Thee Phantom: beyond opera

Classical and hip-hop are two genres of music that are unlikely to show up in the same CD collection, let alone the same song. That’s not a barrier for Thee Phantom, a musician from Philadelphia; he has skillfully blended orchestral music with hip-hop since age twelve.

“The first beat I ever made was a combination of the Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul Revere’ and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony,” he said. Though the first person he played it for told him that “it would never work,” Thee Phantom followed where the music led.

On Sunday, it will take him to Carnegie Hall in New York City, but Thee Phantom has to pay his own way into the venue. Instead of asking for corporate sponsorship, which looks for what it can make from an investment, Thee Phantom is using the profits made from selling his debut CD “Hero Complex.”

“There are multitudes of people that just want you to give them something,” he said. “I’d rather take the money that I’d be receiving from my own sales and put it towards this, because after all, it is my dream.”

Hoping to help others live their dream as well, Thee Phantom is also donating a portion of the ticket sales proceeds to VH1’s Save the Music Foundation. “In doing things like this, my goal is to open doors for people the same way that the hip-hop pioneers opened doors for people like myself to actually be able to display their art to a wide range of people,” Thee Phantom says.

More heroic than his desire to help others enjoy music is his devotion to the music that he makes. Thee Phantom is a one-man team, acting as his own manager, promoter, and booking agent. He also assembled and organized the Illharmonic Orchestra, which accompanies him.

After performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Thee Phantom realized that he would need his own ensemble. He began looking for people his own age at colleges across the country, and from this the Illharmonic Orchestra was born. Over the years, it has featured string players from GW and horn players from Georgetown. “They were wonderful to work with,” Thee Phantom recalls.

If performing and organizing aren’t enough, Thee Phantom can add writing to his list of extraordinary talents. Working with Gloria Justen, first chair violinist of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Thee Phantom takes the sounds playing in his head and transcribes them into music. What fans hear on the album is exactly what the artist envisioned before the track was cut.

Anyone interested in hearing this unique blend of rhyme and accompaniment can purchase the CD or visit the Web site: www.myspace.com/theephantom. Students can also see Thee Phantom during his college tour, in which he hopes to play at GW. “I wouldn’t mind doing Lisner. I love coming to D.C.”

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