The Emory Wheel, Friday, January 22, 1993
Me Phi Me presents unique message through rap

By Micah McCoin
Staff Writer

"Some people desperately want to be a part of the crowd. Some people are special, they stand out in a crowd...
And then there's the
ME PHI ME
WE STAND ALONE"
— Me Phi Me Pledge


    Imagine the set up: an intelligent, philosophical rapper with an acous­tic guitar, who has an eccentric sense of style and a strong sense of his identity. He makes dazzling videos and intriguing music. He pro-motes a core message of individuali­ty, as reflected in his name: Me Phi Me, the fraternity of one.
    All of this might appear a bit packaged and pretentious, but a quick listen to Me Phi Me's music or to the man himself should quickly dispel any such misgivings. Anyone who reassures his novice interview­er, "You was cool," would certainly seem to fall in the unpretentious category. It becomes even more obvious as he easily discusses other artists, such as Prince, without worrying about how he would compare. Talking with Me Phi Me is a jolting experience. He displays a casual self-confidence and clarity of vision far beyond his 21 years. It slowly becomes evident that this man has the stuff of which stars are made.

    That "stuff" came from can be traced to Flint, Mich., a town that fell upon hard times during the rap-per's childhood. As he explains it, General Motors was the only option for employment in Flint, and as an increasing number of people lost their jobs, they were forced to con­sider who they were and what they wanted.
    Above all, the reasons why people shine in such dire circumstances intrigued Me Phi Me and drew him to the belief that individuality is the key ingredient.     Complementing these observations is his belief that there is a particular struggle with individuality in being black and hav­ing to deal with negative representa­tions of blacks, especially black males, in the media.
    Following his own ideas, he used the rap be discovered on the street, modified it with his own message-oriented delivery (which he terms "big beat poetry") and set out to perform.
    While living in Chicago, he and [his producer] were looking for a place to relocate; a music business veteran (Al Jason) suggested Nashville to them.In what seems to be conclusive proof that he is a true individualist, Me Phi Me took the advice and moved to the Nashville (Tennessee) area to pursue a rap career, despite being half-seriously apprehensive that "we'd [he and producer, Christopher Cuben-Tatum aka Tha Wizzard] be the only two Black men there."

Me Phi Me
    However, he finds himself thinking of (the plight) black males when writing and performing. This mindset is not surprising since that is not only his perspective but the the group of people whom he feels most needs to bear his message, which is uniquely optimistic in the often cynical realm of rap. Tempering that optimism is a firm sense of reality.
    The true depth of the rapper's character can be seen when he explains his use of red and black as a motif. He explained that it went along with the African symbolism of red representing the blood, black signifying the people and green as the land. There is no green, because, as he said simply, "I have no land."
    Me Phi Me's own favorite rappers include Treach of Naughty by Nature and Rakim for lyrical skill. For the best rap "package," he endorses Public Enemy as one of the greatest musical groups of all time.
    Reflecting on his own music, the rapper feels that there is a real connection between the seemingly incongruous styles which he has combined. "Rap music is the folk music of the nineties," he says.
    Strangely, Me Phi Me is surprised at the great critical reception he has earned. He felt that his non-specific genre might fail to gain immediate acceptance. However, he is not awed by the accolades. "I don't give a hoot!" he proclaims at the suggestion that a Best New Artist Grammy nomination might come his way, adding, after some thought, "I wouldn't be surprised."
Rapper Me Phi Me combines rap and folk styles to create a new sound all his own.
    Apparently, the advice was sound: Me Phi Me's debut, ONE, was released nationwide last summer, along with the video and single "Sad New Day," perhaps the first rap record ever to make an allusion to Dante.
    The video saturated the airwaves of both MTV and BET with its strik­ing images of the rapper half-buried and covered with ants and a young lady dancing on top of a globe. The video's director, Julien Temple, who has directed videos for Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston and Tony! Toni! Tone!, among others, can be credited with its creativity.
    Me Phi Me found it "flattering and heartening that someone of Temple's caliber took such an interest in a new artist Temple has con­tinued to take an interest in the rap-per's career. He also directed the second and most recent video from One, "Black Sunshine," which is written from the perspective of a homeless person. It is impossible to separate the music from the philosophy which drives it, and Me Phi Me's views are both refreshing and hopeful. He does not hesitate to say that, ideally, everyone should listen to his music. "Because we all have our problems, we can all benefit from getting together."
 

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