Elbert Phillips

Personally selected by Frankie Knuckles to be the House Godfather’s warm-up DJ, Chicagoan native Elbert Phillips is mined from the seam of the Chicago House music scene. Creating a distinctive body of deep organic house music, Elbert’s recent productions include Manuel Costela “Colours” Elbert Phillips Morning Glory Remix;  “For Paris Phillips” and “This Could Be the Night” Club Classic Main Mix for Chillifunk Records , “Sunlight” and Bug Night” Elbert Phillips Trippy Tribute Remix).

He has worked with house music luminaries such as Josh Milan, Ursula Rucker and Andre Espeut and runs the Entegrity Music label. Elbert delivers the ‘Monthly Statement’ radio show for UK station Soul-Power Radio and designed the Chicago House Music timeline as a prominent part of the art exhibition ‘Move Your Body: The Evolution of House Music’.

We welcome him to DMC ahead of his show at Quintessential House on Sunday June 2nd.


Hey Elbert. Personally selected by Frankie Knuckles to be his warm-up DJ, and steeped in the Chicago House music scene, how does Frankie’s influence touch you and steer you on going in your career?

A commitment to quality whenever I attempt to produce an idea. Frankie Knuckles lived a creative life, that’s the lasting impression, or influence that Frankie has left with me, with all of us who do this. Back in 2010, right after my very first remix release Rufus & 52nd Deepstrict – “Higher Together” on Qalomota Records, I had the crazy notion that I was done with this DJ/music stuff. I had recently obtained a design degree from Columbia College Chicago,  I sold my Urei Mixer, and made a big push to get into the advertising industry. I did an internship, and I procured as much freelance work as possible. Unfortunately, I found myself spending more time chasing deadbeat clients than collecting commissions. Things were changing in the music industry back then as well. The digital marketplace had revolutionized how we bought music back then, and I was a guy who was too accustomed to the record store, and the community inside it. Sitting in front of a pc to find music wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time. I grew up with records, physical products filled with information-credits, liner notes etc. Also, the sound of South Africa was taking over back in 2009/2010, and it seemed as though the better American House Music producers were trading their best productions amongst themselves, and leaving what’s left to the digital marketplace. That was my perception at the time. I wasn’t happy so I decided to walk away from deejaying in 2010.

The one thing about the creative energy inside of you is that it won’t stop for anything: not for your family, not for your day job-not for your (jive) reasons for giving up – nothing. I could continue making excuses, lamenting about the “good old days” or learn how to play the game, and work to greater ends. I began to use green energy from my day job to fuel my creative endeavours. I was  a contributing editor for 5 Magazine Chicago, and I believe that it was through Terry Matthew (Chief editor at 5) that I met my production partner, Andrew Emil. Oddly enough, Andrew and I were moving within the same spaces in the Audio Arts & Acoustics Department at Columbia College. I decided to recommit, and give my creative dreams a chance to succeed. Having a powerful friend like Frankie was awesome, but I had to make things happen for myself. I had to trust and believe in the process of following your dreams. So, from those experiences came a few remixes and other productions that I felt good about seeing through. I think Frankie would say to me: “Good work, Kid.” Kid was his nickname for me. If Frankie liked you (or not-LOL!) he’d give you a nickname.

You’ve just been featured in the new Faith Magazine’s Frankie Knuckles Tribute issue, and your rework of “Tears” continues to play on the dance floor, and how good does it feel to be acknowledged for your work and your contribution? 

It feels great to take a chance and get positive results! Nothing in this game is guaranteed, and touching a treasured classic of this caliber, you probably run the risk of arousing ire in die hard fans rather than getting approval. Andre Espeut and I had already worked together twice with “You Should See Me Now “on Plastik People and “Sunlight” on Soul N Pepa) before he came up with the idea of covering “Tears”. Ace (Andre Espeut) is a consummate professional with a gigantic rolodex of contacts! Through Andre I met Tom Laroye, a brilliant player (Percussion and synths) and then Will Kurk came through with a masterful interpretation on keys, and Shamrock has a way of doing great things. My guys all rose to the occasion once it was known that we were gonna take on a cover of “Tears”! Knowing how people feel about this timeless classic, I wanted to disarm naysayers with three words to describe our cover: Loving Tribute Mix. Terry Matthew, my boss from my 5 magazine days said to me recently on a phone call: “Being mad at a loving tribute is like being mad at a puppy!” LOL! Whether it’s through my efforts on the decks, or in the production studio, I was groomed by my musical heroes to take chances. As I got deeper into the project, old feelings began to surface from previous endeavours that didn’t receive much in the way of fanfare. My mind went back to my high school days as an aspiring deejay who was out to rock the crowd at my high school sock hop, but I got booed mercilessly by a furious crowd. “Not everyone understands House Music” was a phrase that I came familiar with in the 1980’s, long before the song-LOL! That encounter messed with me for all of an hour, then I was back to doing my thing, getting closer to House Music! So yes, after ten years after Frankie left us, it feels great to finally be recognised as a known collaborator who got it right with the cover. None of this would be possible if not for my creative partners and I think we represented Frankie, Satoshi Tomiie and Robert Owens well.

