Phonte has resurfaced from a seven-year hiatus sounding fresh and rejuvenated with his latest release, No News Is Good News. This project takes over where Jay-Z’s 4:44 leaves off. What you hear is adult rap. You hear a grown man eloquently rapping about grown man things like taking care of yourself, being healthy in life and love color the album. As rap goes through its midlife crisis, No News is Good News serves as its soundtrack.
We spoke to Phonte recently about his latest project, living healthy and being happy with his life.
The new project is so dope. For some reason, you sound rejuvenated and fresh. Why do you think that’s the case?
I took seven years to live. I took time to live. A lot has happened between 2011 until now. I am a believer in just giving yourself time to live and have new experiences to write about. If I sound rejuvenated, that would be part of the reason why.
There are a few songs that resonated with me on the project. “Expensive Genes” probably resonates the most because I recently had a physical and I have a lot of changes to make when it comes to my health. Why do you think health is important to talk about now?
I think it’s for a lot of reasons. I think that hip-hop is still a young art form and people don’t really understand how young it is. We are just now seeing what old age in hip-hop looks like.
For a long time, hip-hop was like the guy who lived fast and didn’t expect to live to see 21, but now he’s 40 and he’s like, “Oh sh–! I made it. What do I do now? Where is our retirement?” So with a record like “Expensive Genes” and this being the first generation of truly aging hip-hoppers, [I was saying] something that truly spoke to us. It spoke to me. I’m working on my health. I go see my doctor and get my physicals and the changes I’ve made have made my health better.
What are your thoughts on the climate that rap is currently in now?
I think we live in a Netflix culture of rap. Whatever you want is there for you on demand. Whatever kind of hip-hop you’re looking for is there for you. The biggest thing we are in need of now are filters. You just have to know where to go and where to look for what you want. I’m at a point in my life where I’m able to access the music that I like and that’s all that matters. I’m able to get the records of the cats that I listen to and I appreciate. The stuff I don’t like pretty much doesn’t exist to me.
Do you think someone can age out of rap?
I think we are the first generation that will find out. We will see what that looks like. I think it depends if there will be an audience there when you get older. I have a cousin who loved New Kids On The Block, but is she bumping that now? If they come out with an album, will she buy it? I don’t know. I think we are the first ones that will see if there is a ceiling to hip-hop and if there is an age limit, what that will look like.
The Tall Black Guy-produced “Sweet You” is the song I keep on repeat from the new project. Emotionally, you sound so clear and deliberate. It sounds like you are singing to your wife. Talk about that.
“Sweet You” is definitely a record that is for my wife and our marriage. There was a big shift that happened to me from 2011 till now. In 2011 when I released Charity Starts At Home, I was going through a divorce. I tell people all the time when it comes to marriage, specifically when I talk to brothers, it’s really about who you are. What I mean by that is that you could have a Porsche or a hooptie out in your driveway, but if you don’t know how to drive, it doesn’t matter. When I talk to brothers, I specify that we are in the driver’s seat; that doesn’t mean that you are the ruler or you rule over your woman. What it means is that if you don’t know where you want your life to go as a man, you are going to cause any woman that comes into your life pain and confusion. My wife is fantastic, she is amazing. I think I’m in the place where I am now because I am the best version of myself. If I met her ten years ago, it would have been a different story because I was not ready for her. I’m ready.
Why are you so transparent and honest in your music?
I’m not a very good liar. I have to write about what I know. But, everything is not for sale; there are some things that I don’t talk about. My family knows the stuff I share is personal but it’s not privileged. I would never betray someone’s trust in that way. I just write what I know and the truth as I see it and hopefully it resonates with other people. My thought is, if you can see yourself in this project, then I have done my job.
What words of encouragement do you have for those who are following their dreams?
It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. I do some voiceover work now and I read a book from this one voiceover artist and he says he wakes up every morning and he’ll audition for stuff, and he may or may not get the job and he mentions that he looks at it like he went fishing. So, if you go out on your boat, the story is not about I caught this fish or I caught that fish; the story is about the process of fishing. Embrace the process. I wish someone would have shared that with me when I was younger. If someone would have told me that The Minstrel Show was the beginning and not the end, it would have saved me so much heartache.