Jack Freer, Contributing Writer
In early 2018, I was just starting to explore the wider world of music, and YouTube had taken me on many paths down classic rock, soul and jazz. I was surfing YouTube and found the album “It’s Nice Outside” by Anti-Lilly and Phoniks. While nodding my head to the laid-back beats and chill flows, something clicked. It was like nothing I’d ever heard; it captured emotions I’d never felt through music before. I immediately started to explore the wide world of hip hop and discovered one of my favorite genres. This album was the ultimate touch off point to my study of hip hop-centered musical subjects, including storytelling, lyricism, flow, history, culture and production.
“It’s Nice Outside” is beautiful from top to bottom, with a massive unfolding study that examines rapper Anti-Lilly’s headspace. I’d never heard an album that mirrored the way I think and captured so many of my daily emotions. Hearing someone who stressed about being in their head too often was a massive revelation. I had never felt that sense of connection to an artist before. I got to hear his thoughts on a wide variety of subjects, and slowly examined the deeper themes and philosophy of his stories. It’s a cliché, but I genuinely believe this was the first time I truly “listened” to music. In a subjective and abstract way, I finally felt like I was a part of the music, and the music was me.
The production by Phoniks pulls from classic hip hop, jazz and soul samples to build some of the most emotionally charged beats I’ve ever heard. Ranging from dreamy to soul-searing, Phoniks creates a masterpiece. Every beat is built on similar practices, but each has a distinct emotional purpose. Phoniks masterfully builds songs through sampling classic artists such as Chet Baker, Roy Ayers Ubiquity, Herbie Mann and Wes Montgomery. These samples become punchier by adding record wear, low-key snares and highlighting particular instruments to accompany Anti-Lilly’s airy flows.
Anti-Lilly masterfully unravels his experiences and mindset. Utilizing incredible lyricism, he reflects on depression, self-reflection, fame, religion, personal evolution, racial equity and workplace inequality. The album features other artists as though they’re competing against each other, matching Anti-Lilly’s skilled and varied flow (some highlights coming from Awon, LC and Devante Hunter). Some songs, such as “Company Cigarettes,” lean on narrative storytelling, while others are more subtly poetic, such as “Nobody’s Perfect.” I love revisiting the album and finding double meanings and call backs in different lines. The range of emotion is fascinating, with braggadocio, disgust, sadness, melancholy and joy all taking unique roles across the album.