocadero Theatre Philadelphia, Pa March 6, 2016

Chill Moody performs at the Trocadero Theatre – Philadelphia, PA

ROP: Over the years, hip-hop has become the new rock n’ roll. It’s pressing, and topical. And, you have the Black Lives Movement pushed into the front with Beyoncé’s controversial performance at the Super Bowl. Kendrick went on stage at the GRAMMYs in a chain gang. What do you think is going on with hip-hop’s identity?

CM: It’s weird because it’s nothing new. It’s happened before. It’s going to continue to happen. Rappers speaking up on political issues but what is happening now is these rappers are on bigger stages. Like with Beyoncé and Kendrick they are on the biggest stages possible and they decided ‘I’m on the stage and I’m gonna do this.’ Not just perform a single, but to really push the envelope. I’m really excited that they’re doing this because it opens up a lane for upcoming artists to not feel like they have to do the norm because to get radio play you gotta make a radio record. But if Kendrick and J Cole are the norm for radios more people can be themselves. That’s all their music is, them being themselves. I don’t think they reach out and say let’s talk about social issues, they just feel that way and decide to put the music out which is dope.

ROP: During the your Ted Talk you talk about how you had music relating to the Michael Brown incident, but you didn’t want to put music out just to capitalize on a situation. How true is that? It’s almost hard to believe that an artist wouldn’t want to capitalize on a moment like that.

CM: Well that’s exactly what happened. I told my friend I don’t want people to think that’s why I made the record, ’cause that’s not why I made it. I’m not trying to capitalize on it. I don’t want it to get misconstrued, so I held off on putting it out until my friend said ‘people need this right now’ and it was a different commentary for me and I was like okay ‘I can put this out now.’

ROP: What are the BARE ESSENTIAL ingredients for good hip-hop?

CM: First of all, you gotta be lyrically-sound. You have to be saying something. You gotta be clever. I hate this narration rap, I don’t know what to call it. ‘I woke up and caught the bus . . .’ I don’t want to hear that. You gotta be lyrically sound. And, be saying something. You don’t gotta be trying to save the world, just have something for the listener to take from. I should at least know something about you.

ROP: When you’re not writing or performing, what are you doing?

CM: Chillin’. Drinking, think about ways to take over the world. I do a lot of planning. Brainstorming in the war room with my team coming up with shit.

ROP: What’s your drink?

CM: Bourbon, whiskey. I like Jameson.

ROP: What CD did you scratch up so much from listening to as a kid, you had to buy another one?

CM: Ghostface, Ironman. None of them were purchased. I stole them all from my cousin.

Trocadero Theatre Philadelphia, Pa March 6, 2016

Chill Moody performs at the Trocadero Theatre – Philadelphia, PA

ROP: What should fans look out for?

CM: Well I got new content every Monday. Moody Mondays. Me and Wes have a project coming out in May. The single with Butch is coming out soon. I got another single with CritaCal, the dude who produced J. Cole’s Love Yours, coming out soon. I’m working on a beer with Dock Street Brewery in West Philly. Beer’s in the preliminary stages. A lot of stages. It’s really rigorous.

No doubt, Chill Moody’s is a voice the country will get to know. What do YOU think of Philly’s Music Ambassador? Tell us in the comments below!

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