SpaceGhostPurrp is the glue that bonds the modern rap scene together. Well, at least he could be, if he didn’t dwell in the same shadowy nooks his music inhabits. Purrp has a new album out this week, Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp, and he’s booked collaborations with A$AP Rocky, Main Attrakionz and the oversized Odd Future clan. But when Hive asked the Florida rapper and producer if he’d like to work with Rocky again and he simply said, “No.” He said he’d rather work with Eazy-E and 2Pac, two Cali connections that are much harder to make.
This idea of existing in another world — away from the mainstream ambitions of the A$AP kids and inside his music’s own otherworldly aura — defines Purrp’s new album, The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp. Earlier this year Purrp told Hive that his record was about “chilling.” He was lying, unless Purrp’s take on “chilling” means chasing inner demons to a brooding soundtrack that could easily score a scene in some suspense flick. At its best, his formula frightens: “Get Yah Head Bust” comes off like fight-club music for fiends. And the softer and more carefully he speaks, the more menacing his threats about being “the black ghost” become. (The song’s accompanying video keeps with the creepy vibe, with warped footage of Purrp on stage performing to a crowd that resembles a room full of hypnotized cult followers.)
Purrp knows his tracks are bleak and dusky. “I make dark music,” he admitted. “My whole style is just to evolve and be raw and make the music that I feel at that time.” Even when he wants to appeal to the dancefloor, as he tries to with the album cut “Danger,” (a track he called, “… a hot song for the club, for parties and shit,”) the outcome is somber. He said it has something to do with growing up in Florida. “I’m South Side for life, Tri-County,” he said. “That’s Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade. When people look at Miami they see palm trees, and it’s like that, but the people are the complete opposite. So being from here made my music sound dark ’cause it’s a dark place.”
Miami’s hip hop history often focuses on the uptempo, party-centered bass scene, co-opted by Rick Ross’s blockbuster portrayal of the high-end drug dealer, but Purrp’s sound lives away from his regional roots. It’s this willingness to travel beyond the templates of his local forefathers that makes him a kindred (if unwilling) spirit with the other generation-now rappers. A$AP Rocky, born Rakim Mayers, was named after the golden-era rapper Rakim and hails from Harlem, but he likes to hook his music around Houston-styled slowed down vocals; the stand-out cut on Los Angeles tykes Odd Future’s last mixtape, “Oldie,” could have been written by a ’90s indie Brooklyn rapper. Once upon a time, the idea of a New York rapper spitting over a Southern-styled bounce track would be enough to have them ostracized from the five boroughs, but there’s a modern tolerance now that helps to fuse the artists’ music together. So when Purrp’s voice is digitally manipulated to drawl, “Fuck what they say, Ima do me” on “Raider Prayer,” it could easily be A$AP Rocky on the hook.
Purrp has produced songs for Rocky and Main Attrakionz. Recently, Odd Future’s lost boy found, Earl Sweatshirt, tweeted at him, “Let’s do the thang bruh.” But when we asked Purrp about his plans he distanced himself from his peers, instead remembering a Three 6 Mafia tape that changed his life. He’s since worked with the Triple 6 leader, Juicy J, and there’s more than a passing demonic haze to both artists’ output. So perhaps it’s natural for Purrp to pick deceased rappers as his fantasy production foils. These hookups are far removed from the rising Internet rap scene, but perhaps Purrp’s plan has been otherworldly all along. After all, what’s more underground than the underworld?
Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp is out now via 4AD.