Our Take • Joey Purp's 'iiiDrops'
There’s always been the prevailing sense that those in the middle of the country are raised with a deeper understanding of Americana, a thoughtfulness often lost on the coasts and pimped by the media outlets that called them home. It’s why an Indiana native like David Letterman held down a Late Night desk for over twenty-five years, it’s why writers from Chicago are often held to a different standard and it’s proving to be the driving factor behind the onset of the Chicago Renaissance we’ve been mentioning for a few years now, a movement that continued forward with the emergence of the another one of the city's talents, Joey Purp, who recently dropped his long-awaited iiiDrops project.
In January of 2014 I found myself standing in the downstairs space at Lacuna Artist Lofts in the Pilsen neighborhood as members of SaveMoney raced around me in wooden pedal-cars. Sidestepping Brian Fresco and settling into a seat across from Purp I can distinctly remember him explaining his outlook on the future. He spoke of a certain amount of relative jealousy for fellow rapper Sterling Hayes who had yet to release his own work. Speaking on expectations, he mentioned that he would have appreciated waiting to drop music until his twenties, pointing to his critically-acclaimed Purple Tape which he released at 17 as a project that may have reached the masses before he was personally ready for the attention. That scene pops up often while listening to iiiDrops, the message throughout feels realized, understood; he’s speaking from the mind of a father, a man, a provider that’s come a long way since that first project and it’s readily obvious throughout.
While the lead up to the release featured heavily on turn-up songs like "Run It Up", "Morgan Freeman" and "Performance Art Freestyle" the project as a whole is endearing moreso for deep cuts that resonate on a more personal level. Actually, it opens with just that on "Morning Sex" when Purp juxtaposes the kind of self-actualized understanding of life that comes from seeing a brother sent away to prison and friends fall to gunfire while trying to raise a child of his own, rapping "Feel my spirits looking at me from Zion/I know the stars looking at me for guidance/I see my momma tears, and heal em/I write my pains hope that y'all feel em." It's a sort of coming of age in real time, an updated journal entry that's been held from the world during workshop as the author grew and learned. Joey has long been considered one of the most authentically Chicago members of SaveMoney and he proves his chops on the conscious tip here and throughout on tracks like "Cornerstore" featuring Saba and theMind, "KIDS" and "Escape". It's a strong, welcome voice with a far-reaching message that's easily accessible.
Murder is a constant here in Chicago. An inescapable fact of life for some, a forgotten headline on a news story for others, the underlying sense of suffering is never far from the consciousness of those who come of age in the Second City. Whereas the Drill movement sought to report on the happenings of the city with in your face visual and singles as wrought with gunshots as the neighborhoods they talked about, a new wave of artistry has emerged to explain the area’s distinct but subtle contradictions with a more balanced understanding of the world, the city and the machine that has largely affected their lives. In many ways, Purp is central to that latter camp of storytelling. Able to aptly explain the danger of his city in the same breath as it’s positives with a vocal delivery that rarely strays from conversational, his latest work may be one of the most fully-realized illustrations of life in Chicago in 2016 for a young, black twenty-something.
Musically, the project is an apt look at a full-range of influences that should be immediately relevant to any kid who was born in the nineties and came of age in the early 2000s. “Girls @” featuring Chance The Rapper takes a throwback rhyme scheme and places it over a beat that sounds like it was torn from the pages of early Neptunes work, "Photobooth" arrives in a similar vein to the tracks we got since the beginning of the year from Purp and should be a regular on DJ's playlists while "Money & Bitches" comes off like a turn of the Millennium East Coast single that pits him alongside another rising Chicago legend in Mick Jenkins.
A uniting trend amongst all the artists that have evolved from the nucleus of SaveMoney has been the need to be more than ‘just a rapper’, Vic is the punk-leaning pariah, Chance the soulful happy Mom-approved savior, Towkio the footwork-inducing crossover dance act and Joey is the perfect embodiment of what SaveMoney sounds like when fully wrapped in the art of Rap.
Joey Purp is fly, fashionable, interesting, thoughtful, street, bougie all at once;.Joey Purp is the kid who did the dirt but was smart enough to know how to be successful despite his actions. His words underline the sentiments of the life he’s lived to this point and iiiDrops serves as an assertion of what many in his periphery have known he’s capable of since his teenage years. The first full-length we’ve seen from him since he graduated from a one to a two on the front end of his age and the evolution of his message is immediately evident, we just can't wait to see what's next.