Since 2010, South Florida rapper/producer SpaceGhostPurrp has released mixtapes of what sounds like recovered trap-rap footage, made more sinister by shrieks, warped voices and Mortal Kombat samples. While his influences may not be that far-fetched — he cites Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa and Gucci Mane’s 1017 Brick Squad — his approach, however, veered in a near opposite direction that trap typically takes, leaning more towards a discarded cassette aesthetic, filtered though Fruity Loops for a leaner sound.
And the last year’s been good to Purrp. He’s produced for A$AP Rocky and Wiz Khalifa, assembled a largely unidentified mob of his own (Raider Klan Mafia) and announced last Wednesday that he’s signed to iconic British rock label 4AD. This summer, the world will get to know SpaceGhostPurrp better when he reissues his mixtape Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp with a host of previously unreleased tracks as well as remastered versions of mixtape favorites. Hive spoke with SpaceGhostPurrp over the weekend about his decision to sign with 4AD, sampling Mortal Kombat, writing for Cee-Lo and what’s in store for the new version of Chronicles.
What were you looking for in a record label?
Basically I was looking for a little push and a head start, to get on my feet in the right way.
And why did you ultimately decide to go with 4AD?
I didn’t really know about them until I read up more on it, and I realized that they are humble. They’re a legitimate group, and they’re not that type of group to be out there like that. They’re low-key, just like me and how I market myself. I like them.
Is it true that Chronicles is going to be a mix of older and newer tracks?
Yeah, it’s gonna be. Well, to my diehard fans, I just want them to know that it’s going to be a remake of everything I did — not every old track but, you know, the best of the old ones, from Blvcklvnd [Rvdix 66.6] and God of Black [EP]. It’s going to be like, 14 [tracks], and it’s gonna be remastered, with three new tracks. Everything’s gonna sound perfect and my own music. I listened to my old stuff and I found out where I messed up at on the last one. And I was like, “You know what? Let me make it sound like this and let me say it this way. Let me be more lyrical with it. Let me add more ambition to it. Let me be more professional in my lyricism.” That’s the big difference between now and how it used to sound. It just sounds more refreshing. It sounds more mature. In the remastered [versions] I found [where] my head is at, being 21. When I made my old music I was 17, 18, 19, which there’s nothing wrong with, but I was still younger. So on the remastered songs, you can just hear the progression in my music.
Does that mean it will sound more like Blvcklvnd than, say, the Lost Tapes series?
It’s gonna still have that gritty sound, but you’ll be able to hear my lyrics more. You gonna feel it. You gonna actually hear every sound in these songs and hear every vocal that I’ve laid on it. For those who’ve followed my music, when they first hear it they gonna feel that shit. And like I said, I’m a very low-key artist. I make music kinda like how Prince do on Purple Rain. He just goes in there, performs, sets it down and just gets out and chills. That’s how I do. I just go and do my thing. I want to put this album out and let the world know who I am and then just chill. Because that’s what my music is about. It’s about chilling. And it’s going to be crazy — way better than what I’ve been putting out.
Speaking of sounds — why all the Mortal Kombat samples?
I grew up playing Mortal Kombat. And I don’t have a DJ. I could never get a DJ to host my tapes, so it’d be like, I’ll just host all the tapes. I’ll just throw in these trippy sounds and get people wild while listening. I’m looking at it from my point of view — like, okay. I’m leaning on sizzurp, and I’m listening. I got my music, and I could just hear the sound I throw in fade and pop out of the blue. I could imagine what other people would say if they hear that on their iPod. I took a big sacrifice. People was like, “Why is it so lo-fi?” People want to know where I messed up, when actually, I did it on purpose. I could have ripped off a big-time studio and put out a hype track, but I’m not that type of artist. I made it shitty on purpose, to show kids you don’t need no top-notch studio to be where you want to be as a rapper. That’s how rappers in the ’90s would make their music. That’s how they sound, how the quality would sound, when they did their demo tapes.
There’s a laugh on there — is that the end of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”?
Oh no, that’s the laugh from [Mortal Kombat] Trilogy. That’s the guy when after he’s gonna kick somebody’s ass a million times, he just laughs. He just gets a thrill off it it. It’s weird. He’s like, “Finish him. Fatality.” And he’s weird, he just sits there and says weird shit and then he just laughs out of the blue. It’s like, “What are you laughing at?” It’s like, “I’m about to kill him.” That’s something that I’m very into doing, freaking people out. Like, I might just have to make — well, I’m not gonna tell. I’m just going to show. Whenever it comes up it’ll sort of trip you.
“I want to put this album out and let the world know who I am and then just chill. Because that’s what my music is about. It’s about chilling.”
You’ve said that you were working on something for Cee-Lo. Is this for the Goodie Mob reunion?
Oh, I didn’t even know he had a reunion coming. Damn, I’m glad you told me that. Damn. But no, on a random night I was on Twitter just doing random tweeting, crazy stuff, and he just shouted to me. And I was like, “whoa, that’s Cee-Lo from Goodie Mob. Bless him.” I haven’t had the chance to really sit down and think of the whole track, but I know it’s in the making, I really want to make something for him, something real so that he can get soulful but yeah, funky at the same time. I know he’ll kill it.
What other production work are you doing right now?
Right now I’m just stacking my library. I just be in my room, creating things. I got this one artist — all the ladies love him — but it’s a surprise. I can’t tell yet, but they’ve been waiting. They’ve been wanting us for to collab. So it’s gonna be good for the hip-hop and R&B communities, the whole community like that.
You’ve often said that Florida is like hell on earth. Do you plan to stay in Florida, or do you see yourself moving?
I see myself moving, and I see myself staying. I didn’t grow up in the slums or something; I grew up in the middle-class neighborhood. But school in Miami, it’s like they’re doing business there like life in the ghetto, because there’s kids there from the ghetto, who have no future. I mean, I feel like if you can survive in Miami — in my era growing up, like in school and hanging with the wrong crowd and surviving that and just staying out of trouble — you can survive anywhere else. It’s especially serious down here, because the pressure down here is hectic. It’s very sinful and very, how can I say, scandalous. There’s good people here too, but those are the ones who always die. That’s why I say it’s hell, but at the end of the day I feel love where I’m from. I do want to leave though.
What sort of pressure were you talking about?
Just like, growing up as a kid. Say you were going to my school and you run into a bunch of a girls. They don’t know you but pressure you everyday. It’s like all in your face — “Where you from? Oh, get this” — and it’s like in sixth grade. Drugs in middle school, back then, was crazy. They were making everybody do drugs , and the hard part was, it wasn’t marijuana — it was other stuff like PCP. It’s just sad thinking about it. That’s all I have to say.
So is that why you started making music, to stay out of trouble?
Yeah, that too. That, and music is my number one talent. Like, I would always say that “oh, I want to play basketball,” but that’s not me. I don’t even watch basketball no more. I like basketball, whatever, but I realized that I love music. That’s all I care about.
How are you finding all these things that you ultimately make music with?
I make people think I’m on crazy keyboards, but I just get on Fruity Loops and I create it. I create my sound and I just do what I feel. The reason why I can do that is because I’ve been making music since I was 13, so I know how to feel, how to maneuver sounds, how to tweak, how to do what I want, as if I was God on it. I could just float in and out and just make crazy shit. Fruity Loops is my playground.
Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp is out June 12 on 4AD.