The new album from Pell, Floating While Dreaming

Allow us to introduce Pell. The New Orleans-bred and Starksville, Mississippi-based rapper (he was forced to relocate in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina) is quickly making his mark with a distinctive mixture of rap and southern singjaying–over an equally distinctive mixture of trap and dubby trip-pop that forms the rhythmic bed for his post-Drake flow. Call it the Future Sound Sound of NOLA, or call it–as a recent FADER premiere of his track “Eleven:11” did–‘dream rap’, the ambient soundscapes he’s been dropping on us lately are just a taste of the somnambulatory beats and rhymes on Pell’s forthcoming release Floating While Dreaming which features more collaborations with Danish electronika producers Tomas Barfod and Jeppe Kjellberg.

In keeping with his loose and ecclectic approach to the sonics of rap, the Pell is about to embark on two simultaneous tours–one with fellow MC Yonas and another supporting Nashville electro-pop duo Cherub on their Blow’d tour. Okayplayer caught up with Pell on the eve of a series of showcases at the SXSW music conference in Austin–many an aspiring artist’s point of arrival at stardom–to get his thoughts on his hometown, his far-flung influences and his dreams for the future. Scroll down for Pell’s answers and Southby dates as well as some key tracks from his growing discog.

OKP: First of all, how old are you?

PELL: 21 years young.

OKP: Is Pell your government–or are you named after the scholastic grant ?

PELL: Ha ha! I’ve never been asked that before. But uh, my government name [Jared Pellerin].

OKP: What made you first pick up the mic? Were you a singer or MC first?

PELL: The first time I actually wanted to pick up the mic was when I got introduced to Late Registration by Kanye. I was feeling the same frustrations he was expressing at the time and had recently became a fan. Then when I was watching my hometown of New Orleans being flooded out on TV he had that timely shout-out to President George W. Bush. I actually was neither a singer nor a rapper at first, I got my start on the production side of things making beats for my friends until right before college. I figured out that I really aspired to tell stories that were relatable to my friends around then and started writing. I’m influenced by jazz and a lot of indie rock bands, so I felt as though it was natural for me to sing on tracks because that’s where I feel I’m best received. Everybody can rap. Everybody does rap. But not everyone sings and/or can show true emotion through their vocals.

OKP: Your flow is extremely versatile to say the least—and sounds more comparable to artists from L.A., Chicago etc (Kendrick, Chance, Drake) then what we normally associate with NOLA (or Mississippi)—where do you draw your influence from…and where do you feel you fit into the landscape of rap in 2014?
Pell: As I mentioned I’m influenced by multiple genres of music so it’s easy to blurt out a bunch of names but I’ll give you my top five influences: Kanye West, Crystal Skulls, A Tribe Called Quest, Stevie Wonder, John Legend. I feel as though I can be the leader of a new movement this year in rap. I’m bringing a certain futuristic soul – FADER coined it “dream rap” – to the table. I’m not usually one for labels, but I do feel that they nailed it as far as describing how my image comes across sonically. I want to speak to people in my generation and others that all aspire to be dreamers and chase goals, so if that can be a part of the label, I’m all for it.

PELL: But do you fuck with New Orleans bounce, brass bands or other forms we think of as indigenous NOLA sounds?




  • S. Hudson

    Pretty dope song, but I only got 1 thing..,how can you reinvent NOLA sound?!? Im from New Orleans, born n bred, still here til this day, Im actually a promoter/photographer in this city and I listen to alotta music..,na granted Im some what force to listen to locals but nonetheless I give it a chance. lol Ive never heard Pell and I think thats like that cuz he didnt get his actual start here, he was displaced during Katrina so his start was somewhere else. Dont get me wrong, Im not knockin or hatin by any means, I would rather him get his start somewhere else, cuz its damn hard for a young rapper to make it out Nola..,hell, looka Dee-1, ya know how many years he’s been grindin in this city…,he literally started from the bottom now he’s doin tours wit Lupe and also featured on here wit the likes of Curren$y and Nesby Phipps but the only difference is..,these guys got they start at home! I say allat to say this.,there is no such thing as “reinventing NOLA sound”…,thats just something you cant tamper with down here, NOLA folks not gonna let do that! (Not Me tho) lol
    But keep up the good work..,and I hope to hear more from this cat!

    • Stankylegs

      Agreed. It’s a lazy headline.
      And seriously, son was 12 when Late Registration dropped. How in the world were you “feeling the same frustrations” as Kanye? You were 12. What a contrived statement.
      As far as dude’s sound … I don’t see how it’s any different than what half the young cats are doing now. It’s smart, because it’s easier to build a diverse fanbase (particularly women) by mimicking what’s popular: R&B hooks, synth sounds and singing on rap records. Again, it’s smart. Dude is in a college town (I’m an MSU alum) where trap rap is a small niche of local cats. But when you show up to a bar with fluffy music, you’re more likely to capture an audience.
      But seriously, I can’t get past all the singing (subpar voice, at best) and contrived rhymes about feelings and world views. From someone who just turned 21, what does dude really know about life to try and kick introspective lyrics? Would you take advice from someone 7-8 years younger than you? Would you listen to his perspective of life, relationships, etc. when he’s barely lived? No, unless dude rhymes his ass off. Pell does not.
      Cashin has a great beat, tho.

    • Diesel

      Not everybody that picks up the mic can be Nas. Dude is nice, and to say you can’t feel him because he’s 7-8 years younger than you is ridiculous. As if you were never that age. I think it’s more contrived to assume that homie can’t be introspective because he’s only 21. Kendrick Lamar can’t be much older than that and I think he’s very introspective and intelligent. Don’t put your shortcomings off on others. 2Pac was 20 when he wrote “Brenda’s Got a Baby”. Nas was 21 when he dropped Illmatic. Notorious B.I.G. was 22 when he wrote “Suicidal Thoughts”. And I guarantee you there were millions of 35-50 year olds that were able to relate to all 3 artists at the time. Age is only a number. You don’t know what Pell has been through or seen in his short life. And maybe he couldn’t identify with every aspect of Kanye’s life at the time of his Late Registration release, but you can’t say that he wasn’t feeling some of the same frustrations about the government, racism, self-absorbtion, sex, etc… That’s like trying to tell me that when I was 12, I wasn’t really able to identify with some of the same frustrations and situations that N.W.A. and the Geto Boys were speaking to.

      Hip-Hop has always been a young man’s game. And by us growing up in this shit, it shouldn’t be that hard for us to relate to an artist younger than us, because it wasn’t that long ago that were into the same type of shit.

  • MAda SiVad

    I really really liked this project. This was something that’s different, pensive, fun, all while keeping the listeners attention. I think what’s difficult for so many people to comprehend(including myself) is that hip-hop has so many avenues now. It used to be hip-hop music and gangsta rap. Now you have cloud rap, hip-hop conscience, gangsta rap, experiemental, indie, etc. But back to Pell. I’m really into stretching hip hop boundaries, and he did it with this project. You could certainly relate him to Kid Cudi, but I honestly felt a little more content from this project. Maybe that’s just cause it’s new. But NOLA being my favorite city in the world and like S. Hudson said so many rappers not getting the love they deserve from down there, it should be interesting to see where he goes. I think it’s fair for him to rep NOLA because he like so many others were displaced, and not by their own accord. I’m looking forward to more stuff from this young MC.