When it comes to the D.C. area (or the DMV, as many call it), artists come and go at the rate of a Concorde (inherently sharing the Concorde’s eventual fate). Commercially, Wale would be the first artist that comes to mind as far as having staying power in D.C.’s volatile Rap culture — if you asked the MMG rapper himself, he would probably direct you to Maryland’s Phil Adé, an amazingly versatile talent who’s seen his area’s evolution over the last decade…and he’s remained on the frontline throughout all of it.
Having had his start with 368 Music Group, the man now known more simply as Adé has aligned himself with Epic Records; his well-received EP Always Something made landfall around Valentine’s Day and is set to continue its momentum well into Summer time, thanks to infectious melodies, impressive collabs and ever-changing, forward-thinking wordplay (read: bars). Simply put, he’s only getting started.
RESPECT. was fortunate enough to catch up with Adé in his hometown, where we broke bread at Busboys and Poets and conversed about everything from his own career thus far to reflections on the DMV’s Rap past, present and future. You can check out the amazing sit-down below.
RESPECT.: Are in you L.A. now? Or still in this area?
Adé: I’m back and forth.
How did the Epic Records connection come about?
It was a relationship that my manager built with Ezekiel Lewis, who’s the EVP over there. [He also assisted] with Chaz [French]’s deal over at Motown, and when he moved [to Epic], he said he wanted to work with us on my stuff….as soon as he moved over here, we connected.
10 years ago!
The first thing that really caught my attention was “Always There,” and you followed that up with —
I also remember you did the track “Toast 2 Life”…
That was on my next joint, [Letterman]. The one I did with [Don] Cannon.
The last project you did prior to the current release is R.O.S.E. So we’re talking a six-year difference…what have you been up to during that time?
Live, behind the scenes, studio work. I had kind of taken a hiatus, was working with Wale a little bit, worked with Mya in that time, Eric Bellinger — I’m sure you saw the collab we did — and just a host of other artists. What’s crazy is, during that time I wasn’t putting anything out, I made more money [laughs]. Yea, I made way more money than I made when I was putting stuff out.
You know what, a lot of people don’t know the music business, and I know you did a lot of writing for other artists during that time. With Always Something, what made you go with this concept as your re-introduction?
I wanted to make something that had to do with positivity, cause, you know…this music s****…anyone in the music business you know [can tell you that] there’s a lot of hard times, a lot of setbacks, a lot of times you’re not gonna have any money, or times you feel like people are holding you back, you get a lot of that. But, there’s always a lot of…there’s always an opportunity around the corner. There’s always something positive, you know, you can hold on to that to get you through, whatever it is you’re going through. And that was the story with that, you know, even though I was…constantly being met with negativity sometimes, and sometimes being held back, I was always met with opportunities.
It was a point where I didn’t know what I was gonna do, you know? I was recording a lot, I was living in Capital Heights at the time, which is not really the ideal place to live [laughs]. I ain’t know what I was gonna do. I kept recording, making songs, and within a matter of weeks, the next place I lived was Hollywood Hills, working on Wale’s next album.
I was about to say — how did you end up in L.A.?
He just called. He was just like, “I wanna f*** with Phil, I want him to come work with me.”
Just like that.
Moved in to Hollywood Hills, six-story mansion! Hollywood Hills, I was there for like a year, two years.
Do you think that artists have to get out of the D.C. area in order to thrive? They still rep here, they still tell their stories, but things don’t happen until they go to New York or L.A. Do you think it’s like that?
You have to go [outside of the area] to handle business. You know what I’m saying? You have to go to handle business, and touch fans outside of here. The world’s a big place. So you definitely have to leave — but you can be based here and make it, and make a living. Shy Glizzy did it, of course he spent some time in Atlanta, L.A. of course…Lightshow is doing good for himself. There’s all kinds of people that made it here [first]..and then, as we progress, you go and touch people wherever else they at.
It’s hard to name a favorite on Always Something, but that final track that’s currently getting a lot of attention – at least, it is here – with GoldLink and Wale [“Something Real”]…are y’all planning a video for that? Are y’all planning visuals for any other tracks on the project?
Yea, I’m just trying to figure out everybody’s schedule, so we could do that. That would just be good for home.
I wanna shoot a video for everything, so that’s the plan. But we got something on the schedule.
How do you feel about D.C. area Hip-Hop, seeing Q Da Fool and Rico Nasty and other artists…with you having remained relevant through all of this, how do you feel about the evolution of Hip-Hop in this area?
Yes, I do remember Marky!
You know what I’m saying? Bro, I’ve seen it from the beginning. Even when I joined and was a part of it, when I was in that mix, to where it is now…there’s probably like 6, 7 people with major record deals? IDK, GoldLink, Chaz French, Innanet James, Rico Nasty, Q Da Fool…all these people have deals, bro. It’s crazy.
We definitely have a squad here now.
Beau Young Prince, Def Jam, Logic — probably the biggest one right now. It’s real. It’s a real scene, and it’s only gonna get bigger. And the thing I like about it the most is that everybody has their own lane.
