After taking a two-year hiatus, New Orleans rapper Pell is feeling rejuvenated. Since the release of his 2015 EP LIMBO, he polished his artistry while expanding his résumé in other facets of entertainment, most notably the movie industry.
During his break, Pell found the time to learn new instruments and write scripts while also lending his hand to the score of the Oscar-winning film La La Land. Rather than let the Oscar fiasco between La La Land and Moonlight eat away at him, Pell shrugged if off with ease. “It is what it is. I’m glad that Moonlight got its recognition because it speaks more to me than La La Land did even though I was a part of it.”
Not only was Pell able to sharpen his skills for Hollywood, he also found a new home in the newly resurrected Payday Records, a partnership that he wanted all parts of. “Payday is rebranding and restarting right now and it feels like a team. Major labels always seem like factories or a corporation,” says Pell as he was accompanied by representatives of Payday Records at the Billboard offices. “I wanted to build on top of the team that I already had. To see it have extra members added and seeing this thing grow, that’s what I needed and that’s what I was missing and now I have that.”
The two-year journey that included partnerships and Oscar-winning movies birthed Pell’s newest EP, girasoul. Taking on the Spanish word for sunflower (girasol), Pell flipped the spelling and used the title as a metaphor symbolizing the growth that comes from leaving adversity behind. “Sunflowers look to the sun for their power and growth. Even when the sun is not out, they still would look up until they’re dying. So I felt like we should always look up even on our darkest days,” Pell explains. The six-track EP conveys the idea of overcoming hardships no matter what the issue is. “What is the saying? What’s food to the spider is death to the fly. Count your blessings as they come.”
Girasoul features production by Pell himself as well as Imad Royal, Rahki, and Billy Cigarettes. “It was an interesting time for me because I started producing a lot more,” Pell revealed to Billboard. “I did about 20 tracks which four of those are now on the EP.”
As for features, Pell enlisted help from Saba and VÉRITÉ, two artists that he feels annihilated their guest spots. “Saba is really dope and VÉRITÉ is a breath of fresh air. I couldn’t choose a favorite,” says Pell. Saba is featured on the record “throwback” and it reminds Pell of “Slow Jamz” by Kanye West, Jamie Foxx and Twista. As Pell puts it, “I’m the Jamie and Kanye and Saba is the Twista.” As for VÉRITÉ, the way she approached her lyricism on “golden” made Pell go and listen to all her projects. “She had been given a formula by me in terms of what I was writing to the song and she actually changed my mind on what it was.”
The first single off the project entitled “chirpin,” serves an ode to our obsession with technology. “Chirpin” was the first single from the project because I feel like it’s the most current of all the songs. It forced me to go out of my element and basically go with the flow a little bit more,” Pell explains to Billboard. “I feel people need to disconnect. Everybody has that feeling where they are on their phones too much. Essentially the world is hitting them up with so much noise that sometimes you have to remove yourself from it.” For Pell, he was able to cater to everyone’s taste palette on girasoul. From failed relationships on “golden” to disconnecting from the world on “chirpin” to reminiscing about the past on “throwback,” there’s a record for everyone.
As for the artist himself, the one record that resonates most for him comes in the form of Kanye West-inspired “lately.” “It stands out to me because I feel like to draw that line for yourself as an artist, you’re supposed to be completely unfiltered. We’re supposed to say the things that others wish that they could say and with the addition of the string quartet it brings it home. I was blown away,” Pell explains.
Pell’s growth in his artistry since LIMBO is illustrated with near perfection on girasoul. It’s his favorite project to date and the six songs represents a two-year journey as well as a musical improvement. Some artists find success in evolving their creativity, while other artists find success sticking to the formula. In Pell’s case, evolving is important.
“I always want to evolve. The people that I look up to were constantly evolving during their careers. Like Hov, Kanye, Pharrell, John Legend. The list goes on,” he reveals. “As long as your consistent in terms of quality and you have that as your base, it’s easy to build upon that foundation. I’m in this for pushing to the next thing. If it’s not in the culture at least with myself.”