Tiye Phoenix has risen! She is back with an amazing new project! Tiye Phoenix first set trails on blaze with her self-produced mixtape titled Black Athena back in 2006. But when she dropped her solo project, Half Woman Half Amazing Amazin’, in 2009, I was floored. The album featured Phonte, Chip-Fu and Dynas. She truly showed that she could hold her own without relying on collaborations.
The project received outstanding reviews and honors from hip hop aficionados, and she was featured in numerous magazines — The Source, Billboard, Complex, Jane and URB Magazine for her sophisticated flow and powerful delivery. Half Woman Half Amazin’ also had rave reviews from other popular hip hop blogs.
The underground hip hop movement is thriving, and needless to say, we have female MCs that continue to embrace the essence of hip hop with bars, lyrical prowess and class. One can see the transformation of Tiye Phoenix. Her latest project shows that she is still evolving.
Enjoy this refreshing exclusive interview!
Who are your musical influences?
I am heavily influenced by soul music, particularly that of the 70’s era. I love the lush, warm, full analog sound of the recordings from that era; so that would include artists such as Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, of course, and countless others. I love heavy musicality, so I’d say that some of my favorite producers of all-time are Gamble & Huff. I was greatly inspired by the women artists such as Patrice Rushen and Teena Marie because they produced composed and arranged their own music. And that inspired me to want to do the same. As far as lyrics go, I was heavily influenced by Big Daddy Kane and Rakim because I feel that they best embody the mesh of Street knowledge and knowledge of self. And they did so with such unique and unprecedented style. Also, of course, MC Lyte, Latifah, Nas, Jay-Z, and countless others.
When did you start rapping?
I wrote poetry ever since the 3rd grade. And started rhyming officially in my early 20s. I started performing at several open mics and poetry readings around Baltimore City, and then eventually in New York.
Tell us about your experience in a rap group.
As a member of the Polyrhythm Addicts, which includes DJ Spinna, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Mr. Complex and myself, I learned so much. We were all affiliated in some way through Rawkus Records, and eventually came together as a group. Actually, they had already been formed as a group, and I came in as an additional member alongside member Apani B Fly. I particularly learned about balance, the process of balancing ideas around off of other people, camaraderie, timing, and patience. It’s kind of exciting watching how each group member uses their own process to create.
What hip hop album inspired you?
I would like to say that Illmatic was extremely inspiring. I titled my album Half Woman Half Amazin’ after a line in the song “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” where he says, “half man half amazing”.
There were actually quite a few albums that inspired me over time.
Tell us about your project Half Woman Half Amazin’.
Half Woman Half Amazin’ was my debut album released May 26th, 2009 on BabyGrande Records. It featured producers such as DJ Spinna, Beatminerz, DJ Scratch, Apathy, DJ Evil Dee and DJ Jazzy Jeff, just to name a few. It featured artists such as Chip Fu and Phonte Coleman of Little Brother. The title cut “Half Woman Half Amazin'” was produced by me. I felt like it was a highly underrated album, not simply because it was my album, but because it actually was really good, lol. It should have received a lot more promotion than it did. In 2009, it was on the list of allhiphop.com’s best indie hip hop albums of the year, as well as eMusic’s Top 30 UNDERRATED ALBUMS OF 2009. Also, I won female underground artist of the year at the Underground Music Awards the following year in 2010. Half Woman Half Amazin’ was a great demonstration of lyrical prowess and musical variety. It genuinely was a good album.
What was the highlight of your career?
Well, if I had to choose one particular standout moment, I’d have to say performing with Teena Marie and Rick James. That was a very long time ago, but it meant a lot to me because Teena Marie and Rick James were so instrumental in my childhood. So being on stage with both of them was surreal. And of course now they’ve both passed away, so it means a lot to me when I reflect on that memory. Teena asked me to perform with her as an emcee. The Fugees sampled her record “Ooh la la la” so she in her show, her live rendition was a blend of her R&B version and their hip hop version, and I was the rapper in that performance. I’ve had many incredible moments but that one was definitely a highlight.
What advice do you have for women who want to enter the hip-hop industry?
My advice would be to stay true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, even if it’s unconventional. And always put the creativity first. When it comes to the business component, only consult and work with professional qualified individuals.
When did you first start producing and playing the piano?
I took piano lessons as a child, between the ages of 7 and 13. I’m classically trained. I started learning how to read sheet music. Later on, I just started playing by ear. I purchased musical equipment when I signed to Universal Records. The label actually helped me purchase some music equipment — an MPC and a Korg Trinity keyboard to be exact. Producing music wasn’t too difficult because I was already musically inclined, having known how to play an instrument..
I eventually went on to compete in beat battles, and I won the preliminary rounds as well as championships.
Exclusive: “North Node” Instrumental Produced by Tiye Phoenix
How does it feel to record with your daughter and have her follow into your footsteps?
