When talking about hip-hop, there are three key cities that always get brought up: New York, L.A. and Atlanta. But there’s another city in the Midwest that deserves a lot of love too, and that’s Chicago. Rich in musical history, the Windy City has long been associated with some of the most talented wordsmiths in the game, from Gil Scott-Heron, Kanye West, Common and Twista, to Lupe Fiasco, Da Brat, and more recently Chance The Rapper, there’s no mistaking the pedigree of lyricists Chicago has produced over the years.
Joey Purp is the next MC vying for his name to be mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned. Talking influences, the difference between American and European crowds, and how he came to be a part of the same Savemoney crew that both Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa are members, NME caught up with the MC right after coming off stage at WOO HAH! Festival.
How many times have you performed in Europe?
“Maybe three or four.”
You had a pretty early slot on the bill. Do things like that bother you?
“No. I’m humble. Who am I to complain about the time slot I have performing on the other side of the world? It’s a blessing I’m even here. It’s inspiring. Do I want to headline the festival? Of course. But if I headline today will all the people know the words to my shit? No. So that’s just something I’ve got to do and build towards. If I want to play later I’ve got to make it so I can play later.”
What do you notice in terms of the crowds in comparison to back home in the US?
“They’re more turnt up in Europe.”
Why do you think that is?
“I think there’s a couple of things — I think about this shit a lot. In America, I think that if you’re not super famous people don’t want you to be cooler than them. They don’t wanna have fun and you take the rap part and they take the crowd part. A lot of the time, especially at festivals, a lot of the kids in the crowd are aspiring artists. There are a lot of kids who are just regular kids that go to school and do other stuff too, but some people feel like it’s supposed to be them on stage.
“I think out here in Europe, no matter what you do you still want to have fun. Even if you’re a kid in the crowd who makes music you still wanna have fun and I relate to that because that’s how I was. I remember going to rappers shows when they’d come to Chicago. I was the one in the crowd moshing and stuff and then when I’d meet them later on I’d be like, ‘Yeah, I saw you play at Reggies. I was in the crowd for your show. I was a fan of your music.’ So I think people out here just like having fun more and it’s more turnt up out here.”
Do you think there’s a different type of respect for the music too?
“Definitely. It’s because ya’ll respect the game. You have enthusiasts the way we used to have. It’s the same as what happened with the denim culture in Japan. Denim was made for miners in America but now the best denim in the world is Japanese denim. That’s because they took it and cared about it. When we took it we mass produced it. We like taking shit and putting it in a factory and making a thousand of it. I feel like across the world they like making 100 really good ones.”
During your set, a fan threw you a Walter Payton Chicago Bears jersey. Was there a specific reason other than the fact that you’re from Chicago?
“It was multiple things, really. Walter Payton is the most legendary Chicago sports figure outside of Michael Jordan. When you think of Chicago sports figures Walter Payton and MJ are it. Also, my older brother was in the second graduating class of the high school they made in his name. So Walter Payton is already ingrained in my life at an intimate level. So when I saw the jersey I was like, ‘Wow, this is really dope.’”
Do you think the fan knew that?
“I don’t know, probably not. I have no clue. He took it off his back and gave it to me though which is really cool.”
How did you and Chance The Rapper meet?
“Me and Chance met through one of our friends, Reese – he raps too, his rap name is Reeseynem. Me and him went to high school together and him and Chance went to grammar school together. So when me and Reese met we got real tight, he’s been my best friend since pretty much when we met. And Chance was his best friend growing up so we just ended up clicking up and he was close friends with a lot of people that I ended up friends with and it was kinda like a freshman year type thing where you meet all of your new friends. We just happened to be in the same group of friends.”
And then you joined the Savemoney crew?
“I’ve been in Savemoney since the jump. I was one of the first three people in Savemoney. So we all started the same way together.”
The video for your song ‘Girls @’ looks like it was a lot of fun to shoot. Do you take pride in making music videos.
“Yeah, for sure. That’s why I don’t shoot a lot of them because I just want them to be dope, I want to take my time with them. I’m going to start dropping more content, but I want everything to be its own project. I treat one music video the way I treat my whole album. I’m bunkering in and working on this project. I don’t care how long it takes or how far away from the song it is, I’m working on the music video like it’s a full project. We want to take it to the next level. We want to do everything that people at the next level do.”
From listening to your music, it sounds like you have a lot of southern rap influences. Is that fair to say?
“Yeah, definitely. I’m a fan of Three-6-Mafia and Memphis music in general. Lord Infamous, Project Pat, Gangsta Boo, everybody from that whole clique. That’s what I grew up on. One of my older brothers was big on that type of music so I got all that game from him. Listening to all that Hypnotize Minds stuff, that was always my favourite type of hood music. That was my favourite type of shit that wasn’t New York rap. I was big on Three-6 and Do Or Die, Psychodrama. I was big into dirty 808s, smooth shit.”
You reference Mike Jones in one of your tracks too. So you’re a Swishahouse and Houston rap fan?
“Yeah man. I was big on Screw tapes, Swishahouse and that whole vibe. I think that movement is an under-appreciated American sound. That’s the sound of what’s popping right now too. I loved how they were pushing the line on topics and recreation and shit. They were coming at this shit kinda like how the Wu-Tang did, where they would just say shit that nobody else was saying.”
On ‘CORNERSTORE’ you have a line that acknowledges the problems white kids face. Why did you feel it important to do that?
“I just think it’s an interesting dynamic. My mom’s white so I understand the dynamics of white family and black family, to a certain extent at least. But not only that, the line after goes, ‘Arguing with they dads, we pray we ever knew our fathers.’ So I look at black problems too, like how some people have never even met their dad and never will so they don’t have a dad to argue with. He’s dead, or he’s in jail, or he bounced and so the kid never knew who their dad was from the jump. I know people with that part of their birth certificate empty, there was nobody they could put there. They didn’t know who their dad was.”
“I know both of my parents. I have a great relationship with my parents. So that’s why I was talking our/us. I know that not even from just being a rapper, even before I was rapping, being light-skinned and being half-white there are privileges that I have in the world so I take my voice and I speak for us.”
Sort of like Logic?
“Yes, and they love him. He looks white and a lot of people wouldn’t even know that he’s black. I’m in the mind of belief that he’s so popular because of his appearance, well, not solely because of his appearance, partially because of his appearance.”
But he has always acknowledged that fact.
“He’s very aware. He talks about it in his lyrics.”
What would you like to achieve with your career?
“When people used to ask me that I really didn’t know how to answer, but now I want to be as big as possible. I want my music to be as popular as possible. I want to make music that is globally recognised and culturally significant. I want to be a voice and a beacon for where I’m from and to be able to broadcast my perspective and our perspective to as many places as possible.”