With recent releases on Chillifunk Records and A.MA I hear you’re also working on a special vinly only release, “Brotherhood” which is a collaboration with Vick Lavender, and how did you guys get together and what’s it sound like?

“Brotherhood” is a project that Vick and I worked on back in 2018 that’s finally seeing the light of day! David Lyn was instrumental in the process. David was planning an event when he asked my thoughts of bringing Vick on board. Andrew Emil was in the process of revamping the studio when Sy Sez asked me to do a mix of a song of his called “Falling.” Vick was working heavily out of Rahaan’s studio at the time, and it made sense for us to get down on a collaborative project together. We knocked both projects out in no time at all! Jazz fusion for the dancefloor is the best description that comes to mind. After the mixdown, I left Brotherhood with Vick to do with it as he chose.

Chicago House Music…it’s impact and its continuing growth as experienced at festivals like The Chosen Few and recent exhibitions, is phenomenal and what do you think Chicago gives to producers such as yourself?

I’ve been a city boy all my life. The Chicago House scene has grown into a community of individuals that go way back. Summer festivals and weekend gatherings in our parks and lakefront are what we look forward to after a long drawn-out winter season, and annual events like the Chosen Few Chicago have become a House Music destination for fans all over the world!

Multi-talented you’ve been a contributing editor to Chicago’s ‘5 Magazine’ , designed the logo for ‘Move’, the 2006 Chicago International House Music Festival and were the creator and designer of the Chicago House Music timeline –   a prominent part of the 2015 art exhibition ‘Move Your Body: The Evolution of House Music’. What keeps you going forward and what are your proudest moments from your career so far?

I can’t choose. Each and every effort, and achievement was born from my desire to live a creative life, a life that I always wanted. Before playing music as a DJ was a goal of mine, I was an aspiring animator as a boy, drawing equally and exceptionally well with both hands until I began to take more to my right hand. All kids watched animated cartoons growing up, but I was just as focused on the credits that rolled on the screen as the cartoon itself. Moving into my prepubescent years, I would draft lists of the musical gear (synthesizers, drum machines, etc.) that  I thought was responsible for making the music I wanted to produce, having no clue about how to play or program those units-LOL! By the time I was twelve, my interest in animation waned, and I happened to spot a guy in an arcade room tooling over a table with two turntables and a mixer! I was at a friend’s house when I became aware of the Hot Mix 5 WBMX Radio DJ team! I listened heavily once I became aware! DeAndre Halbert was a neighbourhood pal who relocated further west of the city, and he became cool with a DJ named Count Coolout in the summer of 1983. We’d watch eagerly as Coolout would mix a cassette tape, and every now and again, he’d let DeAndre take over after a while! I would look on with a serious craving to get involved, but I didn’t know anyone who had equipment, or would allow me on their equipment. I got my chance a year later. I met Ishmael Finn in high school, and he took me under his wing! I was on my way! I’d grab a copy of Dance Music Report Magazine, and immerse myself in the articles, charts and other news! Years of writing in a journal prepared me to write music reviews for 5 Magazine, like the reviews that inspired me!

You’ve worked with Josh Milan, Ursula Rucker, Andre Espeut and many fine musicians and artists, and do you have a favourite tune that you’ve made and why is this special to you? What stands out about it?

“You Should See Me Now” is special to me for many reasons. Andrew’s place in Lincoln Park is where we began that particular project. Light had a way of shining into that apartment, at dusk especially, the view was great and Will Kurk’s masterful playing enhanced the mood! I initially created the composition for a remix, but the label was taking longer than I cared to wait, so I removed the initial vocals off, and I reached out to Andre Espeut. I was a fan of his the day that I heard “No Better” with Randy Peterson, and “Caught Up” with Michele Chiavarini! I was slightly intimidated by his body of work, but Ace was very pleasant and ready to get to work! Andrew Emil graciously turned in a dope mix, but I wanted to get David Lyn involved. It was his first production!  It ain’t no fun if the Homie can’t have none-LOL! Boon came through with the necessary green energy for Andre, so it was definitely a group creative effort!

