In the Phone Booth with Phoenix

Phoenix
Phoenix

Phoenix

By: Gordie Tamayo

The streets of DC are known as grooming grounds for several of boxing’s greats. It were these same streets where trainer Barry Hunter found 11-year old Lamont Peterson and his brother homeless, took them in and developed their survival skills within the gym. And although a life of ‘normality’ appeared to be anti-Peterson from the gate, in retrospect we are reminded that there was something destined beyond struggling on the District. Something Barry Hunter must have saw also.

Unknowingly to Peterson at the time, it was the same type of familiarity from the streets (solitude, fearlessness and determination) that would make the fight-game the next logical transition. Almost two decades later, Peterson still keeps his inner-circle small and continues to amass a solid track record of relentless work ethic and putting on a good fight.

We can see similar traits in R&B songstress Danielle Marie Green, otherwise known as Phoenix. The 22-year old Boston native has had her fair share of adversity away from the mic; overcoming homelessness and alcoholism were only part of the battle. But through those experiences, she would discover some of her most honest material and inspiration to date.

One look at Phoenix is enough to encourage a double-take and one preview of her vocals, creates hope that the track is on repeat just to indulge once again. She is unequivocally as blessed with carrying a tune as she is eye-candy, which was more than enough to attract the attention of NFL star Raheem Brock who when they met, was in the midst of starting an independent imprint label.

Brock was able to flex some of his celebrity muscle to align Phoenix with other industry song writers/producers and the rest as they say, was history. The partnership led to the release of her first solo mix-tape “Concrete Love” and Phoenix has been on the warpath since. A student of classical, opera and jazz, Phoenix is well versed in the intricacies of what goes into composing a hit track. The byproduct thus far has been nothing short of stellar. We invited Phoenix to step “In the Phone Booth” with us to talk music, boxing and how they go together like hand-in-glove. Knuckle up.

@TheTitleFight : Big props on being selected to step “In the Phone Booth  with us. When we first heard “Took a Shot” we were immediately wide-eyed and wondering where you came from. In boxing we see some fighter’s with innate talent that can be perfected in the right hands. Others have to work a little harder at it. You seem to have been born with it. Take us back; when did you first learn this is what you were meant for?

@SheIsPhoenix : I first learned (or discovered rather) My talent at a very early age. I was 5 and that age was introduced to artist such as Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Envogue, Prince, And even James Brown. My mom would constantly play all of these artist in our small little apartment In Dorchester Ma. I later went on to an Arts High School where I was able to expand my knowledge and vocal abilities while studying other genres of music such as Jazz, Classical and Musical theater at the Boston Arts Academy.

 

@TheTitleFight : Your work ethic reminds us of fighters like Bernard Hopkins; tirelessly working and dedicating yourself to get to that pinnacle of success. Your ability to network eventually brought you face to face with the man that would sign you to his label. How has the partnership worked for you up to this point?

@SheIsPhoenix : Partnering with Raheem Brock was definitely a blessing. However I was hesitant at first with him being an athlete and still playing at the time it was definitely a smart move. He is very hardworking and has really made me step up even more! That guy is always busy and really gets things done. He has been a really great mentor and has taken me under his wing teaching me how to push myself as an artist and really how to stay grounded and know how to deal with people accordingly in a very classy professional way without becoming overwhelmed. It’s tough at times but we really get things done. I am confident about BME and I see myself going very far as an artists being with BME from the very begining. Growth is really important and I have watched myself grow as an artist and person being signed to BME. I am with a label that cares not only about my talent, but my well being. It was a really smart move and decision signing with Raheem.

 

@TheTitleFight : Obtaining the right people in a fighter’s corner can differentiate the good from the great. You have had the opportunity to work with seasoned song writers like Andrea Martin who have lent their talents to legends such as Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson (R.I.P), all the way to Corté Ellis who’s written for Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Jennifer Hudson. What were you able to take away from the experiences?

