First Look Friday: Pink Siifu & YUNGMORPHEUS' New Black Renaissance
As a part of Okayplayer’s First Look Friday series, Pink Siifu and YUNGMORPHEUS discuss their collaborative Bag Talk project, Sun Ra, and being a part of a “New Black Renaissance.” The two also premiered an unreleased track.
The Birmingham-born, LA-based Pink Siifu has work spread all over Bandcamp like he has roots spread across the country. The scattershot collage of samples under the name iiye; the soul-endowed work with Swarvy on twothousandnine; the chops, raps, and crooning manifested in two B. Cool Aid projects; and the lyrically dense statements in the AKAI SOLO collaboration Black Sand share little other than the unpredictable hand of Siifu and a commitment to showing love to Black people.
His most recent project, Bag Talk, works as a joint statement with fellow nomad, YUNGMORPHEUS, the Miami-born rapper who now lives in LA. MORPH — who Siifu refers to as “Jamaican as shit” — shares a similar indecipherability in his work, which was jump-started over three years ago with a collaborative project with haNN_11.
Released in December, Bag Talk is a mantra for what this next year and decade are going to be about — the bag. That elusive target of money-knotted-freedom held over our heads that we break our backs for, while enduring systemic inequities and generational curses that often feel inescapable.
Both Siifu and MORPH are already working on their own respective follow-ups to Bag Talk. The pair hinted at new solo albums and MORPH plans on releasing a third collaborative effort with haNN_11. But the bag will assuredly loom overhead as the pair continue to make new music.
For our latest First Look Friday, we spoke with the two artists about home and inspiration, what the loss of Kobe Bryant meant to them, and the underlying spirit of what they call “The New Black Renaissance” in music right now.
The pair also exclusively shared an untilted unreleased track, which you can listen to below.
Where is home right now?
YOUNGMORPHEUS: Well, home is Miami for me. That’s where I was born and that informed a lot of what a nigga do. But stylistically, a lot of that shit came once I was living in New York [City.]
Pink Siifu: I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and that’s where all of my family is. Either there, Florida or Atlanta. They kind of scattered all over the south. I was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I started doing music in Cincinnati when I was, like, 20 or 21. And then I moved to LA when I was like 22. I went through mad changes since I’ve been here. So musically, I would say this is where home is. But Cincinnati, that’s where I started.
Whose work inspired you to start making music and whose work inspires you now?
YOUNGMORPHEUS: Jeru the Damaja. That’s the OG. A lotta Heltah Skeltah. It was lowkey them niggas that was associated with Madlib. I was trying to avoid saying the obvious like [J] Dilla, Madlib, and [MF] DOOM. We all know that shit (laughs). Them the founding fathers. Contemporarily…just the homies: Koncept Jackson, Mavi, MIKE, Fly Anakin, this nigga Liv.e, Lojii, AKAI, YL.
Pink Siifu: I always like to shout out Dungeon Family and Erykah Badu in all my interviews. That was the first music I heard that made me think of family. But as far as niggas that pushed me to be like, “Oh, I can really rap?” Lupe Fiasco and Black Star. I used to write poetry and shit, but when I first heard Lupe I was like, “This is poetry but very smart, well written, but on some hip-hop shit.” I looked at Lupe like, “This is what I’m trying to be.” Also, I feel like me and MORPH would really big up Curren$y.
YOUNGMORPHEUS: Curren$y and Roc [Marciano].
Pink Siifu: They yo’ favorite rappers’ favorite rappers.
When did you first discover Sun Ra and how does he influence your music?
YOUNGMORPHEUS: I was a young nigga and I had a [Sony PlayStation Portable], so it was that early. I had “Jazz Cats,” the Madlib song where he’s naming everybody. And I remember he either said Sun Ra or he was in that same bag, and it was a wrap after that.
