Pi’erre Bourne Is a Hit-Making Rap Producer Who Wants to Be the Next Kanye West

Started by Ordinary Joel, Jan 16, 2018, in Music Add to Reading List

  1. Ordinary Joel
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    Ordinary Joel Found a new way to flow

    Jan 16, 2018

    by Sheldon Pearce
    Contributing Writer
    24 HRS AGO

    An interview with the Rising artist who’s plotting his own hip-hop takeover.


    This week, we’re highlighting six new artists—one per day—that we are especially excited about going into the new year.

    i’erre Bourne isn’t programmed to play in the background. Even in the realm of hip-hop, where producers are often seen as shadowy intermediaries, he stands out. His work is weird and wondrous, designed to bend your ear in fresh ways, and there’s a lingering sense that the beats he makes are the showpieces—no matter who’s rapping on them.

    His singular sound was heard all over Playboi Carti’s self-titled debut mixtape from last year, including its Top 40 smash “Magnolia,” solidifying Bourne as one of the most compelling young producers out. Meanwhile, his exuberant sonic signature—“Yo, Pi’erre! You wanna come out here?”—immediately makes all of his tracks sound as inviting as a block party. Bourne’s productions are buoyant and springy, sometimes disarmingly off balance. They can sound like RPG music gone trap or carnival attractions come to life.

    “If my beats were a color, they’d be dark purple,” Bourne tells me over Skype. He’s sunken into an oxblood sectional in his newish Los Angeles apartment, wearing a blinged-out pendant worth $18,000 and a black Supreme tee that reads “f--- what you heard.” He’s chipper yet laid back, a tight fade and trim goatee framing his face. Laughs spill out of him slowly, like when he remembers the time he broke up with a girlfriend who got Wiz Khalifa to sign her Macbook at a show but didn’t think to play the rapper one of his beats. His mouth barely opens when he speaks but it flashes wide when he grins.

    He breaks eye contact when taking stock of his rise, still getting accustomed to his role as the hit-making talisman for a new crop of young rappers. Even as a life-long applause seeker, he isn’t quite acclimated to his starring role. “All this is new to me,” he admits. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working his way up for a while.

    The product of a military family, the 24-year-old has wanted to be a pro musician his whole life. Splitting his grade school years between Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and New York, where his paternal grandparents emigrated to from Belize in the 1960s, Bourne started writing raps early on, carrying his rhyme book around so much that his mom thought he wanted to be a journalist. In fifth grade, he got his first taste of the limelight when he was selected from the crowd to rap alongside a DJ for his elementary school. He began fiddling with beats on FruityLoops soon after. As a teenager, his original music played over the loudspeakers during pep rallies.

    Bourne moved to Atlanta to study engineering at the SAE Institute in 2014, initially living out of his Escalade during classes to avoid a hellish commute. When he finished school, he stuck around the Southern rap mecca, hustling local rappers with his burgeoning studio skills to make a quick buck. “I was doing this portable studio thing where I would charge $30 an hour and just pull up on some fool and record him,” he says. “I was bouncing around different studios, rubbing off on different engineers, getting some game.”

    Around this time, his apartment got robbed, but the incident turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Bourne went to stay with his friend, who in turn introduced him to producer TM88 (of “XO Tour Llif3” fame) and Aaron Reid, son of famed record executive L.A. Reid. Bourne built up a rapport with Aaron through months of exchanged texts, eventually leading to an engineering gig at Epic Records in 2015.

    Bourne hoped working for a major label would naturally segue into producing, rapping, and scoring credits with high-profile artists. But no such opportunity presented itself. His beats were never submitted to stars, nevermind placed with them, and he soon found himself lost inside the industry machine.

    When Bourne eventually quit Epic a year later, he went into overdrive. To avoid downtime, he produced 10 beats a day for three months, making them anywhere at any time (he made “Magnolia,” for example, in a friend’s car on the way to Zaxby’s). That work ethic—and that cache of sounds—led to working relationships with blank-faced local Atlanta star Young Nudy, Carti, and others in and around the scene. Now that he’s finally seeing results, Bourne intends to go even bigger, driven by a desire to provide for family members still in Belize and a world-conquering ambition that begins with expanding into even weirder sounds.

