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Leland Philpot Spreads Positivity Through Poetry And Faith

Written by on September 27, 2022

Chicago poet, producer and podcaster Leland Philpot uplifts his community through his words.

Chicago artist Leland Philpot works to push the city’s rap community forward with his words and his faith, working simultaneously as a producer, performer and podcaster. Listeners may recognize his remix of “Agatha All Along,” the theme for Marvel’s Disney+ series “WandaVision,” which created buzz on the internet last February with more than 5,000 retweets and upwards of 500,000 Twitter views. But more locally, Philpot had already made a name for himself in and around Chicago’s artistic community prior to his remix’s virality.

Before graduating from Columbia College with a degree in audio engineering and in 2019 starting his own record label, BabelScatter, Philpot was an admirer of Chicago’s rich poetry scene — originally motivated to make music upon hearing Common’s Be.

To this day, Philpot draws inspiration from poetry in his music, now blending his love for words with his deeply-rooted Christian faith. Though Philpot noted he strives to uplift others and spread positivity through an understanding of the gospel, he also pointed out listeners don’t usually find his music “preachy.” 

“I’d like to think that’s because I make an effort to make the music musical, and not just a propaganda machine for information that they didn’t ask for,” Philpot explained.

We also heard from Leland Philpot on his single “Still,” which was featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for September, BabelScatter — the podcast and the label — and new projects he’s been working on.

Where did you grow up in Chicago? 

I grew up on the North Side of Chicago, over by Edgewater. But because of my mom turning blind, I’ve been all over the city. So I grew up on both the North and the South Side!

What scenes in Chicago have had a big influence in the way that you make and produce music, if at all?

Chicago’s poetry scene seems to be neglected by the press. Our poetry scene is so vibrant and it has produced some of the best music of the modern era, in the form of Chance the Rapper, Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West. But the person that impacted me the most was Common. Common’s Be was the album that made me want to start music, and I wouldn’t be here talking to you guys without it. 

How do you feel your music highlights or uplifts your community?

I think the main way my music uplifts people is by the understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When people play my music, they say that it doesn’t come off as preachy. I’d like to think that’s because I make an effort to make the music musical, and not just a propaganda machine for information that they didn’t ask for.

So when I talk about my life, I’m talking about the impact that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has made in me, within the context of life and living. That way the music and lyricism can be dope, first and foremost, and thought-provoking, with a truly positive message.

How has rap strengthened your faith, and vice versa?

What a wonderful question! I loved rap and music in general before I came into faith. So my thought when I began to get serious about it was, “Well, I have to freestyle about Jesus now.” And since then, I’ve prayed several times about how to make the best music possible, while still holding true to my faith. So it’s definitely been a confidence booster!

When you are writing, do you tend to draw more inspiration from your faith or your personal life?

They are one and the same. Oftentimes, I find consequential moments in my life mirror advancements in my music career. It’s almost as if it’s a message from God, saying, “You’re right on track,” “You’re still on time,” “Keep going!”

“Still,” featured on our “In Rotation” playlist for September, is a great piece of music about perseverance. Where did this idea stem from?

I actually focus on the rhythm and musicality of the song. Then inside of that flow, the words just come! I think it has a lot to do with the stuff I study daily, giving me enough conclusions to draw from to write music.

What do you want listeners to walk away with after listening to “Still”?

People have actually sung the hook back to me when the song stopped. One notable person is Dr. Eric Thomas, one of the world’s leading motivational speakers, who I’m blessed to call a friend. When I did the CHAMPS youth conference this year, led by my big bro Vondale Singleton, Dr. Thomas saw me and started repeating the meaning of the hook to me. 

My mind was blown, because he said, “I’m still tryna change the world from my city, I’m still tryna change the world from my house”— and those sentiments of living purposefully, achieving destiny and of determination is exactly what I wanted those kids, and every other listener, to walk away with.

As a producer, what do you think makes your beats stand out?

To put it short, musicality. I’d like to think they have an underground flair with a mainstream appeal! This allows for something unorthodox, but still interesting to listen to.

How do you go about adding your own personal touch to each beat you produce?

Aw, I can’t give too many secrets out. But because of my background in mixing, graduating from Columbia with a degree in audio engineering, I have full power over my own sound. This allows me to create something that we possibly haven’t seen before!

What is BabelScatter? When did you start it?

So BabelScatter is my record label, and I started it in 2019. A lot of people ask me what the name means, so I’ll tell you! The Tower of Babel is a Bible story. It speaks on how God had to scatter people because of pride. My label’s motto is “The Scattered Returned.” That means that mistakes may have once caused you pain, but faith in Jesus will restore your worst situations!

How did your skills as an artist and producer influence your decision to start Babelscatter?

Music is my life! I’m constantly thinking on how to take this to the next level (thanks, Vocalo!), and I am always researching new things to do to make it the best possible brand. Me starting the record label was a no-brainer, and it was always in the making.

How do you see BabelScatter growing and impacting the community?

I see it growing by different outreaches, getting involved in after-school programs, without which I wouldn’t have been able to make music in the first place, and just being an influence for positivity and great music in general.

When people see that you can stick to your guns and fulfill purpose, you become an inspiration to the people around you, and that’s how we lower suicide rates and gun violence: pushing positivity instead of negativity.

In addition to making music, you’re also a podcaster. Tell us a little bit about how you got into podcasting!

Aw man, am I on Nardwuar? The BabelScatter Podcast is definitely entertaining if you like talks about Jesus, mental health, the tea on life in general and just real people having real conversations! I think going forward I’ll be talking about life and living more, that way it’ll give context to the faith I live out!

If you had to choose between podcasting and making music, which would you choose? Why?

Well, thanks to my degree in engineering from Columbia (thanks, Columbia!), I don’t have to choose! When I’m in music mode, I’m going hard. When I’m podcasting, it’s usually with an inspired topic, or I have downtime to do it. One direction I do want to go in is streaming and forums, but that’s too much for right now.

What’s on the horizon for you — anything listeners should know about?

I’d really like everyone to follow me on Instagram. I have a lot of content dropping on there and TikTok, but on Instagram you can DM me and participate in the Live and stories, etc. I’ll be looking forward to meeting you guys in the future!

Also: New. Music. Is. Coming. But I’d like everyone to support my latest release, CounterTrap [The Mixtape] (The 2022 Remaster). Other releases coming up are WKNIT2 Remastered and The Best Of Mixtape Leland. These projects are gonna be super fire! Thank you Vocalo for interviewing me!

Keep up with Leland Philpot on Twitter and Instagram, and stream our full “In Rotation” playlist on Spotify below.

Interview by Joshua X. Miller

Introduction written by Joshua X. Miller and Morgan Ciocca

All photos courtesy the artist

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