It’s exciting to watch her evolve musically because she’s always been so extremely talented. She actually sang on quite a few recordings that I’ve done when she was smaller. Her voice was always so powerful and unique. She attends one of the most prestigious and highly respected music schools in the country, so she’s becoming trained, professional, and skilled. She will definitely be a force to be reckoned with. She also plays the piano as well as sings. I’m just excited for her to be a trailblazer. I really love the fact that she’s not interested in sounding like anyone else or duplicating someone else’s platform. She’s definitely a unique soul and that always works well for art, music and creativity.
What’s your creative process when making music?
I usually channel my music. Lyrics come from dreams, visions, and insight. That space in between being asleep and being awake is very crucial for downloading ideas. You know when you’re not really fully asleep but you’re not awake yet? Your subconscious is very open at that point and you can hear full ideas. Well at least that’s how it is for me. But then again, inspiration can come from many places. I would say if I had to define a particular process, it’s just a matter of letting the creativity organically build itself from the ground up.
Is there anyone that you would like to collaborate with?
Anyone and everyone who’s dope and down to work. I would love to do a song with Chaka Khan. And I’d love to do a song with Patrice Rushen. Actually, I’d love to do songs with any artists who inspire me and that I look up to.
What inspired you to do another project?
Actually, there were just several opportunities and situations that arose in my life unexpectedly. And I got led back into the direction of music. You never really fall out of love with music, and there’s always so much that needs to be conveyed to the world. It’s important to share that art with the world. Our time on earth is a gift, and what we leave behind creatively means everything. Also, when you’re blessed to keep living, it’s important for you to share with other human beings what you’ve learned and how you evolved as a soul. I’ve learned a lot, been through a lot, grown immensely, and I don’t want to just contain what I’ve learned and keep it all to myself. That’s one of the primary reasons why I’m doing another project.
Tell us about your latest project.
My latest project is an EP tentatively titled The Master’s Program. I’m naming it The Master’s Program because I’m currently enrolled in a master’s program at NYU for counseling. And also because I feel like I’m at a level of mastery in my craft. Master level comes after one has invested a substantial amount of time and work, and thus that was the inspiration for the title. It will feature a good number of respected dope artists. As far as the lyrical direction, it’s pretty elevated and avant-garde content-wise, as I often venture into esoteric content- astrology, cosmology, etc. Those who know me, personally know that I’m an astrologer. So far, I’m producing a good portion of it.
Exclusive: “Regal” off “The Master’s Program” EP
What are your thoughts on the evolution of hip-hop?
I feel like hip hop is overdue for expansion. Hip hop has the potential to elevate, but music and those who create the music are the ones who make that possible. If I had to describe what I do, I would call it Meta-hop, as in Metaphysical Hip Hop. I’m not afraid to go there. Honestly, there’s too many rappers who are saying the same thing over and over again and that deteriorates the quality of the art form. It makes it uninteresting. And when something is uninteresting, it’s not magnetic. But there’s still potential and I’m hopeful, as I see hip hop still growing and venturing off into new territory.
I describe myself as a retro-futurist, astro- lyricist. Retro-future means that I extract elements of the past in order to help build the future — sonically, musically, lyrically, and creatively. The astro- lyrical component incorporates astrological information and spiritually driven information. Yeah, I’m going there. LOL
What are your thoughts on sexism in hip hop?
My attitude and views pretty much don’t change in regards to sexism, racism, or any sort of low vibrational ignorant behavioral expressions that show up any and everywhere in society. Whether I’m speaking about music, politics, economics, etc. my position is you have to maintain your focus and continue to live out your divine instruction and purpose, and you cannot be deterred by individuals who are not evolved and elevated in their thinking and approach. Racism, sexism, or any other sort of dehumanizing behaviors and mindsets are rooted in ignorance. As the universe expands and times evolve, people who subscribe to such low vibrational frequencies and ignorance will find that there won’t be a place for them in a newly evolving world. Ultimately, you have to evolve alongside the universe or you render yourself irrelevant and useless with respect to your purpose and your existence. So I don’t even trip. It’s to the point where people who subscribe to those energies are not even on my personal radar.
Top 5 emcees (no particular order).
Top 5 producers (no particular order).
Gamble & Huff
Needless to say, Tiye Phoenix is a multi-talented rapper/producer with a beautiful deep soul. I am grateful for her insight on hip hop and the role women play in it. Tiye Phoenix’s humble demeanor, musical genius, and creativity is definitely captivating and electrifying! I admire her desire to see other women in hip hop excel, and her thoughts on how to preserve the culture. There is room for more than one female to be successful in the game. So make way for Tiye Phoenix because she is back with a vengeance …giving us a soulful/meaningful hip hop experience that reflects her higher self!