Princeton native to hold long-awaited listening party for debut album Aug. 5 at the Arts Council of Princeton
Barry “Bee” Phox’s 25-year journey to his hip hop debut album has not been the easiest.
His vision those many years ago was to work on music and create a body of work. That vision never changed, however the struggle and challenges of suffering with mental illness along the way played a part in delaying those goals.
“I have been institutionalized and in and out of the hospital numerous times. I was just going through a struggle just dealing with mental illness,” Phox explained.
At 52, Phox, a U.S. Army Airborne veteran, is soon to fulfill his vision with his soon to be complete debut album and a listening party that is set for Aug. 5 at the Arts Council of Princeton [ACP].
“My style of music is uplifting music. It is positive,” Phox said. “We are not talking about things like females twerking, selling drugs or anything like that. It is powerful, uplifting music dedicated mainly for the youth.”
Phox, who was born and raised in Princeton, will perform three songs during the listening party, which is open to the public from 1:30-3:30 p.m.
“I want people to feel uplifted, inspired and be more aware of what is going on in the world today. The music was created to uplift people’s souls, spirits and minds,” he added.
This journey to a debut album began when Phox reached out to fellow Army veteran Hugh Carter to manage him. Carter served in the Army’s 9th Infantry from 1982 to 1988 and Phox had served in the Army Airborne from 1989 to 1998.
Their connection did not just come in the form of their military service, but family as well. They are first cousins.
Carter, 61, said the two did not get started working together until September 2022 when they connected with Philadelphia producer and recording artist Jason Miller, who is known professionally as Stoneface.
“We went over there and started working with him. When we got into the studio and started making the music it started coming together,” Carter said. “I got excited … it lit something into me as far as being a manager.”
Miller, also a cousin to Phox, is a survivor of a shooting that left him blind. He produced Phox’s album from his Messiah Music studio and is featured on one of the album’s songs.
Phox and Carter have gone back and forth to the studio in Philly since September and there is only one more song before the album is complete.
Since work began on Phox’s music and album last year, Carter and Phox established a company called 2Souljiers, which provides services for artist management, business planning, and business management.
They came up with the 2Souljiers name on March 28, which became official on June 12. Carter thought of the first part of the spelling and Phox came up with the second part which is a twist on the spelling of “soldiers.”
It was teamwork.
“You know in the military it is a team concept and not an individual concept. You always have someone backing you up,” Carter said. “That is what is missing in the community. A lot of people want to do things on their own or don’t want to help someone else after they achieved a certain level of success.”
Both Carter and Phox want to use 2Souljiers to help homeless veterans, give back to people with mental illness, help the youth, tackle obesity with youth and possible ministry efforts.
Phox’s listening party will feature artist Unique Songbird. She had sung at the funeral of Phox’s late sister Lisa Phox-Kahn who passed away in 2022.
“I heard her sing at the funeral and her voice was amazing,” Carter said. “When you are making music sometimes you need a little help with the hooks and things of that nature, and ad libs. Her voice stayed in my mind.”
Unique Songbird did one of the hooks on a song in Phox’s album.
Mental illness is something Carter also shares after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] after his service in the military.
He had not been diagnosed until 24 years after his service. Veterans Affairs diagnosed him with a 70% PTSD rating.
Carter has helped Phox with Veterans Affairs. One of 2Souljiers efforts will be focused on helping those with mental illness.
For Phox, his late sister and her efforts for Carter and Phox to work together years ago, energized him after a 2022 family reunion to get to work on creating what is now going to be his debut album.
“I’m so excited for the Aug. 5 listening party at the Arts Council. It is going to be incredible,” Phox exclaimed.
“The Arts Council was actually our youth center location back when I was growing up. I learned many things at the Paul Robeson Youth Center whether it was martial arts, boxing, break dancing and my love for hip hop.
“I thought what a better place to give back to the community [by] going to the Arts Council,” he said.
The Arts Council of Princeton is located at 102 Witherspoon St., Princeton.