Thee Phantom, a musician who combines hip-hop and classical genres, plans to perform at Mills Hall on campus during his upcoming college tour.
Some people love listening to hip-hop and some love listening to classical. Yet there aren’t too many people who enjoy both — or at least enjoy both at the same time.
Thee Phantom, a rapper and composer, writes rhymes to sing on stage while he has an orchestra — the Illharmonic Orchestra — behind him playing his own composition.
Phantom’s true name is Jeffrey M. McNeil. He founded the corporation Invisible Man Productions, and has played at multiple major venues like Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. That said, Phantom started as a kid who just liked to listen to music.
Music has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. He grew up singing in the church choir and his mom enrolled him in flute and piano lessons.
He would lose himself in the record player while he listened to Mozart. At one point, Phantom was introduced to hip-hop, specifically, the Sugar Hill Gang’s, “Rapper’s Delight.”
“It was unlike anything I’d ever heard,” Phantom said. “It kind of blew my mind.”
A few weeks later, Phantom wrote his own rhyme. When he first began composing, Phantom explained his music was more focused on bass and drum. But after being exposed to other types of music, classics such as Beethoven, Mozart and Vivaldi, he wanted to incorporate both genres.
Soon Phantom found a connection between the two types of music. At the age of 13, Phantom combined The Beastie Boys’ “Paul Revere” and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
When Phantom first started combining the two music genres, he didn’t receive the greatest feedback. Phantom said one of his friends even threw his CD across the room, convinced it would never go far. Phantom said this only fueled his desire to succeed.
Today, Phantom has played in many music venues, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
“Great works of art are never finished, they are merely abandoned,” Phantom said.
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He said until you put an album out for the public it’s not truly finished. Phantom said he intends to put all the music he writes out for the public to hear.
Phantom utilizes musical tools like Garage Band and Logic, allowing him to produce albums at a higher rate.
“This album for me has been a labor of love, and I’m excited to share it with people,” Phantom said.
When Phantom performs, he likes to diversify what he’s wearing. He explained he’s worn a suit and his wife has worn a female tuxedo on stage, but also apperead after intermission with an Adidas sweatsuit on.
Phantom has brought hip-hop fans to his shows, and he said he’ll occasionally get questions about the dress code. Classical music and hip-hop often encourage different types of dress.
When Phantom played at the Kennedy Center people showed up in their “best dress” including tuxedos, Phantom said.
“We make it an entire experience and I really enjoy that,” Phantom said.
Phantom says he finds inspiration in color. He explained it as being like a synesthesia.
Mostly he writes about his life experiences. Whether those are his past experiences or his goals for the future, his life is written into his rhymes.
“I can have a smell, or hear something on the radio or hear something on the street, and it jogs a memory of me sitting at the record player, and I’ll create a song from there,” Phantom said.
Phantom plans on touring his current album across the United States and specifically at college campuses. He hopes to include the Univeristy of Wisconsin in his tour.