On The Record: DJ Ill Phil
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
The heart. The soul. The boom. The bap.
From holding down spinning duties at main event concerts at Blaisdell Arena to turnt up nightclub affairs and right on down to smaller, more intimate local hip-hop shows, DJ Ill Phil has always come to play with the cause and culture in mind.
Rocking turntables with purpose and focus, his tried and true support for local artists and a willingness to rep Hawaii to the fullest are just a few reasons why he is on a short list of the most credible hip-hop DJs in the state.
Ill Phil is the first to admit he’s gone through his share of humbling moments during his years climbing the proverbial ladder of relevance in Honolulu. Those times when his ego may have taken a slight hit have proven to be just as important as nights when he’s held dance floors in the palm of his hand.
“Failure holds the keys to success DJing will teach you a lot about yourself if you take it seriously,” he said. “I’m still and probably will never stop learning.
“When I know I had a good set and can see that the people are having a good time, hands in the air and losing themselves on the dance floor (or) getting an honest compliment or a big tip. I chase that high every time.”
Phil moved to Hawaii in 1996 from California, so he was already heavily drenched in west coast rap through the lyrics of DJ Quik, NWA, Snoop Dogg and Rass Kass. He credits his middle school years in the islands for expanding his hip-hop perspective.
“The first CD I ever bought was Ice-T’s ‘Original Gangsta.’ When I got to Hawaii my homies put me on to groups like Hieroglyphics, The Pharcyde, Outkast and of course Wu Tang,” he acknowledged. “Back then, hip-hop was so diverse and the music really had a message behind it. There was no shortage of uniqueness and creativity.
“If anything, I would like to see more of that in today’s music, but like anything else it always comes back to what it once was and you can see that trend happening now. Substance has begun to matter again.”
Having successfully held down residency status at Da Big Kahuna Waikiki (Thurs, Fridays, Sundays) for more than three years, Phil has come to understand fun can never be sacrificed for business. The Wahiawa-based beat curator remains fresh because his desire to get better has no expiration date.
“I’m learning that the most important thing is to know how much you’re worth, and to respect the fact that it takes a lot of time, practice and money to be a good DJ,” he said. “It’s your responsibility to get what you deserve.”
He is also a firm believer that building good relationships in the industry goes hand in hand with having a good reputation.
“Eight out of 10 times you will get booked just on this alone. The business side of it is important to me if I plan on making a living being a DJ, or else it’s back to my nine to five,” he said.
When it comes to the local infrastructure, Ill Phil believes Hawaii hip-hop is poised to make noise on a national scale one day. Whether that day is closer than one would believe or days away doesn’t matter so much. It’s all about thinking big and achieving bigger.
“What excites me about the hip-hop scene here in Hawaii is that it is so unique and diverse, you can go to a hip-hop show and you don’t really know what to expect. The scene has come a long way and I hope one day it will find its place in hip-hop history.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.