FEATURED ARTIST - *Keith Phelps* - Primo Nemesis EP REVIEW + INTERVIEW


 

Keith Phelps - Primo Nemesis

Indianapolis, IN, United States



 

BACKGROUND

 

A leading light for the new era of hip-hop, Keith Phelps is quickly establishing himself as one of his generation’s most vital voices. Following the release of his most compelling music to date, Keith Phelps is poised to take his rightful place at the top of the hip-hop hierarchy.


Luxury is the name of the game for Keith. While he always stays true to his humble roots, his music inspires grandeur and awe in a way that few artists are capable of. At his best, he strikes the perfect mix between old and new, paying tribute to the legends while pushing the genre into bold new territory. Above all, he is a transformative talent, capable of permanently altering the course of music history.


With the release of his EP, Primo Nemesis, Keith is redefining hip-hop maximalism. Ambitious in scope and sprawling in vision, it is an opulent project that I couldn't wait to review! So let's go!



 

REVIEW

 

Keith Phelps begins 'Primo Nemesis' with the track 'Van Gogh'. This track sells you the world of classical art instantly with its sprinkle of orchestral and cinematic feel. Before we know it, we're taken away from the world of the 'Upper Class' and into the true nature of hip-hop. I really love the contrast between the opening and the rest of the track, it really sets the scene of a political album through teasing the theme of class divide. 'Sad Day' strips the setting to leave you in a world of words through the basic elements of the beat. A simple yet effective trap drum loop alongside a drill synth loop give Keith Phelps a beat to ride without overpowering his message. Track 3 'Mistakes' takes a darker turn to take you down the rabbit hole of this artists' mind through a heavy reverbed drum kick along with the occasional cacophonous trap loop. 'Come True' flips the narrative through the use of a pitch stretched vocal sample and upbeat piano arrangement before bringing in a wiry synth. This track brings the soulful element of hip-hop to the front of this album. A real old-school vibe is found in this track but when you listen to the words you hear that this artist has a real political stance to his tracks that you need listen to as well as the valuing the arrangement of the mix. 'Testimony' is just that. This is a confession masked in the beauty of music. This is a gospel inspired production in the form of a sermon. Love it. 'The Last Super Saiyan' opens with a vocal sample that makes the statement "You're all weak". The flow of this track is similar to that of Jay-Z. 'Nap Shit' brings a fusion of jazz and hip-hop to the album to change the feel of the album. This is great. Last but one Keith Phelps give us 'Family Ties' a real old school production that really gets you moving your head as your brain begins to produce serotonin off of the sunshine feel of the track. Then suddenly the track moves dark and introduces a heavy 808 and energetic trap drum loop. The track really takes a turn like the clouds blocking the sun. 'Be There' had me singing the legendary "You've Got A Friend' originally by Carole King in its opening. This remained on loop in the background whilst Keith Phelps spat conscious lyrics over the top. Man, this is such a great and meaningful piece. Towards the second half of the track the vocal sample drops out of the mix and THE lyrics reintroduce themselves in the form of a soulful choir arrangement - Man this is a truly special track to end the project with. I really like what Keith Phelps brings to mankind, the music and the message. If you're looking or something extremely political and conscious in nature then this is the paintings of a great artist.



 

We had to find out more behind the artist so we jumped at the opportunity for an interview!

 


 

INTERVIEW

 

What would be your ultimate achievement for your latest album 'Primo Nemesis'? Is there a particular vision that you had when putting the album together?


This is a bit of a layered question but I’ll do my best! An ultimate achievement would be for me to both build a large cult following and garner the interest of a veteran rapper-executive. I know I have music that deeply connects with the dense, nostalgic, and brutally honest parts of people. I also desire the guidance and tutelage of a seasoned, extremely successful, and tenured rapper mogul. So many of us new guys lack respect for the O.G.’s and don’t realize their support, guidance, and relationship is what contributes to our own success and longevity.


Regarding the project’s vision, I had no vision beyond people understanding that I was a real ass emcee. A lot of times I have an album concept that I’ll start with or a few beats that suggest a certain overall subject matter. That was not the case for Primo Nemesis. I just started making beats in hotels while on tour and in my barely furnished new apartment and trying to write the absolute best verses I could.


Who was involved in the project alongside you?


My manager of 11 years, David Edwards, was extremely instrumental in the making of this project. As I mentioned before, I literally just hit the studio, otherwise known as my in-law’s basement, and recorded bar after bar over the beats I made. I told him that however he saw these records coming together as a project was how it was going to be. It’s as if I got the opportunity to be less of an “executive” this round and just focused on creating music. I left the project organization solely up to him, from song sequencing, project title, and even naming some of the songs. I think growth really starts to show the more you’re in a position to delegate and trust in that delegation.


