Phoenix da Icefire and Husky Brown are both veterans on the UK Hip Hop scene, both as individual artists and producers. They recently released their first collaborative album Panacea. We talk to them about their careers, forming an alliance and their new album.
Phoenix da Icefire and Husky Brown welcome to File Under Hip Hop! Husky, I’ve known you for years from Wolverhampton. Good to see you’re still doing your thing! You’ve both been in the scene for years. Tell us how you first got in the game?
Husky – Yes it’s been a few years now Jai and it’s nice to see you once again and shout out to my people back in Wolftown. As you know Jai I’ve been in the game over the last 25 years. I started out as a DJ for a group called Ruthless Controllers, with a number of 20 men deep in the crew. The days before Wu-Tang and So Solid Crew made numbers become a fashion.
Originally, I was getting in trouble with the police and having gang fights in the area I lived in back then, known as Low Hill in Wolverhampton.
There was a youth club centre there and Goldie (Metal Heads) and B-Boys (Break Dancer Crew), used to come to the centre and practice. It was hip-hop heaven, and where I started learning and playing on the turntables. This then later introduced me to become a resident DJ in clubs and on Pirate radio, which lead into getting headhunted to work for Sony Music, making beats. The rest is history.
Phoenix – I started at the age of 16 in a grime crew with P Money, Funky Dee, Little D and Blacks who are now a crew called OG’s. I used to go to the same playcentre which took us to our first studio session. I became a Nuwapian and became more educated and felt that I knew too much to just be ignorant in my cathartic attempt to heal myself through the art of music.
I felt grime was too much of a confined container and I moved to hip hop a couple of years later. My first official record was in 2009, the mixtape Baptism Under Fire which was really the result of being asked if I had a CD after rocking an open Mic at Brixton Jamm.
How did you both link up?
Husky – I live in London now and was invited to meet Rah Digga from Flipmode in London, as she was doing a show here. At the show, Curoc from Sons of Noise was the compere and my instincts said this guy seems like a cool real dude, and so I followed him on Instagram. He played a live 60-minute performance of Phoenix on his post. Phoenix was killing it with mic control and I have a good ear for skillful selecting of artists due to professional experience and years doing this.
Phoenix heard about my reaction, and we met to chat. From the beginning, we both knew we what was needed, to collaborate and make the music happen. I sent Phoenix only 5 random tracks initially, but he rang and said we’re doing an album. This is how Panacea was born.
Phoenix – As Husky says, it was from a recording of a show I did with Doppelgangaz, brother Curoc from the Son of Noise crew always shows me love and reposted it. Husky left a comment saying he loved it. I contacted him after listening to a beat that wasn’t even his and said, I like your beats let’s work LOL. It was pure fate.
You’ve just released your album Panacea. Tell us about the album it touches on some serious issues/topics?
Husky – Yes, hip hop is life and experiences. When we write music and make beats, as a composer and producer the music needs to be honest. The journey is about people having engagement with what is being said or heard. If I can help someone in the gutter motivated enough to stay alive then I’m doing the good spirit’s work.
I can talk gang shit all-day long and lose too many real soldiers to disrespect. What they want me to do is create music, life is energy. The definition of gutter is my translation to heal the sick. In other words ‘Save Souls’.
Phoenix – Well the whole album concept was sparked when a Sufi shaman fan of my music paid for a feature verse and introduced me to a panacea. I didn’t even know what a panacea was until he passed me some shilajit. He broke down that it was a cure for all ills and its healing properties. I instantly said I wanted to create something like that in music form. I trawled through Husky’s beat collection and picked out what I needed to achieve that.
I also through my shamanic work with healing plant medicines broke down what I am. To sum up my spiritual perspective of the world’s pain from my standpoint and addressed everything I felt needed to be addressed. I covered a lot of ground including self-doubt, the state of the Earth, and mankind’s relationship with it. The spiritual possession and depression, the relationship advice from being a man with a stepson and three children and a soon to be wife. My experience with the otherworldly where I had an encounter with a UFO and even my ability to voice act and sing I gave it my all.
The album is also my foresight into what we are dealing with now. We will overcome bearing in mind I wrote this before anything we are facing now happened. Husky and I also specifically chose the artwork that visually represented the old and new world standing side by side. A static moment of transition of the old world and the new world battling but weighed on the scales of justice. We start with Shake it Up as if an earthquake was needed with these topics I address. Issues being unearthed and brought to the surface further into the album which we then we end with Love for Free.… I hope I didn’t lose you lol.
How would you describe your music?
Husky – Real Music and Soulful. Culture and rooted.
Phoenix – As a psychedelic healing journey of truth reflecting the spectrum of the inner world that dwells within each of us. A galaxy that draws you in and catches your attention. A friend who holds you and gives you advice and wonder. Telling you that no matter what, you’re going to be OK and have the strength and possess the courage to liberate yourself no matter how soul-shaking it can be.
Having released a few singles off the album, what has the response been like?
Husky – The response has been incredible here, especially in London and Europe. The comments and feedback from fans have been overwhelming. I’m humbled and appreciate those times when a fan approaches and quotes a lyric from a song or talks about how the music and arrangements touched their soul. The stories from people how they embraced the album is dope, I say that with heartfelt gratitude.
Phoenix – Absolutely phenomenal and looking forward to more people hearing it.
Tell us about the concept behind the Panacea cover artwork?
Husky – Great question, (laughs). Both myself and Phoenix are creative individuals and we knew what we were looking for from the beginning. We didn’t spend hours figuring this out as we knew the cover would appear when the time is right. When the full album was completed and we started mastering the full work with Chemo at his studio. We started looking for the right artist.
As you know I’m all about psychedelia as it’s our natural bohemian personality. We discovered an amazing artist from Los Angeles named Chris Kutt. We knew he was the guy to visualise the Panacea cover. Which reflects us both as we are from the Virgo and Libra universe.
Phoenix – As mentioned earlier, it represents the world as it is today. The old and dying world of human disconnection and filthy industry, and the beauty and power of nature weighed on the scales of ma’at and the rising of the kundalini signifying healing of the two worlds as a panacea.
It’s a shame that in these times you can’t get to go out and perform/tour the album? What have you been doing to keep yourselves busy during the lockdown?
Husky – These times are not a problem for us and shouldn’t be for any if you’re headstrong. Music is global and can’t be on lockdown. Technology, radio, and people like you Jai are representing hip hop. It’s been welcoming as we have many live virtual DJ sets, interview podcasts, and support from our fans and followers on the socials. The album is a classic, people have even described it as “Timeless “.
Phoenix – Doing live shows and I’m partnering with a platform called Floor Space. I’m also about to battle Gee Bag online with my catalogue so I’m staying busy. As Husky says, we plan on having the launch party hosted by Hoochinoo where we can sell the physical CD, so that’s still a go after this period.
Will you continue to work together on future projects or will you work as individual artists /producers?
Husky – Yes, we’re already talking about doing Panacea II at a later date. I have a solo hip hop album which will be released later in the year with some very popular established artists from the US and Jamaica.
Phoenix – I love our chemistry so of course no doubt.
Where can people got and listen or buy the album?
Phoenix – It’s on all digital platforms, Apple / iTunes, Tidal, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon, everywhere!
Tell us your social media links.
Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Husky – Thank you Jai Boo and all your team at File Under Hip Hop. Allowing for the situation easing, we plan to have our Panacea launch party in August in London at the Jamm House in Brixton. Tickets on sale now and promoted by Hoochinoo.
Phoenix – Thank you for all your support in helping my dream come true.
Interview by Jai Boo