@SheIsPhoenix : It is such a blessing and honor working with such talented writers and producers that have worked with the some of the greatest of our time! Andrea Martin is this funny, outgoing spirit with this amazing positive clean energy who works you to the bone but makes it very interesting! Her voice is unmatched and her songs are so powerful. It was awesome working with her, It was more than just going in and cutting records. She would tell me stories of places she had been around the world, and stories of her performing. That was so inspiring for an upcoming artist like myself to even be able to work with this woman and get advice on how to better myself as an entertainer and song writer. Corte on the other hand was this smooth brother who had a look so serious, I was almost afraid to sing a note wrong (LOL) But the 2nd time around He loosened up and really appreciated my grind. He saw how serious I was and how quickly I was able to get things done! I would fly into miami and go straight to the legendary Jimmy Douglas studio and cut 3 songs a day. I literally went in to work, I didn’t pack a bikini or any party clothes. I was in gym attire just ready to work and make music and knock things out. Corte is like family now, whenever I want to get in and get things done under a certain time constraint I text him and if he is available we go in and WORK! I was able to take away a lot from Andrea and Corte and although they are two different people they had the same advice. GRIND and keep going and eat sleep and breathe music, CREATE no matter what your creating and no matter what your doing in life go above and beyond and reach far because there is always more.

 

@TheTitleFight : In the United States, female boxing does not seem to get the same kind of recognition as it’s male counterpart. Do you run into similar roadblocks in the music industry solely because of your gender and if so, how do you combat it?

@SheIsPhoenix : I think the only road blocks I run into being a female artist is just men not really respecting you as much as a really tough gangster rapper (LOL) And it is as simple as a sound check! If Raheem isn’t with me they will definitely move slow or not move at all. I never really seemed to get it. I can be the first one there and its like I’m invisible sometimes. But as soon as I open my mouth to sing everyone is kinds like “Oh wow, she’s talented” and I gain a little brownie points. But other than that everything else is cool. For now at least. Hopefully I can stay smooth sailing because I am definitely not one to let anyone treat me as if I am any less than a male artist.

 

@TheTitleFight : Boxing is a business and sometimes decisions are made that may not be the most desired by the public, but are strategically made for the fighter’s future. Do you ever find yourself compromising in the type of music you are making in effort to set your sights on a bigger picture down the road?

@SheIsPhoenix : I am definitely about compromise if it is to expand my branding and marketing as an artists to a certain extent. I love hair and fashion and making bold statements but it has to be with class. I want younger girls to be able to look up to me. I would never do anything I am uncomfortable with to be bigger. I always want to stay true to Phoenix. I refuse to sell my soul. That never works out anyways. Eventually people start to dislike you and even hate you and you become this image that becomes permanent because no matter what you do to try and clean up it’s something that the people (fans) have labeled you as.

 

@TheTitleFight :  A fighter’s stock is sometimes measured in entertainment factor outside of the ring as much as it is inside of the ropes.  Being that much of your music may be inspired by life offstage, how do you determine what pieces of your life make it on wax which is ultimately used to win a fan-base?

@SheIsPhoenix : As much as I want to keep my personal life personal there really is no such thing. I’m an artist! I sing and write music based on MY life. I mean thats how it all began right? I can sing about a break up to singing about a new pair of shoes. It’s my job to put myself out there and sing about life. People want real life. It’s what gets them through a break up or what helps them celebrate or gets them through a loved ones death even. They want to know that they are not alone and since I was blessed with a talent to sing this is my job. I want my fans and anyone who listens to my music to feel closer to me and to know that I too know what heart break is and how bad it sucks. So I will continue putting myself out there to get people through the ruff times and celebrate the happy times.

 

@TheTitleFight : Marketing a fighter correctly is an integral part of building a reputation and credibility as someone a public is willing to pay to watch. You chose the mix-tape option as your introduction to audiences. What was the strategy behind this approach in marketing yourself?

