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Latino Radio host signs record deal, to debut new single

By La Prensa Staff


A local Latino radio host is hoping to hit the big-time with the expected early May release of his first hip-hop/R & B single “We Don’t Belong.” The Toledo native recently signed a national recording deal with Invictus Music Group (IMG).


Jeremiah Phillips, 38 and a mix of Puerto Rican and African American heritage, talks openly about four stints behind bars on drug-related charges before he finally got his act together and started living positively. But he also credits divine serendipity for a series of opportunities put before him since he got out of prison five years ago. He draws heavily on those life experiences in his music, recording under the name F1.


Phillips joined WIMX-FM “Hot 97.3” in September 2018, hosting an evening show 6 to 10 p.m. urban radio station plays mostly rap, hip-hop, and R & B. The station aims at 18 to 34 year-olds.


“I’m a voice for the felons. I’m the first felon ever hired there,” he said. “I try to give positive messages from someone who’s not your typical, trying to tell somebody to do what’s right. I come from a broken home. I come from poverty. I come from everything that is negative. I come from that and turned it into a positive and I try to let people know that they can do it, too.”


Phillips even tries to pay it forward to other local musicians by inviting them into the studio to host the “Hot 8 at 8,” which also gives them a chance to promote their own material locally.


“I try to just give local artists that are aspiring to do better, I try to give them a platform to get out to the people, let the people know doing so that they have a little inspiration,” he said.


Phillips readily admits he “fell into” the opportunity to become a radio host, crediting a lucky break while doing an interview at the radio station to promote his music. The radio station’s program director approached him and gave him “45 seconds to explain” what he’s doing, “a conversation that ended up lasting two hours,” according to Phillips.




Phillips has started a group known as Felonation, what he describes more as “a movement.” He and other songwriter/rappers have previously released other songs and music videos regionally under that name on digital platforms such as Apple Music. Phillips promotes the effort on his show, stating Felonation is what drew the attention of the station’s top brass.


“Felonation is a movement that is not only for the felons, but for the families of felons who are most affected by the person’s incarceration,” said Phillips. “It is a network of support for those felons and those families of felons who want to do better or help someone do better and not give up on them. It’s a way of life.”


“They thought it was something the young urban youth needed to hear,” he said. “I didn’t even want the job at first. But after speaking with some of my people, I realized we had a chance to reach 80,000 to 100,000 people each night. We have a prison here and it was an avenue for me to give some encouragement to the guys who are actually doing time in the prison.”


Phillips stated he split his childhood between Toledo, Findlay, and Fostoria, as well as Tacoma, Washington, where his mother’s family lived. His parents divorced when he was just two years old. He was first locked up for a year at age 15. Between the ages of 19 and 33, Phillips spent more than a dozen years in prison—sometimes serving three adult sentences just months apart.


His last prison sentence lasted eight-a-half years. But he spent time in five different lock-ups on that drug conviction, because he enlisted the help of corrections officers, nurses, and other prison staff to smuggle in music equipment.


“They kept moving me, because they didn’t have studios in prison and I was making music. I found ways,” he said. “I wasn’t using my abilities to bring in drugs, but I was using it to bring in things I could use to make music, which has always been my foundation.”


Phillips got into constant trouble for running an unauthorized business—“making, releasing and selling music on iTunes and other digital media platforms while locked up in prison in a place that had no studio.” He stated there were music videos made within the prison’s walls with an iPhone and a $4,000 keyboard he had smuggled into his cell.


“I was making moves and doors continuously opened because people believed in the music I was able to make and wanted to help,” he said. “It’s kind of a crazy story, but it’s paved the way for everything that I have going on now.”


That “crazy story” likely will be retold in a documentary on Netflix, which Phillips stated is in development, along with some other prison-based stories involving other inmates and staff.


“I’m just hard-headed. I think I’ve got some type of OCD going on with me,” he said with a laugh. “If I believe in something, I go for it. Felonation’s motto is ‘We do what we want, they do what they can.’ No one can tell me ‘no.’ If I’m trying to do the right thing, you can’t stop me. The only person who can stop me is me. I believe we manifest our destiny, manifest our reality. Everything I’ve wanted to be, I’ve done. I just wanted the wrong things when I was a kid.”


Getting a second chance made all the difference once he was released from prison for the final time in 2015. There’s plenty of time to think about all of his mistakes during an eight-year term.


“I looked up to the dope. I looked up to my uncles and cousins and all those dudes in prison. I wanted to go to prison. I wanted to be the tough guy. I wanted to be the one that everybody looked up to and respected and was afraid of. I became all that,” he said. “By the time I matured enough to understand who I really was and understood that I am everything I ever wanted to be, now I just want to be free. Once I got free, I was off and running and couldn’t be stopped.”



Working at the radio station


Phillips stated that working at the radio station “opened a lot of doors” for him, “not only locally, but nationally.” He now has a manager, who forwarded a couple of singles he had recorded to music industry representatives and “got their ears perked up.” That led to the recent record deal.


“It’s a very positive situation happening right now,” he said. “Everything is just lining up.”


Phillips flew to Los Angeles to shoot a music video for his first single just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. He has since been furloughed from the radio station, like a lot of his competitors and colleagues alike. Radio stations lost a lot of advertising revenue as a result of the pandemic and the resulting decline in the national economy.


But that has given him some free time to be more involved with the post-production of the music video and help plan the release of his first single “We Don’t Belong,” which features a catchy, street-smart beat and a very strong message within a mix of singing and rapping the lyrics. Even before its release, Phillips said the song is being used in the raw, gritty HBO show “Euphoria.”


“The song says our country is extremely divided and the way that we are living, we don’t belong this way,” he said. “We don’t belong divided, we don’t belong neglecting each other, not having empathy for each other and understanding for each other. This isn’t the way we’re meant to be as Americans, as human beings.”


Phillips has taken down the Felonation website and removed many of his original recordings from the Internet and digital music platforms like Spotify. Only a handful remain. He hopes to re-record and remix some of that work to clean it up and reach a wider audience by releasing it through his new record label. While he admits such moves are intentional and purposeful, he still credits divine serendipity or divine intervention for all of the good things happening in his life.


“I don’t believe anything just happens by chance. I think things happen for a reason and I believe God puts people in places to help others,” he said. “We may be helping others we don’t even know we’re helping. I think it was a blessing and part of my journey.”


But what he does with those newfound opportunities, Phillips readily admits, is up to free will, a human factor—and his eventual success depends on making good decisions with a clear head.


“I’ve still got a way to go, but I’m on my way,” he said.



Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04/28/20 19:21:58 -0700.




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