An artist’s greatest super power is freedom. Liberation is both the modus operandi and main ingredient of the fearless five-man band PHONY PPL. Comprised of the cream of Brooklyn’s young musician crop, each classically trained member is a product of musical parents who gifted their children exceptional DNA, exposure to the greats––from Madrill records to Bossa Nova––and, most importantly, wings for exploration and self-discovery. The result is a collective that’s as limitless as its music; one that has received praise from the likes of Tyler The Creator and Childish Gambino, performed with Erykah Badu, Fetty Wap and The Roots, and killed festivals (Camp Flog Gnaw), late night television (Jimmy Kimmel) and their own residency at New York City’s legendary Blue Note.
The warmth of lyrics are mainly credited to lead vocalist Elbee Thrie, a former Manhattan School of Music student whose vocals possess a disarming charm and lyrics glowed by advanced perspective and retrospection (“I broke out of my shell just to find that I’m living by myself”). Trained composer, Aja Grant provides co-writing, the keys and much of the band’s arrangements. Strings are manned by guitarist Elijah Rawk and Bari Bass, PHONY PPL’s visual artist and bass player. The crew’s heartbeat is percussionist and former Music Conservatory study Mathew Byas (his father is DJ Jazzy Jay of the legendary Zulu Nation).
After first jamming together in the summer of 2008, followed by several years honing their sonic cornucopia, PHONY PPL still don’t have a single sound––to delightful results. Although the BK boys created several now Internet buried independent albums since unified inception, it was their first 300 Entertainment distribution (Yesterday’s Tomorrow) that introduced the world to their genre-less flavors. Released in 2015, the audio rainbow offers experimental splashes of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, reggae, soul, rock and many more sub-genre expressions. It hit #6 on the iTunes R&B chart and the media applause roared in: The New York Times called the band “forward-thinking,” NPR chose “brilliant,” Rolling Stone placed their album amongst the year’s 15 greatest.
Anticipation for their latest composition has never been as high. Titled Mosaic because each song is a singular piece of art possessing shapes and colors separate from the others, yet they all adjoin to make symmetrical magic. Setting things off is “Way Too Far,” a slow dance under purple neon to killer lines like, “I got you, but it’s me that I miss.” “Cookie Crumble” transports ears to the 1950’s after a latin jazz spirit possesses “Once You Say Hello.” The invitation to this exhibition is the palm tree-breezy hip-hop ballad “Before You Get A Boyfriend,” which manages to transcend classification and time. Soft rock of the early 80’s, early 90’s rap, or the mood music of today? For PHONY PPL, the new album is simply an offering to the religion of music and attempt at adding more hues to future radio.
While the band members are headlining their first tour this fall, the fruits of their “shape shift” will begin to sprout. New Snake Hips EP “iii’m Not Sorry” will feature a solo Elbee; Aja is producing on Mac Miller’s new album; Matthew is in the studio with Domo Genesis of Odd Future, and Elijah is in a whole other band (Princess Nokia). But these free creators who aim to be the refresh that the music world thirsts for are best as one.
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