@SheIsPhoenix : I chose to drop a mixtape as a form of introduction. I was not a well known artist In Philly where I am based out of and I needed to get a feel of what kind of reaction I would get and what route people preferred. I didn’t just want to drop a single. I didn’t think that would be smart. So I put together my first mixtape “Concrete Love” basically taking industry hip hop beats and sang over them and added two popular covers because I knew it would grasp my audience attention. People love familiararity and they become sucked in and want to hear what you did over their favorite rappers track. I also added my first single “Took A Shot” right in the middle and it worked. People would say the mixtape was dope and “Took A shot” was their favorite! It was a cool marketing strategy and helped build a buzz for my second mixtape “808’s & HighHeels” because now I had people looking forward to new music and a new single.

 

@TheTitleFight : In the fight-game, trading shots is part of what comes with the territory. The music industry can be a battleground as well and sometimes you get hit unexpectedly. How have you learned to rebound from or dodge potential people/decisions that could have taken you a different direction?

@SheIsPhoenix : This Industry is definitely a battle ground, but I have learned not to get sucked into the negativity or let it consume your energy. I want to make music and rock out on stage and sell out arenas. I want to be a star. I know that their will be rumors and that unfortunately as sad as it may be it is someones job to try and knock you off make you feel bad or make things up. I see things every day on blogs and social media about artist and actresses and models! This is the industry, America loves gossip. But as long as I stay focused and don’t go astray it will never affect me. I’m too strong and too hungry for the B.S.

 

@TheTitleFight : Every champion desires to test themselves against the best. As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron. Talk to us about some of the big dogs you would like to rub elbows with and why?

@SheIsPhoenix : I would definitely Love to rub elbows with Kanye West, The Dream, Raheem Devaughn, Neyo, John Legend, Frank Ocean and Pharell. I love the sound they develop and the way I feel when listening to them. I find myself so evoked by their lyrics and the beats and the production. In My eyes its timeless music and I definitely want to be a timeless artist.

 

@TheTitleFight : Any last minute thoughts, shout-outs or recognition you would like to leave readers with?

@SheIsPhoenix :

Lastly I would Like to say Thank You to “The Title Fight” and the readers for getting to know a little about me. Shout out to BME & Raheem Brock. Be sure to check out My new Video “Nobody’s Perfect” Feat. Big Ooh By going to my websitewww.SheIsPhoenix.com where you can also find music, Videos, Phacts with Phoenix, Vlogs and upcoming show dates! and Check out my New Single “Run Down” remix coming soon feat JadaKiss! And please follow me on Twitter. Instagram Facebook and Reverbnation! Everything is @SheIsPhoenix.

Stay fly!

In the Phone Booth with Stereo Mike

Stereo Mike
Stereo Mike

Stereo Mike

By: Gordie Tamayo

Fighters such as “The Road Warror” Glen Johnson are well known for their willingness to travel all over the globe as much as they are for their stellar resumes. Johnson is one of those fighters who have had more than one ‘glory day’ but none of them were handed to him. By way of Jamaica, he touched the shores of southern Florida at the age of 15 and that was the beginning of his legacy in the sweet science.

In boxing ‘almost‘ nothing comes easy. The recipient of his fair share of bad hands dealt, Johnson wasn’t always the favorite going into a bout, but many times he was when leaving. There was never any question about Johnson’s heart and that is part of the reason why at 44 years old he is still called upon by matchmakers to face world class opposition (despite being supposedly retired). During the highlight of his career in 2004, he not only won and retained his IBF title by KO’ing Roy Jones Jr. and picking up a second strap by defeating Antonio Tarver, but was also critically acclaimed as the poster child that ‘nice guys don’t always finish last‘.

How does this relate to our latest guest “In the Phone Booth“? The correlation is the mantra that greatness is within us all. To quote Shakespeare: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon ’em”. Stereo Mike reminds us of a modern/younger version of the Glen Johnson of the music industry. Originally from Athens, Mike is an individual who has been working towards achieving greatness since the age of seven when he first laid hands on a piano. Years later, his innate talent evolved into something more ferocious; leading him to UK shores by the time he was 18 where he earned multiple degrees, engineered for some of London’s top hip hop artists and signed his first record deal as an artist.

