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Thee Phantom / Press

“The distance between the North Philly neighborhood of Jeffrey McNeill’s youth and New York’s storied Carnegie Hall is roughly 97.5 miles. The aesthetic, economic and cultural gap between those two locales is far greater. Like many kids growing up in the dawn of Hip Hop, McNeill quickly found himself fully immersed in the emerging culture, channeling his creative energy into the new music. True to hip-hop’s tendency of appropriating and recontextualizing older music, Mcneill began writing raps and raiding his father’s classical music collection, making tapes that reflected his curious desire to fuse hip-hop with the music of the European classical canon. After christening himself Thee Phantom, McNeill and his ILL Harmonic Orchestra have succeeded in bringing classical instrumentation and hip-hop flavor to stages around the world, fulfilling a lifelong dream of performing at Carnegie Hall.”

“We love that you describe yourself as “part b-boy, part Beethoven.” What inspired you to combine hip-hop and and live orchestration? Thanks to my Mother (Linda McNeill) I took flute and piano lessons as a child and sang in the church choir. My father had a sizable record collection and I can remember spending hours in the living room, on the floor listening to record after record. I started writing lyrics to my own songs by the age of 6. Mostly Pop and R&B. My father played Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight for me at age 8 and two weeks later, I wrote my first rhyme. When Hip-Hop began, it was mostly break beats and hard drums. With the little bit of training that I had, I heard it blending seamlessly with classical music in my head. Especially the rhythmic pulsing of Beethoven, Vivaldi and Mozart. At age 12, I decided to mix Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the Beastie Boys’ Paul Revere.”

“TThe heat of a summer night is sitting on your neck as you and your boy stare down the barrel of a shotgun. It’s 1 a.m. in Philadelphia and you can tell by the look in his eyes the gunman wants to kill you, but suddenly he pauses, his expression softens, and he lowers the gun. He recognizes you as an MC that performs in the neighborhood and decides to let you live, leaving one final instruction before he departs: “Keep rapping.” Facing death has a beautiful way of waking us up. For Jeffrey McNeill – professionally known as Thee Phantom, leader of Illharmonic Orchestra –fatefully escaping that situation was a caramel macchiato straight into his veins.”

“Thee Phantom & The Illharmonic Orchestra are back with a banger! Their new track, “Diabolique (Shut Sh!t Down)”, plans to do just what the title insinuates. Produced by Thee Phantom and featuring violinist, Al Whizzy (Alan Lawson), the song takes aim at the formulaic repetitiveness and lazy offerings of some of today’s major label rappers and producers. With it’s speaker rattling kick, diabolical piano riff and virtuoso violin runs, the track is pure fire by itself. When you add haymaker punchlines from Phantom like, “The only way You and Me in the same sentence, is separated by Ain’t Fucking With”, what you have is a banger that is sure to be on repeat.”

“Holistic hip-hop Featuring strings, horns, piano, a DJ, a soul singer, and a rapping MC, Thee Phantom and his Illharmonic is not your typical hip-hop act. They specialize in blending the vigor of hip-hop with classical instrumentation to create a new subgenre. They will play at Cafe 939 with an ensemble of musicians from the Berklee College of Music. Nov. 8, 8 p.m. $10. Cafe 939, 939 Boylston St., Boston. www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=000f53383255e33d0928be1acf2bc727”

“Philly native Jeffrey McNeill is one of the few Rap artists who can legitimately promise listeners & those who attend his concerts something they haven’t seen or heard before. Under the MC moniker Thee Phantom, McNeill hit upon the formula by mixing the Beastie Boys’ “Paul Revere” with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony … when he was 12! McNeill took the concept & ran with it, forming the “Illharmonic Orchestra” & going on to garner attention from all over the world for his distinct blend. This Friday, Thee Phantom & an Illharmonic featuring local players headlines Over-the-Rhine’s Washington Park for its free, weekly “Friday Flow” concert. The event kicks off at 7:10 p.m. with “Def Comedy Jam Poets,” Tracy Walker plays at 8 p.m. & Thee Phantom taking the stage at 8:45 p.m. A documentary crew is following McNeill on tour for the planned From the Hood to Carnegie Hall film, so be sure to look your best! 7-10 p.m. Free. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rh”

