Philosophy312’s Journey Of Hope And Resiliency
Written by Vocalo Radio on August 19, 2021
For Philosophy312, music has been a therapeutic outlet. Now, he hopes his music may serve as a stepping stone for others to find strength, resilience and hope.
“Chi-city is the foundation of my being. I mean, growing up in the inner city gives you that grit and grind. It teaches you resiliency and provides a toughness that you carry for the rest of your life.”Philosophy312
Phillip Walton is Philosophy312, a Chicago South Side-raised hip-hop artist, philanthropist, entrepreneur, veteran and public servant who’s been enthralled by the city’s hip-hop scene since his childhood. As a 12 year old, mesmerized by the sounds of Kennedy-King College’s WKKC 89.3 FM, Walton was awestruck by the lights and visuals of hip-hop music videos. A few years later, when he was 15 or 16, Walton and several friends formed his first musical ensemble, a neighborhood backpack hip-hop group called B.W.I.O., or Brothers Working It Out. The group garnered community support and toured around the city for a spell. Looking back, Walton felt like it was all a blur.
Uncertain of his life’s intended path, Walton enlisted in the military at 19 years old. A few months after his discharge, he hit the ground running making music again. Reconnected with childhood friend Antoine “Tizone” Street as his creative partner, Walton worked on several projects over the course of five years — including an 18-track LP called Refusin’ Ta Die Unknown. Walton credits Street as a part of his musical DNA to this day.
Walton, known then to the music scene as Bigg Phill, sold CD copies of Refusin’ Ta Die Unknown from the barbershop where he worked. Within four years of its release he was scouted by a real estate agent who connected Walton to Leo Burnett Ad Agency Music Director, Ira Antelis. At Leo Burnett, Walton wrote and sang radio and television jingles for brands like McDonald’s, Bank of America, Washington Mutual and Disney throughout the early 2000s, ultimately affording him the opportunity to meet with Universal Motown Records President of A&R, Bruce Carbone, and sign a recording deal as Bigg Phill.
Three months later, Walton’s life came to a sudden standstill. Walking to his car following his sold-out show opening for rappers Fat Joe and Jadakiss at Logan Square’s Congress Theater, Walton was the victim of a drive-by shooting. Hospitalized for weeks, Walton was told he would never walk again and spent the next few years in recovery. During this time, Walton also earned his college degree and began providing service and care to fellow veterans — all while continuing to create music and maintaining a positive outlook on life.
Music became a therapeutic release for Walton, who now strives to spread hope and positivity as Philosophy312. His newest single, “Smile,” uplifts listeners with a message of staying optimistic through life’s trials and tribulations, and was featured on Vocalo’s July In Rotation playlist. We spoke with Walton via email about staying positive and how his life experiences have contributed to who he is today, as both an individual and an artist.
What’s the story behind the name “Philosophy312”?
Well, the Webster dictionary defines the word “philosophy” as “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.” Philosophy can additionally be defined as “the study of the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge or experience.” I have always been intrigued with the meaning of life and try to search for the truth. My friends call me Phil, so I thought Philosophy would be a great play on words. The “312” represents Chicago … and I added it because Philosophy by itself was taken on most musical platforms.
Aside from being a musician, you call yourself a philanthropist, entrepreneur and public servant. What is your background in these fields, and what have they taught you?
My background in philanthropy has a lot to do with the Chicago-based non-profit MeMA-Music. MeMA inspires and supports youth in marginalized communities to advocate for social justice through the power of music. Their programs are arts-integrated and run through CPS schools, Chicago Charter schools and under-served neighborhoods. Students learn how music and the arts are creative ways to have their voices heard, and the program’s music focus is packed full of positive and powerful messages from a wide variety of music, alongside videos of social protests and landmark achievements. At the end of the program, there’s a dynamic student showcase of social justice projects including songs, rap, spoken-word, poetry, dramatic skits, multimedia projects, artwork and more.
As an entrepreneur, I’m always writing, producing, editing, creating videos, designing and collaborating with other entrepreneurs. As a public servant, I currently work with military veterans. Through these fields, and through life experiences, I have learned that failure is synonymous with success and it’s better to give than to receive.
How do you feel being a veteran yourself helps you in serving the greater Chicago veteran community?
Being a veteran serving other veterans. I think it’s always beneficial to be able to relate to any community that you serve. I wore and tied up the same boots, so it’s easy for me to empathize with veterans and I believe they see me as relatable; and that helps when you’re providing them with care and services.
