What kind of art do you practice?
I would say my avenue is in renaissance arts. I am a hip-hop artist, a songwriter, a producer, a presenter, and a visual artist, but my nucleus is music. Everything arts, whether I soak it in or whether I extract it, I am an artist.
What got you started as an artist?
When I was a child, I looked up to my brothers. I had older brothers who were great artists. My brother Segrin was a hip-hop artist, and he ended up becoming a nationally known entity. Now that's mainly within film, but in the beginning, when I was six and he was twelve, he was already making music that was on the radio. There was this shoe company called Home Team that he made a theme song for when he was twelve. So I looked up to him, and also my older brother Sebastion, who’s one of the best visual artists I’ve ever seen. He was a painter: oil, acrylic, and watercolors. Looking up to them was my first experience with art, and I wanted to emulate it. I actually started drawing and painting before I did anything musically. Then when my older brother Segrin introduced me to music I just started to soak it all in. Hearing melodies and harmonies that I could relate with and that would make me feel inspired, or hearing messages that were relative to my situation and who I was caused the arts to really marinate within me from a young age.
How has art impacted your community?
Art has impacted my community in a great way. I have a cousin, named Charles, who says that “art is the last aspect to change the world,” and when he said that, it was very profound to me because of how different people relate with each other through art. They may have disagreements, or things that make them different as far as what they follow, or their ideologies, or their philosophies, but a lot of people connect through the arts. That's why I think when you're an artist its very important to be an optimist, or to bring life and healing, because it's very powerful. Some arts are seen, but it starts out with who the person is within and what their thoughts are, and that manifests into a sculpture, or a painting, or a song. So when it hits people, within society and communities, it is very powerful and influential. Whoever has that type of gift, its their choice of what they want to do with it, but I see people come together mainly through the arts before anything else and I think it's very important to try and convey that. I feel that we are people who are to bring healing, progression, and leadership through the gifts and talents that we were given, and to put it out there in a very beautiful way: to make people stop, think, be inspired, and be motivated. I feel that it's very important to pump out life, so the community can unify, elevate, and come together. It has been happening, and we have to continue that regardless of the negatives. We have to continue to bring that light through the beauty that's been blessed within us, through the gifts and talents we have artistically.
How do you engage community in your practice?
We always have to bring it back to the community. No matter how much it becomes a business thing, community is always the foundation. There’s an open mic that I host every Tuesday night called Eclectica, and that brings it back to the community because you have different artists who need a platform to be seen and to be heard. It is a requirement for the lyrics to be enlightening for the artists who perform because we want to create this abyss of positivity amongst everyone, and it starts with the performance.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who are able to remain themselves, and still be successful in a world that tries to change them. You have a lot of people who end up being just like everybody else in order to be successful or influential, but people who are able to 100% organically be themselves, and really be influential without being changed to fit whatever is going on, those people inspire me the most because they let me know that I am able to do that as well.
How does your art impact the world?
As far as my art, I can only look at what I have observed and noticed. From what I’ve seen, I feel like my art leaves a timeless positive impact, and I know that from students that I’ve had letting me know that the motivation from something that I said, or something that they heard from a song that I made, or just being in my class, is still helping them to this day. I feel like my legacy is still being written. When it is all over, that is when that conversation can be had, because I am still continuing to pump out life, and there are so many endeavors that I have regarding getting my message and my philosophy out there to unify. Up to this point, I feel like a lot has been done, but there is so much more to be done. The main objective is definitely to heal as much as possible and to shine within people with what I have, and to bring light.
“I feel that we are people who are to bring healing, progression, and leadership through the gifts and talents that we were given, and to put it out there in a very beautiful way: to make people stop, think, be inspired, and be motivated.”
What has been your greatest joy as an artist?
I take it back to the youth. We have different music projects that have been released, and to see my students complete a project from its inception to its birth is an amazing thing. I remember when I was younger and in similar situations, there was so much inspiration I got from whoever my mentors and favorite teachers were, and when we were able to be responsible for completing something that was really passionate, it created an inspiration in me. I was the future back then. Now I’m a grown man looking at these youth the same way. It’s always going to be a cycle of youth who are up and coming. My greatest joy is to see them happy, to see them complete something, and to see them come together.
What is the biggest adversity you’ve faced on your artistic journey?
I would say manifesting my ultimate plan into a world that could be potentially the opposite as far as values go. Manifesting an optimistic endeavor in a world that wants to see the opposite. We live in a world with so much negativity, so I would say that is the biggest adversity.
How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story?
First of all, I will always thank Intermedia Arts, because without this VERVE grant, it probably would’ve taken much longer to complete my album. I can’t even explain how important this album is to me. I was in the music industry when I was in New York and things didn’t go exactly as planned. A lot of things happened very fast in a great way, but I had to take a step back and get things balanced, so when the smoke cleared from that, I became a teacher. I never thought I would be teaching. I was on my artist journey, and it was going well, but I’m teaching now. So getting back into the music when Intermedia Arts gave me this privilege to win this grant meant so much. I never thought I’d get back into music, and now here I am about to release my debut album. The music element of myself is my deepest passion out of everything I do, and it hasn’t been fully exposed yet. I will always have Intermedia Arts as a major key point in my exposure as a hip-hop artist.
Along with that, Intermedia Arts does things in a way that is so revolutionary. They aren’t like all these other programs that seem to go with the status quo. They’re totally against the status quo and they thrive within that. They just keep growing, and to me that’s what it's all about. Intermedia Arts accepts everyone and it's just a haven of art. Before I started working with Intermedia Arts I always admired it from afar, and the connection I’ve made with them has been 100% organic, from winning the VERVE grant to working with the Youth Leadership Council. Every time I’m there I feel a euphoric atmosphere of art, culture, unity, and beauty. I’m glad I can work with them because they match what I’m about.
Chadwick "Niles" Phillips is a renaissance man within the world of the arts and music. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2006 with a Bachelors in Communications. He is a hip-hop artist/song writer, actor, director, teacher, motivational speaker and host. He is also the CEO/Founder of "The Avant Garde" LLC. He won the "Who's Next"/HOT 97 Talent Search in 2006 which enabled him to release a single on Major Label/Koch Records. He also has worked in film for BET News (transcriber/Production Assistant), CBS (Broadcast Associate), MTV (Production Assistant/"The Real World Brooklyn") and NYC Fashion week (Camera Assistant/Fashion Television Canada). Upon moving to the Twin Cities he hosted the legendary "Poet's Groove" open mic in Minneapolis for two and a half years along with many high profile events throughout the Twin Cities. He is the founder of the youth artist development curriculum "Hip-Hop, History and The Arts" which he teaches at schools all around the Twin Cities. This curriculum has released three youth music recording projects. He will be releasing his debut album entitled "To Remain" soon!
Visit Chadwick's website to learn more about his work!