Houston emcee Anti-Lilly came onto the scene in 2013 with a stellar mixtape titled, ‘Memoirs & the 90s’. The mixtape paid homage to 90s era Hip-Hop musically as well as lyrically. Anti-Lilly’s rhymes are more 1994 than 2014, which caught the ear of another young artist inspired by the “golden era”, Phoniks.
Phoniks and Anti-Lilly united for a joint released titled Stories from the Brass Section. The album is produced entirely by Phoniks and features appearances by Awon, Scolla, and Devin Miles.
Anti-Lilly spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his musical influences, working with producer Phoniks, and his new album, Stories from the Brass Section.
TRHH: Explain the title of your new album, Stories from the Brass Section.
Anti-Lilly: Before we came up with the title for the album me and Phoniks was just sending tracks back and forth between each other. One thing I noticed was when he does his production it’s just crazy how he gets everything to blend. Everything he did was with trumpets, trombones, and saxophones so it only made sense for us to make an album with my storytelling and his production, it’s the title that we collectively came up with.
TRHH: How’d you end up hooking up with Phoniks?
Anti-Lilly: He reached out to me. My homie Ray at Respect mag actually posted an article when Phoniks and Awon came out with their album, Return to the Golden Era. They mentioned me in the write-up so he took the time to listen to my album Memoirs & the 90s. He took the time to reach out to me and we didn’t look back from there. We just kept clickin’.
TRHH: How is this album different from Memoirs & the 90s?
Anti-Lilly: That’s a great question. Memoirs was more of a prelude or an introduction. It was showing my versatility but with Brass Section I could focus everything and it had more of a complete sound. The chemistry between us is just ridiculous. Sometimes it would be the same night, sometimes it would be a few days, but whenever we got the songs finished it just meshed and that really helped with the flow of the whole album.
TRHH: Was the ‘Young G’ remix the first track you and Phoniks worked on?
Anti-Lilly: Actually no. The first track we did was the Respiration joint with Scolla on it. Phoniks is a mad genius. He’s always dropping these remix albums. He loved the original ‘Young G’ so much that he threw a beat on it and it was crazy. It brought new life to the song. On Memoirs it was actually a freestyle I did over the Notorious B.I.G. original, but he brought new life to it. He knows what sounds I’m looking for. We didn’t really butt heads too much on this project at all. Things we didn’t agree on were really miniscule things. We didn’t disagree on the direction of the music. It was things like release dates and stuff like that. He remixed ‘Young G’ and randomly sent it to me and I fell in love with it.
TRHH: Who inspired you to want to be an emcee?
Anti-Lilly: A long list. First off my rhymes are an embodiment of my life so before I can name any emcees I’m just gonna say my dad. He always instilled that work ethnic in me. He always let me know that nobody can tell you nothing in this life and anything you want you can grasp it. I always had that mentality and to this day he keeps me focused and my head on straight. When I was coming up it was a musical household. My cousins listened to a lot of UGK and Scarface with us being from Houston. When I started dibbling and dabbling with Hip-Hop on my own I listened to a lot of Wu-Tang Clan, the Fugees, Black Star, Common, and Nas. As far as Hip-Hop I really don’t have a certain genre that I listen to but my favorite emcees are the storytellers. You can kind of get that by listening to my music. Listening to Scarface, Nas, my dad put me on to Slick Rick when I was about 13, and it’s crazy how they can paint a picture in your head like they’re just sitting right next to you. I’ve always been fascinated by telling stories and incorporating my past experiences, stuff I’m going through now, and what my people are going through. Just to be able to put that type of art in the music is truly a blessing. I’m trying to use my God-given talent as much as I can. Those are my influences. I don’t wanna be the guy that just names rappers all day. For the theme of this album I was definitely listening to a lot more of the storytellers in Hip-Hop.
TRHH: In your opinion, who is the best storyteller of all-time?
Anti-Lilly: Nas [laughs]. Nas man, hands down. Have you heard ‘Undying Love’?
Anti-Lilly: The way he puts you in that scenario you feel like he came to your house and said, “Yo, I just caught my bitch cheating on me.” Nas is my favorite storyteller. A lot of people will say Slick Rick or Jay-Z, but for me it’s Nas, hands down.
TRHH: What’s the reception like for you in Houston, because your sound is different from what we’re used to hearing from Houston artists?
Anti-Lilly: That’s a really good question, too. It’s a misconception. Houston is a very diverse place musically. It’s not much of a balance as far as what’s played on the radio. We have the history of screw music and Swangin’ on Boppers and things like that, but it’s actually a really dope music scene. There are a lot of dope artists making music like myself. I’ve got a pretty dope following out there. Of course we’re just trying to keep building on everything. The city loves me, what it comes down to, and I firmly believe this, no matter what type of music you make whether it’s boom bap, backpack, or trap rap, if it’s real and genuine and you can get it out to the people they will follow you and believe in you. You just gotta keep that belief in yourself and keep pushing. They’ve really been loving the project out here. We’re going to set up some shows and keep pushing it as far as we can go.
