When referencing 2Pac Hip-Hop legend Ice-T once said, “You don’t become the greatest rapper by being able to rap well, you become the greatest by being able to touch people.” Stories of pain, hardships, joy, and love are relatable to everyone walking the earth. When conveyed through music those messages are easily delivered to the hearts and minds of the listener without ever perishing.
Houston emcee Anti-Lilly has never been one to shy away from bearing his soul in his music. His latest release with producer Phoniks takes Lilly to a new level as an artist and as a man. “It’s Nice Outside” is a 17-track album released on Don’t Sleep Records. Throughout the album Anti-Lilly details his real life battles with depression, financial woes, and betrayal. The project is produced entirely by Phoniks and features Awon, LC, Mariel, Jon S, Scolla, and Devante Hunter.
Anti-Lilly spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about what he does to cope in trying times, the positives that can be taken from negative situations, and his new album with Phoniks, It’s Nice Outside.
TRHH: “It’s Nice Outside” is an interesting title. How did you get to the point that you realized it was nice outside?
Anti-Lilly: To be honest it’s something I’m still going back and forth on. I’m still struggling with it. It’s kind of an ironic title. Just to explain it a little more, everybody has a different vision of a nice day. Some people prefer the rain, some people like a little more clouds, and some people don’t mind the sun. Everybody sees something different. No matter if you’re going through your ups or downs it’s all about how you see the day and how you want to address it. All the stuff I’ve been going through, I’m choosing to say it’s nice outside. I don’t have no other choice and I can’t let that negativity eat me up. So I just use that in a sense to motivate myself. I’m still getting through it right now.
TRHH: Would you say that you are depressed now?
Anti-Lilly: Man, you don’t really want to play with that word. I can’t say. I haven’t gone to a doctor. I don’t know what’s going on with me, but I have my days where I kind of want to shut out from everything. I don’t answer the phone; I don’t get on the internet, some days I’m better off by myself. Some days I’m a little more happy, but it’s a battle every day. It’s been more sweet than bitter these past few months. It’s an ongoing struggle, man. I’m just staying prayed up, trying to stay busy, and staying on my grind. I’m of the mind state that everything is going to pay off because usually it does.
TRHH: What are you doing to be proactive and fight off the negative feelings?
Anti-Lilly: You can’t leave your mind idle. You have to stay busy whether it’s visiting my mom or visiting my dad more and being more involved with my family. It was times where I couldn’t write or record. It was something holding me back. What’s been helping Sherron is getting more involved, moving around, and trying to stay busy. Whenever I sit with my thoughts I’m just thinking on them and I don’t have a way to get them out. That’s when it gets really dark for me. I just want to thank Phoniks for reaching out to me and helping me get through this tough time, because music is really the best way I know how to get everything off my chest. I think people who listen to ‘It’s Nice Outside’ are going to get a good mixture of the ups and the downs.
TRHH: How have you changed as an artist and as a man since Stories from the Brass Section?
Anti-Lilly: Much older. I’m more patient. I lost some really close friends that had been with me. We were going in different directions. Just life, man. More stress, more bills, and more responsibilities. It’s made me more patient. With Stories I had more of the mentality that, “I’ve got to get it now, this is my time, I have to seize it,” but I’m learning to this day that everything won’t always happen on your time, but that doesn’t mean you stop. You have to keep going. I’m a lot more patient, I’m thinking things out a lot more clearer now, and I don’t have the afro no more, so that’s something else [laughs].
TRHH: [Laughs] On the song ‘I Found Me’ you spoke on a friend who ripped you off. What lesson did you take away from that situation?
Anti-Lilly: It’s a lesson I’m still learning today. As much as it sucks to say, you can’t trust anyone. To my mom’s credit she always told me that growing up, but my heart is so big I’ll give anybody the shirt off my back. I’ll give somebody my last dollar, but folks tend to take your kindness for granted and confuse it with weakness. I’m not a weak person at all. It’s frustrating because you think you can trust people and try to put folks in situations to succeed but when the shoe is on the other foot you don’t really get that back and it hurts your heart, especially when it’s someone you’re close with. I’m not here to throw anyone under the bus, it’s all good. That’s the only way I knew how to get through it was through songs and getting those feelings out. I’m moving a lot smoother now. I’m looking over my shoulder a little more now, trying to watch out for the snakes. It’s only a few folks that I can confide in nowadays. I’m a lot more paranoid than I used to be. I don’t know if it’s for the better or for the worse, but I’m just getting through it like everything else.
TRHH: On the song ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ you speak on your ex and your friend getting together and having a baby. How were you able to make peace with that?
