PURE is on a mission – he wants to bring thoughtful hip-hop to Philadelphia. The 23 year old raps about things that others might think make him vulnerable. But his heartfelt lyrics make his story the realest of them all. Here’s how he came to hip-hop after wanting to be just like his big brothers in the Cobbs Creek section of West Philadelphia.
SoulTrain.com: Your name could mean a lot of different things. Set the record straight once and for all – what’s the concept behind your name?
PURE: When I thought of a name, I wanted it to be original. I wanted it to stand for something. I went to West Catholic High school and I met a lot of different people, sounds and culture. I wanted to incorporate that into my music, so I came up with PURE – which stands for “Presence Unifies Rap Everywhere.” I basically wanted to have something that stood for what I believed in, bringing something to hip-hop that everyone can like–being able to relate to one another.
Soultrain.com: Music is changing. Hip-hop just keeps evolving – some think for the better, some think for the worst. What are your thoughts on the current state of hip-hop?
PURE: There’s a lot of new opportunity, a lot of artists who are producing good music but it is falling on deaf ears. I make similar music, which is in tune to the original genre of hip-hop. There are artists that are fusing other genres with hip-hop, which is evolving the genre. There are a lot of nice projects coming out. Hip-hop is growing.
Soultrain.com: Who are your musical (hip-hop) influences?
PURE: I grew up listening to a lot of Nas, Common, Rakim, LL Cool J, 2Pac and Biggie. From the new school, I am listening to Wale, Mickey Factz, Kendrick Lamar, Cocaine 80, Big K.R.I.T. – mostly indie artists.
Soultrain.com: When did you first decide that you wanted to be involved in hip-hop?
PURE: Around 10 or 11. My older brothers were involved in hip-hop. My brother Jason was an artist himself and my brother Brian was an avid listener. They influenced me. I started rapping as a way of hanging with my older brothers more. It became something that I was interested in, whether it be producing or helping other artists. The first music experience I had was listening to Warren G’s “Regulators.” I’ve done a lot of research and networking, I’ve met a lot of wonderful people that have been helpful along the way.
Soultrain.com: How has the music of Philly has influenced hip-hop for you?
PURE: I would say Philly had a big influence as far as what I am doing for music. This city has deep musical roots and a lot of artists that are plentiful as far as the kinds of music they put out. I just want to be a prominent artist. There is an indescribable energy that you get when you are from Philly. With music in Philadelphia, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
Soultrain.com: What has been your biggest setback, and also your biggest accomplishment?
PURE: I have come across a lot of people. An A&R [person]– and it didn’t pan out. He filled my head with a lot of opportunities. I learned the art of networking and not being afraid to reach out. I’ve come across shifty studios and that’s why I built a home studio that I use now. I met a few artists that were helpful with recording techniques and being able to reach out to people. I haven’t had too many setbacks where it stopped me from pursuing my dream.
My biggest accomplishment I would say, is my parents and sister accepting my music. [My parents] been married for 35 years. I try not to use much profanity. I try to keep it in tact, but I remember coming out of high school wanting to go to music school and they weren’t for that idea. But in the last three or four years, they’ve been supportive in terms of helping me support my dream.
Soultrain.com: Are you in college?
PURE: I am at Delaware County College, with a major in communications with a concentration in marketing.
Soultrain.com: How did the album come to be?
PURE: When I was 15, I made this CD called Ghetto Ethics. I was working with my best friend E-Hos. In the last two years, I came up with this motto “Proceed,” being able to push further, understanding that there will be obstacles, being able to be humble. Through life experiences, I decided to change the title to Proceed.
Soultrain.com: Your sound is different from a lot of the Philadelphia rap sounds that are out. Can you elaborate on how you developed your sound?
PURE: I wanted to relate to people on a personal level. I wasn’t afraid to speak on certain issues. I wasn’t afraid to be embarrassed, being able to throw things out and let people hear them and know that I am not the only person that’s been through it. I am able to speak on topics that a lot of artists don’t. I spoke on being played as far as relationships. I’ve spoken on health situations within my family.
Soultrain.com: What is the most meaningful song on the album?
PURE: I would say, “Finding My Way.” It was a deep song for me, because I was able to speak on how my parents felt and how I felt about my music. Just wanting to make it. I felt like a lot of the passion I hold for music came out in that track. It was a genuine example of me being myself and me being able to wrap everything up into one and tell you who PURE is.
Soultrain.com: Are there any collaborations on the album?
PURE: When I do collabs, I like to have a personal connection with the artist. With Proceed, I knew the artists personally, whether it be through friendships or people I knew personally. I like to have a close knit relationship. I want everything to feel personal. CeeJae is a talented up and coming R&B artist. Brian Thompson is also a comedian and he sings. Spoken word artist R.O.C.–which stands for “rhythm over conscious.” Brielle – she’s an R&B singer. Producers: AO, Thelonious, Slykk, Problematic.
Soultrain.com: What’s the process for writing?
PURE: I drink a lot of grape soda. I meditate on how I want to reach the audience. What I want them to know about me and this particular song and what I want to reach. I am horrible as far as being a perfectionist. I will mix a song, break it down and then re-record until I have it right. Even when I was beyond my means, I wanted to be as close to it as possible until I could get the things that I needed.
Soultrain.com: How are you marketing Proceed?
PURE: The album is available for free. We are giving it away on my website. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. That’s a blessing. I think it comes from being willing to adapt and being willing to relate to the people I am making the music for, and explaining who I am as an artist.
Soultrain.com: You’re working on a new project?
PURE: The name of the next project is Summer 23. It will be released in late July, early August. I want it to be an outspoken project, [to] show that I have evolved as an artist. It will be more outspoken, more political. I understand now that my voice stands for something more than I thought it did. [I want to] make songs that make more of a difference and show my growth as an artist.
Soultrain.com: Where do you see yourself in five years?
PURE: In five years, I’d like to have a good body of work, signed to a label and get a distribution deal. Overall, I’d like to be making music that makes a difference regardless, music that’s timeless.
–James R. Sanders
James R. Sanders is a freelance journalist based in New York. He writes for EBONY Magazine, Vogue Italia, Uptown Magazine, and Top Man’s fashion magazine Generation.