Monday, May 27th, 2024
News Review Magazine

Philly Music Notes

by Stephen Kopfinger ’85

For generations, Philadelphia has been home to some of the greats in music—John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Chubby Checker, Bill Haley, Patti LaBelle and Bobby Rydell are only a few.

Rock and roll got a major boost in the 1950s when a Philly TV station started broadcasting a show called “American Bandstand,” hosted by Dick Clark.

The city has also been a driving force in the early development of hip hop and rap music. Two major players on that scene happen to be Millersville alumni. So let’s give it up for Chill Moody and Shawn Gee.

Ask Eric “Chill” Moody ’09 what he does to relax and you’ll hear a laugh at the other end of the phone.

“It’s just one long day—with three-hour naps in between!” says Moody, who keeps busy as a rapper, DJ, businessman, manager of artistic talent and a man holding the title of Music Ambassador in Philadelphia.

Somewhere in between, Moody was named “Best Rapper” by Philadelphia magazine in 2014. He also runs nicethings LLC, which provides event and music consultation to artists and sells, well, nice things, such as T-shirts and his own brand of bottled water, Cerebellum H2O.

This is a man who doesn’t rest. And it all goes to his hometown, the City of Brotherly Love, or, as Moody calls his efforts, “new-age love that kind of personifies Philly.”

A graduate of Overbrook High School, he obtained a scholarship to Millersville. There was no way he was turning that down.

“My parents said, ‘You have to take that!’”

He did, and Moody honed his interest in music at Millersville while majoring in public relations. As the website notes, “even though he wrote his first rap in the third grade, it wasn’t until he attended Millersville University that Chill began to put out his first few mixtapes under the name Yung Chill tha Blokk Capt’n.”

That sounds kind of heavy, but Moody isn’t. Rap sometimes gets a bad name, often associated with violence and profanity. That’s not Moody’s method. He describes his style as being “true to myself.” Moody’s kind of rap celebrates his beloved Philadelphia and “it’s not really vulgar.”

He credits his mother. “I don’t want her to look crazy when she plays my music for her coworkers,” he says.

That kind of family influence goes back a long way and continues today. Moody has collaborated with his cousin, Hank McCoy; their musical effort “Who Do You Love…More?” drew acclaim from the Philadelphia music press.

Moody says with pride that “I have family everywhere.” He can “walk up and down in West Philly” and he’ll find somebody who is related to him.

Though Moody keeps his act focused on the positive, he isn’t afraid to tackle social issues. In 2014, he penned “We’re Worth More,” a sobering address written in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

But mostly, Moody’s songs are about connection and community. He found both at Millersville, and sometimes that was a matter of coincidence.

Ask Chill Moody what he does to relax, and you’ll hear a laugh at the other end of the phone.

For instance, one of his ties to MU is a fellow classmate, Jasmine “GoGo” Morrow ’08 (profiled in the Winter 2011-12 Review). Also hailing from West Philly, Morrow has streamlined her talent as a background singer and dancer for superstar Lady Gaga.

As it turns out, Morrow’s mother “actually taught at my middle school,” says Moody.

“Understand the importance of building your network,” Moody advises. 

CityFest in Birmingham, Alabama
CityFest in Birmingham, Alabama, is just one of the annual music festivals Shawn Gee produces. L to r: Two members of The Roots, “Black Thought” and “Questlove;” Gee; and William A. Bell, mayor of Birmingham.

Yet another connection is Shawn Gee ’93, a major Philadelphia music mogul and president of SEFG (Sports & Entertainment Financial Group). The two men haven’t done a lot of business with each other, but when they do get together, “we sit around and talk about Millersville,” notes Moody.

SEFG is now part of Maverick, a superstar management group that has connections with everyone from Madonna to Pharrell. It’s the pet project of California music titan Guy Oseary.

Gee specializes in coordinating new business development on behalf of SEFG clients and manages the finances of well-known artists and athletes.

Also a veteran tour producer, Gee has represented such artists as silky jazz singer Jill Scott, the outrageous but fun Nicki Minaj, rapper Lil Wayne and Philly’s own The Roots, the house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

“I came to Millersville on a basketball scholarship,” says Gee, who played for the Marauders until fate intervened.

“Like most kids, I loved sports and I loved music,” Gee recalls. “But I hurt my knee in my sophomore year, which stopped my dream of being an NBA player.”

It was a diversion but not a setback. Gee studied accounting at Millersville and then earned a master’s degree in finance from George Washington University. He worked in private banking for Citibank, obtaining recognition as one of that company’s rising young star executives.

But music proved to be his calling.

“I made a jump of faith,” he admitted. It paid off.

In the 1990s, when he was still working in finance, Gee forged a business connection with The Roots, whose members include Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, who attended Millersville. Today, Black Thought is renowned as a rap artist and lead vocalist with The Roots, which has rocked Philadelphia’s spectacular Fourth of July Jam festival billed as the “largest free concert” in America. Gee is also executive producer of the annual The Roots Picnic music festival.

Gee has not allowed things to go to his head. After all, he was once a kid who loved every kind of music from Run-D.M.C. to LL Cool J to Culture Club to Duran Duran. Gee was a regular guy, and he hasn’t forgotten it.

“The best influences I had at Millersville were my classmates and my teammates,” he said of his basketball days. He still keeps in touch with college chums.

“We all hang out when we can,” Gee says. Millersville allowed Gee to form “a strong social circle.”

In the high-flying world of dealing with music artists, you have to deal with artistic temperaments. Gee takes it in stride.

“Every individual artist is different,” he sums up. “I’ve been blessed with a wide range of clients I work with.”

Gee’s adult son Darren works for the prestigious Los Angeles-based Creative Artists Agency “on the sports side,” Gee says with pride.

What does Gee tell his children?

“Use me as a model. If you have a passion for something, you can create a career from it.”

And asked to put forth a personal motto, Gee thought for a moment before saying, “When you grow up, make sure you are a humble winner.”

Triple Threat Foundation

Triple Threat Foundation
left to right: Eric Worley, principal at a Philadelphia charter school; Shawn Gee ’93; and Carnell Groomes ’93, a social worker for the City of Philadelphia.

The Triple Threat Foundation was established by Shawn Gee and two of his friends to help address the obstacles and challenges facing today’s youth. The men have known each other since they graduated from Central High School in Philadelphia. Strong advocates for education, each of the men has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in their respective fields.

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