Phunkdified is a group based in edmonton that hosts and records events, cyphers, and beat battles, among a myriad of other things, in the name of supporting Hip-Hop, growing community, and building skills in yeg.
On September 2nd, Phunkdified is hosting their first Collab Camp, “a two day ALL INCLUSIVE creative retreat” that “was created to bring producers, artists, and engineers together to work collaboratively and create memorable experiences for creatives in the community.”
I linked with Shmubu from Phunkdified to talk about the group's inception and where they're headed.
Devon: So, how did Phunkdified get started? What was the inception?
Phunkdified: To be honest, I wanted a DJ gig and I didn't have any way to get one, so I just created my own show and I needed a name for it.
Devon: So your initial idea was setting up events, it wasn't a long-term thing? It was more like, “I'm just going to set this up now. May as well since I’m setting up an event.”
Phunkdified: I just wanted it to be - not big in the city - but just something that was fun for me and my friends. Long term I thought it would be a big, cool thing to grow into something bigger with events, but then with COVID I don't even do events now, it's something completely different.
Devon: So what was the next thing after events, the cypher series?
Phunkdified: Yeah, I tried to do some online cyphers and online beat battles during COVID. Anything to keep the community around when we couldn't be together. And then I still couldn't do events when we had restrictions, but I could put 10 to 15 people in a room. So I was like “we can do cyphers that way.”
Devon: I feel like the cyphers have evolved a bit because the first one that I did, you just pulled up in a car and I got in and you drove me around. Now you have, like, full studio space and shit.
Phunkdified: Yeah, I think it just happens over time, meeting people.
Devon: So at first it was just you and then more people started getting involved? With Phunkdified in general, I feel like the cyphers were how you started growing mainly.
Phunkdified: It's always been mainly me, I brought people in for odd jobs. I would bring in different videographers, photographers, hosts sometimes for the events, but I never really had anyone solidly working on it with me until the past year. I'd say Telli is the only main person because I can call him and be like, “Hey, we should do this event this summer.” Whereas once we kind of come up with the event, then I'll hit up the other people who are involved and be like, “Would you be interested in participating?”
Devon: Do you think there's other people that consider themselves members of Phunkdified?
Phunkdified: I never did until people would message me and be like, “Oh, I'm so thankful to be part of the team” and put themselves in that. And then I was like, yeah, I guess they are.
Devon: Do you think you put a lot of people in touch with each other?
Phunkdified: I guess that’s the goal of it. It’s the express goal. Just to connect people that wouldn't have connected otherwise.
Devon: So what made me want to interview you was the Phunkdified camp. That's a huge move. Tell me about that.
Phunkdified: Basically, we're going to bring a group of artists outside the city to Sylvan Lake for a few days. It's going to have the same purpose as all the Phunkified events which is to connect people collaborate and stuff like that. We’re going to have pop up Recording Studios and - not an itinerary, but we have certain times where people would be recording in certain rooms and there's food and transportation provided. I just want people to not have to worry about anything else for the weekend except for creating awesome shit with their friends.
Devon: So is this a huge level up?
Phunkdified: I think it depends what you mean by level. But I'm hoping that it'll provide value to the community that isn't there already. And a different experience than people would find anywhere else.
Devon: Do you feel like it represents putting a lot more work into Phunkdified than you were before? That probably took a lot of work to set up.
Phunkdified: I think it takes the same amount of work, honestly, sometimes a little bit less. Because I'm almost relying on people to decide if they want to come. With cyphers, I kind of push people and I'll try to get like 20–30 people. I find setting it up is a little harder, but getting people to come out - I think once they decide that’s something they want to do, they're going to.
Devon: Do you feel like all the planning that went into that was a roadblock at all?
Phunkdified: No. I'm good at the planning parts, I'm not as great at remembering to answer my messages.
Devon: I feel that. For me, that's easily the hardest part of any shit like that. I don't want to have to maintain relationships with a bunch of people, you know?
Phunkdified: But it works so good! Networking, especially when you’re starting out or in a small city like this, where everyone knows each other, the return on investment is [huge].
Devon: I feel like, in a lot of ways, it's the most important thing you can do, because that's the first thing that has to happen before you get anything at all off the ground.
Phunkdified: And I tried to skip marketing - or tried to skip networking with trying to go get my own gig. But if I knew how to network back then I wouldn't even- maybe it would have been bad because I wouldn't have started Phunkdified.
