While the cities of Chicago and Detroit have contentious sports rivalries, the inhabitants of these Midwest monuments are one in the same. These much-maligned cities have given the world beautiful music that touches the soul, like Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, among other musical movements that have a global influence. Like J Dilla and Common before them, Detroit’s Apollo Brown and Chicago’s Philmore Greene made a Midwest connection that resulted in timeless music that will be appreciated globally.
The aforementioned music is a 15-track album called “Cost of Living.” Cost of Living was one of 2022’s best rap albums. Throughout the project Greene tells eloquent tales of life in Chicago over Brown’s soulful chops. The release comes to us courtesy of Mello Music Group, is produced entirely by Apollo Brown, and features appearances by Rashid Hadee and Evidence.
The Real Hip-Hop talked to Philmore Greene about growing up on the west side of Chicago, why he cried when he turned 25, working with Apollo Brown, and their new album, Cost of Living.
TRHH: What’s the meaning behind the title of the album, Cost of Living?
Philmore Greene: Cost of Living is the decisions you make. If you hear the intro it starts off, “What are the consequences? What are the consequences of living in this fucked up world?” In so many words Cost of Living is all about decisions. It’s all about the decisions. You can’t live life without going through decisions and making decisions, whether they’re good or bad, that’s what it’s about. The Cost of Living is basically self-explanatory. What is the cost of living in this fucked up world?
TRHH: How did you link up with Apollo Brown to decide to do an album?
Philmore Greene: Apollo Brown gotta reach out to you. He’s worked his way up to that point in his career where he works with who he wants to work with. Aside from all of that, he’s been great friends with Rashid Hadee for over 15 years. I work exclusively with Rashid Hadee, and it was more than just hearing the music, he saw us moving. We were in Detroit several times. We went on the Retropolitan tour with Skyzoo and Elzhi, 60 East, Landon Wordswell, DJ Belly, DJ Chop Deville. We went out there and then when we got off tour we went back a few times and he came to every show. After one show he was just like, “I think I got something I want you on. I’m working on something right now, so when I’m done with that, I’m on it.”
Every album I would drop he would hit the DM and tell me how he rocking with it and things of that nature. Then one day he was just like, “You know what, let’s make this classic, man.” People can’t see the DM’s so it would be random people like, “Man, you should work with Philmore! You should do an album with Philmore.” It was kismet. He hit the DM one day and was like, “Let’s put this classic together, man.” Went to Detroit, got the beats, came back home, wrote the album, went back to Detroit, recorded the album, and did what we did, man. There you have it, Cost of Living out now all over the world.
TRHH: So, there was no emailing of the beats?
Philmore Greene: Nah, he don’t e-mail beats. He don’t do e-mail albums. It has to be in person, you gotta get that feel. That’s like a lost art in the industry. It’s almost like following your shot in the NBA, it’s a lost art. So, if he don’t do e-mail albums, shit, why e-mail the beats? Let’s link up and get the beats too, Detroit five hours away, man, four and a half if you’re doing your thing. We made them trips, man. I don’t mind making them trips. You got to do that shit in person.
Every song was in person, some of the hooks on the album was in person we came up with on the spot, and we just zoned out, man. And it was a great vibe, it was a very great vibe. So, nah, nothing was e-mailed. Everything was on point. The only thing emailed about that album was the link to the master when it was done. That was the only thing e-mailed. The Cost of Living, we did everything in the same room, everything.
TRHH: The single “Steep Life” samples Common. Did you have the idea to use that for the hook before you wrote the song?
Philmore Greene: Crazy part about it, Apollo created the beats for me before I even heard them. Those beats are his interpretation of Chicago. Those beats are his interpretation of where we’re from, Chicago. So, it was like they were already made for me when I went to Detroit to get the beats. I didn’t pick anything. He made 24 beats for me, played 20. I left with twenty. He do his studying. Everything was made already for me, so that set the bar for me already. I had to come with it. What else do you want me to do?
This man could work with anybody in the industry and he created these for me. Not devaluing myself, but you get what I’m saying. He’s giving this guy a shot from out of Chicago that’s working his ass off when he could have worked with Ghost again. The Cost of Living — it’s out, they’re saying it’s one of the best albums. It’s hard work, man, hard work, bro.
TRHH: On the song “This is Me” you say, “14 I wondered if I’d see 25/And when I turned 25 I woke up and cried.” It resonated with me because I never thought I would see 16, 18, 21, 25, 30. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I thought, “Okay, I might live.” I wasn’t a person into a whole lot of trouble, but for some reason I couldn’t see my life advancing. I think that’s very normal for black men in inner-cities in America, unfortunately. Why did you wonder if you’d see 25, and why did you cry at 25?
Philmore Greene: Twenty-five is that number. People say 18, but it’s a significant number for me because I had already reached one of the milestones out there I didn’t think I would see. My brother was murdered at 19 and I was 16, so that made me say, “Damn, where will I be when I’m 19? He’s gone at 19-years old.” So, I made 19 and I had a kid that year. But then after, another homie of ours who lived literally next door, he died at 25. This is the God honest truth, he was murdered at 25. These are guys that I came outside with every day. Came outside and played with every day growing up, literally. 4300 block of Gladys, I came outside and played with these dudes every day. These was my guys, my brothers.
