First Look Friday: Pell Is The Newest Rapper To Reinvent The NOLA Sound
First Look at NOLA rapper Pell
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?
First Look at NOLA rapper Pell
Pell: Oh I love Nola bounce! Have you heard that Adele "Rolling in the Deep" bounce mix or John Legend's "Higher" bounce mix? Shit's crazy! Other than that Black n Mild has some classics as well. I'm sure I'm missing others but these were the ones that stuck with me. As far as brass bands go, I have to go with Rebirth Brass Band. Some of y'all producers should sample that more…. before I do.
OKP: Your production definitely tends towards the ambient, tell us something about how you create or select your tracks--and your collaborators (?)
PELL: I’ve always been intrigued by how the space ambient beats leave me able to express myself by singing or flowing over a track and really tapping into another side of consciousness. Normally when I'm selecting a record, I have to be with the producer to build from the ground up! I'm usually a fan of crazy bass lines and synthesized chords with heavy reverb. I like to collab with true musicians and not just beat makers per se. I always encourage that we paint a scene together. I do branch out from the ambience a little here and there though, just to let people know how hard I can go as a lyricist. Grab their attention and what not.
OKP: Your current tourmates are as much indie-pop as rap—how does that fit with your style ? Can hip-hop and indie-pop even be considered two different genres in 2014?
PELL:I love the fact that my current tour mates aren't solely rap acts and are in their own respective lanes because it creates a more versatile show. People need to be exposed to more than what they just paid for and came to see. They need to leave somewhat in awe of what happened. I feel that cross-pollinating genres is just as beneficial as someone cross-promoting brands. Hip hop and indie pop live closely together on the radio now because of the evolution of music but I think that in 2014 they still stand apart from one another. The difference really boils down to tempo and subject matter because sometimes you'll hear Miley wanting to rap and then in the next instant you have Nelly sounding like Tim McGraw. No disrespect to Nelly.
OKP: Whats coming up for Pell in the near future?
PELL: I’m actually in the final stages of recording a project titled Floating While Dreaming due for a late Spring/early Summer release. It's inspired by my dreams as well as my experiences in waking life. I’m going to be at a few showcases this year at South By Southwest, followed by a tour that stars on March 27th. I feel really good about the tour because it's going to cities that I've never performed in before, so it provides for some awesome opportunities to say the least. I've also been working on video treatments for every song on Floating While Dreaming, sharpening up my directing skills. Other than all of that, I'm just trying to be the best creative I can in 2014.
PELL at SXSW:
Thursday, March 13
What: LND RNRS, The Cultur, ThisSongIsSick.com
Venue: 409 Colorado St - Haven Lounge
Set Time: 5PM (Event 12-6PM)
Thursday, March 13
What: Nice Kicks Showcase
Saturday, March 15
What: Good Music All Day Showcase