Philly-based producer King Britt joined neighborhood musicians Tamara Dill, Joi Ross, Jamarr Hall, Jovie Joffas, and Buck Maxton to create an album that remixed the voices and sounds of North Philadelphia.
King Britt, an internationally-known DJ and composer from Philly, sought to amplify the positive voice of the neighborhood by designing a community-based record label and live radio show at The Village. King was joined by five talented neighborhood artists, each with years of musical experience, but little or no time in a professional recording studio. The team — Tamara Dill, Joi Ross, and Jamarr Hall, all students in the Village youth program; Jovie Joffas, a young lyricist and producer; and Buck Maxton, nephew of Village founder Big Man and emcee — formed a tight, focused group, rehearsing, learning equipment and recording for hours every day.
King meticulously established a state-of-the-art recording studio (thanks in part to donations by supporters Native Instruments and Ableton) in his artist’s home, a restored rowhome once inhabited by Dutch duo Haas & Hahn as they completed their Philly Painting project. The neighborhood artists mastered using the equipment while designing and producing a full-length album featuring voices from the neighborhood. They named their label Playback Musik and dedicated it to “fearless experimentation and community pride.”
The number one thing that I learned with this project is that anything can be done as long as you have access. The community now has access to a label, to a studio. We needed access to them and they needed access to us. Then anything is possible. Now anything can be done.” — King
To activate public space, the team created ‘The Stoop,’ a weekly outdoor listening party at the artist residence that fostered community connections by inviting attendees and passersby to share songs meaningful to them and to respond, musically, to various social issue presented to them. In the six Stoops held before cold weather arrived, they hosted over 120 neighbors for music and conversation. Sessions were recorded and posted online as an Internet radio show.
The Album: Strong and Independent
After an intensive 4 months in the studio, songwriting, producing and recording, the team was ready to name its album: STRONG AND INDEPENDENT, after the title track written by Tamara and Joi. The album incorporated stories from neighbors, sounds from The Village, and interviews from The Stoop.
When the full album was complete, the team debuted their tracks on WKDU, a local radio show. They also emceed as King Britt delivered a 90-minute history of Electronic Music on WKDU 91.7.
The culmination of their album came at a live concert and film exclusive free screening of “Time is Illmatic,” the award-winning Nas documentary, in North Philadelphia, attended by 150 music lovers from both our community and around the city.
They distributed 500 CDs throughout the neighborhood and at public events. In Phase 2 of Playback Musik, the team continues in residence at the studio, producing local artists for a second album and working up to becoming a more robust and efficient community resource. ‘The Stoop’ will continue in as an initiative of the youth Music Production program.
Through Playback Musik, we acquired two valuable resources: recording studio equipment, and training for neighborhood artists to use it. We’re currently exploring ways these resources can be deployed by organization and residents alike. The Playback neighborhood artists have used the equipment for their own entrepreneurial and artistic efforts (booking DJ gigs from benefit dinners to birthday parties, and creating and selling hundreds of beats) and the Village afterschool program will offer music production students access to the studio equipment to incentivize commitment.
Read the full Playback story in JUMP, Philadelphia’s music magazine.
“I feel like it’s the start of a new beginning.” — Tamara Dill