Dylan Phillip takes the biggest shot of his second-choice career

The onetime basketball product will bring his hip-hop eclecticism and sense of gratitude to West Sacramento’s First Festival

<p><b>No more gimmicks, just rap.</b></p>

No more gimmicks, just rap.

Photo by Michael Miller

Catch Dylan Phillip at the inaugural First Festival held from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 23, at River Walk Park, 651 Second Street in West Sacramento. Tickets are $15-$20. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/TheDylanPhillip.

If “Dylan Phillip” seems a rather unremarkable stage name for one of Sacramento’s emerging hip-hop artists, that’s sort of the point. With Dylan Phillip, what you see is who you get.

On May 23, the Carmichael-born rapid-fire rhymer and producer will introduce his antipersona to the widest audience of his career at the appropriately inaugural First Festival in West Sacramento.

An all-ages fest spotlighting an eclectic mix of local talent and businesses, Phillip is set to take the stage third-to-last before an anticipated audience of 2,000-plus. For the first time, he will have a band of multi-instrumentalist magicians backing him, threading classic rock, country, funk and reggae, “all blended with Dylan on top,” Phillip cracked. “Sounds like a Neapolitan ice cream.”

That nigh-headliner status is something the 24-year-old has worked toward since he was a teen. It’s his fifth paying gig and biggest paycheck. “I’ve never trained so much for a show,” he told SN&R a couple of weeks before the date.

But rapping was never the original plan. It’s the dream that emerged after the first one imploded.

The talented basketball player was hoping to segue his skills into a college career, but a family matter deferred that dream. Demoralized, he dropped out of school before his senior year, though he later earned his diploma.

“It really changed me mentally and internally,” he said. “And I chose a different direction.”

That path was music.

Living on his own at age 17, Phillip recalls walking into the Boardwalk down the street from his Citrus Heights apartment with a demo of his then-band Limelight. A week later, Phillip received a call from Eric Rushing, the then-talent booker who now co-owns the venue and Ace of Spades. Asked whether he could move tickets, Phillip’s brio ultimately scored him a gig playing alongside Berkeley artists the Pack.

“The people who know me know I fucking grind,” he said.

By age 19, Phillip was working on a solo mixtape and had dropped his stage name. As a white artist in a “predominantly black sport,” he said he didn’t want to provide audiences any extra reasons to doubt his integrity.

“Why don’t I kick the false persona? I’ll just be myself,” he said. “Dylan Phillip. There it is.”

Employing a lightly scratched, sinewy cadence that matches his frame, Phillip says his primary influences growing up were Sublime and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But he also boasts a Talmudic grasp of the history of his chosen genre.

You can hear other influences in his music as well, like his predilection for ecstatic ’70s soul samples in the aspirational “The Portrait” or the demented surf rock of last year’s “91 Octane.”

Now engaged and with an infant daughter, Phillip eventually hopes to leave the stage behind for a career behind the scenes.

“In my 30s, I don’t want to rap. I don’t want to be on tour to pay the bills,” he said. “I look at music like the stock market.”

Phillip and fellow rapper Hennessy, a.k.a. Jeffrey Harris, took a step in that direction with their recently announced hip-hop collective, Capital City Music. But before Phillip slides his skinny frame into a mogul’s suit and tie, he’s got plenty of bars left to spit, including the biggest show of his career.

Asked what he wants to express through his music, Phillip lands on one word.

“I feel like the most important thing is gratitude,” he said. “To me, it’s a form of love and respect.”