Phil Harmonix x Fresh Kils: MISCELLANEA

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Photo courtesy of RandomBeats

Phoenix emcee Phil Harmonix and Toronto producer Fresh Kils teamed up to create an EP titled, “MISCELLANEA.” According to Merriam-Webster Miscellanea is defined as “a collection of miscellaneous objects or writings.” MISCELLANEA is far more coherent than its title might suggest. Phil and Kils deliver a concise project that’s chock full of dope beats and rhymes.

MISCELLANEA comes courtesy of rapper/producer/author Mega Ran and his RandomBeats imprint. The 7-track EP is produced entirely by Fresh Kils and features appearances by Mega Ran on two tracks.

The Real Hip-Hop had a spirited conversation with Phil Harmonix and Fresh Kils about their musical union, working with executive producer Mega Ran, and their new EP, MISCELLANEA.

TRHH: Why did you title the EP MISCELLANEA?

Phil Harmonix: I was trying to find a cool album title. There’s not a set theme to it. It’s a bunch of individual concepts. The dictionary definition of miscellanea is “a collection of unrelated works” so it seemed to fit.

Fresh Kils: I left that to Phil. I left him with the vision for it. I’m terrible at naming things. I name my beats terrible names. I have no idea what I’m doing. People hate on the names of my beats.

Phil Harmonix: You name them like “April 01”?

Fresh Kils: I don’t do that. I got scared of doing that. I’m going to make beats for ten years and I’m going to have ten beats with the same name.

Phil Harmonix: That’s true.

TRHH: I dabble in making beats and whatever is going on that day is what I’ll name the beat. I sent this guy a beat called “Orange Asshole.” Something was going on with Trump that day [laughs]. He hit me up like, “Man, I just rapped to Orange Asshole.”

Phil Harmonix: If you were steadily making beats from 2020 to 2024 I just couldn’t imagine. You’d have like “Tiny Hands 84 BPM.”

TRHH: [Laughs] Now I just do the date and the BPM. How did you guys get together and decide to do a project?

Fresh Kils: It was concocted in a lab. We were drawn. They drew characters and then they actually went out and cast us. No, I’m just kidding.

Phil Harmonix: Poorly cast. Pretty much what it was, was I was feeling like doing an album again. I do them rarely. I was going through beatstars.com and literally I just hated everything I was listening to. I was complaining to a mutual friend, Dave. I was like, “I’m thinking of doing something, but I’m on beatstars and I hate every beat.” He’s like, “Let me see if I know any people.” My beat credit has been gone for a long time, so I don’t have many people I can hit up. He was like, “I know this dude Fresh Kils. I’ll shoot him your info.” It was weird because the name sounded familiar. I didn’t know it until later, but a long time ago I had listened to his “Price is Right” routine back in the day. I didn’t know it was him. I found out later and I was super-psyched because I loved that routine. He sent me an email and we kind of chopped it up back and forth. It was all thanks to Dave, pretty much.

TRHH: Mega Ran executive produced this project; besides rhyming what role did he play throughout the course of the EP?

Phil Harmonix: Ran is just like a hustle extraordinaire. If you look at his body of work it’s just ridiculous — his work ethic and his ability to manage these projects. He brought a lot of the business aspects of what we needed to do, timelines, advice, things of that nature to try to get the project off the ground. Basically, be brought experience to it.

Fresh Kils: There was some cool stuff with him. I don’t know if he helped A&R and you guys were going over beats together. I don’t know if this happened more than one time, but there was this one record where I got my boy Uncle Fester to do cuts and Phil wasn’t sure about it. I sent it back to him and Phil was like, “I’m kind of feeling it, but I don’t know. I said, “Don’t play this for Mega Ran then, because Mega Ran is going to love it and he’s going to be the tie-breaker. You’re done. You’re gonna lose, so don’t play it for him.” Which, I think you did.

Phil Harmonix: I played it for him. I played it for him and he loved it. Apparently, I was the one bugging out. I had to marinate on it a little bit until I was like, “I like these cuts.”

Fresh Kils: But I was feeling your point about it a little bit because Fest actually revealed this to me later. What happens with a cut chorus is you’re going to want to do a half a bar little phrase and patchwork it. He drops a full bar and a half of a Del verse. What he told me was that Del acapella doesn’t exist. He actually used the RX 7 program to separate it. So, it’s actually kind of unique cut. No one has ever cut it clean like that, and it related to the topic, too. Shout out to Fest because if you name a song “Orange Asshole” he will literally go and find people saying it and cut it up and make it work [laughs]. It was cool that way.

Phil Harmonix: I think that might be what threw me at first because it’s longer than I was expecting. After I sat with it I really liked it.

TRHH: The song “Bar it Up” is up tempo for today’s Hip-Hop landscape. Take me behind the scenes of the creation of the beat and why it was chosen for the EP?

Fresh Kils: I made that beat on the road, interestingly enough in Texas. I stayed with a friend. I remember making it because it’s not like a lot of the stuff I sometimes make. He had crazy records and I was pulling stuff. It started with a crazy loop of that vocal thing. I looped it and it worked. At that time, I was just loving making six bar things, I don’t know why, they just sounded cool. The whole 4/4 thing was getting boring – that was part of it. The reason I say that is at the time I was in Texas and I was around Mega Ran. He came to Toronto right after that tour and he actually had a verse on it before it got sent to Phil. Other people had recorded on it and you guys will know what I mean when I say this, but sometimes people jump on songs and you’re not excited about it.