“JEFF "THEE PHANTOM" McNeill has always been about elevating the hip-hop craft to new levels. But when McNeill & his Illharmonic Orchestra take the stage at Grape Street this evening for a "Philly Unplugged" event, he'll show just how far hip-hop has come as he fuses a live orchestra with his energetic rhyme style. The result? Hip-hop bliss in A minor. "I'm looking forward to this show. We have a female vocalist, a DJ, strings and horns," McNeil said recently. "It's not your typical unplugged show. We're definitely hip-hop, and we got a few surprises for people." "Thee Phantom is one of the city's more original artists for his blending of two genres that otherwise would have nothing to do with each other. He pulls it off effortlessly," said hip-hop artist Gary "Lex" Sweeney. McNeil has been surprising people since he began melding hip-hop with orchestral backing in 2000 with such releases as "Storming the Bastille." He first hit the local hip-hop scene in the 1990s. ”

Damon Williams - Philadelphia Daily News

“In 2002, Phantom was the first Hip-Hop artist to perform at the Kimmel Center, appearing with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. Who knows? Maybe Carnegie Hall will be the next stop for Thee Phantom. Represent. Rachmaninov.”

“McNeill was immersed in music from an early age, singing in a church choir and taking piano and flute lessons. He was introduced to hip-hop at eight, when his father played him The Sugarhill Gang’s seminal 1979 track “Rappers Delight.” He was instantly hooked. McNeill created his first rap two weeks later, and cut his teeth in MC battles at Philadelphia house parties. But he still had strains of Beethoven and Vivaldi running through his head. “The first beat I ever made at age 13 combined Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” with the Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul Revere’,” he recalls. “Hip-hop at that time was mainly drum machine-based with sparse instrumentation and melody. Having taken piano and flute lessons, hip-hop and classical just seemed to fit. I had no idea at the time what I had created. My best friend thought it was awful and said that it would never work. I vowed to prove him wrong.””

“Many hip-hop artists spend their days scouring record bins for choice samples to rap over, but rarely do they go out and find an actual orchestra. As rapper Thee Phantom, Jeff McNeill is doing just that. McNeill has played at New York's famed Carnegie Hall and the Kimmel Performing Arts Center in his hometown of Philadelphia, but he chose the theater space at the Ginza Apple Store for his Japan debut. Accompanying him will be a 10-piece Japanese orchestra. McNeill says hip-hop hit him "like a ton of bricks" when he heard it in the 1980s — so much so that by his early teens he had tried making his own track by mixing the Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere" with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. He credits that experiment with putting him on his musical path.”

“Time Out Tokyo watches genres collide, as Beethoven meets the Beastie Boys in the hands of Thee Phantom, an up-and-coming hip hop artist with a classical twist, jetting into Tokyo mid-April to take on the Ginza Apple Store, Japanese orchestra in tow. Hip hop and a live orchestra? What's that about? I grew up with access to a wide range of music. I sang in the church choir in addition to taking piano and flute lessons as a child. When I was exposed to hip-hop, it seemed to naturally fit with classical music. The first beat I ever made in the late '80s, combining Beethoven's 5th Symphony with, 'Paul Revere' by the Beastie Boys. ”

“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.”

“Two seemingly opposite musical forces collide this evening when Thee Phantom performs his brand of classically infused Hip-Hop at Rittenhouse Square Park. Phantom combines the essence of Hip-Hop with the essence of Classical Music to create a sonic mixture sure to appeal to a cross section of music lovers.”

Damon Williams - Philadelphia Daily News

“Now this is some Hiphop ish!!.. dope track! production is tight, lyrics and flow is onpoint. Breath of fresh air.. I love that boom bap sound. He rides the beats.. dope track”

DJ Kristyles - Cleveland - RapAttack - NostaticRadio.com

“I will be adding "A song for you" to rotation. From the hard copy, I liked track number 3 the best. The stripped down acoustic version allows for me to hear the emotion as the song builds up. Thanks!”

Paula Porsche - WVCW Radio - Virginia Commonwealth University

“on first listen.....it just sounds like a sweet soundin tune. the piano intro is so captivating. the initial beat drop is expected, but perfect. lovin the intensity of the rhymes and your cadences as well. who's singin in the breakdown/reprise? that's a lot of soul in that voice, full of articulated emotion. intense and emotional track but bangin!”

DJ CJ Wilford - Italy - "A Song for You" Professional Review - (U.nited C.rates C.rew)

“Thee Phantom is one of the originators of Classical Music/Hip-Hop fusion. he has a long-running hit on college radio, "Storming the Bastille" and will do his thing alongside the Illharmonic Orchestra, Verso and DJ Pac-Midi at the Rotunda.”

