There’s no secret that Phonte is one of the smartest dudes in music. His smarts stem from more than just intellect, however. His intelligence is grounded in experience. Just like his rhymes, Tay’s world weary life-isms have become quotables, in every realm of his career—from his time with acclaimed rap group Little Brother, to his solo effort, to his work with one of the most consistent, innovative groups in music, The Foreign Exchange.
Whether he’s rapping about relationships (check out his verse on “Slow It Down” from The Minstrel Show), married life (listen to his verse on “Doin Me” from Chitlin Circuit 1.5), or just life in general (listen to “House of Cards” from The Foreign Exchange’s Leave It All Behind) Phonte’s every-man wisdom has made him one of the best lyricists around, in any genre.
He recently shared some hard won wisdom in an interview with DJ Booth. Check out some Tiggallo-isms and get your life right.
On living check to check:
“Up until we went on tour for The Listening in 2003, the winter of 2003, I was still working a job. We made about $3,000 dollars―me, Pooh, and 9th came back with $1,000 a piece. That was enough money for me to pay my rent and put something on my car note. I got this month figured out, so I had 30 days to figure out the next month. That was my life from that point on. Just kinda swinging from vine to vine. There’s been times I thought there wouldn’t be any vines, but now they are much closer. Much, much closer now than they were 15 years ago. I got it figured out.”
On making sure you can sustain yourself financially while you pursue your art:
“The reason why I’ve been able to stay on course with my career, and do the music I want to make is because I never put myself in the position where shit was do or die. For anyone that’s pursuing something artistic, long as you got something that allows you to make some steady bread, I say stay in it. You never want desperation to fuel what artistic moves you have to make. Go after your dream but be practical. Don’t get dressed up before you have a date for the prom.”
On why “grinding 24/7 is dumb:
“I don’t think people get it when you say it takes hard work to make it in this business. I don’t think anyone has an idea of what that really means. Hard work doesn’t mean I’m not getting any sleep, that I may have to miss a couple birthdays, no n—. It means you may be working your ass off for 10 to 15 years before you see any glimmer of a breakthrough. Are you willing to put in 10 years of hard work for your dream? When we were doing LB, we were doing LB to death. It was mixtape, album, mixtape, tour, tour, tour, tour, album, man we did that shit to death. By the time 2010 rolled around, I just didn’t have any more to give. I had to find the love again.”
On putting yourself in a position to make money:
“When you’re young starting in your career, it’s all about being the best you can be and developing that skill to be the best you can be. Once you get older, further in your career, that’s when it’s about putting yourself in the position to make the most money. That’s pretty much where I am right now. In terms of rhyming and rapping, I’m about as good of a rapper that I’m going to be. I’m always pushing to make myself better, I’m still going to continue sharpening the sword, but now it’s about putting myself in the position to make the bread and take it to another level. That’s the transition for me. At 22 it was about being the greatest rapper. Now it’s about how can I set up life for my 50’s and 60’s.”