Born in Aruba to a Dominican Republican father and mother from Holland, Pete Philly now lives in Amsterdam just having performed out here in the UK. Armed with the ‘cool’ factor and drawing inspiration from legends such as Bob Marley and Michael Jackson, Pete exudes creativeness and tells me about his journey to his solo album ‘One’, why he has decided to take the solo route following his split with long time collaborator Perquisite and why meeting Kanye West wasn’t a big deal for him.
How did you realize you can rap and sing?
I’ve always loved being on stage. Anything I can do on stage, I’ll do. I never considered myself to be a musician or singer. I actually started out acting. Rapping is something that came easy to me and pretty early on I was rapping melodically so it just felt natural to progress towards singing.
How did the duo with Perquisite come about?
Well I was already starting to establish myself as a solo artist here in the Netherlands. In 2003, a mutual friend gave me his first EP that he dropped in Japan and he said: ‘You need to listen to this.’ I gave him a call immediately and we started working on an E.P which became an L.P which then became worldwide. Then we started touring and we did like 22 countries. So yeah we just became this duo.
Who is the most interesting person you have ever worked with?
I think that has to be Perquisite. He’s almost on every level everything that I’m not. Every once in a while we would just look at each other and think ‘I just do not understand you and your fucking thought process!’ That was interesting for me. When you’re an artist there’s this egotistical, nargotistical thing that you possess where you are so occupied with yourself that when you meet someone that is completely different to what you are its even more baffling. I’d be more emotional and he would be more pragmatic or I would be more focused on certain arrangements of the song and he would completely ignore those aspects and focus on an entirely new part of the song. I mean we’re still friends but it’s because we split up! I don’t think we could have remained friends if we stuck together.
What can we expect from your album and why did you name it ‘One’?
The album is pretty introspective. All my music is very personal so it’s about the relationships I’ve lost. It’s really like an in between album. It’s called ‘One’ because its my first step towards something else after being in a duo for so long and a relationship for so long. It’s not a party album. It’s soulful. I’ve always been a loner but I was very much alone during this process trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I first released this free online project called ‘Open Loops’ and that was my first step in trying to find out what would happen if I was responsible for most of the production and composition myself. An open loop is a thought that wont leave you until you deal with it. My thoughts became tracks and I released one ‘open loop’ every week for fourteen weeks. ‘One’ is my first official solo album, a first step towards something new, it’s me being alone and on the song ‘One’ I speak on how we are all one so it was just right.
What was it like performing on the same stage as Kanye West?
I opened up from him a few times but I didn’t meet him. And I didn’t particularly want to either. He was making his first two albums at the time so he wasn’t doing things that I wasn’t doing also so I have less reverence that everybody else has for him. We’re all just building on the same thing. I don’t get star struck easily.
Describe your style of music and what artist do you take the most inspiration from?
I call it soul music. I still rhyme but its still soul. Its hip-hop. Depending on what mood I’m in, my music will take from reggae or funk or jazz or classical music. But the basic of my music is hip-hop and soul. I definitely draw inspiration from the big ones! Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Nirvana, Queen. The funny thing is I’m a middle ground artist when it comes to listening to music. I’m somewhere in the middle of underground and mainstream. In some countries I’m regarded as an underground dude. But I love listening to pop music the most. But classic pop music! Not what is coming out now. Most of what has come out the last ten years doesn’t seem to really stick with me.
You recently performed at the Jazz Café in London and you also performed in Brighton here in the UK. What was it like performing for your fans in the UK for the first time?
It was nice. Some people have been waiting five years for me to finally come here because my focus was always on other countries. But I’m glad I came. When people haven’t seen me live, they are very impressed because they didn’t imagine me to be as live as I am on stage. Its always nice to do a debut anywhere.
What artists have you been compared to?
I think when people don’t know who you are, people need a little box to put you in and try to compare you to something that’s already out there. People have tried to throw all types of tags on me. These are not my tags but I’ve been compared to D’Angelo, Al Green and Lauryn Hill for some reason. From Busta Rhymes to The Roots when I’m live. People have tried to put me in all types of boxes trying to figure out what it is that I do. I guess it because my voice is kind of raspy but then I sing so it’s like ‘He’s kind of like this but he’s also a bit of that’. But hey it’s just me!
If you wasn’t doing music, what would you be doing right now?
I’d be acting or I’ll be writing or I’ll be doing graphic design. I went to the art academy but I quit because of music. For my album ‘One’ for example I did the artwork myself. I’d be doing something creative that’s for sure. I would not become an accountant or something like that! Really anything that communicates a message but preferably something that would allow me to perform the message and the story. I feel most comfortable performing which is why I make music.
You say you have come out of a long relationship but is there a Mrs Philly in the picture now?
Well I try to not speak on that now. In the Netherlands, my previous relationship was very public. Since I’m so extremely personal in my music, I think people can listen to my album and know what’s going on.
Finally what is your most embarrassing moment ever?
Well that’s hard because I don’t get easily embarrassed ever! Oh but I have one! Ok so I was performing in Rotterdam a few years ago. I always perform with a wireless mic and always throw it around a lot. It’s just my style and something I do a lot. But this particular gig, I’ve only slept like 3 hours before I went on stage so my physicality was a bit off! So I threw my mic into my other hand and it slip and it went straight into the face of this really sweet girl who was right at the front of the stage and who I’ve seen at like 4 or 5 of my shows! And I think it hit her right in the neck! But it was right in the middle of a song so the band kept playing but I had no mic! So I had to like ask these girls at the front to pass me back my mic. I think you can definitely call that embarrassing!
Who is the best person you have ever seen perform live?
What do you dip a chicken nugget in?
If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would it be?
What is the last thing you ate?