Amidst the painfully boring and monotonous hip-hop scene today, there are a few artists still exhibiting the kind of enthusiasm, passion, and skill that made us love the genre in the first place. Enter Phynite. If you were forced to sum up his vision using one of his own lines, "I wanna bring together old and new school, wisdom and experience with bold and youthful", could very well do the trick. His music is a true representation of him as a person; sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes confusing, but always done with purpose and executed with precision. The formula is simple; beats, rhymes, and heart.
Rhyming since the age of 14, Phynite, now 26, has been rocking shows in Pennsylvania and beyond for the last 7 years alongside friend and deejay, Unit 13. Armed with a captivating voice and a razor-sharp delivery, Phynite's performances are extremely energetic, interactive, and thought-provoking. With over 125 shows together under their belts, this dynamic duo has performed at the legendary Scribble Jam Festival in Cincinnatti, Ohio in 2007, Poramor 2 (central PA's only hip-hop festival) in 2008, and has opened up for many hip-hop greats on the classic and independent circuit, including The Wu-Tang Clan, KRS-ONE, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Manchild of Mars Ill, Playdough, Black Sheep, and The Pharcyde.
In 2007, Phynite's release "A Step In The Right Direction" (produced by The Visiting) was heralded "by far the best local hip-hop record that I've ever heard," by Dugan Nash of Pennsylvania's own, Fly Magazine. Also, Indie-Music.com named him an "Editor's Pick" for 2007, giving his song "Where The Road Ends" an honorable mention nod for the "Top 25 MP3's of 2007". Phynite's latest project, "Large Talk," (2009) has continued his legacy as he “relentlessly attacks the beat and twists words and, more importantly, real ideas around in a way that encourages a lean-in-and-listen-closely experience.”
Music isn't Phynite's only passion after all, love is the main focus of his message. He spends his days as a secondary education teacher and will be awarded his Master's Degree in Education from Temple University. With a Master's Degree in Social Work from Millersville University, Phynite's wife shares his passion for people and is a huge source of inspiration for the work he continues to do.
Phynite is currently working on a few long-overdue projects, including a follow-up album to “A Step In The Right Direction” with The Visiting and a collaboration project with a crew named Team Omega. 2011 promises to be a stellar year for Phynite, so keep on the lookout for new audio, live performances, and much, much more.
Large Talk (2009)
A Step In The Right Direction (2007)
Coping Mechanisms EP (2006)
Phynite (York Rhyme-Slinger)
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Phynite Published: December 2008 Story: Jeff Royer Fly Magazine He’s performed at Scribble Jam...Phynite
Published: December 2008
Story: Jeff Royer
He’s performed at Scribble Jam – America’s largest hip-hop festival – shared the stage with KRS-One, Black Sheep and The Pharcyde and, this month, will warm up the crowd for Wu-Tang Clan.
Oh, and he’s only 24. And from York, Pennsylvania. And white.
Even if you’re not into rap, you’ve got to feel at least a twinge of admiration for Phynite (aka Matt McClure), who in four short years has turned a hip-hop hobby into a burgeoning career and tenacity into a brand-new art form.
“I’m my own manager. I’m my own booking agent. I’m my own everything. I have to deal with the ugly side of the business as well. I don’t have the luxury of just being an artist, as nice as that would be,” Phynite says during a mid-November interview. “It’s been a lot of hard work. I pretty much eat, sleep and breathe this.”
All of that scrappy effort is resulting in the fulfillment, however gradual, of a dream Phynite’s had since he started writing his first raps at the age of 13. It wasn’t until he discovered Central PA’s sometimes hard-to-find hip-hop scene at age of 20, however, that the prospect of taking his rhymes from his bedroom to the stage became a reality.
After establishing himself as a regular spectator at the Elements hip-hop shows at the WaterWay in York, Phynite eventually decided to grab the mic himself to test the waters. Newness, age, race – the odds weren’t exactly in his favor.
“The social ramifications of the area we live in – unfortunately, skin color and things like that are factors in how you feel about yourself and how others feel about you. It was definitely interesting,” he chuckles, “and a little bit nerve-wracking.”
Social awkwardness nothwithstanding, Phynite slowly started winning over crowds (to some people’s surprise) and ultimately decided to plunge headfirst into music as a career.