Yeah! And for a second, I couldn’t really tell where the D.C. area was going musically, Atlanta was pretty much running the whole sound or whatever, but it’s definitely become a place with different pockets, different styles…we’re just as strong of an area as anyone else — honestly, Maryland–!
That’s another question: early on, it was always D.C. and the surrounding area, but Maryland…
Maryland has its own scene too…there’s [even] a style of Rap [that’s coming from Maryland].
…even Virginia…each area within the whole DMV has their own respective scenes separate of D.C.
It’s really dope to even see these artists saying, “I’m not from D.C., I’m from Maryland.”
For me, personally, it makes me happy to see that ‘cause…you know, when we were coming up from here it was “D.C., you’re from D.C.,” you wasn’t cool unless you could say you from D.C. It’s progression. I feel like I was one of, if not the first to really to be–
No, I think you were probably one of the first. I’m sitting here trying to brainstorm who came before that that was really reppin’ Maryland like that, and I don’t think there was anyone – not any with the momentum and the star power that you had at that time.
There wasn’t really many people rapping to be honest, too. If you rapped, you were in a Go-Go band. You weren’t trying to be a Hip-Hop artist.
I was born in ’83, so just seeing Hip-Hop in D.C…I didn’t think it would happen. Even when I saw Wale, and seeing his success, I was like, “Wow, if he can open the door, maybe we’ll be like these other cities.” But it didn’t seem like it was gonna be like that at first…now, it’s an amazing place to be.
His success made it comfortable for everyone else to try it, and be like, “okay, we can do this.” And the city will accept us doing this. You know what I’m saying?
Well, Always Something’s out. I know you’re probably gonna let that breathe for a minute, ‘cause people are still getting the feel of those records. What’s next? Do you have a plan to drop anything else this year? Are you gonna plan for 2020 to hit them with new music?
I’m already working on it. I’m already working on an album.
Are we far along on that?
Um… [pause] I’m not gonna say [laughs].
[Laughs] That’s cool. People will take that and be like, “oh he’s 60 percent done? That means he’ll probably be done next…” The process is the process, it makes sense to take time and make sure these records are right…
I would say 30 percent though. I have a lot of songs…it’s hard to just not open the flood gates…
I mean, six years and you’ve still been recording? All those songs, you could do a #PhilAdeFriday 3, 4, 5, and 6, for real. I’ll just throw that out there.
But even with those songs: will we hear them on the new album? Are you starting fresh? Did you start fresh from the moment you got with Epic and now you’re on a whole different process?
For the most part, these are all more recent tunes. But there are some songs that I had for some time that I do want to put out, you know, maybe over the Summer.
I definitely hope to see a mixtape or something, but I also understand – I’m also excited to see what videos come from the EP as well, ‘cause I know that’s the focus right now.
Yea. It’s a new era man. It’s like…EPs are the new mixtape.
That’s true. Mixtapes are like albums now.
‘Cause it’s a lot of music coming out. All kinds of streaming services and directions and Soundcloud and…it’s somebody new every week. There’s a major person dropping an album every week, it’s a lot of music. I think now, artists are being more concise.
You kind of touched on it earlier, as far as talking about how much it took to get where you are…DMV artists in this era, they’re trying to make it big, maybe they’re trying to go independent, as others do, maybe sign with a label. What advice would you have for that artist.
Do what’s best for you. When it came time to sign, I’m the person that’s gonna just rush into anything. But I know that in order to be successful, you gotta have a team, an infrastructure, and I [was] lacking in that area. Epic had the right team. You know Modi [Oyewole] is over there…
Yea, I do. That was dope to even see him move over there. I know that was a big move for him too. Does he work closely with you as far as the push of this project?
Yes. I don’t know if you saw any of the ‘Missing’ posters around the city…
Yea, the initial ‘Where Is Ade?’ promo.
Modi came up with that idea. And it was tight, it got people talking. Kind of stirred people up a little bit.
I was hype. ‘Cause we haven’t heard – well, we heard the features and we see that you’re still making music, but to see the focus come back to you to push out a project, that was hype. You couldn’t do nothing but be happy. Shout out to Modi for that.
[With] the EP, Epic, they gave me the freedom to do what I want. None of those features [were through Epic], I got those myself [laughs].
You got those yourself?
Yea, I know people think, “I know he signed to a label…”
No, actually, not even the case, cause like you said, you were doing features even before that. Were the features all done in the studio organically? Did they send you the songs? Were they older songs you already did? How did those collabs come together?
The one with GoldLink and Wale, we did together, all in the same night. The one with Rich [The Kid] I sent to. And [Lil] Baby, he did that the night he was here with [Hoodrich] Pablo Juan, they had a show at Echostage, he came by [the studio] after and dropped a verse for me…he [recorded] quick. Very quickly.
He’s another talented artist. Alright, anything else you want to say to the people?
Man, please…download this project, stream it. Put it on mute and stream it [laughs].
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