In the frigid hours before another flurry of snow could settle in Philadelphia, New Orleans rapper Pell stood in a small circle of his fellow tour folk in the dimly lit main area of The Barbary in Northern Liberties. The rapper would be on stage at 8 p.m., slightly later than expected because the venue had pushed everything back. Nevertheless, Pell remained cool, calm and collected.
Thanks to the good folks at WKDU 91.7, Drexel University’s free-format and non-commercial radio station, I had the opportunity to speak with Pell.
After a brief introduction, we took a seat in the far corner of the venue by the merchandise table to discuss the rapper’s music. Specifically, I wanted to learn more about his new album, “Limbo,” which was released in the fourth quarter of last year.
When asked how the response has been, both to his tour and his new album, the young emcee said that both have been well received so far.
“I knew that not a lot of people would understand it as much because it was more experimental for me,” Pell said, comparing his debut album, “Floating While Dreaming,” to his sophomore effort, “Limbo.”
“I was very safe behind a lot of the instrumentation [in “Floating While Dreaming”], and I wanted to challenge myself to really try to bring something different [in “Limbo”],” he said.
Pell’s music has been labeled “dream rap” by multiple publications, and for good reason. Celestial harmonies and heavily reverberation effects on the melodies create an often-ethereal production style for Pell to grace with his personal lyrics, delivered via his signature mode of singing and rapping.
“I think that singing is important because it’s actually how I can show emotion furthermore, because my voice is kind of a little high pitched, I feel like singing can help me go above and beyond getting my message across,” the rapper said.
When making his music, Pell said that he gains inspiration mainly from his personal relationships including his friends, family and loved ones. Their words, their stories, their conversations, and more in some way or another have influenced the his lyrics.
“Whatever you’ve seen, whoever you’ve been friends with will come out in your music, whatever you intake on a daily basis,” the rapper said. This is evidenced by songs like “Dollar Store” off of “Floating While Dreaming,” inspired by and written while working at a Dollar Store, as well as when the rapper shouts out his hometown of New Orleans.
Displaced by Hurricane Katrina at 14 years old, Pell moved to Mississippi, where he got his start in music producing for friends at his new school.
“[Producing is] how I got friends, that’s how I identified myself as an artist, because I was in a new environment,” Pell said. The budding artist eventually transitioned into putting words on paper as he fell in love with writing in college.
Working with a group of friends in a collective known as TFG, or “That Feel Good,” it was only a matter of time before Pell gained the attention of several media outlets including Fader, Billboard, and Pigeons & Planes with his breakthrough release, “Floating While Dreaming.”
Now with two albums released and a tour underway, Pell is a man on a mission to spread the message of believing in yourself and following your dreams.
“I think that the main thing that I can tell anybody is, if I’m playing off of the theme “follow your dreams” until there’s nothing else to follow because that’s all you have in life, you know, what drives you,” he said.
Pell will be on tour until the end of March. Tour dates and locations can be found on Pell’s website, Pellyeah.com. He will then make appearances at both Hangout Music Fest and Firefly Music Festival. WKDU has posted a full transcript of the interview to their blog at wkdu.wordpress.com.