Sachmoe Phlanagan: The Classical Rap Singer

Describing Sachmoe Phlanagan as an artist is no easy feat. The wealth of influences he draws on during his creative process makes for an eclectic listen that is hard to categorize. He’s an accomplished wordsmith and a classically trained cellist, the combination of these starkly different disciplines contributes to the unique vibe.

His style is musically rich and engrossing, with a focus on live instruments and strong songwriting. The blend of classical strings, soulful melodies, diverse rap flows, and varied production stands out and helps cement him as true creative developing signature sonics.

Timothy Cohran was born in Memphis, TN before finding a home in Jackson, MS.

“I’ve been in Jackson since elementary school. I started learning how to play cello at 9 years old while attending Davis Elementary. I was studying under Mr. Massimino at school, while also taking private lessons from Nadine Derby. Mrs. Derby studied under the widely renowned Master Cellist, Luigi Silva.”

Sachmoe was in a rare position for a young Black boy in the 90s. Having the opportunity to learn an instrument from teacher that was taught by one of the world’s greatest musicians in that field is amazing. It was a major influence on his dedication to fine tuning and keeping his skills sharp.

“We weren’t exposed to classical music much in West Jackson. It’s kept away from us, because it represents a certain level of civility they would rather not have associated with Black youth. They would rather see us playing horns or drums. So me doing it at the level I was, that was unheard of.”

Even in his early years, Cohran took music serious and saw it as a legitimate career path.

“Music has always been serious business for me. I was a paid musician since elementary school. My mom forced me to learn cello and practice 6 days a week” laughs Phlanagan, ” But that discipline helped me to grow musically. I took a break from playing in high school but I would still practice with the Jackson State University Orchestra to maintain and improve my abilities”.

After graduating high school, Sach took an extended hiatus from the cello:

“I didn’t play for 10 years, my focus had shifted to rapping as my main creative outlet. Initially I never had plans to incorporate the cello into my hip hop music. My versatility as an artist had already been used as a strike against during meetings with potential label homes.”

Sach wouldn’t let that deter him from fully expressing himself through music though. Instead of continuing to play it safe, he decided it was time to leave the box behind and embark on a new journey musically.

“My first time incorporating the cello on a track was “Is There A Heaven” from my project Man Vs. Music. I hear musically different than most, I’m a musician before a rapper which gives me a deeper technical knowledge. The cello is the closest instrument to the human voice and I’m always finding ways to use that distinction in my music.”

Phlanagan is preparing to release his new, Apollo. This project is set to be his magnum opus in many ways. He produced the entirety of the project and played all of the instruments, with Shell Ens of Crown Studios acting as a co-producer.

“This project is special. I’m more mature in my content. I’m a father now, I have a different view of life. I’m deeper into my craft and I’m continuously expanding beyond rapping. I wanted to create something that different, something that will stand out. I formulated my own sound and began collecting instruments to experiment with in my music.”

“Honestly, I wish I would have left the boxes behind sooner rather than adjusting to the music of the moment. Now I prefer to let the music lead me during the creative process.”

The project also features ML The Truth, Dear Silas, Stephanie Luckett, Comedian Kerwin Claiborne, Levy, Mallory Holladay, and his mother Georgia Cohran.

Working with another instrumental musician like Dear Silas was “a breath of fresh air. It was a truly awesome experience because we both have a musician’s ear. It helped to elevate the artistry, made it touch in a different way. Everyone on the project brought different tremendous talent in.”

“I’m Shining” featuring Levy is a soulful tune that’s inspiring and energizing with a message of staying focused on growth rather than detraction from those around you. It dropped earlier this year and was a welcome tune for the times of Covid-19 filled with uplifting, feel-good vibes.

Shortly before the release of Apollo, he dropped a collaboration project with Jay Super, Sup X Sach, and the official video for his prior release “New Bae” produced by Kendrick Martel.

The visuals for ”New Bae” are trippy and psychedelic. The color scheme and concept remind me of the film Her. The video was conceptualized by Iconic Films and it was shot in Atlanta, GA. The video also features model Llauryn Hendrix and the titular new bae.

On Sup X Sach, JSuper and Sachmoe let their creativity run wild. The fluid and natural ways they both contribute to each track is truly amazing. Their style of approach can be wildly different on a song but it meshes together perfectly in the final products. They also get a sole assist from the legendary Bob Street. It would be dope to see a series of projects like this with Sach finding a creative chemistry with different artists. His ability to collaborate and craft with others is reminiscent of the energy that is heard on Robert Glasper’s sonic experiments.

Sachmoe Phlanagan is a creative that is determined to carve out his own lane and inspire others to do the same.

“I’m hoping to reignite the youth’s interest in string instruments. How common is it to see a young Black child playing strings these days. I hope seeing me gives parents and children hope and the vision to see, you can be successful in any field. Growing up in West Jackson has just as much influence on me musically as classical music. You can be urban and classical, you can be urban and whatever you want, you don’t have to live in the box.”

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