First Look Friday: Pell Is The Newest Rapper To Reinvent The NOLA Sound
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?