You’re also on UK radio with your “Monthly Statement” show for Soul-Power and how different is it to make a show for UK audiences, and what’s the response from the listeners.

Once David Lyn and I began corresponding, I would tune in to his Music Without Labels program faithfully! A year or two of weekly interactions in the chat room had endeared me to the MWL & Soul Power Radio crowds, so my first MWL party felt more like homecoming than a guest set! David and I look out for one another, so he was very instrumental in making the Monthly Statement Show happen. He’s a great friend!

You’re coming to London next weekend to play at Quintessential House and Hackney’s BBE store and what are you most looking forward to being in town?

I’m looking forward to seeing friends, making new ones, and seeing things that I’ve never seen before. Roy Marsh (aka Roy the Roach) is someone I can’t wait to meet in person! I was thrilled to land a monthly show on Soul Power Radio, and I hit the jackpot when Roy reached out to me to become a weekly Friday night presenter on Mi-House Radio! I was grateful that Roy knew my work, and had reached out to me to join the team! It really meant a lot. From 2021 until the station went off air, I would enthusiastically submit my weekly shows to Mi-House, and I’d keep the party going with The Monthly Statement for Soul Power Radio. It was no sweat holding down both shows because I’m a producer, and churning out productions is what we do! This will be my fourth visit to London, and I’m no more familiar with the sights now than I was in 2015 when I visited for the first time. I’m used to moving around on a city grid. Winding streets confuse me a little-LOL! This will be my second time lodging in Hackney. My first trip was hosted by my late, great friend Ricky Swank aka Swanky, RIP It’s always great to be in the company of the MWL family! They keep things light and fun! Nothing like a crowd of merry revellers to give you great energy when it’s time to play music!

My Top 5 Frankie Knuckles tunes

1) Towa Tei – “Happy” Frankie Knuckles Morning Happiness Mix)

On a double-pack limited edition promo release it arrived at Gramaphone Records back in 1997. The crowd here in Chicago, myself included, would go crazy for it each and every time he played it!

Towa Tei - Happy (Frankie Knuckles Morning Happiness Mix)


2) Imagination – “Body Talk” Frankie Knuckles Classic Club Remix

Frankie left Chicago, and returned to New York City in 1987. Those of us who didn’t have a connection to him after he left, would get bits of his brilliance through his remixes of artists like Womack & Womack, Chaka Khan & Luther Vandross! This mix showed Frankie’s range…like a long evening at any of his sets back in the day, Frankie would take you up, down and all over musically!

Imagination - Body Talk (Frankie Knuckles Classic Club Mix)


3) Melonie Daniels – “Don’t You Ever Give Up”(Frankie Knuckles Cafe De Lovely Remix

Working with Frankie meant that you were always in for a musical treat, some nugget he was working on or a completed tune to drop! I was no slouch when it came to breaking out new stuff, but it was a thrill to witness the crowd whenever he would break this one out! The House of Blues would catch FIRE each and every time!

Don't You Ever Give Up (feat. Melonie Daniels) (Frankie Knuckles Café De Lovely Remix)


4) Eve Gallagher – “Love Is A Master of Disguise” Classic Club Mix

It was the dawn of the early 90’s and Frankie was very busy with tons of studio work, and a weekly residency at Sound Factory! lt had to be incredible to experience the duties of studio life (with proper budgets,) then jumping into a taxi with his newly created remix on a reel to be tested out on a BIG NYC DANCE FLOOR!

eve gallagher - love is a master of disguise (frankie knuckles classic club mix)


5) Tongue n Cheek – “Tomorrow” (Frankie’s Favorite Garage Mix)

Last but certainly not least, this FK remix appeared on the double pack promo release! I had the single domestic, and thought I was doing it until I visited my pal Kortney Rogers who had the promo double!

Tongue n Cheek - Tomorrow (Frankie Knuckles Mix)


Elbert Phillips headlines Quintessential House on Sunday June 2nd alongside Roy The Roach and Jazzi Q at Folklore Hoxton,186 Hackney Road, E2 7QL from 6pm. Tickets https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/quintessential-house-ii-tickets-906693944997?aff=erelexpmlt


His rework of “Tears” is out now with Andre Espeut.