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Nice Things with Chill Moody, the Renaissance Man.

November 16, 2011

Text by Sofiya Ballin. Images by Brittney Bowers.

Chill Moody leans up against the brick wall outside The Blockley Pourhouse as music blasts through the window behind him. His face is the picture of patience and calm.

He’s ready but admittedly a little stressed.

“Before performances sometimes I drink,” he says, “a lot.”

He laughs for a moment and continues.

“I rehearse at least two or three times before a show and mentally prepare myself,” he says.

Born and raised in West Philadelphia, the rising rap star who graduated from Overbrook High credits his cousins with getting him into hip hop as a child. He hung out with them, listening to their music.

“I was just trying to fit in with them,” says the 26-year-old MC who has dropped six mixtapes  and spins out new tracks almost weekly. “That’s how I found about Nas, Wu-Tang and Rakim.”

Even though he wrote his first rap in the third grade, it wasn’t until he attended Millersville University that Chill began to put out his first few mixtapes under the name Yung Chill tha Blokk Capt’n.

He laughs as he spells out the moniker.

“On my first few mixtapes, everybody died in 16 bars,” he says.

He hadn’t lived the violent life he rapped about and his family didn’t appreciate his music.

“I wasn’t getting support from my family and that’s the most important thing to me,” he says.

Chill dropped the hood rapper façade, solidified his clique of friends and established Tha ESTablishmynt, a hip hop stable that includes producers, rappers and singers. He adopted an honest message, using his smooth flow and versatile style to deliver uplifting lyrics set to a steady, danceable beat.

For his fifth mixtape he collaborated with producer ilL MeeL to create The ilL-Chill Project, released in October 2009. It featured the track “Hip-Hop Don’t Fade Away,” which became his first song ever to be played on the radio.

“It was amazing,” Chill says of hearing himself on air in January 2010. “Izzo and DJ Touch Tone called me up and I thought they were joking at first. I went up there for the interview and they played the song. It was one of the most amazing and humbling experiences.”

Chill opened up for 100.3 The Beat’s Super Jam during the summer of 2010 and fans began to flock. A few months later, when it came time for fans to choose 107.9’s  Hottest Philly Rapper of 2010, Chill was beating out the likes of Meek Mill, Freeway, Cassidy, Peedie Crakk and more. However, Mill’s votes skyrocketed last minute and Chill got second place.

Around that time, Chill dropped his wESTchilly mixtape produced by Wes Manchild, and the radio recognition sent more than 1,000 people to his site to download the mixtape during the first hour it was online.

“People knew who I was,” he says.

Since then, he’s been pumping out new tracks constantly and playing jam-packed shows like tonight, the “Swag Me Out” concert/party.

Suddenly, a man marches up and interrupts Chill’s conversation.

“I don’t fucking like him!” Philly-bred comedian Clint Coley declares. “His music is trash. He’s the worst rapper ever!”

Everyone within earshot laughs and Chill smiles.

“No, actually, I’m a big fan of his,” Coley states. “I live all the way in California and I came all the way out here to see him on stage. I can’t wait to throw my boxer briefs at him … after a good show.”

Coley then turns and marches off and Chill just laughs and shakes his head. He seems calm but a bit anxious before his set. Periodically, he goes inside to watch the others take the stage, specifically fellow MCs Aime and Mic Stew.

“Everybody is a rapper but there are few MCs,” Chill emphasizes. “There are a lot of dope MCs in the city and the most important thing is to support each other.”

Philly hip hop is changing, Chill says, and he wants to be a catalyst in the revolution.

“I always say, ‘I’m West Philly’s Renaissance,’” he says. “I really do think that lyricism is coming back to the forefront. No disrespect but there’s not going be any more of that shoot ‘em up, bang-bang stuff at the forefront of Philly music. I listen to that sometimes but it shouldn’t be what people think of when they think of Philly hip hop.”

Dave Ghetto, a veteran Philly MC, quietly snaps photos of Chill as he talks to people outside the club.

“I’m very, very impressed with Chill,” Ghetto says. “He’s not only a dope MC but his work ethic is impeccable. With guys like him, I can honestly say I really don’t have to make records anymore. We are comfortable to move on to other things when we have representation like this. To be honest, the only rhyme that I am writing in 2011 is to be on a record with him.”

Chill is caught off guard by his comments, and it takes awhile for him to gather his thoughts.

“Wow,” Chill says. “To hear him say that, it’s crazy.”

However, Ghetto isn’t the only one endorsing Chill. Izzo from Hot 107.9 stated on air that Chill was one of his favorite MCs.

“For someone in that high of a position to humble themselves and tell you, ‘You’re one of my favorite artists,’ it’s crazy,” Chill says. “It makes me want to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Chill is one of the headliners tonight and he’s finally ready to take the stage. With beer in hand, and book bag strapped to his back, Chill begins to rap with an unpretentious, almost nonchalant flow. As he bounces to the beat, he speaks to the audience with focus and a quiet intensity in his eyes.

“I am inspired,” he belts out, the chorus from the song by the same name, set to Journey’s “Separate Ways.”

In between songs he yells out his signature saying, “Nice things!”

It was born from the slang he heard when he was younger, hanging with his cousins in West Philly. They never had much but they said nice things.

“And they say nice things!” Chill yells.

“Nice Things!” the crowd chants back.

His mother stands in the crowd, sporting a “Nice Things” T-shirt. She watches intently with the same focus, through the same eyes.

Then the lights turn off. Swaying cell phones illuminate the dark room as Chill and Cody Kahmar perform the ballad “My Eyes.”

After thanking the audience and his family for showing love, Chill walks off the stage as “My Name Is Hov” by Jay-Z plays overhead.

“I know that there is a market for Chill around the world,” Ghetto states. “Once they see him, he might never come home again.”

Thanks to Chill’s friends and the Internet, his music is already being played in the United Kingdom, Germany, Iceland and Africa.

“I want people to be able to relate to my music, to see themselves in it,” he explains. “I want to inspire people. I want people to be like, ‘I can’t go a day without listening to that song.’”

He pauses for a split second.

“Music does that to me,” he continues. “I want to do that for people.”

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