I was excited to have Mega Ran on it. There’s something that happens when everybody gets in the studio, they’re excited, they write it right away, they spit it, it’s off the cuff, it’s irreverent, and it’s fun in the moment, but as a joint it’s not like a “joint.” It’s what we did when we were hanging out. I knew Mega Ran liked it enough to write to it, but it hadn’t gone anywhere. When he stepped in with me and Phil I knew he would like it, so I pitched it right away. When I got those verses back it was like, “Okay, okay.”

Phil Harmonix: I think the reason I liked it was because that was one of the later ones that we picked. I kind of noticed that a lot of the ones earlier that we picked were kind of a slower tempo. I was already looking for something a little bit faster. I really love how that beat sounds. It’s different. The thing in the background reminds me of a railroad engine. I just really liked it. When you mentioned that Ran had it, he has a line in there where he says, “This is a track I attached to.” That’s what he’s saying, he really liked the beat, but he’s kind of mad that nothing had happened with it originally. It’s kind of like a second chance for him to get on there, so he’s really happy about it.

Fresh Kils: There’s a Gang Starr song with an orchestral sample that I can’t remember the name of. It’s a story joint, but it reminded me of that. Non sequitur [laughs].

TRHH: Kils, I’ve seen a lot of your videos with you killing it on the MPC. You actually conduct workshops where people can learn from you how to make beats. How did you get started doing that and how can people get involved?

Fresh Kils: I’ve been teaching for quite a long time. I used to work at Boys & Girls Club doing beat-making and I would do a lot of one-on-ones, which were great. I was on the road a lot and I was offered positions in more of a steady role and I could never take them because I was on the road so much. When I got off the road in 2019 I needed to give myself a reason to be home, because I was so addicted to the road. There is this incredible charity here in Toronto called Unity Charity. They do all kinds of programming across the country. It’s all free and they’re well-funded by the government and investors. They just do incredible workshops. They started doing dance, spoken word, and graffiti. Their mandate was they use Hip-Hop artforms to promote resilience in youth to build communities.

When I got that job offer I’d turned 40. I needed to give back and make a commitment to this and being off the road. It was such a perfect transition. It was amazing. I love teaching. Honestly, teaching is way more fun than making music for a living sometimes. I know that sounds crazy, but the grind of music over the course of twenty years is just exhausting. So, when I got the change to join Unity I went all-in. They brought me in to develop their beat-making program. They have all kinds of programs, you can donate to them, and I’m so proud to be a part of their team. You can register for the workshop, it’s every Wednesday night at unitycharity.com/programs. Just really excited to be there and be a part of what they’re doing.

TRHH: Phil, on the song “Tehcnocrat” you say “Gotta perpetuate the knowledge for the masses/My ancestors were survivors of the middle passage/Never forget the chains, whips, rape, and lashes/Without direct acknowledgement we’re never getting past it.” So dope! I agree with you that we must acknowledge the horrors and aftermath of slavery, but so many people believe that we should forget it and move on, like the opponents of Critical Race Theory.

Phil Harmonix: Which isn’t being taught. In any school.

TRHH: What do you say to those who believe slavery should never be mentioned, we should move, and it’s ancient history?

Phil Harmonix: I think most of the people who are against this kind of thing are for the most part just following stuff that they’ve heard without actually going into it any. Not to get into politics, but right-wing republicans don’t run on issues really, they just run on fear. Fear of others, and Critical Race Theory is just one of those things. The fear there is actually acknowledging what happened and the fear of feeling guilty is what they’re most afraid of. I’m not running for office, I couldn’t really tell you how to fix that kind of problem. It’s kind of endemic to the way the country is built, ignoring the evils that have happened throughout the existence of this country.

What happened when apartheid ended in South Africa, they had a reckoning after that point. Of course, not all of it, but at least they were able to move past it with that acknowledgement and I think the same thing needs to happen here. You can’t even begin to talk about and address the things that have happened if you pretend that it didn’t. in that verse that’s kind of what I’m saying. I’m not saying anything about reparations, I’m not saying anything about punishments, I’m just saying to acknowledge that it happened.

TRHH: Who is the MISCELLANEA EP made for?

Phil Harmonix: I gotta be honest, any time I make songs or music, I make them for myself to listen to in the car, man. I’m the number one audience when I’m writing the stuff, and if other people dig it, I’m so appreciative of that. When I make songs it’s stuff that I wanna listen to in the car, that’s why the way that I rhyme is straight stuck in the 90s. I got some new stuff here and there that I like, but it’s straight 90s-2000 Hip-Hop for the most part. That’s just what I enjoy. I enjoy the lyricism, the wordplay, and certain beat styles. The main audience is for me, but anybody who enjoys it as well, I’m super-happy about that.

Fresh Kils: I’m just happy that I’m still here. I live in gratitude. The fact that I’m this age and I can still keep making records that I love, I just feel blessed. I didn’t know Phil that well. It was an opportunity to make a record, so I went and listened to Phil’s older stuff and I was like, “Yo, man, let’s make a dope Hip-Hop record!” There is a 15-year old kid in me that still thinks that’s wild. I just loved it. It was a great process. It was really easy. It was so easy working with Phil, and Mega Ran helped, it was just such a no-brainer. I just had so much fun doing it. I’m just happy to be doing it for fun.

Purchase: Phil Harmonix x Fresh Kils – MISCELLANEA

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