“I didn’t want to be 40 and look back and say, ‘Well, dang, I really wish I would have pursued that. I really wish I would have done that when I was younger,’” he says. “There were definitely times when I was like, ‘Dang, what am I doing! What am I seriously trying to do right now?’ But I just kept pushing. Perseverance is the key.”
Inspired by independent “conscious” rappers like Brother Ali and Mars ILL, Phynite dishes hyper-intelligent, socially aware and often humorous commentary that manages to be message- oriented without getting preachy. His third album, Large Talk, is slated for release in February, and will feature a cameo by Mars ILL emcee manCHILD.
“I truly believe no matter where you’re at, with faith and with God you can overcome a lot of things. And I really try to portray that hope and that sense of inspiration in my music,” Phynite says.
“Ultimately, what I want is to have a positive effect on people, to have somebody say, ‘Wow, one of your songs really made me think,’ or, ‘One of your songs touched me in a certain way,’” he adds. “I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and tell me how much hope some of my songs have given them, and that’s all the encouragement I could ever need.”
Hip-Hop With A Conscience
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“See, I don’t need to pack a knife or a gun. I got a pen, I got some paper and some light from the s...“See, I don’t need to pack a knife or a gun. I got a pen, I got some paper and some light from the sun.”
This line from York MC Phynite’s song “Take It Or Leave It” typifies his attitude and approach to his music. From listening to just a few bars of any of his songs, it is clear that he sees it as a craft. The rhymes, stanzas and stories are painstakingly assembled and executed in a way that exudes focus. I spoke with Phynite recently, and the word focus occurred to me time and time again as his singular vision and intensity became evident.
Phynite doesn’t have any kind words for current hip-hop giants like the recently and strategically reconciled rap behemoths Jay-Z and Nas. Given his opinion of meaningless, negative and destructive lyrics, I never mentioned the “E” word during our conversation. Nonetheless, it is a credit to Phynite’s skill to say that his delivery and a certain vocal quality are reminiscent of the world’s most famous Caucasian rapper. His penchant for viciously critical self-assessment, paired with long and meticulously constructed rhyme schemes, also echoes that of Mr. Mathers.
Growing up in a conservative and strict household, Phynite was something of a late bloomer when it came to musical discovery. “When I was younger, my parents were pretty strict with what I was allowed to listen to. … I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV and things like that,” says Phynite. “But once I got to about sixth grade … you know, your parents can’t keep you from everything.”
His fierce independent streak and focused nature seem to have been forming already at that time. While most young teens’ musical choices are often dictated entirely by peer pressure and their immediate surrounding culture, Phynite remembers, “I didn’t know a lot of people that were into hip-hop. … I was kind of at it by myself. I didn’t grow up around hip-hop, so I would try to understand it.”
Phynite began to experiment with writing rhymes at around the age of 13, but says he never took himself very seriously because he was “under false assumptions of what hip-hop was or wasn’t … due to what I saw on television and things like that. I never really thought I could do anything with it.” Mainstream hip-hop has generally exhibited the notion that it is a domain of ex-cons and thugs, so it is no surprise that a teenager from York who discovered hip-hop all alone might think he wouldn’t have the appropriate credentials for acceptance. But again, that focus and inner compass kept Phynite moving forward. “I just stuck with it,” he says. “I don’t really know why. I guess there was just something inside of me.”
Consistent with his driven and focused approach, Phynite politely dismisses most music outside of his first love and area of expertise as an influence on his style. Referring to other styles of music, he says, “I can’t necessarily say I enjoy them all, but I respect them. Hip-hop was made from all other forms of music. … That’s what hip-hop is – it’s a culmination of everything.”
Phynite does not mince words about the dismal state of mainstream hip-hop – in fact, he agrees with the bold sentiment that Nas lays out in his latest single, the “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”-sampling “Hip Hop Is Dead.” Phynite has a lyric predating that Nas song, in which he says, “We’re both disgusted by the popular rap/ It’s an obvious fact/ Hip-hop’s been shot in the back.” For example, the hypocrisy in someone like Jay-Z’s activism is infuriating to Phynite. He says, “One minute you see Jay-Z talking real misogynistic messages, and then you see him walking around Africa with little kids, you know what I’m saying?” The reason this hypocrisy gets him so fired up is that he sees young and impressionable hip-hop fans as the casualties of such abuses of influential position. He explains, “Essentially, they’re getting patted on the back for selling poison to children. They claim to be trying to help their community … but you gotta look at the mental health of the people you’re influencing.”Continuing in reference to Jay-Z, he says, “If you really claim to care about people … what are you trying to do? You’re poisoning people. Little kids look up to you. Regardless of whether or not you want to be a role model, you are one. You chose that life.”