My long-time friend and collaborator, Ellis Woolfork, co-produced, “Sad Day” and always seems to give me my standout records when I take beats from other producers. We literally text each other memes and crazy social media posts every other day. Somewhere in between all the hilariousness, he’ll send over some fire ass beat and I’ll be like “MAN, SAVE THIS FOR ME!”


Eric Seats, who is a legend several times over, has been a friend, mentor, and big brother to me for over 10 years. Most notably, he produced “Rock The Boat” for Aaliyah as well as several other songs on her highly anticipated re-released self-titled album. We both tour with Ms. Patti LaBelle as musicians in her band. He sent me a handful of beats right before we went out in September of 2021 and one of those rightfully became “Nap Shit”. I was really excited about doing that song in celebration of our hometown, midwest rap, and my disdain for the current state of urban pop music.


A few other honorable mentions go out to Viselić & Viselić for the sinister ass artwork and Tim Boyce for an incredible mastering job


When did you first realise that you had the potential to be an artist? Is there a memory that has stuck in your mind as the turning point for you?


Dave began managing me in February of 2011 solely as a producer. We had a pretty simple formula. He’d get wind of all the major label projects looking for record submissions, meet with publisher affiliated writers, or people within major label artists’ camps, and then report back to me what they were looking for. I’d send him a stack of beats with the specific taste of whoever we were involved with at the time. We had a lot of near-misses but nothing would land. I’m talking about agreements and conversations of my produced records even being singles but never closing the deal. I woke up one morning and told Dave that I was over all of it and was going to make my own music. The rest was history. It was less about any realization of potential and more of lack of acceptance that I was receiving as a producer. That was the primary motivation. Similarly to not being respected as a producer, history repeats itself regarding my artistry as explained in the lyrics toward the end of “Van Gogh”, “...forced to become a florist, had to make my own bouquet, was destined for the mic like Bublé”


How would you define your sound?


I think some wild mix of diverse, aggressive, nostalgic, substantive, and maximalist would be the best way to describe my sound. My musical background comes from being a young gospel musician that transitioned into a competitive jazz & fusion vocabulary as a pianist of over 20 years. I’ve also had several other authentic experiences within other genres that continue to inform my songwriting and production decisions to this day. This is one of the reasons why you can find a great deal of musical depth within my music and can see my ability to stretch several decades of hip-hop across 9 songs.


This might be a tricky one but Studio vs Live - Which do you prefer and why?


While I have tons of experience behind a piano and as a musical director, I have not had much experience performing as an artist and that will change drastically this year. The studio is my sanctuary because you have time to be as perfect as you intend to be. The ability to wield sound and individual elements with all sorts of tools and obscure practices is really exciting for me and I love to see people’s response after I’ve tweaked things to contextual perfection. I am a textbook perfectionist and wish to be as accurate as humanly possible…ALL the time. It’s not always possible or even realistic but the strive for such a mantra is what I believe is the basis for unequivocal greatness. I’m in the process of developing a similar “formula” for my live performances and look forward to falling in love with that process just as much as I am in love with the studio.


If you had the opportunity to work with one of your favorite musical artists, who would you most like to collaborate with and why?


Hands down the first person that comes to mind is HOV…solely because I want to learn from the absolute best to BE the best. Whether that’s a production situation or side-by-side trading 16’s. Same goes for Nas & Pusha T. These guys still pack so much in a single line that you oftentimes have to be well-read, experienced, or well-researched to pull apart one of the triple entendres in a single bar. Even if I were to get my ass handed to me collaboratively as a rapper, it wouldn’t be long after regularly working with the gods before I would be returning that ass beating. I started rapping as a grown man and while I did collaborate with a handful of underground artists, the depth of my growth as an emcee is self-taught. There’s no way that you are someone like me, around people like HOV, Nas, & Pusha T, and you don’t become even greater than the ones who inspired you. It’s the Jordan/Kobe mentality in me!


What are your future plans? What can we look forward to for the rest of 2022?


I’m about to hit the streets and connect with people. I’m going back to the street team days and passing out links to Primo Nemesis. People on social media seem so accessible until it's hard for you to even reach 10% of your followers without an unassured paid promotion. I don’t have time for that. I need to be on stages rapping my ass off and shaking hands with real people who are prime suspects for becoming fans of mine. After the turn of the year, it’d be safe to say that a full-length album is coming.


Where can we find the track?


You can either head to http://www.keithphelpsmusic.com or https://snd.click/primonemesis

instagram.com/keithphelps

twitter.com/keithphelps

facebook.com/keithphelpsmusic

youtube.com/keithphelpsmusic