The Fortified PhonetX Interview
Pittsburgh-based hip hop trio Fortified PhonetX is set to release their debut album, Plastic Eaters on Monday. If you recall we reviewed member Connect’s “Arrival Tactics” mixtape a while back and were super impressed with his style and even went so far as to compare him to Deltron 3030. The group is ready to make an impact on the local scene and has set their album release party for Saturday, December 1 at The Smiling Moose. We decided to chat with each of the members – Blacklisted, Moemaw Naedon and Connect – to get the scoop on their album and what’s in store in the upcoming months for this talented bunch of artists.
Kymbo Slice: In your bio you claim to “make music the general populous can relate to” What about hip hop do you think makes it so relatable?
Blacklisted: I can’t speak for all of hip-hop as a whole as being relatable, but I think it becomes relatable when it deals with situations, ideas, problems and struggles people face in daily life when the subject matter and concepts are based in reality and not on delusions of grandeur. Music in any form becomes a much more personal experience when it is something they can attach a person, situation, feeling, or memory to. We aren’t millionaires, we don’t have a fleet of luxury cars, or get VIP bottle service when we go out, and I’m willing to bet most of our listeners are in the same boat.
Naedon: I think its relatable to people for the same reasons other music is, for some people its escapism, for others its a reflection of their lives. Our music can be relatable to those who appreciate the artistic side of rap as well as the raw shit.
Connect: I think its emotion, content, and how that content gets delivered that creates relatable music. I would say that hip hop is very popular right now, but popularity and relatability are not the same, and relatable music isn’t always pushed to the forefront.
KS: How did Fortified PhonetX come to be and how did all of you decide to team up?
Connect: We actually all grew up in Butler, went to high school together, but it wasn’t until years later I moved to the city and ran into Blacklisted at a show. It was around the time I started performing at shows with my group, MythConn, and he became our DJ. Then for a few months it was just Blacklisted and I while I was finishing up my solo EP. During that time he and Naedon reconnected and collectively we respected each others’ abilities and philosophies in music and ultimately decided to form a crew.
Naedon: We are getting older so I think in all of our minds it was like “It’s now or never for me in this hip hop shit”. We all knew each other previously and we have similar influences and visions for hip hop.
Blacklisted: It was just the natural thing to happen. We were all putting together collaborative work at the time of “Arrival Tactics” and realized that there was a good mesh of styles happening. After that we realized the crew just needed a name.
KS: Who are some of your influences? Who do you respect/admire in terms of the local scene?
Blacklisted: There are so many people in this city putting in a lot of work and making things happen. DJ Chevy down at Square One, Mr. Owl, Justin Strong at Shadow Lounge, Stillborn Identity, 30 Realm, the 1’s and 2’s, DJ Assassin. Obviously anyone we’ve collaborated with on the album we have a tremendous amount of love and respect for: Verbs, Proseed, Feature the Raw Dawn, Ensilence. There are some names on that list that are still close to us, but live in other cities like Frigid Giant who is based out of Buffalo, NY and Brother Seamus in New Orleans. It’s been a really unique experience for us because the internet has really expanded the possibilities of what can be considered a “local” scene.
Naedon: I’m mostly influenced with the way I do shit by the shows I saw back in the late nineties to early 2000s – KRS-One, The Roots, Roc Raida. I also can be influenced by a good spoken word poem or a live drum session. Anything that stimulates me as an artist, I draw from. As far as the local scene I feel our scene is strong right now and I got nothing but love for the cats putting the city on the map.
KS: How do you feel about the current state of the Pittsburgh hip hop scene?
Blacklisted: I think the Pittsburgh hip-hop scene has been gaining steam and will continue to do so into the future. People are very willing to work together on things from our experience. We are fortunate to have numerous venues, promoters, DJs, MCs, and producers who always seem to be willing to collaborate and build together.
Connect: I’m feeling the scene right now. Some artists have definitely broken through on a major scale, but with that I think you’re going to see some tiers of breakthroughs from this city. Some of those tiers have begun and more are in the making. There’s just so much talent out there. I really envision good things coming out of this scene for years to come.
KS: What can you tell us about the new album? How is it different from previous releases and what direction are you looking to take in the future?
Connect: The new album is truly raw, conscious hip hop. It’s called The Plastic Eaters and to me that means the world is becoming more and more materialistic, fragile, sensitive, plastic-based and here we stand “fortified” ready to devour and consume it all and regurgitate back to you what truly remains.
Blacklisted: The new album is the first release of us as a group, and was a completely independent project from start to finish. All production on the album was in-house. When we started collaborating on the album I think we all began to influence each other’s styles, and that pushed each member to step their game up. We performed most of the tracks that appear on the album live at shows as they were completed and got to crowd test everything. We wanted to carry the energy from the live performance experience to the studio recording. As far as our future direction, we would just like to continue to evolve our sound, and keep progressing. I have never worked with a more dedicated group of people and we will continue to do what we love. The journey so far has really made me grow as an artist and DJ and I only have optimism for what is down the road.
Connect: In 2013 you’re going to see a couple releases from Naedon. One from his group effort with Brother Seamus called Galactic Brethren, as well as a release with The Latebloomer out of New Jersey. I’ll be putting out a project with Ft Dub from Fort Worth, TX handling all of the production and myself on the rhymes. Blacklisted DJs frequently all over the city, on Square 1 Radio, and like. Naedon and I will certainly be focused on producing beats for future endeavors and the next Fortified PhonetX album. Additionally, we’re going to be pushing The Plastic Eaters album, performing locally and hitting the road as much as possible. We have spots lined up for the Midwest in January and we’re working at expanding on that.
You can cop their new album on their Bandcamp page for only $5. Preorder it today or wait til it drops on Monday.