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Phony Ppl’s “Mozaik” Album Review

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Phony Ppl is a Brooklyn-based musical group comprised of Elbee Thrie (vocals), Elijah Rawk (lead guitar), Matt “Maffyuu” Byas (drums), Aja Grant (Keyboard), and Bari Bass (bass guitar).  Their music is stylistically funky with heavy basslines and Dilla-like boom-bap snares and kicks overlayed by a unique mix of singing and rapping. Their closest comparison is probably The Internet, a Grammy-nominated soulful-funk band from southern California.  I first heard of Phony Ppl through their 2015 track, “Why iii Love the Moon”, a little love ballad off their album Yesterday’s Tomorrow.  With that song in mind, I had high expectations for mō’zā-ik, their most recent album released on September 28th, 2018.

The record starts out strong with the twinkling track, “Way Too Far” – a comfortably slow song about loneliness and love; Thrie sings “I have you, but I lost myself”, a straightforward snapshot of the struggle of balance in romance.  The next track, “Once You Say Hello”, begins with a little brass melody over a quick beat, and features Thrie repeating, “Once you say hello to her, it’s over”, about a dozen times. It’s a pretty song, but only if you have a girl you’re thinking of.  “somethinG about your love” induces nostalgia through its groovy guitar and Thrie’s concupiscent crooning to an ambiguous ex – “you’re the only one in my dreams / I believe we were meant to be / you said that you needed me / turns out you’re deceiving me”.  Despite the deception, Thrie depicts his post-breakup dissonance, singing “there’s something about your love”. He holds onto his past love, perhaps for too long.

The next track, “Cookie Crumble”, is a perfect follow-up to the prior song. Whilst before, he’s obsessing over a past girl’s love, on this track, he tells his listeners “what’s said is said, what’s done is done” and “I won’t look back”.  He knows he needs to move on and he’s making a conscious effort to do so. The following song, “Colours”, is my favorite off the record. Like a rainbow acid trip, Phony Ppl takes you on a ride delicately crooning the chorus:

The reds and the yellows and the orange and the purple and the greens

With the indigo the turqoise the brown and the blues and the pinks

The greys and the black and the whites you gotta feel ’em in your soul

With the mattes the metallics show reflections like the silver and the gold

The reds and the yellows and the orange and the purple and the greens

With the indigo the turqoise the brown and the blue and the between

They greys and the black and the whites you gotta feel ’em in your soul

With the mattes the metallics show reflections like the silver and the gold

The following verse is an extended metaphor that both confuses and intrigues me.  Thrie raps, “If you speak the colours you see the truth / And if you see the colours then add two plus two” .  To me, it means something along the lines of this: (1) “speak[ing] the colors [and seeing] the truth” refers to an honest expression of emotion (symbolized and interconnected with colors in even the youngest minds); (2) “see[ing] the colors” refers to seeing auras and “adding two plus two” is connecting individuals with similar vibes to each other.  I really appreciate the following track, “One Man Band”; Thrie asks the audience “Do you wanna join my one man band? / Do you wanna join me? / Cause don’t nobody seem to understand”. Through this song, Thrie is describing each human as a “one-man band”: (1) completely and utterly unique, messy as hell, and fascinating, and (2) needing others to play the instruments and be a part of his life [bandmates or lovers].

The following track, “Think You’re Mine”,  is a rough, forgettable repetition of lines describing a confusing debacle in which the singer is clueless about the exclusivity of his relationship.  It’s a pretty song for about the first 30 seconds, but after that, the high-pitched repetition is irksome. On the next song, “Move Her Mind”, Thrie’s chorus, “She can move her ass but can she move her mind? / I will take the risk and we’ll find out in time / I’ll put my chips in, hopefully the stars align”, is a simultaneously witty and meaningful display of hope and vulnerability in the beginning of a lustful relationship. He follows up the chorus in a similar fashion, saying,  “Sex is easy, I know you please me, but what books can you read me?”. It’s an excellent little line. and leaves the listener a tad shocked (and personally, impressed) by the blunt question.

The next track, “Before You Get A Boyfriend”, starts with a heavy Cali-funk beat overlayed by a couple dope verses.  “Either Way”, the second to last song on the album, starts with Thrie displaying his vulnerability and confusion again: “Do you really like me? / Is it just the sex? / Either way I’ll be back (yeah) / Tomorrow or the next”.  He’s progressed from his old lover described in “something about your lovE”, learned how to accept the end in “Cookie Crumble”, is searching for a new girl on “One Man Band” and “Before You Get A Boyfriend”, and finding a new love on “Either way”.   The final track, “on everythinG iii love”, is really quite different conceptually from the prior 10; Thrie tells the audience, “It’s so sad that you have taken / Something that I can’t have back / Just because I’m black / Just because I’m black / I must have been born with a bullseye / Flat on my back I don’t know why”.  It’s a solid example of blaxploitation, which he furthers by ending the album singing, “So rest deep in peace / N-ggerman, n-ggerman / N-ggerman, n-ggerman / Working all your life / To be robbed of your chances to have any chances”. It’s a unique ending, but completely out of place, and to me, would fit better on Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered than this lovesick album.

As an album, the production was all there – funky, pretty, and light- , there was a conceptual flow and story throughout its entirety, and  the lyrics were simultaneously intellectual and emotionally meaningful for the most part. The main downside of the record was simply a lack of creativity and originality in the music; by the fifth or sixth track, I was already yawning in a state of sleepy boredom, and had difficulty staying focused on the latter half.  I’d definitely recommend listening to the album, but fair warning: don’t be surprised if you find yourself covered in drool with your headphones by your ears the next morning.

Stand-out Tracks: “Colours”, “Something About Your Love”, “Either Way”

Album Rating: 6/10

Album Review By: Jason Levin