    In addition to producing Carti’s follow-up, he’s currently working with Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, Lil Yachty, and Drake. In September, he signed to Interscope as a rapper and started his own imprint, SossHouse. He closed out 2017 with a run of new solo tracks leading up to the release of the fourth installment of his The Life of Pi’erremixtape series, offering Auto-Tuned odes to dream-chasing and grinding. It’s a lot, all at once. But, according to Bourne, he’s only getting started. “Look,” he says, plainly. “I got a lot of s--- to do.”


    Pitchfork: Most people don’t even know that you rap. Is there any worry that because you’re so recognized as a producer that now people will be reluctant to recognize you as a rapper?

    Pi’erre Bourne: I expect it. I watched a lot of Kanye documentaries before all this s---. When I finally got my first crib in Atlanta, we didn’t have no cable, so we was just on YouTube watching interviews, documentaries, putting ourselves in artists’ shoes. Having seen what Kanye went through, I’m expecting people to be like, “d---, this n----- wanna rap too?” But the s---’s hard. Carti didn’t know I rapped the first time I met him, but then he went to my SoundCloud and put my song on his Snapchat voluntarily. That’s really why we started to do songs—because he likes my raps. So if he can f--- with it, the rest of the world can f--- with it, too.

    What are your favorite kinds of sounds to toy around with?

    Well, I’ve got to stop now, but the flutes. It’s funny because a lot of s--- came out last year that sounds like I produced it, and I love reading the interviews and finding out they were inspired by “Magnolia.” But there are also people blowing up making fakes of my beats. This s--- scary! I gotta stay in the studio. I can’t lose my spot—f--- that, I’ve been waiting a long time.

    After the crazy year you’ve had, what are you looking to do next?

    I’m looking forward to putting out my project, signing a couple artists and putting out their projects, and working with some top-tier artists—whether it’s rap, pop, EDM, it’s no limits. I don’t want to box myself in. I might work on some video games—trying to speak some stuff into existence. I’m cool with a lot of the artists out, and we’re setting trends and pushing the culture forward. But I want to do other things that kind of shock people.

    What kind of other things?

    I really want to do music for games. You know how Grand Theft Autohad the radio stations and s---? That. And I just want to do the sound for s---. It don’t even have to be the music. It could just be sound effects. I be having crazy ideas in my head. I be hearing s--- that might not go good on a beat for a rapper but might be great for something else—like the sound when somebody opens a door. I’m just trying to let everybody know, I don’t wanna just make trap beats. I want more.

    Anything my ear hears where I’m like, “Yo, what the f--- is that?” I wanna explore. Since I was little I’ve been like that—just trying to record whatever I hear that I like. When we was in Australia, some Japanese band was playing some Titanic song, but I didn’t know it. I told someone I was going to sample it, and they was like, “No you ain’t, boy!” I would’ve played myself, would’ve went into the studio and made a hit and then lost all my money.

    In a perfect world, what do you want to be able to say that you’ve accomplished when it’s all said and done?

    A successful cartoon, a successful sitcom, a successful record label. It’s so much s---, bro. I wanna open up restaurants, stores, a f---ing laundromat. I think I have the potential to be just like Dr. Dre, a billionaire. As long as I stay focused, the sky is the limit.

    A lot of distractions come with celebrity. What’s your plan for staying focused?

    I’m going to stay in the studio. Last night, Uzi was trying to get me out of the studio. We were in Boston, and I told him come through. He calls me back later while I’m recording and says, “Pi’erre, I got the hoes!” And I’m sitting in this booth on FaceTime just like, “Can you please get on [my mixtape]?” I don’t like the club like that. Ain’t no telling what can happen in that environment. There’s a lot of hatin’-a--- muthafuckas. Rap music can bring a lot of good energy, but you’ve really gotta stay on your Ps and Qs. Even when you’re just having fun, somebody could be in the corner plotting.


    It seems like energy is very important to you, in terms working with people, being around people, being in spaces. Can you explain why that’s so pivotal?

    When I was working for Epic I had to stay in the studio for a year—like sleeping on the couch in the control room for a year straight. Use the shower that they have there. I didn’t leave. So I started to recognize behavior and vibes. I could tell when someone came in with a bad vibe. And after a while I learned how to handle it, how to remove myself or just break it. Really, the key to breaking through that s--- is just being genuinely nice. That energy is real. You put out that positive energy, it’s contagious. That’s why I’m big on that, because the music we’re making is often affected by the vibe at the time. I wanna be in a good place making my beats. I don’t want bad energy corrupting my data.
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