The Listening Party: Chill Moody
by Gina Lee
When I decided on Chill Moody as my first Listening Party write-up, I knew it was important to find a Philadelphia artist with a strong presence in the city, working to make moves outside of the city walls. I didn’t anticipate becoming so curious about an artist I knew so little about. I also didn’t anticipate someone saying, “Gina, this is Chill,” as I stood like a misfit in the midst of music bloggers, producers, and artists at a Just Blaze interview at MilkBoy Studio. I was - just there. That two-second introduction made me even more curious about Chill Moody, and confirmed that I made the right pick. And so, my first listening party began.
The 28-year-old rapper has certainly made a name for himself in and around the city of Philadelphia, from performing at the Hard Rock Cafe to snatching up this year’s Indie Hip-Hop Artist Award at the 3rd Annual Tri-state Indie Music Awards. This year’s indie man-of-the-year has even made friends with our Manhattan favorites, MTV, not to mention hopped in the Hot Box with DJ Enuff, showing off his lyrical aptitude. Chill Moody and his team recently made the trip down south to Austin, Texas to perform at SXSW, and was featured in the 7th Annual Roots Picnic line-up. Not a bad year so far for the West Philadelphia native.
So, is Chill Moody Philly’s new up-and-comer? I’d say so. And he thinks so, too. I have a soft spot in my musical heart for independent artists. They have a drive, determination, and delivery like no other. If they’ve reached the level of starving artist, the hunger is visible in the lyric. You can see it, hear it, smell it, and taste it, right? Well, back in February, I gathered a group of music-heads together for my Chill Moody Listening Party to see if they felt like the man we call Chill is dominant enough to be the next up in the city. Did they see, hear, smell, and taste what the Philly indie was serving up?
“Back as a youth, I always knew I’d take a step in the booth. I even got them old records as proof.” – Go Back, RFM
To be fair, I started with Running From Myself (RFM), Chill Moody’s first album. You have to know where he came from to see where he’s going. “Go Back” was the first track played, an immediate crowd favorite. He won us over with his nostalgic flow, so much so that we played it again. “Wait, who is this guy,” was the general reaction after getting a taste of Chill Moody’s honest, authentic lyrics. A few people in the group even likened his flow to Mos Def, specific to this song, and compared the song to a Pharcyde track. Precisely! If it wasn’t such a harsh winter, I would have opened my living room windows and put both speakers in the ‘sill. If I had a stoop, we would have sat outside sipping lemonade and something disguised in a brown paper bag, put this song on repeat, and danced until the streetlights came on. Yea, Chill got that off.
And then, we had a dilemma – our first disagreement of the evening. While one of the listeners heard Chill’s versatile delivery shine through on the two Dilemma produced tracks (“The Same Things” and “So in Love”) on RFM, stating, “He’s decent and can be the next up coming. He has a nice flow. I’m excited to hear the freestyles after hearing him on the Dilemma production,” the others were convinced – Dilemma’s beats completely overpowered the chill-toned rapper. Nonetheless, that didn’t take away from the group recognizing his obvious lyrical play. Everyone was able to vibe out to RFM and became anxious to see what else the lyricist had in store. That was Chill Moody, early 2013. They’d later meet Chill Moody, late 2013/early 2014 and perhaps get more of what they wanted in his freestyle series, Sharpening My Teeth (SMT).
But first, we moved on to his latest album, Who Do You Love...More? with Hank McCoy and Beano. Here is where some of the listeners took the first exit off of the Chill Moody expressway. They couldn’t quite figure out what he was trying to accomplish with this album. Relative to what was just heard on RFM, the listeners were disappointed in the angle this album took – one listener saying, “He’s better than that. He’s not corny, he’s a lyricist.” When the single, “LastNightInTown” came up, one listener described it as a “fun romantic song.” So, it wasn’t that they didn’t like any song on the album. “LastNightInTown” won them over. While my favorite song on the album remains to be “StillYoung,” I couldn’t convince my listeners of the same. I confessed that I really appreciated Beano on that track, and that opened up another topic of discussion.
While listening to “WhatsForBreakfast,” one listener disappointedly admitted that he liked the song, but wished Chill Moody would have taken more control of the track, stating, “He [Chill Moody] was drowning himself with Beano.” Overall, they agreed that “KelisThings” was a hands down favorite. The two questions stemming from Who Do You Love...More? were: (1) is this Chill Moody’s lane, and (2) why did he choose to stay in this lane for the album? “He’s not giving you everything,” one listener opined. “He can rap. The boy can rap, he’s just ‘chilling’ a bit too much.” On this album, they referred to him in the literal sense, as Chill.
During my post listening party #askchillmoody question and answer session via Twitter, I wanted to know exactly what lane of hip-hop Chill Moody considered himself to be in, so I asked how he would describe his lane. His response, “Not sure. Empty.” I think that’s what we were afraid of. Not the “empty” answer, but the “not sure.” There wasn’t one person in my listening party that wasn’t rooting for Chill Moody, but no one knew where to place him. They liked him, then, they thought they didn’t like him – and then they realized they actually did like him. They just didn’t like what he did on his latest album. Well, it was time to give them what they wanted.
One morning I saw Chill tweet, “The goal is 12 verses today. Time to get to work #sharpeningmyteeth.” Something about that hashtag made me giggle out loud. For whatever reason, I tweeted him and told him just that. His reply was simple. He hashtagged the initials SMT, sent five freestyles, and advised I “check em out.” Stemming from a conversation he had with his cousin telling him that all of his achievements over the past year were cool but he needed to “keep his teeth sharp,” the SMT series was born.
“Meanwhile I tear stages down, raise the banners. Unsigned sold-out shows raise the standards.” – Numbers on the Board, SMT
So, I let Chill Moody sharpen his teeth on my listening party. I put on his Sharpening My Teeth (SMT) freestyle series and waited for a reaction. Chill Moody is a sharp, intelligent mind, not to be taken lightly and if you can’t seem to follow his SMT series, if he loses you at any point, and he may because the college graduate does have bars – you may need to worry less about Chill sharpening his teeth and focus more on sharpening your mind. As stated by one listening party participant, “Lyrically, he can box.” They were impressed with Chill Moody’s flexibility on his SMT freestyle series. The listening party participants referred to the rapper, as “Moody” after hearing his aggressive tone on SMT and wanted more of that hard-hitting flow.
During the hour long #askchillmoody question and answer session via Twitter, Chill Moody was asked, “What makes you stand out as an artist, from other phl [Philly] rappers: Meek, Cassidy, P. [Peedi] Crack, Beans, etc.?” His response, “My story is mine and only mine. So I'm automatically set apart from others by remaining authentic.”
If you follow Chill Moody on Twitter, you’ll see him use the hashtag #nicethings. If you’ve listened to any of his music, you’ll often hear him reference “nice things.” He later explained, in the #askchillmoody question and answer session, the meaning of “nice things,” stating, “It's all about appreciating what you have, whatever it is.” After the listening party was all said and done, I had a new appreciation for Chill Moody, his authenticity, and his determination to be Philly’s next up, and hoped my listening party participants took away from it this: Chill Moody is doing all the right things to put on for his city, a city that somehow always remains under the music radar. You don’t have to love everything he’s doing, but recognize everything he’s doing.
“...a lot of stones being thrown and crown claiming here. They overlook like I ain’t having an amazing year. So this here is to make it clear to those who ain’t aware…I am Philly’s savior..." - Numbers on the Board, SMT