Saved by the Bars

Honoring Hip Hop’s liberating legacy in the US and here in Philly.

In 2021, Congress declared November National Hip Hop History Month, to recognize and celebrate the genre’s lasting influence on American culture. “The celebration of Hip Hop history and the study of it is essential to our democracy, our innovation, our voice, and who we are as human beings,” said Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), who co-sponsored the bill with the inimitable Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Indeed, Hip Hop is a means for seeing, celebrating, experiencing, understanding, confronting, and commenting on life and the world. It’s a vehicle for personal expression, representation, and social accountability. It’s a drumbeat messaging for anyone who’s open to other sides of the story from the current, dominant narrative. At its best, Hip Hop is raw, authentic, profound, and affecting.

No wonder when The Mann Music Center sought to create innovative, educational programming this year, it turned to Philly’s rich and renowned Hip Hop scene, and local rap legend Chill Moody. As their first Community Artist-in-Residence, he’s taken the year to celebrate Hip Hop’s 50th Anniversary with incredible live mashups of classical music and contemporary talents.

Black Metropolis” wowed a maximum-capacity crowd this summer as a full orchestra and choir shared the stage with a rapper and DJ. This October, he performed a sold-out show with a classical string trio, exploring themes of storytelling through genre-blending music. Meanwhile, he’s been working on a half-dozen other projects promoting young artists and providing training, scholarship, and recognition.

Photo credit: Jared Piper, City Council Photographer

In appreciation, Philadelphia City Council declared a resolution this September to officially honor and congratulate Chill for his contributions to our musical and cultural legacy. Introduced by Isaiah Thomas, councilmember at-large and huge supporter of the Arts, the bill recognizes Chill’s work “providing our young people with quality out-of-school time”, giving them real-world experience in the music industry, both as artists and entrepreneurs.

Chill was also cited for:

  • being a long-time figure in the Phila music community, active for well over a decade
  • also being a long-time entrepreneur with his own record label, beverage company (beer and kombucha!), and even a consulting firm – all under his “Nice Things” banner
  • composing music about the issues and stories that make up the city of Phila
  • promoting Arts & Culture with live performances and creative events

A big crowd came out to City Hall on Thursday September 14th 2023 to listen to Chill’s resolution being read into City Council record, and history! Congratulations 🍾🎉🏆

HIP HOP SPEAKS
Chill Moody’s 2016 TEDTalk is a lesson in verse for the voiceless

(Chill Moody, excerpted here below)

In preparation for this afternoon, I spoke to a couple people and just basically asked them, you know what they thought about the phrase “And justice for all.”  I spoke an 8th grade history teacher who told me there has never been justice for all. I asked a friend, who came back with her own question.

“How is this nation expected to live up to the promises of its forefathers, when those promises were created with an asterisk?” She went on to say, “Maybe we either misunderstand justice, or we don’t know who the ‘all’ refers to.”

It’s important to note these are just regular people, they’re not activists or politicians or anything. These people have voices, but they don’t necessarily have a platform where they are heard. That was my mindset in creating this song.

I wrote this song August 10 2014, the Monday after the Michael Brown murder in Ferguson, Missouri. I waited to release it until I felt the message was needed. It’s a different song now that we know his story does not get justice. Music helps healing. There is value in our lives. We have to take more claim in it: We’re worth more.

Bull with a price on your head and I ain’t talkin bout a bounty / Give you a slice of they bread cause they make it right back when they ship you up the county. / And it’s the Land of the Free, right? / Cause lately that ain’t really what it seems like. / Try not to preach, right? / Cause my people’s on that nonsense: / “He speaks white” – like color got a sound. / That mentality was built for them to break us down.

A mission they completing with ease./ Power’s in the words, hell, it was illegal to read. / Since birth we been cursed with this curse / Penny for my thoughts – it’s the black man’s worth. /

No more takin short, say we’re worth more. It’s what we all work for, we’re worth more. Our life has value, we’re worth more. Tell ‘em there’s strength in numbers, say we’re worth more. We’re worth more. We’re worth more.

Type of things that’s on all of our minds. / I just say what they ain’t sayin, / They worryin about the revolution being televised. / I just want the radio to play it! / Now Mr. Officer, maybe I got it backwards / but how the hell am I to take the blame for your actions? / Don’t get it twisted, I ain’t sayin that we all off the hook / but that’s a family issue we will handle off the books. / They call us crooks with the hoodies up, / Shoot first, the truth hurts: there’s no remorse in killin us. /

No more taking shorts, say we’re worth more. We’re worth more. We’re worth more. Come on. We’re worth more.

Chill Moody performs in Darin Atwater’s Black Metropolis (July 2023)

Chill Moody is a graduate of Overbrook High School and Millersville University (communications/public relations). His new album We Still Got Time was released this October 20th and makes a great Holiday (or anytime) gift, as do tickets to performances (follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for the latest dates & news). 

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