What does Chicago mean to you, and how has it shaped you?
Chi-City is the foundation of my being. I mean, growing up in the inner city gives you that grit and grind. It teaches you resiliency and provides a toughness that you carry for the rest of your life. It also provides you with the tools and strength that you need to face and overcome the many challenges and obstacles that life throws at you.
If you could change one thing about Chicago, what would it be?
Gun violence. And then I would say the lack of community love that I witnessed growing up.
How has your personal experience with gun violence affected the way you think about it, or how has it put gun violence into perspective for you?
I spent my entire life trying to be a positive guy. However, that experience proved to me that no one is exempt from atrocity, no matter how you conduct yourself and move. But, to be honest, I haven’t given it any thought since the incident occurred, other than it being a part of my story. The universe has a way to get you to listen. I learned to never question your instincts. I try to leave the past in the past, especially if it’s a negative experience. I learned from it and moved on.
During your years in recovery, how did you balance recovering physically and emotionally while also helping fellow veterans, continuing to create music and earning your degree?
By taking one day and goal at a time. Music is therapy for me, so I continued and continue to write based on whatever I’m going through. Some thought may formulate into songs and others may never leave the paper. I’m pretty sure this interview will end up in a line or two. LOL!
“You only have one shot at life, and I made a conscious decision to be positive and resilient.”– Philosophy312
Why did you decide to pursue music?
Music has [been] and always will be a therapeutic outlet for me. I pursued music professionally a while back and was signed to Motown Universal. During that time, I discovered that the word “business” is much bigger than the word “music” — it’s more about the business and not the art form. Even though there are still certain industry standards that are unavoidable, I’m putting my energy into sharing music organically. Currently, I’m creating and releasing music more from an artistic and creative standpoint. It’s all about putting out love and good energy into the world. If I can reach people who want to hear my music and share a little bit of hope and inspiration, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
How do you hope to help others through your music?
I want to take people on a musical journey of hope and inspiration, resiliency and patience. I hope to be a vessel of good vibrations and positive energy. If that energy helps and inspires others, I’ve fulfilled one of music’s true purposes. I also believe that you’re a recipient of what you put out in the universe so from a selfish point I’m putting a lil’ love and light in a world full of darkness in hopes that I get a little of that good karma back.
A key theme in your work is overcoming adversity. What advice do you have for those struggling currently?
If I could share any advice, it would be to hold on to some sense of hope. I never knew how I would achieve success or overcome adversity, but I just kept believing I would. Work has to follow, but believing you can is the first step.
How do you stay positive despite all you’ve been through?
Hope! The topic of mental illness and getting therapy for mental health issues is considered taboo in the Black community. So, you have to look for other coping methods for your sanity. You have to find light in a world filled with so much darkness, so my family has always been a motivating factor for me. Providing a better life for them keeps me inspired, so I took the only path I knew — being positive! Doing that, you take one step towards a better life and future. You only have one shot at life, and I made a conscious effort to be positive and resilient. Even during the tough times, I try to be optimistic and grateful. You learn and grow from your life experiences and I looked at my trials and tribulations as just that. Whether positive or negative, I think gratitude was and still is key. Just grateful to see another day because so many haven’t.
Your new track “Smile” has an uplifting message of smiling through both the good and the bad times in life. What was the inspiration behind this message, and why do you think it has resonated with your listeners?
I just wanted to encourage some hope and inspiration. Especially during this time where we’re all fighting a pandemic, social injustice, high unemployment rates, homelessness, anxiety, etc. I’ve witnessed how a smile could change the energy of a room and imagined what it could do for a world that is facing so much turmoil. So I decided to share the song with no expectations other than lifting some spirits.
Is there a specific time when someone’s smile genuinely made a positive impact on you, or when you feel your smile genuinely made a positive impact on someone else?
Laughter uplifts spirts and has the power to brighten the soul and there is no greater feeling than witnessing your presence putting a smile on the faces of your family and friends when you walk into a room.
What’s something you hope audiences take away from your music and your story?
Inspiration and hope. Resiliency and patience.
What’s on the horizon for you? Can listeners expect to hear more music from you soon?
I’m currently working on a full project and am excited to share it with the world very soon. I try not to travel too far into the future because it’s uncertain. I’m just enjoying and living in my now and want to thank you for interviewing me. One Love!
Follow Philosophy312 on Instagram, and stream “Smile” below.
Edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca & Genevieve Kyle
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