Pink Siifu: Rest in peace Ras G, man. I think it was a Sun Ra mix he had posted on his SoundCloud. After that, I was blown away. My dad used to play saxophone and he loves jazz. My grandfather plays jazz too, and there’s stories of him playing and chopping it up with Charlie Parker and helping the Nigerian jazz movement. So, I was mad confused that I had never heard Sun Ra in my crib, ’cause he’s from Birmingham.
Two weeks ago, was the 20th anniversary of Voodoo. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about D’Angelo’s impact on your music and how you think he’s changed music over the past 20 years.
Pink Siifu: He has influenced my music as much as Dungeon Family and Badu. He brought what Prince was doing to this rap shit, but also to this R&B shit. He’s a mix of so much shit. But it’s really soul food. He put soul food into music. And you can’t talk about Voodoo without talking about Dilla. That era of music — that was like when John Coltrane dropped A Love Supreme. Dilla changed how everyone felt on drums. The swing in Voodoo is the presence of Dilla. D’Angelo brought something to this R&B singing shit that I feel like people are still trying to get to. People are still trying to run that shit, and it has influenced every R&B singer right now.
YOUNGMORPHEUS: He was just icy, dawg. Even on joints like “The Line” off of Voodoo — he was rapping about clapping niggas, dawg [laughs].
How important is the spirit of collaboration that birthed Bag Talk, and in the tight circle of artists you mentioned earlier?
YOUNGMORPHEUS: Iron sharpens iron. Steel sharpens steel. Everyone respects the craft, for real. That natural threat is for real. It’s a New Black Renaissance right now.
Pink Siifu: It’s really natural, genuine relationships. Genuine people. I feel like everybody is really pushing this shit. And I feel like niggas all looking. Like, I know niggas showing my music in the studio saying, “Yo, I’m trying to make this.” But it’s like, “Yo, fuck with me. Fuck with me, come fuck with us.” I’m grateful for everyone to just embrace this. We all embrace each other, and there really ain’t no competition. And we doing the same for the young niggas. Niggas like MAVI, liv.e, Camden Malik, Ade Hakim, ovrkast. They all like 22 and younger. They next. They are part of this, but also, they next. It’s so crazy, it’s expansive.
Bag Talk was released on the cusp of a new decade. Did you think about this album as a transition piece?
Pink Siifu: I just wanted to communicate…what me and MORPH feel. What me and MORPH talk about. Where me and MORPH from. I wanted to show that MORPH from Florida, I’m from Alabama. That’s why we have tracks like “Ftos” and “Fuck With Me.” I just wanted to show what we each be on, ’cause if you listen to our other shit it don’t sound like Bag Talk.
A lot of the themes in Bag Talk are geared towards Black people. So, I want to ask you, who do you make music for?
YOUNGMORPHEUS: First and foremost, that shit has to move me and make me feel good, and once that’s already achieved my next goal is to make sure it’s for niggas.
Pink Siifu: Echo that. All of that. But also, recently I’ve been trying to make music for my family, and in my family’s honor. For the ancestors, and the ancestors are definitely homies that have passed, too. Like, with this Kobe shit. He only got to chill in his retirement for three or four years. We weren’t blessed to see all of what he could do as just Kobe Bryant. Not just the basketball player but the actual human. He was already doing beautiful things, he was already doing schools — like, just doing shit for the kids. But what we really know him for is the hard work — waking up at 3 am balling everyday no matter what, breaking his body. We know him for that. Giving his all to that shit. When niggas pass like that it’s a reminder tomorrow ain’t guaranteed. You really got to go as hard as you can, don’t exhaust yourself. But you got to go hard.
Niggas like [Allen] Iverson, niggas like Kobe, niggas like Dwayne Wade, niggas like…it’s so many niggas, like [Shaquille O’Neal] and [Michael] Jordan. Them niggas like Marvel characters. They were heroes to us. Just remember that nigga’s legacy. We honoring legacy and we doing it for Black people. It’s cool if other people relate, but it’s for Black people.
Edward Alexander is a Boston-residing, Los Angeles-raised writer. He has also written for DJBooth and is a current Public Health Post fellow. You can follow him on twitter @EdwardAlexandrr.