Phillip Bush dedicates album to Salisbury
By Elizabeth Cook
Phillip Bush has a wife, three sons, a good job in Charlotte and a passion — making a difference with his music.
The former North Rowan High School track star hopes his recently released album, “The Black Elephant,” will bring about change for his hometown of Salisbury.
“I see greatness confined and overshadowed by the lack of opportunity,” Bush says.
Among the songs on the MP3 album are “On My Way Home,” “The Young and the Restless,” “Dear Salisbury Post” and “Tales from a Ghost from Salisbury.”
Bush’s style is inspirational rap — no cussing, just messages about increasing opportunities for young people to give them hope and steer them away from violence.
Bush has followed the news from afar as young men he grew up with in Salisbury were killed. Last year, it was Eric Feamster, 27, a former neighbor. In February of this year, it was DeMareo Bost, 28, a North Rowan classmate.
“Pistol poppin, bodies dropping, nobody see — like a atheist and religion, they can’t believe it/when I tell ’em this city is like a jungle …” (On My Way Home)
Bush is 28 years old, too, and doesn’t want to speculate about why his friends’ lives turned out so differently from his.
“I didn’t live in their households,” Bush says. “I don’t want to compare.”
But he knows he was blessed to have supportive parents, Phillip and Cornelia Bush. He grew up competing in AAU track and went on to star at North Rowan, winning four individual state championships in the 1A/2A classification. He trained under good coaches and had the encouragement of caring teachers and other adults.
Bush won an athletic scholarship to Appalachian State and was the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year in 2008. The full ride he got in college shielded him from money worries and the like, he says. It took a while for him to discover his passion, helping others. Now he works in pharmaceuticals, focussing on people who are being treated for HIV.
He’s an adult dealing with adult issues — a family to take care of, bills to pay— and he can see why people struggle.
“Opportunity is small in the city of Salisbury,” Bush says. While top students go on to earn academic scholarships and excel, he says, high school doesn’t do much to prepare the general student population for work and adult responsibilities.
Young people need to prepared to deal with credit and other challenges, he says. Working in chain restaurants for $9 to $10 an hour is a hard way to get by.
Social media is another pitfall. Bush says he’s very conscious of his brand, but how many young people understand what to post and not to post on Facebook?
“Say hello to the young and restless, and to those that can’t find a job stressing. Hey, Mayor, we need your help, something got to happen before we have another death.” (The Young and the Restless)
The title of the album combines what Bush calls the black sheep theory and the elephant in the room.
“It’s like we don’t want to talk about it,” Bush says. “… It feels like there’s really no concern for trying to reverse what’s going on the city,” he says. “Where are our programs?”
Young people get into trouble when they don’t have anything to do, he says.
Bush went to St. Luke Baptist Church and Dorsett Chapel when he was growing up. He was less active in church when he first got to college. He met his wife, Brittany, at Appalachian, and he credits her for leading him to her home church in Charlotte, the Apostolic Gospel Church of Jesus Christ.
Ten percent of the proceeds from sale from the MP3 album — available on iTunes, Amazon and Google — will go toward projects to help the community, such as Man up Mondays, organized by the Rev. Timothy Bates.
Speaking of Bates, he comes up in “Dear Salisbury Post” — “shout out to Mr. Bates.” Bush and fellow North grad Andre Tillman worked together on the song, written like a letter addressing city and societal issues.
The song also mentions the late singer-songwriter Sam Cooke.
“I know he said a change is gonna come, but this ain’t what he meant. The dedication we lacking; no motivation, we slacking; a fatherless generation is filled with hatred and blatant disrespect.” (Dear Salisbury Post)
Others who helped with the album include Darnell Tillman, Steve Frazier, Brian Perrett and Darius Purcell.
Bush says “Tales of a Ghost from Salisbury,” written from a first-person point of view, highlights how difficult it is to gain the support of this city and how it affects artists, entrepreneurs and visionaries.
“Pride makes it very hard for people to not only respect another’s craft but support it,” he says. “It makes me think about the statement, ‘too many chiefs and not enough Indians.'”