Arts Desk

WCP Does SXSW: Phil Adé

All week, Arts Desk profiles area artists heading to Texas for the South by Southwest Music Conference, March 15-20.

On last year’s exceptional summer mixtape, The Letterman, DMV rapper Phil Adé made his intentions and aesthetics perfectly clear:“I’m the only 21-year-old that raps like he’s 30.”

Adé’s flow is mature and smoky. Catch his guest verses alongside area MCs and friends like Tabbi Bonney and Wale, Adé sounds like big brother. Beyond sonic booms, Adé’s songs are littered with samples from the legends of his youth: Biggie, Andre 3000, Lil Wayne, and even Beastie Boys. His newest video is a remake of Ice Cube’s mask-and-gloves-era ‘92 single, “Wicked.”

“We’ve been trying to flip classic songs,” Adé says. “My manager showed me the joint, can’t claim too much credit. I put my own spin on it and I wanted the video to be like Cube’s—just me wildin’ out.”

Adé turns 23 in August, and he comes up in a moment with distinct, quirky, skinny-jean kid dynamos—many of whom he’ll run into next week in Austin, Texas for the 2011 South By Southwest music conference. His salty snarl doesn’t exactly gel with leading contemporaries (and lightning rods of critical attention) like Wiz Khalifa and Odd Future.

“I’m ready for whatever,” Adé says. “We’ll be in town doing five shows...I respect everyone, we all have something different to offer even if it’s not really my thing.”

Adé makes an important clarification: He is not a hater. The influences may be easy to identify (‘90s rap built to destroy from trusted, lower-middle-class enclaves), but Adé’s almost flower-child “music is a canvas, man” insistence shows unusual depth. It’s this sort of openness that led Adé to duet with area revivalist rockers (and fellow South by Southwest showcase talent), U.S. Royalty last year. The driving, blues-based product howled and bumped like the best moments from that Black Keys-plus-rappers album.

“I met them at an art gallery show I did for a photographer,” Adé says. “I was introduced to John, the lead singer, and we just went from there and recorded a few cuts. Hopefully we get to release [the rest]. I’m an artist, man. It’s not about rap and alternative, it’s about good music.”

Touring with Pittsburgh’s Mac Miller through the conference, Adé is using his 19-year-old billing mate’s youthful crowds to refine his performance. Over the phone and from the road, Adé is downright giddy about the differing audiences he’ll encounter in Austin. Adé is Twitter-savvy, efficient, and proudly on an indie label. Still, he doesn’t seem especially interested about concrete net gains from the upcoming experience.

“I just want to have fun man,” Adé says. “Last year was my first time [at South by Southwest], and it was unreal being downtown and bumping into like Wiz rapping on the street. South By is a great place to just hang out and connect. It’s great to network but I’m there to do dope music.”

If there’s one thing Phil Adé hopes to clarify in the wake of his Texas stint, it’s that he’s not from Philadelphia.

“I get that all the time,” Adé says. “I have a big Maryland flag on my hat and people still ask if I’m from Philly. I’m not on some Flo Rida shit.”

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