Put enthusiasm, charm, humor, drive, and talent together and the equation formulates the dynamic musical duo Black Water.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Jameel Zion and Brian Phillips, two collegiate artists from the city that reached out to speak with me about their music and their aspirations! We had the meeting the other day in Boston on a bright sunny day, in a Bluestate Coffeehouse. The first to show up was Zion, in all white garment, and looking extremely and hilariously prophetic, and then came Phillips, conversely in all black clothing. Needless to say, they promised me that this was not a planned ensemble, but I had noticed almost immediately that they seemed to have an innate vibe between one another.
The interview was extremely casual and chill and the guys made sure to keep it light hearted. But the great part of our discussion overall was how we bounced back and forth between ideas, opinions, thoughts, preferences and brainstorms on all types of topics: music, school, Boston and the Hip-hop scene, artists, family, past experiences, management advice, politics, and more. The conversation was extremely diverse and it seemed to never end only because these two were so fascinating and captivating from the start.
So, why should you be on the look out for these guys? Because Black Water will hopefully be the next underground alternative R&B group you swoon over. Girls, these guys are charming. Boys these guys are dope. They’re a group of two young men with a vision and passion for their style of music, that is an innovative blend of contemporary Hip-hop, alternative R&B, and electronic Soul. Both being Berklee College of Music students, they have a pretty good musical background behind them. Zion is concentrating in songwriting and Phillips in overall music production.
All in all, these two have an ear for sonic composition and are trying to make a name for themselves within the city of Boston, though neither one of them come from Boston originally. Zion is from Ohio and Phillips is from New Jersey, but since their whole musical collaboration and partnership was found here, in the cafeteria of their college, this is where they hope to grow and develop until they achieve their dreams.
Throughout the entirety of the interview (and even after), Zion, 23, and Phillips, 26, seemed to be vibing and connecting on a level only they could comprehend. They would look at one another, nod in agreement to each others’ responses and piggy-back off of one another’ phrases and jokes.
When I asked them where they got the name Black Water from, Zion replied, somewhat guiltily, that he had seen something on Tumblr that looked like black water and it was just so interesting to him that he thought it would be a cool name for their group.
______________________________________________________Here are some highlights from my interview with Black Water:
Me (NM): What about music drew you to the whole career path or the whole idea of making music?
Phillips: Well for me, it’s funny, I started playing saxophone first, well actually, I first started with clarinet and recorder, so with me, I don’t know. It was fun, and it was something about the sounds coming from it that caught me, and you know, I noticed that everyone was having fun with it… I guess it was the energy behind it all is what attracted me to it and it makes people happy; I think that’s what attracted me to it.
Zion: For me, I have always been like a creative person, and I would always see my mom coming home from work, stressed out, and so for me, it was that I wanted to do music, and I knew I wouldn’t be stressed because it is something I like, it won’t make me feel like I am going to “work” and would be stressing me out all the time. I was originally in classical music, so I was in opera, and they told me I should try out for something else and so yeah, I did, and one thing led to another.
_________________________________________________________________NM: So, how did you guys end up meeting and going into this project together?
Zion: We just vibe.
NM: Kind of feed off one another’s music?
Phillips: Ya, most definitely.
They went further into the funny story of their meeting then, that had me cracking up.
_________________________________________________________________NM: So, who are some of your musical inspirations or influencers?
Zion: I would say FKA Twigs, The Weeknd of course…
Phillips: Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Odd Future people, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Anderson .Paak, Taylor McFerrin, Flying Lotus, MF Doom, a lot of UK producers.
They gave some insight into their writing process and how it has changed over time. Before they would have one of them make the beat and the other would write, but now they write the ideas first together, and then put it to rhythm and music later on.
Phillips: We come to it like how can we tell this story and paint as much imagery as possible… I’m trying to tell you a story and make it as vivid as possible.
We talked about the motivation behind the constant creation and production, even when obstacles get in the way, and Zion had commented that it’s the real love behind it all and that there would be nothing else that he would want to be doing. He also noted that it’s cathartic for him and that he wants to give people something that they can relate to and feel what he’s trying to show.
_________________________________________________________________We explored their opinions on the Hip-hop scene in Boston, particularly, and they laughed about their personal criticisms of it.
Phillips: Haha oh man, I’m trying to find the most respectful way of saying this.
NM: Oh, c’mon. You can be totally honest!
Phillips: Ok, to me, the Boston Hip-hop scene has promise in it, but it’s weird. There seems to be a lot of talent, like Michael Christmas, I like what he does, what he does is dope, but in Boston (a) there’s not a lot of unity and (b) I just don’t think the city overall supports it [Hip-hop]. But I’ll be honest, I don’t think there lacks talent, but there are a lot of interesting little people trying to get out of Boston, I don’t mean little, but there’s not a lot of places to perform Hip-hop here in the city.
Zion: Ya, we’ve been specifically told by certain places ‘we don’t do Hip-hop.’ There’s definitely a glass ceiling here. _________________________________________________________________
It was interesting to hear them explain the difficulty of getting yourself out there to venues and reaching out to people so that you can perform and hard it is, but Phillips also had told me that he busked his freestyles and beats in the underground T stations and that’s where it all began for him to start letting people hear him out. On the upside, they have always had their family’s support in whatever they were doing, and since that “whatever” is music, they encourage to keep pursuing what they enjoy and to keep doing their thing.
All in all, as Black Water, they feel that they have identified their sound and their group and have enough material to produce, but they’re trying to figure out what they have to do next– trying to perform and go on tour and make an EP– the whole publication process.
When I first listened to Black Water, I had listed a few similar artists that came to mind, and when I asked them who they could compare themselves to, they seemed to be in agreement with my perceptions. They could easily be compared to the musical stylings of The Weeknd, Miguel, Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean, and Earl Sweatshirt (just think all Odd Future).
As I had mentioned earlier, our conversation took many various paths and led down multiple trains of thought even after the interviewing process (mostly becatuse we got food and decided to just hang out some more and eat). It was incredibly refreshing to speak to two young artists in the Hip-hop world who didn’t have the ego of Yeezy or the lack of appearance of Frank Ocean (yes, I am still a bit salty about the album). No, these two have a lot more behind them, and that’s passion and drive and desire. They heard it, they made it, they want it. And they are willing to give it all that they have got to make it real.
The two still have a lot of work to do when it comes to working in the industry such as finding quality mixers, photographers, videographers, connections, venues, and more. But, they have a plan they know what they want and need, and getting their name out there will be the first step to making this experimental duo a masterpiece.