Phynite sees the alternative to hypocrisy as using music and other positive tools to deal with and address the pain in life. His last EP, in fact, was called Coping Mechanisms, referring to how music is his own way of coping with and transforming pain into something fruitful. He is currently working on a full-length record with friend and local DJ The Visiting at the production helm. The record, which is to be titled A Step in the Right Direction, will go deeper in addressing the issues of hypocrisy and our culture’s great tradition of turning a blind eye to unpleasant realities. Phynite describes the approach: “The whole vibe of it really is pretty much just to promote awareness of ourselves and society. … I feel like a lot of people are brainwashed by the things we see and the materialistic culture we live in.” Lyrics from a Phynite song reflect this philosophy and his angst towards a profit- and pleasure-driven society, “I don’t want to be another blood-sucking budget-puppet drooling in hell/ In a cell watching God point across the abyss/ We fast-forward life, but I just want to pause and exist.”
It is clear that Phynite does not take his position as a potential role model for granted. Throughout our conversation, he frequently refers to his music and lyrics as if they were part of a dialogue with the listener. Phrases like, “I try to encourage people to …” and, “I just want to communicate that …” are indications that he is cognizant that musical invention, creation, recording and performance is not just a personal act of expression in a void. There is someone or millions of someones on the receiving end, and there is a responsibility to be taken for what results after that transmission of ideas takes place. This disregard and abuse of responsibility seems to be at the heart of Phynite’s frustration with mainstream hip-hop. Conversely, he gets animated and excited while talking about the world of “conscious” hip-hop, which he prefers to the overly used word, “underground.” When asked about current favorites, he rattles off a list of little-known names. “There’s a group called Glue, Mars Ill, Aesop Rock and El-P, Ilogic, Blueprint … there’s so much out there, it’s hard to even start to name,” he laughs. “Sometimes I forget that I’m in that world and most people don’t want to even know who any of those people are.”
If anyone is listening, Phynite is happy to have an ear, and he hopes that people will begin to wake up from the long slumber of force-fed mainstream entertainment and begin to discover something more in life and in music. For his part, he hopes that people will come and experience it first-hand when artists like himself and friends in the local scene perform. He encourages everyone to step outside of the box and “give local artists, music in general that might be a little bit different, just give it a chance … just check out the local scene, ’cause there’s a lot of good things going on here.”
-Keith Wilson (May 2007)
Fly Magazine CD Review: A Step In The Right Direction
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Fly Magazine Making Tracks Local and National Indie CD Reviews By Dugan Nash – dugan@flymagazine....Fly Magazine
Local and National Indie CD Reviews
By Dugan Nash – email@example.com
Phynite & The Visiting
A Step In The Right Direction
4/5 Thumbs Up
In an age of canned bootie-shaking beats and MC's more heavily burdened with bling than lyrical talent, hip-hop focused on message, wordplay and innovative beatmaking is hard to find. Certainly, along with the empty, boring, offensively crunk-tastic club anthems, there are glimmers in the mainstream of talent and innovation. Eminem and Kanye West continue to push boundaries, while Jay-Z continues to amaze with lyrical prowess. Beyond those exceptions to the dismally popular rule, the surprises are found in the underground, and in Phynite's case, right in Central PA's backyard.
"Hip-Hop is a beautiful thing, although you wouldn't know it based on what they usually sing. So check it out, I'm revealing the truth, and when I'm finished everybody will be feeling the roof."
So says Phynite on the chorus of "Beautiful Thing." Here, and throughout A Step In The Right Direction, Phynite aims to tell the truth, via stories and morality plays, as well as just lay down some good old-fashioned wordplay. It's the kind of wordplay that makes smart hip-hop fun, where you want to rewind the disc to make sense of the last few lines and the way they interacted with one another to make a point. Phynite has an intense lyrical motivation and direction that, while positive, can definitely become heavy at times. But he very deftly uses a humorous turn of phrase here and there to offset the focused, message-oriented, "conscious" (as the current genre-phrasing goes) lyricism. He is direct and effective, if not witty, at communicating his social commentary.