Damon Williams - Philadelphia Daily News

“Speaking of amalgamating musical genres, Thee Phantom will headline the evening show at The Rotunda on Saturday January 24th. Lauded for his inventiveness at combining classical music and hip-hop, Thee Phantom will front the show while the Illharmonic Orchestra backs up the adept lyricist.”

Lloylita Prout - Philadelphia Inquirer

“The Entertainer - I thought the classical component lent a full-bodied, elegant side to the song that meshed perfectly with the back beat and rap; a perfect meeting of two very different worlds, if you will. Not the first of its kind that I've heard but definitely one of the best. --Ash Rhodes Music Director KRFH - Humboldt State College”

Ash Rhodes - KRFH - Music Director Feedback for "The Entertainer"

“This is really good. A very unique combo that works incredibly well. It creates a really nice and somewhat chilling vibe. It's a hit, love the melody.”

Rudy Haeusermann - "The Entertainer" Professional Review on Music XRay

“Thanks so much for your submission, “The Entertainer”. What an awesome track. Fantastic rapping, solid beat, strong chorus melody (and that soprano descant line in the verse is unbelievably gorgeous). The mix functions really well, and I think the aesthetic you’re going for is really cool and is an avenue that hasn’t been fully explored yet. It’s a very smart, well-done composition & recording. Andrew Fox - Music Director - Stacks of Wax Recordings”

Andrew Fox - "The Entertainer" Music X Ray- Professional Song Review

“Growing up, Jeffrey McNeill could find anything in his father's record collection "from Motown to Mozart." Every sound in that spectrum made an impression on the artist who now calls himself Thee Phantom, but it was the classical music that stood out as especially passionate and expressive. McNeill took flute lessons, and although he didn't continue with formal training ("It's not the sexiest instrument. Nobody lies in bed at night dreaming about naked flute players."), he learned to read music and continued to grow in his appreciation of classical music. It was the start, as they say, of something big.”

“In the late 80s Conwell Russell Middle School wasn’t quite ready for pre-teen visionary, Jeff McNeill. His low-fi mash-up of the Beastie Boy’s “Paul Revere” and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony fell on deaf ears around the lunch table, hence his self-deprecating lyric from “B-Boy Meets Beethoven:” “He used his own stereo/ pause, record/ He put it on tape and took it to school/ played it for some kids who thought he was a fool.” Armed with a deep well of respect for his old-school influences, and a lifelong fascination with classical music, McNeill reinvented himself as Thee Phantom in the late 90s, working with classical musicians as much as possible. “I still get the wide-eyed look when I bring a string quartet onstage,” he says, from his home in Upper Darby. “Then we bust out with a cover of ‘Lean Back’ or something, and people are like, ‘Oh! This is hip-hop.””

“Since his emergence in Philly's indie-music scene as a solo artist, Thee Phantom's unique juxtaposition of hip-hop and classical music has really taken him places. From college campuses in Texas to packed New York City nightclubs, Phantom's b-boy meets Beethoven style has left an undeniable mark on any and all who have seen him. ”

“While other underground MCs were rockin' LaTazza and The Five Spot, Thee Phantom was conquering the Kimmel Center. And while his peers are hoping to book a gig opening for Lil Wayne, he's got his eye on Carnegie Hall. Backed by a crew that could play your wedding — a violinist, a cellist, a harpist, etc. — rapper Jeff McNeill has perfected the most complicated of pop blends: classical and hip-hop. He calls it introducing Beastie Boys to Beethoven. "I was just messing around and took Paul Revere and blended it with Fifth Symphony." ”

“Jay Z and Kanye West have used string players for effect - silly props for award shows, perhaps. But to North Philly MC Thee Phantom, blending the beats & rhymes of hip-hop with the sweep of cellists & violinists is serious business. Thee Phantom's epic, stately sound makes more sense on the Kimmel Center's stage than it might during a basement rap bash. Making Of An Underdog features handsome arrangements of strings, rich choral vocals, & warm brass. His rap's clarity, its singsong flow, & the simmering instrumentation behind his melodies allow ample room for Thee Phantom's positive lyrics. As a storyteller, he makes his point on "Underdog" & "Inspiration" and gets out of the way of the grand, elegant music. "Hip-Hop's Love Ballad" is cheery & romantic. "B-Boy Meets Beethoven" seems as silly as it does stoic. But none of this means that this MC, or his Illharmonic Orchestra, lacks grit, hardness, or humor. Thee Phantom is one overachieving underdog. ”