Returning to the spotlight, Philly breaks out a sweet melody to pay homage to the beauty and power that lives in black matriarchs.
Brown Skin, featuring young Cairns talent Waari, is a message from the heart for Philly and Adrian Eagle, who began creating the song back in 2017.
“We enjoyed the journey of working on it, I think everyone within community has an amazing strong, black woman in their lives to give them the advice, love and care they need. I thought it was important to celebrate them, particularly with my upbringing too. I didn’t really have a positive male role model in my life growing up, I was surrounded by black women,” Philly said.
“It’s important to speak about how beautiful black skin is, how beautiful curly hair is because for a long time we walked through the world with these ideas that our culture is wrong, our skin is ugly, our features are ugly – it’s so important for us now, as black people, to really take that power back and embrace the beauty that is blackness.”
Philly brought together a team of Aboriginal women for the music video, and took on advice from his Aunties and sisters both onset and off.
The day before the first day of shooting, Philly returned to the studio to make some changes.
“Aunty Kim Kruger, she is an amazing black, strong woman – she sent me a list of things I should keep in mind when I’m writing songs about black women. I changed as much as I could,” Philly said.
“But that’s what I want, I want to have my music critiqued by listeners especially those who I am writing the song for or about. It’s important for me to really get the kind of instruction when I’m working with mob. I was so thankful for that and thankful to her – she made it a better song.”
Creating the video was an incredibly powerful experience for Philly, being surrounded by strong, feminine power.
“The first day when all the sisters and Aunties came in and I think for the most part I was the only lad there. I was getting bossed around and all sorts of things! They took that space, I’m so glad that they could feel comfortable and safe enough to really show that happiness and joy onscreen.”
Brown Skin was released under Bad Apples Music, a label that provides Philly with the freedom he craves.
“Bad Apples Music is an amazing label, I’m fortunate to be in the position I am with them, the support they give and the creative control. Having that freedom to speak my mind, even on socials [social media] – it’s so important for me.”
Growing up in the foster care system, Philly was exposed to the realities of inequality and injustice early on in life, and so has dedicated his platform to moving towards positive change.
“I was in foster care when I was 18-months-old. Aunty Beth Peters raised me, she was a strong, black woman. During my time in her care, we had kids in and out of the house all the time. Whether they were in her care or not, our home was almost a safe place.”
“Her doors were always unlocked, you’d go to sleep and wake up and there’d be new bodies on the floor.”
“A lot of those young people were from broken homes and had to deal with domestic violence at home. They got caught up in dealing drugs, drug abuse, stealing cars and prison.”
“I was the youngest, I got to see everything for what it was at a young age, and although brothers might have walked down that path, they always did what they could to keep me on the straight and narrow so I’m grateful for that.”
With a son of his own, Philly knows the importance of his platform and the role he plays for young First Australians.
“As blackfellas, everything we do is always for the next generation. I got a son that is four-years-old and I’m trying to set that example for him. Our ancestors and Elders did it for us, we got to do it for the next generation,” Philly said.
“I feel the best way we can inspire young people is to lead by example, black people are just more visual in a sense. It’s hard for a young blackfella to believe that if they don’t see themselves on television, if they don’t see themselves as a doctor, or a lawyer.”
Philly hopes to inspire a level of pride for community and cultural identity.
“I think it’s important for all of us to embrace our blackness and that love within our communities – it’s not wrong to be exclusive sometimes. We should keep some things to ourselves, when it comes to ceremony, or community,” Philly said.
“We don’t have to share every detail, I think it’s a part of healing to be exclusive and be with ourselves, our community and our mob. To share between each other rather than always trying to be inclusive to the wider community, and again there’s nothing wrong with that, because we were forced into being inclusive.”
Philly, with his foot in the door, is now ready to release some more tunes. His soon-to-be-released album, Grow, has been a three-year labour of love.
“It’s a concept based album which talks about my growth as an individual which was dope, to work on this for three years and even in that time change.”
“I want to keep being accessible to mob in community, so that they can see it’s realistic to reach certain platforms and heights. I want to continue to use my platform to speak out and affect change in this country.”
With big things coming his way, Philly doesn’t let the big things overshadow the importance of the little things.
“A lot of mob always get behind each other, praise each other, I try to praise my sisters and brothers for doing anything. I remind them that success is what you see it as, the idea of success is so often around money, or houses or cars.”
“But success can be something small, like keeping a smile on your face, keeping your health and happiness, the little things – that is success for me, finding a way to heal and grow from past traumas and just enjoying your life.”
By Rachael Knowles