Get to know Houston Christian rapper Ill Phil, whose album Soul Food releases today.
Sketch: You're originally from New Orleans and evacuated to Houston during Hurricane Katrina. Five years later, how do you remember that time and how would you describe the transition from the Crescent City to the Bayou City?
Ill Phil: Well, I think it was obviously a devastating moment in my life like it was for so many others. But to be honest, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
When I first moved to Houston I was still into clubbing and alcoholism. In that sense I missed New Orleans. But when I came to know the Lord in 2006 I was glad to be where I was.
New Orleans has a lot of issues from violence to the corrupt judicial and police departments. The wild partying only scratches the surface. I believe Houston is a better place for me not only to avoid the temptation to sin, but also to raise a family.
Sketch: You attended the same school as Lil Wayne in New Orleans. Has his popularity in the mainstream rap world hurt or helped your own music ministry?
Ill Phil: It definitely hasn’t hurt my music ministry. I used to really admire him back in the late 90's, especially when we shared the same class. And being such a big Ca$h Money [Records] fan when I was younger has probably played a part in my rap style today.
But in 2006 I stopped listening to secular rap all together. I guess you can say I traded in my Lil Wayne CD in exchange for my new favorite artist - Da’ T.R.U.T.H.
Sketch: I've read that you were rapping before you became a Christian and stopped afterward because your church didn't accept the art form - even in its redeemed state. How did you overcome that adversity and what would you say to members of the hip hop culture who find themselves in similar situations?
Ill Phil: Well, I continued to study The Word and eventually I just came to the conclusion that the reasons they were giving me to refrain from listening to some of the music I wanted to was not supported by Scripture.
I had cut out rap and R&B, but when I was told I shouldn’t listen to jazz I knew that I couldn’t overlook the legalism in the church anymore. I know they meant well, but they were missing the big picture.
I would advise anyone going through the same circumstance to continue to study their Bible. God will reveal to you what is His will and what is just a man-made rule.
Sketch: How would you rate Houston's Christian rap community?
Ill Phil: Honestly, I haven’t seen enough to really give a fair report. I had planned to attend a few concerts before, but for one reason or another I wasn’t able to make it. Amazingly, I’ve only been to one Christian rap event and that was recently. I really enjoyed it and of course I plan to start attending events much more often. But at the moment, I can’t say that I have seen enough in person to have a strong opinion.
Sketch: Your song "I Don't Hate Him" on the Soul Food album addresses the forgiveness you extended to your absent father. How difficult was that song to write and why did you feel like it needed to be shared on this project?
Ill Phil: The forgiveness God has granted to all who believe in Him is a wonderful thing. There is so much wrong that I have done in my past that all I can do is admire the Lord for his mercy.
I wanted to create a song that I felt a lot of people could relate to and that demonstrates heartfelt forgiveness. I wanted people to get a glimpse of what it means to be merciful. I thought that pouring out my heart with details of my own life just might inspire others to see how important it is to forgive regardless of the situation.
Soul Food by Ill Phil can be purchased at all digital download outlets such as iTunes, Amazon MP3, and more beginning Oct. 26. You can contact Ill Phil via his website www.theofficialillphil.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.