SpaceGhostPurrp credits his trademark sound to a childhood spent listening to hip-hop’s original gangsters. His family, he says, played records by UGK and Eazy-E around the house, music that instilled in him a rigid notion of what hip-hop should sound like. “The kids nowadays, they’re used to hearing high-quality, crispy-ass music, and they think that’s hip-hop,” he says of the highly produced music being made by many of today’s mainstream rap stars. “They don’t know about that distortion sound. They hear my music and go, ‘Oh that’s low-budget.’ But they don’t know that’s how all the pioneers made music.”
Newly signed by indie-minded label 4AD, SpaceGhostPurrp, who built a rabid online following of art-school kids and skaters, can’t fathom how he’d have peddled his mixtapes without the help of 140 characters or less. “Back in the day, you either had to know somebody or you had to hustle to sell CDs,” he says. “I couldn’t really see myself doing that crap, like selling CDs at the mall and shit. Nah, man, I ain’t about to make a fool of myself like that.” His debut album, Mysterious Phonk: Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp, is out today.
Tell me about Miami and the neighborhood you grew up in. What was it like?
It was an African American neighborhood, a lot of crime and drug dealing. Hip-hop had a big impact on youth in the area. At that time, hip-hop was real popular, and everybody be rappin’ and stuff, so, it was a hip-hop infected area.
What are the people you grew up with doing right now, the ones who aren’t making music?
They’re into their regular lives, some of ‘em are locked up. They are dealing with their mistakes.
What are you passionate about besides music?
I like art and fashion. I’m not really deep into fashion, but I like creative stuff, I like to draw, I like graffiti and stuff like that.
How did 4AD find and sign you?
The word got out to one of the people at 4AD, and they met one of the people here, and they was like “Oh, we like this guy we want to meet him.” We met up and it went on from there, and everything was good.
Has getting signed to a label always been your goal, or is it just a byproduct of doing what you do?
I always wanted to be signed, but I just love making music. I didn’t expect it, I was just doing it how I wanted to because I liked doing it.
Talk about your sound. It’s deliberately murky.
The kids nowadays, they don’t really know about that distortion sound. They’re used to hearing like high quality crispy-ass music, and they think that’s hip-hop. They don’t know about that distortion sound, they hear that and go “Oh that’s low budget.” But they don’t know that’s how all the pioneers used to sound back in the day on the old machines.
You don’t really listen to radio hip-hop?
No, I hate it.
You hate it?
I don’t hate the artists—it’s not that I hate it. I wouldn’t say I hate it, I’m not gonna say that. It’s that I don’t feel it, it doesn’t trigger me.
Does your music come from a dark place?
Yeah, all of that, everything, at once. I was in a real bad place mentally when I wrote some of the songs on the album.
Are you in a better place now?
Yeah, I’m doing fine, I’m doing better. I’m still going through stuff, but I’m trying to hang in there.
I know you gave up smoking weed. How much weed were you smoking when you were smoking it a lot?
Oh, a lot. Like every 5 minutes.
Why did you give it up?
Just to keep my mind clear, because when I was doing a lot I was just zoned out. I was spaced out, just like, What the fuck? I would write a rap and I’d be just staring at the paper, and I’d fall asleep.
Has it affected your music?
My music hasn’t changed. I’m lyrically better, I can wake up and just go to writing, because I’m not tired from the high from the other night. I can just get up and just go ahead and write, because my mind is clear.
Now that you’re on a label and putting out a proper album, does your music have a better, clearer sound than it used to?
Yeah it does, it’s more crisp. Everything is like HD. The kids these days just want to hear high quality.
How important has the internet been in getting your sound out there?
Back in the day, you either had to know somebody or you had to hustle to sell CDs. I couldn’t really see myself selling CDs at the mall and shit. I was like, instead of going to the mall and making a fool of myself, why don’t I just promote myself online? I would connect all my sites together like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter. And say if I had like a thousand followers at the time, and I posted something on Twitter, I would keep posting that shit until all of those thousand followers saw it and clicked on it.
Photography by Alexander Guerra