TRHH: ‘A Million Stories’ is a takeoff of a Tribe Called Quest record. Are you big into Tribe and how’d you discover them?
Anti-Lilly: I wanna give a big shout out to my cousin. She put me on to their music. ‘A Million Stories’ was on Midnight Marauders and that’s one of my favorite albums. The way Phife painted that image I wanted to re-do it and do it in the right way. I still listen to that song today. It’s one of my favorite songs and hopefully he gets to hear it one day. I like to flip old choruses and rhymes and try to make it modern. It’s history at the end of the day and for the kids coming up that didn’t get to experience or know who A Tribe Called Quest was I want to shed that light and pay homage. When I say those lyrics it’s stuff that’s going on, but I want them to know at the same time it’s the stuff that influenced me – I got that from Phife Dawg. Same thing with Respiration, I was listening to Black Star at the time and ‘Respiration’ is one of my all-time favorite joints in Hip-Hop, period. Just the energy from Mos, Common, and Talib, it was a crazy joint and I wanted to bring new life to it and flip the subject matter to focus more on my personal life. I like to do that from time to time. Flip some of my favorite joints and put my twist on it to get some new ears on it. I’m definitely a Hip-Hop head and I want to keep the culture spreading. What the issue has been is there hasn’t been much of a balance. There’s not much of substance that’s being played by the masses. Me and Phoniks are just trying to help even the numbers out.
TRHH: How’d you get the name Anti-Lilly?
Anti-Lilly: Funny story. I’ve been making music since I was about eight years old. My government name is actually Drake. My full name is Drake Lilly so around the time the rapper Drake started poppin’ I couldn’t go by that name anymore. I switched it to “Anti” and used it as a replacement for my first name. I’m pretty much against negativity. I’m just trying to spread the good word out here. It’s kinda wack looking back at it from a 13-14 year old, but it just kinda stuck.
TRHH: How old are you, man?
Anti-Lilly: I just turned 21 in September.
TRHH: You work a day job, right?
Anti-Lilly: Yeah, I work a 9-to-5. I work about forty hours or more a week. If I’m not doing that I’m in the lab.
TRHH: What are your goals with music? Is music something you do or something you want to do full-time?
Anti-Lilly: It’s definitely something I’ve been pursuing. Besides rapping I play instruments as well – I’m a percussionist. I’ve always been involved with music from an early age. It’s always been something I’ve had a strong passion for. I tried the college thing. I went for about three weeks and I just left. I still owe ‘em money to be honest with you [laughs]. It’s just something I’ve always had a passion for. I’ve always loved writing and listening to instrumentation. I’ve always been involved in the arts and what I wanna do is give my music to as many people that are willing to listen. The ultimate goal is to be a full-time musician. I say it in my rhymes, “This 9-to-5 is really not cut out for me.” I’d rather make my own shots. I don’t like taking orders too much.
TRHH: Yeah, it sucks.
Anti-Lilly: It’s definitely one of my ultimate goals to be able to make an honest living off of creative music. Even more importantly I feel like I have a message, especially at the time that we’re living in now, you don’t really hear it too much. I just wanna get my voice and my message out there and keep spreading this positive stuff ‘cause it’s a lot of bullshit that be going on in life and I try to show people it’s a brighter side. I got people coming up to me now saying, “I listen to ‘Respiration’ or ‘Everyman‘ and it really helped me get through my day.” When I hear comments like that it makes you wanna keep pushing. I’ve been blessed with the gift of being able to speak and having people listen.
TRHH: I remember reading an interview with Rhymefest where he talked about how he was a janitor and somebody took a shit on the wall and the toilet and that was the day he knew he would rap full-time. He quit the job and has been making a living off of rap ever since. There is going to come a point where you’re going to have to choose. Do you feel confident enough to take that leap anytime soon?
Anti-Lilly: Yeah, I’m definitely more than confident. The only thing that’s held me back in the past is I’ve been living on my own since I was 19 so I pay a lot of bills. I’m definitely willing to make that leap. I talk to Phoniks every day. I’m just so confident in this project and I know it’s gonna do great, even if not now, throughout time. We’re going to get some ears on it and we’re going to keep working on individual stuff as well as doing more stuff together. I’m more than confident in the music. I’m not cocky or anything but I do have a lot of confidence in myself, not only as a person but as an artist.
TRHH: What do you want to accomplish in the music industry?
Anti-Lilly: As far as the music industry I really don’t have much personal experience with it. Stuff didn’t really get poppin’ for me until last year. I just wanna get to as many ears as I can. It’s more than just being able to make a living. If I can make a living off of making music, that’s the perfect thing for me. I don’t need to be at the Grammys or anything like that. If I can make a comfortable living while providing for myself and my family while at the same time being able to use my God-given talent you can put a bow on that. That’ll be perfect for me, bruh.
Purchase: Anti-Lilly & Phoniks – Stories from the Brass Section