“Go where the light doesn’t shine because there are gems there.” So muses song writer Deven Phillips.
He’s mostly referring to the underground music scene he connects with through rap, metal and hip hop. But there’s more there than meets the eye.
That’s because dark places are friendly to Phillips. Having been born with a seldomly heard of malady called Norrie disease, the NCC student inherited the eye disorder that leads to blindness in male infants. About one third of individuals with Norrie disease also develop progressive hearing loss, something that began affecting Phillips in 2011.
“I am not ashamed of what I am,” Phillips says. “Just don’t say I’m ‘visually impaired,’ I’m blind, it’s just what it is, I’ve gotta’ deal with it…”
College & COVID
Phillips has been a part of the NCC community from a very young age, first enrolling as a youngster at the Children’s Center, and later taking Orientation & Mobility (O & M) classes on campus as a child.
A Nazareth High graduate and a computer information technology (CIT) administration major at NCC, Phillips enjoyed all the spoils of living on campus before the pandemic hit in March and the college made the pivot to all online classes. Now back at home, he misses the speedy wired internet in the residence hall – and of course the tasty food there, especially the quesadillas.
But he also misses the in-person help he received from professors and peers when he would run into issues. Phillips says the transition to online learning presented challenges for him, just as it has for most students.
“It’s been a pretty drastic change, mostly because it was so unexpected,” he says. As a result of the pandemic, he thought it wise to cancel his housing contract for the fall and is taking necessary precautions when he ventures out for groceries or other items.
Deven relies on a computer with an audible screen reader for many of his studies and he also can read braille when needed. He says NCC faculty and staff have also been very supportive as has the college’s Office of Disabilities.
For a person who has a disability, adapting to COVID is one more adjustment to handle along life’s journey. Many able-bodied people do not spend much time thinking about things like basic accessibility but for those who live with blindness, it requires more effort to navigate day-to-day life, according to Phillips.
“The world is designed for sighted people to navigate,” he says. Things like large parking lots can get tricky because he tends to “veer.” “I’ll never pass a sobriety test,” laughs Phillips. “I can’t easily walk in a straight line because of my vision.”
Phillips is glad his CIT classes cover “a little bit of everything” including programming, networking, server operation, systems installation and technical support. And he is looking forward to working in the IT field with its many job options and growth potential after he graduates.
He’s got the beat
While Phillips enjoys his IT studies as well as gaming, Phillips’ main passion is music. He was active in a collective called Crimson Underground and made an album with then partner William, AKA the Phantom. He also maintains a sizable vinyl collection.
His influences include Kendrick Lamar, Pantera, Wu-Tang Clan, Non Phixion, Eminem, Griselda and Jay-Z. But it is the older underground music that he most frequently tunes into for inspiration, like Godfather Don.
As he continues to explore and create music, Phillips has no desire to become known as “the blind rapper and producer.” He wants “to be the rapper and producer who is blind,” describing his music as taking an old piece of music or music from a different genre that has a completely different vibe and flipping it and putting Hip-Hop drums on it.
For a sense of what appeals to his musical artistry, Phillips describes taking a love song by Johnny Mathis and “extracting pieces of it and making it spooky, making it ominous, and putting the right kind of drums on it to create a beat appropriate for lyrics revolving around a serious topic, or just a good old lyrical dexterity.”
Wherever life takes Deven next, he has got his own custom soundtrack, ready to play.