Today, Mike teaches Production at the University of Westminster while working on his next album. From MTV nominations for Europe’s favorite act, to rubbing elbows with local legends, Mike has not lost sight of what has made him one of Greece’s most promsing talents “Hard Work. Dedication” (Thanks Floyd Mayweather Jr.).  Step “In the Phone Booth” with us as we pick Mike’s brain on the fight-game, intricacies of the production realm and what keeps him so motivated. Knuckle up.

@TheTitleFight : Mike, major props on being selected to step “In the Phone Booth. Let’s jump right into it. Your music background consists of a heavy dose of formal education once you hit your teen years. Was this also the case when you first started playing the piano at age seven and what drew you to hip hop of all genres?

@StereoMikePro : First of all, a big thanks for the selection – it is a real pleasure being “In the Phone Booth”. Yes, it all started with classical piano lessons, which led to playing keyboards in high-school bands, eventually bringing me to the worlds of synths and music production. I guess I owe my love for Hip-Hop originally to the Beastie Boys, because for me they were the band that combined Punk, Rock, Rap and Funk under an open-minded alternative aesthetic. They gave legitimacy to the idea that different styles could be combined in a meaningful way under the Hip-Hop umbrella.

 

@TheTitleFight : You are one of the most prominant names in Greek music. Do you view your role as a responsibility to carry the mantle of Greek music or just an opportunity to display the talent pool in Greece to the rest of the world?

@StereoMikePro : It is a blessing that I am able to release records in Greece whilst being located in London, because I’ve always looked at music from an international perspective. I’m grateful that my production and flow have been appreciated outside of Greece, giving me a chance to represent one of my two countries of origin, but also reach out worldwide as a producer. My responsibility however is towards music itself and doing it as best as I can.

 

@TheTitleFight : Some fighters are viewed as one dimensional in the ring. Others, like a Floyd Mayweather Jr. are able to adapt to their opponent. You appear to be multi-dimensional in your ability to cross boundaries from the production end to center stage. Is there one over the other that you prefer and if so why?

@StereoMikePro : Fronting my productions was a logical progression driven by the vision I had for the records I was making, so, I suppose, adding vocals to my musical ideas was more like adding the poetry to the music. When the first record did well, I had to go out on the road as an MC, crossing from behind the scenes to right in front of the audience. The adrenaline and experience were addictive and cross-contaminated the studio process in a positive way. It is important to have a direct connection with your fans, bringing their energy back to the creative process and packing it into future albums.

 

@TheTitleFight : Working as an engineer takes a certain skill and personality. Attention to detail, patience and the ability to work with a broad range of individuals are just a few of the qualities required. Just like in boxing, working your craft over the years can cause burnout. Has delving into other roles like being an artist helped you avoid burnout or was it just the next natural progression?

@StereoMikePro : Engineering was at first a necessity, something I decided to learn in order to afford my music maximum autonomy. I was growing up in an era where “manufactured” music was gradually winning over what I regarded as “real” music – statistically on the airwaves – and that went against my D.I.Y. mantra. My decision was not to play the game of letting a label drive my aesthetic, but to present them with the finished article. So, I became an artist, turned engineer, turned producer, to protect and fully express my vision, which has protected me from burnout, but also helped me learn a lot from other artists along the way.

 

@TheTitleFight : Like the fighter Jhonny Gonzalez, you have been in the game for a very long time and are still maintaining at a high level of performance. How are you able to keep up with all the changes in technology and trends as it relates to music?

@StereoMikePro : Music is in my life 24/7, both as somebody who makes it, but also as a fan. I think it is this ability to really enjoy music as a listener that keeps you fresh, and hungry. It is not dissimilar to a fighter who truly enjoys the ring, the game – that’s what helps maintain the passion. In terms of keeping up with music technology, teaching it really helps, while I sometimes also write for audio publications as an Apple Logic trainer.

