"I chose a half measure when I should have gone all the way. I'll never make that mistake again," Mike Ehrmantraut says. "No more half measures." These are the words recording artist Phonte Coleman lives by.
This is why Mike was his favorite Breaking Bad character. "I felt most connected to him," Phonte tells me. "Whatever I do in life, I'm gonna do it all the way. No half measures." He has utilized this sentiment as a guidepost for all his endeavors.
As an English major at North Carolina Central University, Phonte was taught that "great writing was a sign of great thinking." He compares being an English major to being a musical artist in that with academic writing you have a thesis statement and you need paragraphs to support it, and with music writing, you have a song title, and you need verses to support it. Phonte says being an English major helped him better organize his thoughts as an artist.
Throughout his illustrious career, Phonte has been both a successful emcee and R&B artist, putting all his passion and devotion into his work. No half measures. He has worked with Detroit artist Zo! and the two released an album together in 2008. In 2011, he released his debut solo album, "Charity Starts At Home," a rap album. Lately, however, his focus has been almost entirely on R&B and soul. "It just suits my life better now," he explains.
Phonte's latest release is Love In Flying Colors, an album with Dutch record producer Nicolay. The two met years ago on an Okayplayer message board. Phonte would see Nicolay's posts and noticed the two had similar tastes. It wasn't just hip-hop music, but during the interview, he cited Radiohead as an example. Anyway, one day, Nicolay put up one of his own songs on the board. Phonte listened to it and thought it was "dope." He asked Nicolay if he could rhyme over it. He said yes. After that, they kept sending each other stuff over the internet before finally meeting. The Foreign Exchange was born. Phonte said it's literally like a foreign exchange, and it is, not in the way we usually think of it, but it truly is.
When I asked Phonte what his favorite song was off the new album he couldn't decide. "All the songs are like my kids. I can't choose one!"
Quite recently, Phonte had some fun on Twitter comparing rappers to TV shows. " #Lost is Kanye: An unorthodox story that became an unlikely cultural phenomenon and just got weirder and more ridiculous with each season."
Soon enough, it became this big story. I remember seeing the tweets. And then suddenly, it was everywhere. "I woke up and it was a big news story," Phonte says. "I just thought it was cool!" I told him I did too. It was very cleverly done, and deserved the recognition it got. It was a pleasant surprise.
While we all know Mike was Phonte's favorite Breaking Bad character. He was mine too, by the way. I also asked him who he liked the least. "Marie and Skylar," he told me. He was annoyed by Skylar because If you're gonna be Mrs. Heisenberg, "you gotta be Mrs. Heisenberg all the way." Remember, no half measures!
And as always, I asked Phonte about his favorite cartoon and favorite cereal. His favorite cereal is Honey Nut Cheerios because it's "somewhat healthy, but still sweet." I can eat it and not feel guilty all day." His favorite cartoon is Tom and Jerry because there's not a lot of dialogue. "The music was its own character."
Finally, at the end of all his interviews, Piers Morgan asks his guests a question, which I find absolutely brilliant. "How many times have you been properly in love?" This is the first time I've used it in one of my own interviews.
Phonte answered two or three.
It is a pleasure to talk to someone who lives what he says. No half measures!