An Interview with Phillip Joubert

Author’s note: I’m so excited to bring you my conversation with my friend Phillip Joubert. Phillip is a rapper out of New York and Connecticut, now a part of the Knoxville scene. A gifted, honest lyricist, he cherishes the humanity in others and is willing to look difficulty in the face, even and perhaps especially when the faith of which he is a part sometimes shies from those difficulties.

This written interview is edited for length. Please consider carving out some time to listen to the entire conversation. Phillip’s voice is one worth hearing.

PHILLIP: I consider Lupe Fiasco one of the best lyricists we’ve ever had in hip-hop, but he literally doesn’t make any sense sometimes. One of the best songs he ever released is called “Mural”—the kind of music that rappers implode over, just rapping straight for eight minutes. But most of what he’s saying—he has this way of, like, “I’m painting right now,” you know?

And for me, that is very hard, because I came up in Christian music, which is very direct. So, understanding could be creative in writing in general was still like, “Oh—we’re allowed to do that,” like every time we write, we’re not always trying to clearly communicate a message that you’re supposed to comprehend in the first listen. That was a journey in and of itself for me. Listening to Lupe taught me that; listening to OutKast taught me that.

ADAM: Did you grow up in Knoxville? I remember when we did a thing, you said you’d just moved to Knoxville—

PHILLIP: Well, yeah—I moved to Knoxville, it’ll be six years ago in September. I moved here from the Bronx, New York, but I was born and raised in Connecticut. The thing is, I was in and out of New York City the entirety of my life, pretty much.

ADAM: So, when you moved to the South, because there’s literally a totally different way of thinking down here, how did you feel like you had to transfer or change your writing to communicate with all these people who simply think this different way?

PHILLIP: I always say that I learned a lot of writing, and a lot of how to create and sound like me, in one of the best ways—which was just not having access to producing. I had no access to studio time or beats, like that, and I didn’t even think about what I do now and bands. So I just learned to hone it by myself. I was rapping for me, writing for me—learning to get my feelings out.

Read More

Double Poetry Review: Janna Barber & Chris Wheeler

We make no secret of our love for good poetry here, and so we’re always delighted when those in our writing community release collections into the world. Like a flight of doves flapping deliverance into the sky, the effort of herding unruly poems into concert with each other, and making them work together, is cause for celebration.

Read More

Our Newest Team Member!

Jeanine Joyner

In 2015, when this journal was born, several of us who were meeting to critique and support each other’s creative efforts felt the vague desire to present our work in a more public fashion. Things began simply, and the work and blessing has grown beyond what I imagined in the beginning. Every so often, I get flattened by humility in being reminded of our journey to this point—how our successes, while suffused with our hard work, are not the product of our hard work. The Spirit blows where it will. Anytime we add another team member, this is the case. That other people should see fit to believe in our efforts here and labor with us is amazing to me, in the most literal sense. That says something about my cynicism, I know, but I’m slowly being cured of it.

Today is that kind of day.

Read More

Empathy and the Devil

It’s apropos that I’ve been rereading C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters with a friend now. Weekly, we pore over a couple of chapters and broach free-range discussions launched by the demon Wormwood and his “affectionate uncle,” Screwtape. Our culture, like many biblically-tinged cultures before it, is saturated with talk of Satan in his various literature-based iterations. Merely over the course of American history, we’ve developed perhaps as twisted a view of the fallen archangel Lucifer as we often have of Jesus. Everyone from Washington Irving to The Grateful Dead has had a go, with widely varying degrees of accuracy. Yet, as with Jesus (who, let us not forget, made Lucifer and all his fellow angels), we can’t altogether divest Old Scratch of his scriptural identity by means of either broad-brush cartoonism or utter disregard. Thanks be to God.

[Editor’s note: As C. S. Lewis himself said in the preface to The Screwtape Letters, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” Therefore, if you have an unhealthy interest in things diabolical, this post may or may not be for you. Feel free to read or disregard as wisdom dictates.]

Read More

Playing in the Dark

There are a number of quarries in and around Knoxville where lanky, dusty men used to blast marble out of the hills before the Depression. In fact, if you read the odd town-centric indie publication here or there, you’ll eventually dig your way into a vein of prose in which some loafered, office-bound journalist will wax poetic about the geological intricacies of East Tennessee’s pink marble. We should all dream so big. In earnest, marble from Mead’s Quarry has made it all the way to New York and the District of Columbia. These old holes in the ground, however, have become the stuff of dreams nowadays. They tend to attract college students and hometown creatures alike to their emerald green waters, beckoning the sweltering and the summer-skinned to the coolness of placid depths. As for myself, though, I go in the deep dark of winter.

Read More