 

@TheTitleFight : You have taken your talents and begun to pass them along to the next generation of producers/engineers etc. It reminds us of fighters like Johnathon Banks (who also started out playing piano before turning to boxing) after winning world titles, have filled the role of trainer to other world class fighters like Wladimir Klitschko. How did you go about transcending from the studio to the lecture halls?

@StereoMikePro : There is a real parallel between the discipline needed in boxing, or martial arts, and that needed for a long career in music. My hobby has always been some form of martial art (Kung Fu as a kid, Kickboxing as an adult) and it is something that has supported my creativity in surprising ways. Apart from the discipline factor, I learned to respect my teacher – or Sensei – and the process of passing on knowledge from one generation to the next. I was blessed to be given the opportunity to teach what I learned in the real world of music, back at the University of Westminster where I’d done my MA. Now I teach what I do and I do what I teach on a daily basis, next to some of my sonic gurus.

 

@TheTitleFight : In boxing, having a strong team can be the difference between being a club fighter for small change and landing televised opportunities with larger pay days and national audiences. Do you have a similar network that has helped you achieve the level of success you have attained so far?

@StereoMikePro : The parallel is generally true for music as well, but I have managed to preserve my creative and business independence as much as possible during the process. I enjoyed a short stint of harmonious management around my second album, but went independent again. It is difficult to find team players who really share your vision, but it is also tiring doing it all alone. I’m on the lookout for key collaborators to support me in the following phase of international production.

 

@TheTitleFight : Some fighters fight for fame, some for money and some for reasons that no-one other than the one lacing up a pair of gloves can understand. What motivates you to pursue a career in music?

@StereoMikePro : Really just the love of music and music-making. It is more of a biological need than a conscious decision. It’s an expressive need that just keeps growing stronger!

 

@TheTitleFight : What artists, producers or engineers do you currently follow or are influenced by?

@StereoMikePro : I love Kanye West‘s production, Just Blaze‘s beats and of course everything Dr. Dre has done. Outside of Hip-Hop, I think Trent Reznor is an absolute genius, and so is Rick Rubin. My favourite lyricists are Talib KweliQ-Tipand Nas. I saw Kendrick Lamar last year when I performed at SXSW and he blew my mind live. Young Guru mixes some of the phattest records in the game!

 

@TheTitleFight : We can only hope that more boxers have a Plan B, since fighters have a short window to make money before the ring ages them. The fact that you wear many hats must be somewhat reassuring. Having a background in engineering means that someday when you want to step away from being an artist and rocking crowds you can still be an influential player behind the scenes. Is this how you always planned it out?

@StereoMikePro : Well, although engineering came originally as a support mechanism for my art, production is definitely the future plan. You have to be realistic, knowing that you will not always be fronting, but that doesn’t mean creativity stops there. I enjoy the studio as much as the stage, if not more, and I have a huge desire to work with international artists, helping them craft unique, expressive records.

 

@TheTitleFight : Of course we have to ask you what fighters you have been keeping tabs on lately. The UK is home to some of boxing’s most die-hard loyalists. Anyone in particular stand out to you either in the UK or Stateside that you have your sights set on?

@StereoMikePro Amir Khan is a great ambassador of British Boxing and I would love to see a fight between him and Floyd Mayweather Jr, who is probably the best – and most intelligent – fighter in the world. Historically, I have been a huge fan of Ricky Hatton and was very sorry to see him retire. Frankie Gavin is another huge British talent coming from the amateur ranks and I’m keeping an eye on his future moves.

 

@TheTitleFight : Any last words or shoutouts you would like to leave readers with?

@StereoMikePro : Yes, a big thanks to TheTitleFight.com and ReverbNation for this opportunity and huge shoutouts to legendary Greek Hip-Hop band Imiskoumbria and R&B artist Helena Micy who I am currently producing. Finally, enjoy and support the music you love!