There is something inherently unsettling about a thirty two year-old Namibian national who considers himself a 'jack of all trades'. For one, nobody really knows what that person may be up to at any given moment in time; they might be fusing studio sessions with corporate work, while simultaneously discussing evocative and socially-conscious topics on twitter, giving their opinions on anything from post-9/11 conspiracy theories right down to the black man's overt and nihilistic leanings towards materialism.
BecomingPhill (real name Tshuutheni Emvula) dwells at the confluence of Space-age Oddities and industrious terrestrial creations, with the former being made more robust – confirmed even – by his re-make of David Bowie's '69 song of the same name. And much like Bowie's relentless evolution, BecomingPhill morphs seamlessly between Dilla-esque sonic motifs and four-to-the-floor rhythms courtesy of his house music alter-ego, Jeff Jones. He might, in certain instances, throw in a rhyme or two, but this is an attribute as opposed to a focal point.
“Everything, nobody per-se inspired me to start. [I] just thought the patterns in music were nice so I thought I could make nice ones too”, informs BecomingPhill when asked about his musical influences. In later life though, the potent influence of J-Dilla began to filter through into his creations. The now-deceased producer's need to consistently innovate – be it through his earthier, pre-neo-soul productions, or his later, more electronic excursions – could have been the reason BecomingPhill allowed for this infiltration to occur. However, Dilla was not the be-all and end-all of his influences.
Listening to BecomingPhill's creations on soundcloud (http://www.soundcloud.com/becomingplill), one gets a sense of a spirit as dedicated to detail as it is semi-detached from the pitfalls of critical self-analysis. One would, however, be hard-pressed to find songs that were uploaded more than a year ago; he seems more interested in posting up his most recent creations.
His sound – crisp drums, eerie synths, and range-cutting basslines complemented by subtle piano strokes – is the result of an incredible work ethic and a vast amount of accrued experience. He first started producing in 1997, using the now-primitive Fruity Loops v.1.03. Nowadays, his set-up is a far-cry from his humble beginnings, but this in no way implies that he cannot do with the most basic of equipment. As he himself says: “Give me what's present in the room and I'll make it work”.
Cryptic at times, a trait which betrays his seemingly-outgoing on-line persona, BecomingPhill could very well be the modern-day messianic voice of reason needed by urban and underground music in equal measure. But could it be that his background – Afrikan and proud – eclipses his potential for greatness?
"They all say 'damn, you would have had a jab at Primo's fame if you were in NY' and all that kind of jazz, but I believe all comes in its own time. I'm still focused on breaking the American hip-hop market from whereever I am". Modest words from a man who has worked with the crème de la crème of the Namibian music industry, artists that are award-winning vanguards in their own right.
In the same breadth, his music can be heard on tracks by more underground acts such as Blacklez and Ba4za. His collaborative effort with South Afrikan producer Inyambo Imenda (alias Nyambz) remains a project awaited with bated breath amongst hip-hop connoisseurs across the greater part of Southern Afrika.
These polar opposites of mainstream-and-underground appeal further entrench his role as not just a beatmaker, but a producer who is, slowly but surely, gathering clout in ever-expanding circles. About the range of music he has produced, BecomingPhill states: "Everything except country and classical. I have had the privilege to work with world music giant Christian Polloni who I've done such a mind boggling range of music with; I'm confident I can do anything but country".
Regarding future projects, BecomingPhill cryptically hints at a forthcoming collaborative effort with New Yorkers Pumpkinhead (now known as PH) and St.Joe Luis and Los Angeles native Malkovich, which may very well open doors for further exploits in America. The foreseeable future shall also see him releasing two projects, one with the triple Namibian Awards-nominated Run N.A.M.S. collective, and the other a house music project under his alter-ego, Jeff Jones.
But a man so enormously talented may not necessarily be involved in music forever. Space-age references aside, his multi-dimensional interests may very well see him focus on other endeavours – technology sector investment perhaps, or full-time involvement in any of his other businesses. For the time-being, however, BecomingPhill's attention seems to be squarely on the music.