-Joe Pitts (@headtowall)
Last night West Philadelphia's Miles Chancellor dropped his debut album No Man's Island on his squad's site thecrewdown.com and I sat down with the rising artist to talk to him about the project, its nearly four-year creative process, and his thoughts on the city's music scene. The album, a sprawling exploration into the mind of a passionate and humble visionary, features everything you want in a fully realized hip hop project in 2016: genre-pushing production, hot melodies and honest lyrical prowess. The debut album is a major statement for the young rapper, and he's come a long way since we first covered him almost two years ago when he was the guest feature on frequent collaborator Anyee Wright's breakout track R.W.A.G.L.M. Hear what Miles had to say below and stream his new album No Man's Island at the end of the interview:
Joe: Your debut album “No Man’s Island” just dropped. Why do people need to fuck with you?
Miles: I couldn't tell you really. I just try my best to translate my thoughts to whoever listens and whoever I resonate with will really fuck with me. So I guess it depends on if you looking for your music to communicate with you. If so, then I'll be your guy... for a long time... so fuck with me *laughs*
What does the title “No Man’s Island” mean?
The title has a lot of meanings. Mostly up to your personal interpretation, but I was talking to my mom one day about the things I had on my mind at the time and I think she just sensed I was overwhelmed by realizing the way life works and she told me "No man is an island", and basically that means that your struggles and emotions that come from those struggles aren't only yours. Even though we may have different experiences, we all come back around to the same few emotions and sometimes we get so caught up in what we're going through we forget that. We might be harder on ourselves or be inconsiderate to what someone else might be experiencing or what they've been through already. Then, the other side of the title is the actual place you're in. The city, town, etc you're in. The present day, where you start to realize nobody got you more than you. When you first start realizing this, it feels like a No Man's Land. I know it did for me because I have no relatives in the city, I'm an only child, all I have is my mom & my friends, which I'm very grateful for. The title at its core is just a reflection of the mentality that this kid developed to cope with harsh realities.
Talk about the process of making the album
I had been working towards this project for about a year before I met my man Sketcho, so I had a lot of ideas I ended up not using after me & him started working, but all of it helped me grow. Me and Sketcho started working more consistently up to maybe 4-5 days a week for like a year just building records from scratch, developing the sound & workflow and he introduced me to my other engineer Justin. I started pulling from other producers, bringing pieces or ideas to Sketcho or Buenodidit, or BNYX. Ignorvnce and I developed a great chemistry too, even over email, and he's the only producer I've worked with that way, but we've been working towards changing that. I mostly record with Justin and then we mix the record a few times until we feel like we need to pass it off of to Sketch and after he touches it, the combination of all of our efforts, that's the version that you hear in the end. We just kept that up to finish the album.
How would you describe your sound and aesthetic?
I think the biggest thing I focus on is balance, sonically, but I'd like to think I have like a personal theme music sound, but not like no cheesy shit. Like epic, wavy theme music. As far as aesthetic, I'm just me always, I just go by my taste and my means for now. I don't really put much thought into it besides what I know I don't fuck with.
What’s the most personal record on the album and why?
Really, the whole album is personal to an extent, but if I had to choose the most vulnerable one I might have to say the intro "Today Forever" because I talk about my real fears, insecurities that I've been working on, the motives behind both, & what's been driving me as a person since the beginning.
Top 3 Philly artists right now… Go:
There's a lot of us doing our thing out here, literally too many to name, which is a point I've been waiting for this city to arrive at. At the moment I'd say the artists I listen to the most besides the fam are probably Kur, Hoax Pain, & Badlandz Breez. I like Lil Blanco a lot too. Aside from strictly Philly, I'm really excited by what South Jersey is doing right now too with guys like Mir Fontane, Ant Beale, Ish Williams, etc. There's a lot of people working hard though, I'm sure I'll have some new favorites soon too. I'm tuned in.
You’re on death row for some bullshit and you’re offered that one last meal. What’s on your plate?
I don't know. I think I'd want it to be something I never had before. It gotta be stamped though. Probably some shit I don't even know nothing about . Some exclusive shit, some shit 2 Chainz would be eating on that most expensive shit *laughs*
What’s in store for Miles in 2016?
No Man's Island !! Videos, Tour(s), A lot of music. Just a lot of content & progress.
Any shout outs to the homies? Last words?
I could go on and on with shout outs haha, next time. You won't be hearing my last words for a very long time.
Stream No Man's Island below: