Where is it that we, the average folks of the world, turn in times of tragedy? When we need explanation, answers, or even just unmotivated, open, and honest discussion, where is there left to look? Media is bust with bias and hatred and through it, so are many of our friends and family. Harmless questions or attempts at conversation become hostile with the first trigger word that doesn't align with someone's preconceptions, and many of us, if not most, walk on egg shells of complacency for fear of inducing further fear.
Thankfully, a brave few have found their strong voice, and use the beauty in it to relay stories, thoughts, and opinions through a window unsullied by corporate influence or political undertone - art. Though of course the subject matter at hand is often political, the hand delivering it is that of a free-thinking individual, conveying through their art more earnest and trustworthy messages than those considered trusted sources.
And what really has been lost in the world is the voice of the individual. When we become complacent to let masses and groups think and speak for us, we become blind and hateful to members of opposing teams, citing the opinions of our own team as facts and laying blame to others without an explanation or an ability to reason why.
Differentiation of opinion is unavoidable but mature conversation shouldn't be. So, the next time an opinion or a tragedy rubs you the wrong way, don't let it instill in you a sense of hatred and anger, but instead a motivation to educate, learn, understand, and empathize. And in those times when anger simply cannot be avoided, use it to create something that will convey your message for you, in a manner more powerful and respected than yelling at your neighbor over the fence. Expressions of art after all, are often their strongest in the wake of great tragedy.
We call it a platform - the point from which an artist or person of the public arena preaches their opinions and thoughts. Though many use it for good in whatever sense they define goodness or righteousness, most do it without class, without educated opinions, or without clear explanation and understanding. In their defense, it is no small task to speak from such a position, and finding oneself in such a spot always yields the expectation of discussing the touchiest of subjects.
But there are the few who set out from the beginning of their endeavors into the public realm and the shine of the limelight with the intent of fully embracing their position and attacking the touchy subjects because, to be frank, someone has to. What we're experiencing right now, at the onset of The Philharmonik's young career, is just that.
And it couldn't be timelier.
The Sacramento artist who is so difficult to delineate in terms of his broad musical range, is perhaps better defined by his politically-motivated and socially-conscious thematics. A delivery man of soulful vocals, prolific bars, funk-driven vibes, and electronic experimentation, he is even more dedicated to his first-person portrayal of the positives in the black community, the socioeconomic and political problems haunting it, and a laundry list of further social issues ranging from a firm support of feminism to the addressing of mental health to the aiding of troubled youth. There have been few musicians in history with a similar level of musical talent - for those of you new or altogether unfamiliar with his music - we're talking George Clinton, Prince, D'Angelo, and Anderson .Paak, but there have been even fewer who use their voice as such a multidimensional weapon equal parts music and hands-on journalism.
The Philharmonik's self-titled debut album is like a field reporter’s thesis on the stories, opinions, and truths stirring inside modern America's underrepresented communities, while at the same time being a work of creative genius bringing together communities of a different kind - fan bases of musical genres. The balance he is able to strike between his purpose and prose isn't just a part of what makes him special, but is what will ultimately lead to his messages being widely heard.
Telling the stories of those who lack the platform to speak for themselves is a slippery slope. As we've said, there is no perfect way to speak for the masses and misunderstandings and matters of opinion are impossible to avoid when being a journalistic source or the voice of a social movement. But The Philharmonik has never claimed to be unbiased.
He is a part of the communities for which he speaks his part, and his movement, drive, and anger towards the problems facing those communities is the ever-present adhesive which draws the wide breadth of his art akin. He is both a living representation of African Americans' long, multi-stylistic tradition and influence on the global music scene and a fierce opponent of the oppression and hate no amount of effort - artistic, social, political, or otherwise - seems to quell. Yet, he finds his voice even in the toughest of times – educating the masses and spreading messages of positivity and change through his music.
Though just at the beginning of what we hope to be a long and prosperous solo career, The Philharmonik has said much more with much less than artists of extensive tradition and canon. He promotes positivity, love, and acceptance at all levels and damns anyone who disagrees with his principals. He is in many ways a no-nonsense kind of guy, though the fun-loving, funky approach to which his music adheres may seem to suggest otherwise. But it doesn’t take much time and listening to hear through to his firm beliefs and stances.
Messages of positivity, confidence, and the importance of self-appreciation are prominent themes in his debut album, taking on starkly different stylistic approaches. From a Phil Collins-inspired soft ballad titled Underdog; To a groovy, mellow hip-hop track reminiscent of the Golden Era named Colors; To Self Love – a hard-hitting modern hip-hop anthem which not only speaks to the personal image, but also to personal ideals; To Good Day – a heartfelt and genuine discussion of overcoming difficulty, relatable from the lenses of tragedy, depression, and general solace, The Philharmonik uses his voice as an aid to help people overcome their personal issues.
And from there he expands outwards, addressing issues at a macro scale, using his variety of stylistic approaches to shed light on problems that have long faced the world at large. A four-song run – Interlude, Dopeman, Neon Lights, and Pay Me – all perfected in a funk style as natural and organic as anything created in the 1970’s, discusses a variety of social issues threatening the globe – and particular points of social reform on the docket during the funk era. Interlude, which draws directly into the subsequent Dopeman come together to paint the appeal and destruction of modern drug culture; Neon Lights paints a similar picture of the issues surrounding fame; And Pay Me stands as a direct shot at capitalism and the near-impossibility of escaping poverty through hard work alone - a theme further discussed in the following Mama’s House which, with the help of left-field spoken-word artist, Hobo Johnson, speaks of the desire to move out of just such a place.
Discussion of race – whether dealing with racial tension or embracing one’s own ethnicity – are standby themes throughout the album as well, but are perhaps best displayed in immediate Gratification and Let Freedom Ring. The former– a fast-paced delineation of some of the socioeconomic and political red tape suffocating black communities takes on an entirely different musical and thematic approach from the latter which discusses the bright and hopeful future of togetherness not just these communities, but all will come to see in spite of the obstacles in their way.
But by no means are we there yet, and it seems that The Philharmonik will not be finished making music until we are. With the recent release of 20 Rounds (Ode To Stephon Clark), a single discussing the latest victim of police brutality and murder in the United States, he continues to grow and utilize his platform to speak for mental, social, cultural, and political reform necessary for equality and freedom.
The Philharmonik is on a deadest mission to debunk the misconceptions, reverse the stereotypes, and tell the honest truth he sees and knows for the communities he calls home to. In an era so stricken with violence, sadness, and failure, he uses his voice to take the wheel from the power-drunk media and show us the straight and narrow path to truth, positivity, change, and hope. Next station, Platform: Philharmonik.