TRUTHLiVE Jumps “In the Mix” [DJBooth Interview Exclusive]
Most hip-hop artists are quick to play up just how deeply their love for music runs; some profess to love it like a spouse, while others claim to eat, sleep, and breathe it. Unfortunately, not all of them have the motivation or perseverance to back up these claims, and invariably they end up so far from the limelight you would think someone pushed them out of it. For DJ-turned-emcee (but still DJ) TRUTHLiVE, though, music is his life, and it shows.
It wasn’t until after nearly ten years of earning his keep as a DJ that TRUTH discovered his talent on the mic and decided to take center stage as an emcee. In his hometown in California, he teamed up with local, more established emcees in order to jump-start his career and prove to all who were willing to hear him that he can hold his own in the booth. Not only was he successful, but he also proved that there is indeed someone who is still sincere when he says, “My music is my truth and my life.”
In this exclusive, five-question interview, TRUTHLiVE takes some time to talk with us about how he’s managed to balance his continuing work as a DJ with his burgeoning rap career, as well as what we can look forward to on his upcoming album, Patience.
TRUTHLiVE is definitely a name that stands out. What is the inspiration behind it?
The name TRUTHLiVE is a reminder to myself of how to be in the world. I had some very poor health earlier in my life, and one night before I went into the hospital for a heart surgery, I heard the words, “live truth, truth live” in my head. Sounds crazy, but it's true. I was in a very vulnerable and uncertain place, and it always stuck with me. Call it an epiphany of sorts.
Producer/emcee hybrids have been compared to people who are bilingual. Do you feel your development as an emcee was as challenging as learning a language, or has it come naturally?
I only speak English… So I can’t really answer that very well. I mean, I speak a little Spanish, but that is because I grew up and live in California and there is no way to not know some conversational Spanish. For the sake of the intent behind the question as I understand it, I didn’t find the development challenging. I am a Hip-Hop head. Hip-Hop heads almost always try their hand at more than one element. I DJ, I make beats, I rap. I’m sure a lot of other emcee’s can say the same. Writing poetry was something I did well before I started rapping. The semi-challenging part is turning poems on paper into rhymes that flow well over music. These days, it seems like cats feel rhythms, flow, and delivery before they consider the words. I can’t argue with the process, it sounds good to the ear. But I’m old school; I think the actual choice of words is the most important part, even though I know many “fans” don’t seem to care too much about lyrical content.
Your much-anticipated debut album Patience is set to drop in just a few days. What is the significance behind the title of this new project?
The title is a literal interpretation of what the process required. The working title was The Unlearning, which ended up becoming the name of the free pre-release EP of songs I liked as much as the tracks on Patience, but were not produced by Jake One. Getting a retail ready master copy, with artwork, and all the necessary tools for a release took a lot of patience for everyone involved.
On your DJBooth.net feature “Tormented Genius,” you prove that flow and intellect don’t have to work separately. Do you consider yourself a 'tormented genius'?
Being a self-proclaimed genius is some ultra arrogant sh*t. I wasn’t calling myself a genius. I was referring to a state of mind I have felt, and I think most artists feel. Me, the person, Evan Phillips, is not 100% what TRUTHLiVE is. It’s something I aspire to be. Maybe I’m 90% or 99% the same guy, but not 100%. But throughout my life I have had, and still have, trouble relating to people intellectually. That isn’t because I’m smarter than others, it’s more that I process things differently. My observations and eventual comments on life seem obvious to me, but so often people seem shocked by them, or can’t understand them, or think they are “genius.”
In preparation for the release of Patience, you wrote over 100 songs, some of which were heard on the Booth-hosted EP, The Unlearning. How difficult is the process of narrowing down a stack of songs that big and what are your plans for all of the unreleased material?
I have over 100 sessions with vocals and beats. That doesn’t mean I have 100 complete or good songs. Throughout the process, I always knew which tracks I liked best as I was recording them or first listening to playbacks. But remaining objective is impossible for anyone to accomplish, especially if the process is very short, or very long. In my case, long. Fortunately I have a good team around me, and I trust their musical opinion while factoring their understanding of my own vision. Ultimately you have to trust your own feelings about your own music.
Final Thoughts? Shout Outs?
I really appreciate the support DJBooth.net has shown me. Websites and blogs are driving indie Hip Hop. Unfortunately, a lot of the more well-known sites won’t take a chance on a new artist even if they are “feelin” the music. It’s this big chicken or the egg, catch-22 thing. Like, you have to have buzz and be known to get on, but you cannot get buzz or become known without some kind of coverage. So, thank you DJBooth.net and all the other outlets helping me expose my music to the world.
Also, let it be known that I am getting, and will continue to get better as an artist. A lot of the songs on Patience and The Unlearning are old to me. I am obsessed with being a better emcee, writer, businessman, etc, etc. Keep your ears, minds and hearts open… AND GO BUY PATIENCE on April 20.