Devon: But now you kind of get to curate who's around, you know? You're willing to do the work so now you've earned the position where you can kind of direct things a little bit.
Phunkdified: I try not to as much as possible unless an artist is very difficult to work with and makes it difficult for the other people who are involved. I just kind of like to let them come around and do whatever they like; creative freedom.
Devon: Actually I definitely get [the impression] that you really try to keep it as open as possible.
Phunkdified: I might not post every Cypher but everyone is welcome to come up to them.
Devon: So what's the criteria for the posting?
Phunkdified: For the posting, I usually just pick the best one from each event. Sometimes if there's two or three crazy ones I'll keep a couple but I like having different backgrounds for each one. As well, I make the beat half the time and I record the audio and I mix it. Telli films it but I also edit the video. So, to do more than one per event, it would not be sustainable.
Devon: So you're gonna start doing shows again, now that the pandemic’s over?
Phunkdified: I've been looking into it. I think if I did, I wouldn't do shows monthly and I wouldn't do Phunkdified showcases; but maybe once or twice a year.
Devon: I think that's the way to do it. It’s so hard to get everyone out more than, like, every two months.
Phunkdified: In some ways, as well, I feel like everyone kind of competes for the same thing when it comes to local events. Everyone's got the same idea and everyone's trying to sell you tickets to the same venues, you know what I mean? Whereas, over the pandemic, where I’ve taken Phunkdified, it’s it’s own lane. So getting back into shows, I don't want to compete with people and what's already- there's already plenty of that in the city. I'm trying to provide new experiences.
Devon: That way you can keep it free, too, right? When I've gone [to cyphers] I've just sat there watching music. Basically a show, but it's free. And it's one of the few things that I can go to where I feel like I'm not seeing the same 15 people that I see everywhere else I go.
Phunkdified: I'm glad you noticed because for the first six months to a year it was the same 5 to 10 people.
Devon: Oh, that's how you’ve got to build though. It's like, you got to get that core group.
Devon: I feel like the visual aspect of Phunkified is really strong, and that a lot of it focuses on visuals. A lot of your posts are just pictures of cool shit that happened. Do you feel like that's a big part of it, finding a way to represent what you're doing?
Phunkdified: Yes, and also, to be 100% honest, I heard that algorithms hate graphics, and they love anything with a face. So I've kind of tried to stick to that.
Devon: I didn't know that.
Phunkdified: Yeah, it's a good thing to know. I think one graphic design for every two pictures at the most is like a good ratio.
Devon: Are there any groups or anything in Edmonton that inspired the Phunkdified shit?
Phunkdified: Not in Edmonton, but the cyphers came from- I used to love Team Backpack, I think it's called World Underground now. When I got into making beats I wanted to make them for stuff like that. That's where a lot of the cypher inspiration came from. Then, when I was in Toronto, I met the guys that ran Beatcave and they do cool stuff. You can send beats in and pay a fee and they pitch it to artists, but they also do a huge camp and stuff out there. I'd say Beatcave out of Toronto and then World Underground/Team Backpack definitely inspired the cyphers.
Devon: So, five to ten years from now, where do you see Phunkdified?
Phunkdified: I’m trying to look for the right word to describe it. I see it kind of being a pillar in the community that focuses on connecting people but also developing the talent that's there, if that makes sense.
Devon: Do you see commercializing it at all? Trying to start making everybody money a little bit?
Phunkdified: A little bit. Lately I've been looking into whether or not it's worth registering it as a nonprofit because, if it's a nonprofit, I don't make money off it if I'm the owner but I can still pay people salaries and stuff like that. And then there'd also be benefits for venues: taxes, grants, etc. But I'm not 100% sold yet.
Devon: I looked into that a little bit - I guess it's not hard to get set up but you have to, like, publish your taxes and shit.
Phunkdified: Yeah, there's a lot. And I don't always necessarily agree with how charities work, you know what I mean? Will I even be benefiting people?
Devon: Yeah, but then you can get grants right? That’s the one thing.
Phunkdified: Oh yeah, and venues and stuff as well. If you say you're a not-for-profit they give you such good rates. I've honestly never made money off Phunkdified. I spent a lot growing in the beginning. I'm lucky if I break even now on those things. It would be cool to be profitable because the way I see it, if something’s profitable then you can grow it and then if you can grow it you can reach more people.
Devon: I also think that shit should be paid, you know? Bringing a bunch of people together is like the most worthwhile thing you can do, there should be a way to make money off it.
This interview took place on Treaty 6 territory.