A few bars from the standout track "Good Fight":
"We live in and odd place, where everybody makes a living spitting in God's face. Where cops chase all the innocent black men, where little kids go to school ripping a Mac-10. where backs bend just to feed the government and every single marriage seems to breach it's covenant….Where plastic surgery is the modern corset, where proper courtship is one night, where it doesn't matter whether it's just done or done right. Where gunfights are God's will. Where rap fans could care less if you got skills."
Appropriately The Visiting is featured as a co-conspirator on this record. His beats are sparse but unexpected, using elements and samples that are unique and welcome: live drum samples, creepy guitar loops, Gregorian chants, piano, strings. There are moments reminiscent of current underground heroes like MF Doom. The loop on "4L's" reminds of the understated spookiness that characterizes Danger Mouse's beats on this collaboration with MF Doom (Danger Doom).
In all, this is by far the best local hip-hop record that I have ever heard. But the fact that Phynite & The Visiting call Central PA home should be only incidental and not a limiting factor. The beats are fresh and interesting. The rhymes and message are cutting, witty, carefully constructed and coolly delivered.
Sphere Of Hip-Hop CD Review: A Step In The Right Direction
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Sometimes I wish I could just take quotes from an album and arrange them in proper order and make a ...Sometimes I wish I could just take quotes from an album and arrange them in proper order and make a dope review. I mean, if I were able to do that, one of the first albums I would choose to sample and remix would be A Step In The Right Direction by Pennsylvania’s backwoods surprise - Phynite. A formal resume from the emcee would show you that he’s no rookie… unless you consider opening for KRS-One, Black Sheep, and Pharcyde (among others) rookie status. Did I mention he was invited to Scribble Jam this past year? I just gotta say that I feel dude’s got his foot in The Crane pose and he’s about to turn heads and snap some necks.
A Step In The Right Direction is Phynite’s second major release. Phy worked through finding his Coping Mechanism in 2006 (earmark that one for your collections) and took A Step forward to several radio outlets, and up-and-down the east coast. I think you’ll find as with most underground or “real” hip-hoppers that Phynite has a sense of urgency and honesty to his voice. As his vocals slice through ambient melodies, the dusty kick drums thump to the beat of his heart and the snares snap you out of your own little world into his. Phy teamed up with The Visiting, who created the mood for the album’s anthems of hope and resolution. I definitely felt this was a smart team and represents the quality of hip-hop I am personally involved in trying to preserve in PA.
I said earlier I’d like to sample lyrics from the album and rearrange them for the review – I’ve waited long enough…
Integrate Phynite’s Mind, Body & Spirit and you’ll see that he vehemently proclaims “if I’m dripping a tear, it’s probably joy // that I’m not another corporate commodity toy // and never will be, so if I’m ever guilty // then I’m already dead and somebody just better kill me”. And that’s just the start of the quotable quotes.
“Hip-hop is a beautiful thing although you wouldn’t know it based on what they usually sing”. As easy as it is to lace an album with simple blatant statements like that, Phynite is able to follow laymen’s terms with audibly aesthetic wordplay, not common clichés. “It’s pretty sad how this common place attitude clearly destroys a lot of opportunities for us to bring some respect back, while simultaneously making your neck snap”.
One of the most motivational songs I’ve heard in a while is The Good Fight. I fully agree with Phy on this one and am brought to a unified emotion as he chants “Cuz my thoughts are rare // but far from extinct and I’ll continue to shine until the darkness shrinks // with my heart as the ink and your soul as the paper // I’ll fight tooth and nail holding the saber.” It’s lyrics like those I just quoted that are woven throughout this work of art that’s far more calculated than a Jackson Pollock piece. I suggest letting the album and the artist speak to you as they encourage taking A Step In The Right Direction.
This is Where The Road Ends and no more lyrics will be quoted because there has to be some form of intrigue left for you to figure out on your own. I can tell you that on this track Phynite writes his own letter of humility to God and creatively concludes the thesis that continues to play through my headphones. Add two remixes to the bunch and you’ve got yourself a complete album and a complete thought – and A Step In The Right Direction.
Generally 25-35 minute sets of original material.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.