Marcus is 25, so now where will I be when I’m 25? It was like days before that death I would see him and there was no words. It was just like a wave with a look on his face. I would get that look and I would feel it. I’m like, man, 25, what would that hold for me? I’ve seen too many cats that died before 22, 25, 20, some even eighteen. Twenty-five I woke up and cried, and that’s a natural emotion, man. It was just bittersweet. I’m watching over my shoulder religiously. It was a bittersweet feeling because I did this, I made it. This is the milestone year and I’ve reached that, but it was tears of joy. It was a feeling of tears of joy. I don’t even remember what I did that birthday. That’s all I remember.
I talk to my mother about Los a lot and we reflect on that day. We’ve seen too much, man. You just said you wasn’t even that type of cat that was a troublemaker. For you to be from Chicago and on the west side and you said you weren’t even a troublemaker, bro, that lets me know you how traumatic it is. You don’t have to be a troublemaker. You’re affiliated. You’re guilty by affiliation where we’re from. I never gang banged a day in my life, bro. But to some people I’m that and I’m this. That’s what it is, man. It’s unfortunate, but it’s where we’re from, bro.
TRHH: You have a song called “Just Imagine” that also resonated with me a little. On the hook you say, “Imagine how yo momma feel.” One of the things that sparked a change in my life when I was young was seeing my mother cry over stupid shit that I’d done. My mission after that was to make my mother proud. Why do you think young people don’t consider their parents more when getting involved in crazy situations, and how do you think that can be instilled in them?
Philmore Greene: Young people don’t get involved because they’re young. Their brains aren’t developed yet. The brains are not developed yet. I don’t know what the term is, but it’s not developed, bro. So, you do things out of emotion and you don’t think. There’s no morale and if you do have it and you do think it’s like, “Okay, I’m going to go and fuck up somewhere else.” It’s not developed, there’s no responsibility. Like right now I’m not gonna go do something crazy because I got a baby, bro. I got babies, I got music to make. I wanna put a community center in K-town. I wanna do that, but I’m developed up here. I’m developed, so that’s why. A shorty gonna do what they want to do. Anything can happen though.
I think it has to be more leaders and you have to instill it in them through what they love to consider their parents. If you program a kid from what they love then they’ll take heed from what they love. Most of these shorty’s love music, and I’m not saying it to speak down on those cats who are speaking their truth, because every one of those albums that come out has parental advisory on it. We gotta figure out a way to get through. That may take sixty years. We gotta figure out a way to get through to the youth, and they’ve been trying to figure that out since before we were here. Is it programmed for us to not get it right? And unfortunately, it was built that way. Some kids won’t get it, some kids won’t make it, some people will go to jail.
There is a 3-year old right now that’s going to be in prison when he’s 25. When you really think about it. It’s just the way America works. It’s unfortunate. It’s just a world of unfortunate things. The Cost of Living — that’s what this album is about. It’s about that 2-year old that’s in a pamper right now that’s going to be in prison when he’s nineteen. That’s what this album is and this album is going to last the test the time. Think about that, bro. “He been in here twenty, he under forty/He ain’t witness the eighth grade, or having a shorty.” Reality speaks. Think about that, bro, he been in 20 years, he just made 40 this year. He’s been in there 20 years and he was under 40-years old. That’s a true statement — the Cost of Living.
People will get this album sooner than later — the one who’s supposed to get it. It’s a gem. If you listen, every song on that album has facts in it. The song you just mentioned, Just Imagine, I got consent to write about that. That’s a true story. A kid I know, I got consent from his mama to write those details down. I talked to her for about two hours. Just to get me closer to the situation before we got off the phone she tried to send me pictures of him in the morgue, my home girl Raquel. I was like, “Nah.” This is real. This is real shit. So, it’s the Cost of Living, man. But it’s a way we can get through it, we just gotta figure it out. They’ve been trying to figure this out for years. Think of Yummy Sandifer. We’ve been trying to figure this shit out for years, bro. It’s a lifelong infinite process. Cost of Living, bro, I don’t just be rapping, man. The shit means a lot.
TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with Cost of Living?
Philmore Greene: Just want people to listen to it. What can we achieve? We just want people to listen to it. Apollo made those beats with his heart. I wrote to those beats with my heart. That baby was created with passion. Hopefully our passion can spark the next to do what they’re supposed to do. Hopefully our passion can make that shorty listen to his mother, consider his mother by listening to that record. Those are facts, bro. Lil’ Tony died when he was 19-years old. They really shot that man 33 times. “Thirty-three shots rang, nine hit you above the waist,” that’s a real statement. “The trauma unit is real/homie, imagine how your momma feel.”
Hopefully we can get some of these shorty’s to listen to that song and take heed to that and say, “Damn dawg, I felt that. Let me go take my mama to lunch. Let me go sit and talk to my mom.” We just hope to inspire, man. I can speak for myself, but I know that that’s how Apollo feels in his heart. This passion is gonna take you a long way, and I just hope we can inspire those. Hopefully we can get that spark to have these kids listening to their mothers with records like that. Just inspire, man. We made that shit with passion, bro, and hopefully what we created with passion will carry on. Cost of Living, bro.