Phero has made sure to always push the envelope - “when everyone's going right, I move left”. He grew up in Pilsen, and got his start by releasing musical projects, videos, and performances all around the city. It was during this time that he noticed a void of places for creatives to hang out in Chicago. “A lot of the clubs and bars were not catering to our culture specifically with the dress code and music selection.” Phero decided to take the initiative not wanting to wait for the existing nightlife scene to begin playing catch up. It was the first time he along with a collective of friends created ‘Cold Chillen’. Last November, Cold Chillen opened its debut event, an exclusive password entry experience. “Initially, we started off doing a 50 person event underneath a barbeque restaurant in the West Loop. You had to go through an alley, knock three times, say the password, walk through the kitchen into a speakeasy setting and all the sudden you hear Reggae, Hip Hop, and Juke sounds. It was different and done right”. From there, Phero’s unique concept caught fire as word spread quickly, resulting in his second event being filled to capacity and found himself expanding to larger venues by the end of 2016.
If you’ve ever been to a Cold Chillen event you know exactly why these parties are consistently at capacity and growing each time. The secret is it’s precise attention to detail, from his carefully curated party environments to his consistent concept of branding.
Breaking it down, Phero explains that he’s “...trying to bridge the gap between the classic Hip-Hop era and new school generation. Tradition last longer than trends. So how can I fuse the two? How can I create an aesthetic that can educate this generation and modernize flavor? Our crafted cocktails are named after timeless Hip-Hop albums and we have twenty one year olds asking for Liquid Swords. You will hear everything from Nas, Gucci, TLC, to Kendrick. It’s fresh.” You can catch artist like Chuck Inglish, Mano, DJ Oreo, HXLT, along with Cold Chillen founding members Freddy Phatz and King Marie spinning cuts all night. The vision gives each of Phero’s events a throwback vibe with a contemporary spin, a best of both worlds experience that captures the beauty of Hip-Hop.
Shortly after the success of the initial events, Phero and his team decided to open up Cold Chillen across the city, a large portion of the guestlist for special invitees and the other half are public RSVP guest. “There’s no VIP room at Cold Chillen, we are all together in one space and you celebrate with your favorite artist or creative in the city. Jugrnaut, RSVP Gallery, Nike, Saint Alfred, Red Bull, Fat Tiger Workshop, everyone is here and united” Phero stated. However, it's not always easy to make the list, and Phero institutes special marketing techniques based around exclusivity, such as circulating a link to sign up only a day before the event and leaving it open until capacity, usually lasting 20-45 minutes packing a 300+ person venue. Whether you’re an invite or the public, once you’ve made it you’re in for a great time. “[Once inside] it’s all positive vibes. I shake everybody’s hand who attends and show my appreciation, I treat Cold Chillen like it’s my mom's house and the dance floor is our living room.”
As Cold Chillen grew, the brand also saw itself expand by strategically partnering with other operations in 2017. Two notable events saw Cold Chillen collaborate with Chicago artist Kami to celebrate the release of his project “Just Like The Movies”, and assisting in throwing the after party for artist Brandon Breaux’s Bud Light Limited Edition collaboration. “We are very particular with the artists and brands we collaborate with, it’s important for us work with like minded people in pursuit to change and push creativity.”
Cold Chillen expanded, and Phero kept thinking about spots that were outside the norm as the weather changed seasons. “Bars and clubs can be limited, I try to pick unique spaces, like warehouses, lofts, abandoned churches, or underground establishments. We want to create memorable moments for people.” Whether it’s the venues he hosts at, the theme, or the time of day, Phero aspires for Cold Chillen to be seen as much more than nightlife events. In recent months, he’s executed this by branching out to Cold Chillen Yacht Parties on Lake Michigan and multiple day parties as Chicago entered its peak summer months.
Cold Chillen began as a Hip-Hop driven experience but it also curates parties around Latin culture. “We do what we know. We know music, art, and community.” One example was their Selena Quintanilla tribute birthday party in the winter, as well as a partnered event with Hennessy at the Mexican Fine Art Museum for LA Based artist Hola Chola, where there was a low rider exhibit, slow jam and spanish classics, plus a pop-up shop. With each move Phero desires to hit Cold Chillen followers with a surprise. “We want every step to be an impact, we want to show our audience growth and have them wondering and excited for what’s next. We are never afraid to press the boundary and love the challenge to top our last”. Phero and his team are on the way to turning Cold Chillen into a national brand, expanding to Los Angeles this fall, New York this winter along with releasing a merchandise line. The sky's the limit for Phero as he continues to build as a curator, artist, and entrepreneur partnering with major brands in 2017. “My work ethic comes from my upbringing, in Chicago we hustle. Uniting brown and black people to celebrate our culture and artistry is my greatest reward.” Don’t miss out the next time you the have the chance to experience it yourself.
Article By: Luis Hernandez
Photography By: Michael Salisbury