Listening to A.G. tha Pharoah talk about the artistic roots in his family, it is no wonder his output is unconstrained. His Dad was a painter and a t-shirt designer. His mother, primarily a photographer had foundations in digital art. His uncles and aunts were big into music, rapping and jazz especially. His brother too, who has been making a name for himself in the Indy art scene, is a big influence. Whether past or present, they’ve all contributed to A.G. tha Pharoah’s drive to create more and to create better.
“Painting was the very first thing I got into. That’s what got me into the language of art,” said A.G. tha Pharoah. “With my dad being a painter, he was a big influence. My brother, Mechi Shakur, is too, he designed the mural painting under I-465 and Pendleton Pike with CAFÉ.”
Before too long, explorations into photography, poetry, writing and graphic design followed. The lineage of creativity in A.G. tha Pharoah’s family had manifested within him.
On his latest EP, a five song, eleven-minute project titled Flowers, A.G. tha Pharoah generates a soundscape reminiscent of the Hip-Hop he was listening to over ten years ago.
“I wanted to make an EP that sounded like them old mixtapes that I used to listen to,” he says. “I wanted it to sound mismatched with different vibes and ideas like Kanye West’s 808s, Lil Wayne’s Drought series or Drake’s So Far Gone album.”
That intention can be heard on the project. Each song on the EP has its own distinct personality, each song contrasting with the next.
“The concept behind Flowers is to accept people for all their different aspects. It’s sporadic track to track, but this is what a person is like. Having a conversation with a person, this can be what their personality is like. It’s not one thing, it’s a layered thing, it’s a contradicting thing.”
Nap Or Nothing
Over the last four years, A.G. tha Pharoah has been contributing his designs to Indianapolis brand Nap Or Nothing. The relationship with founder Maxie began while collaborating on music but has since flourished.
“Nap Or Nothing allowed me to be more comfortable in my gifts,” says A.G. tha Pharoah. “Maxie had the full confidence in me and suggested that maybe I design a few clothes and that was a big milestone for me.”
Now some years into their working relationship, A.G. tha Pharoah has designed several lines for the brand based out of the Lafayette Square Mall, including “Super Maxie Flows”, “Ice Cream Truck”, “Home Court Advantage” and most recently “OTG Nasty”.
The success of each line allowed A.G. tha Pharoah to start freelancing; using his talents to support himself and his other creative endeavors.
In looking to redirect his output in a direction during a year that has removed the performance aspect from his art. A.G. tha Pharoah found solace in writing and producing the Horror short Staying Alive Chapter One: Sacrifices, which premiered at the Tibbs Drive-in Theatre.
“I’ve been wanting to write something that was just so outlandish,” he states. “When I first finished writing it, I wasn’t happy with it because it felt bland. I wanted to add an element to it to keep the audience engaged and surprised.”
It’s clear from watching the first part of the four-part series that he had incorporated the tropes he found so inspiring in the genre.
“Like Flowers, Staying Alive is pieced together strangely. I’m a big fan of Quentin Tarantino, so structure-wise it’s not a linear story,” says A.G. tha Pharoah. “I also love how [Psycho] starts off being a slasher movie but you don’t see any blood at all. Also, German expressionist films like Nosferatu and Metropolis that are in black and white and use heavy creepy shadows.”
But the inspiration behind Staying Alive is less farfetched and outlandish than the reality of it.
“The backdrop of this multi-layered story is human and sex trafficking which is a serious issue in Indianapolis,” says A.G. tha Pharoah “A lot of the news clips and audio used is from news outlets that were reporting on the things that are happening. And a lot of them are happening on the side of town where I grew up on the Eastside.”
The intention was to also provoke the viewer into considering their relationships with people and to make sure that during this period of sustained isolation that people are safe and well.
“Check on your friends. Call them. You don’t know what people are going through. That’s something I wanted to encourage with this film.”
If 2020 was characterized by sporadic projects; 2021 is to be laser focused. Looking to advance the concepts on Flowers on his next full-length album – Trill Moses – due next year, A.G tha Pharoah says, “I’m trying to go even deeper. But I want it to be more cohesive, deeply layered and experimental when it comes to the sound and vocalization.”
On top of that, he’s also working on a new podcast series in collaboration with Nap Or Nothing, shooting the next part of Staying Alive, and has a new comedy series written, casted and plans to start shooting in the spring.
It’s fair to say, if you haven’t been keeping tabs on A.G. tha Pharoah in 2020, perhaps 2021 is the year that you should.