Anti-Lilly: You really don’t have any choice. First of all, it’s been a few years. I’ve been in a good relationship for about four years now myself. Time has passed and I’m happy that they’re happy, but as far as making peace, that’s the only option you have. If you let that type of stuff sit on your chest you’re thinking about it every day, you start to question why, you’re wondering “what if” and you can’t. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe I was the instrument to introduce those two souls to each other. All I can say is I’m in a better situation, they’re in a better situation, that’s in the past and I just wish the best for them. Wishing the worst on somebody especially when a life is involved is not in my character. I can’t do that. We don’t talk and we don’t follow each other on social media, but I don’t hold any hard feelings toward what happened because it was just out of my control. You just gotta kinda deal with it and you feel better when you make peace. I don’t want to have anything sitting on my chest and sitting on my brain, so I’d just much rather make peace with everything.
TRHH: There is a recurring theme on “It’s Nice Outside” of wanting wealth to help yourself and your mother. How much did the pursuit of money contribute to you being in that dark place and is it possible to take some of these responsibilities off of your plate to help you to stay out of that place?
Anti-Lilly: Man, that’s a good question. Where I am now some of the things I was doing to make my ends with this album, and I’m confident it’s going to ease some of the load, because I want to be in a position when I say I need money it’s not that I want to floss or want to flex. I want to be in a position where I can invest it and where I can save it to set my family up for generations. Some of the stuff you need like credit scores they don’t really teach you in school. They don’t let you know how to set a checkbook up. Learning a lot of that stuff on my own that can weigh on you. I’ve always been blessed with the spirit to go get it. I’ve been hustling as long as I can remember.
That does have its stresses because you have to be extra-cautious of people while still working a full-time job and still trying to go for this dream. You lose time and you start thinking about what you’re investing your time in and that can really weigh on you and you start to feel as if you’re a new person. Between my other ventures, my job, and my music I felt like I was on a hamster wheel. You get all of that on the album – it’s the money, it’s the family, it’s old friends, it’s life in general. You let stuff weigh on you and it will stress you out and you will feel a bit overwhelmed, but we gotta keep going at the end of the day.
TRHH: Did you ever at any point think about quitting rapping?
Anti-Lilly: Never, man. That’s never crossed my mind. You’ll hear that on a song like “Nobody’s Perfect” as well where I feel like I’m falling out my prime. Instead of spending this time with this cloud over me, I could have been using that time toward something productive. Those thoughts definitely come up where I feel like, “If I drop something are they even going to give a damn? Are they still checking for me?” It’s been a few years. I wasn’t doing anything, Sherron. I wasn’t on Twitter, I wasn’t on any kind of social media platform. I developed a lot of anxiety from that feeling of if I drop something is it going to get 5 views or 100 views? That’s the closest I came was having that paranoia and anxiety. This is something that I always wanted to do. This is the only way I know how to get my feelings out to the world. I never wanted to quit. Sometimes you have roadblocks and adversity in front of you. This project is me getting through everything.
TRHH: You always put a lot of yourself out there, but it seems different this time. Was it hard for you to share these particular struggles with others on “It’s Nice Outside”?
Anti-Lilly: Not necessarily, man. That’s just how I am. People that know me know I’m an open book. It’s much better to be honest with people and tell people the way things make you feel. I’ve never been afraid to share my feelings and maybe that separates me from other artists. This is my art. When I’m on a song I wanna be the best at what I do. Primarily the way this started was as an avenue to get my feelings out. I’m comfortable venting about what I’m going through than picking a subject or making a hit for the summer or the fall and trying to get on the radio. This is all I know how to do is to get it out there. It’s been a good response. By me being so honest and showing my vulnerability I’m not no better or bigger than anyone else.
On songs like “Grow” somebody reached out to me and told me that me talking about my hard times helped get them through their hard times. If I wasn’t being vulnerable and laying my feelings out there I would have missed out on that opportunity and lord knows what could have happened. Sort of like the butterfly effect thing. This is something I’ve always been comfortable doing, but this one does have a darker sound. I was just going through a dark time and I had a lot to get off my chest. That’s maybe why the sound is a little different than some of my past projects. I’m just a little older and going through a few more things, so you just kind of get a hint of that progression.
TRHH: What do you want people to take from “It’s Nice Outside”?
Anti-Lilly: No matter what the weather is in your personal life, no matter what storm you’re going through you have to understand that it’s necessary. You can’t grow if you don’t take a step back. We all have our storms that we’re going through, whether small or big. Life is just a continuous lesson. It’s very easy for us to appreciate stuff when things are going good, but the purpose of this album is we gotta know how to get through it when things are going bad and try to find the lesson. It’s there in everything we do, we just have to find the lesson sometimes. That’s what I would want to get out to the people – you’re not alone. We’re all going through it and all we got is each other at the end of the day. This album is truly for the people, man.
Purchase: Anti-Lilly & Phoniks – It’s Nice Outside