(Interview by broken cool writer Maxine Ross)
Pill is 23 years old and hails from the oft linked city of Atlanta. The city that has become the land of dinner jackets, cigars and Bentleys. Or so they’ll have you believe. Behind the flashing lights, strippers and reality shows lies a harsh world hidden beneath the fabric of the rich and the supposed rich. Say what you may about the method but there is no denying the sincerity and realness captured in Pill’s latest video, “Trap Goin Ham.”
Capturing hood life in a way only before seen on DVD’s sold outside the Waffle House, this is a journey into the slums of the slums. The slums that have given birth to greatness both loved and reviled at the same time. Glorification is too easy a term. What Pill and directors The Motion Family have uncovered is the argument that we have been deadened to the existence of the struggle.
Pill talks with Brokencool.com about the controversy surrounding his new video, his purpose as an Atlanta native, Drake, Michael Jackson and much more.
Pill on Atlanta:
"Everything lately has been so shiny and nice but what about the other parts of Atlanta. We want you to see that. People are letting it die. They pretend like it don’t exist, they just drive by in their nice cars and ignore it."
Maxine Ross: I held off on watching your video until about 20 minutes ago and…wow.
Pill: I mean it was just an...um...raw and uncut view of the hood. I didn’t plan it. It was almost like a documentary. There were no props. It wasn’t like there was any staging it was just what the cameras caught . We went to the place that I’m from, where I grew up and the things that I’ve seen. We were able to visualize it through the song and the things I’ve been through so that we could let the world see it. It’s a visual of the music and where I’m from. A lot of people can speak on the places where they’re from and the things that they’ve been through but they can’t give you a visual that is so raw and real.
MR: How do you walk the line between authenticity and what is simply street cred?
Pill: That’s normal for me because I’ve been in that real live situation where I’m from the streets and that’s been my job. So I’m going to rap about it. I didn’t even know that it was going to make it in the video but that particular person chose to do it so that’s how it ended up in the video.
MR: Why do you feel the images make people so uncomfortable?
Pill: They feel like it’s glorification of the slums or Black America but I want people to see the part of Atlanta that they forgot about. I want people to see the country people. People don’t really understand it because there’s a lot of shiny cars and jewelry down here, and strip clubs. But there is more than that.
MR: So you are giving an idea of what’s really going down in the hood.
Pill: Yes. What’s really going down in the hood. I want to be the person to bring it to the forefront because people can talk about it but they are hiding it. They aren’t really letting people see how fucked up shit really is out here. It’s fucked up out here. When a person comes from a situation where they are cornered into that lifestyle it’s either slang the crack rock or the jump shot. I played all three sports basketball, baseball and football. Somehow when I graduated I ended up going to the streets because I chose to rap. When rap wasn’t feeding me right I had to do what I had to do. Even when I was in school I had to feed myself. It was hard to get a job and once you can’t get a job, it’s hard to survive out here for a grown man. People don’t understand that it’s not something you do by choice. A lot of people do this shit just to say that they do it or they’ve done it but a lot of people do it to feed themselves, pay their bills or feed their kids.
MR: A lot of rappers say they were gangsters or hustlers before becoming rappers. What fits you most?
Pill: I was always a hustler first. Even from childhood days when I was standing on a corner with pieces of paper telling people that I’m collecting money for the Boys & Girls Club to go on a football trip or something like that. It wasn’t really the case, I just needed the money. If it came to selling green, that’s just what happened. It’s the nature of the beast. I didn’t really ask to be in the streets in the way I was. It was just a part of my life and a part of my family. People don’t understand that when you are selling drugs it’s an addiction. Selling drugs is the addiction. That’s a place where you almost don’t have any hope. Like you are sucked into the lifestyle and the fast money.
I’ve grown up in damn near every hood in Atlanta. I’ve been moved around a lot because my mom. There’s nothing else that could have influenced me but the life I’ve lived in Atlanta. This is my home, this is my city. That’s all I’ve seen throughout life. You’re either going to be a big time ball player or a big time drug dealer. It’s the harsh reality. Either someone made it out the hood selling drugs or they made it out the hood playing ball.
MR: A lot of music coming out of Atlanta has been rough but still relatively safe. How in the hell are you going to get your video played on BET?
Pill: BET…well. It’s funny that you mention that because we just received the TV edit. All the other stuff is still incorporated into the video but, I want people all over America to see it. Even if it ends up on CNN being talked about, I just want people to see that side of Atlanta. Everything lately has been so shiny and nice but what about the other parts of Atlanta. We want you to see that. People are letting it die. They pretend like it don’t exist, they just drive by in their nice cars and ignore it. They’re afraid.
MR: There’s been a lot of chatter about the culture of Black people lately. Do you feel like your music is making just as much of a statement?
Pill: I’m here to uplift the people. That was a precursor of what I want to do and where I came from. I’m exposing you to my reality and where people see the struggle. I want to be the soundtrack of the struggle. I want to give people something to wake up and get down to. I want to be the soundtrack to their lives. I want people to understand that Atlanta ain’t peaches and cream down here! It ain’t all big rims or dance songs or the strip club. It’s the gutter. I want to uplift those people who had it bad, that’s who I speak for because I had it bad. I want to be able to speak for those that need to be spoken to. Who’s speaking to the people that are fucked up and don’t have shit? I want to do that.
MR: What direction are you going with your music?
Pill: I want to take my music somewhere that I can give you my point of view. I want it to be like a time capsule so that you can say, this is what was going on in Black America at this time. This is not a portrayal of Black America, it’s just a portrait of poverty. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about me. I’m here to show the people the dark side of Black America because only the good side is being televised and I want to give the people in the struggle something so they can keep pushing. I’m from the gutter and I want to be the message of those people.
MR: Tell me how you came to be known as ‘Pill’.
Pill: It came from football at the time but I turned it around as though I’m the medicine. I named myself Pill because you pop pills and it will erase your pain. Pill is like a metaphor for the pain, it can cause pain and it can erase pain. It’s a capsule.
MR: What’s your plan for the music?
Pill: I’ve got another mixtape coming out first. The video is off of The Prescription 4180. The next mixtape is going to be 4075 The Refill. After ‘The Refill’ that’s when the album will come out.
MR: With the recent passing of Michael Jackson, a lot of artists are talking about his influence.
Pill: My mother used to play all of those records. That was always my inspiration. I did the dance all the time. I had to do it. Not just because she told me to but because I love Michael Jackson. What kid in America, be it Black White, Asian, Greek, that doesn’t love Michael Jackson. Everyone loved Michael Jackson. I did the dance! I wanted the jacket with the zippers on it! I couldn’t afford it so I found one that looked like it and tried to make it look like the Michael Jackson jacket. Or with the glove and wrapped some aluminum foil around it! We made it work. I had the penny loafers! I tried to get a pair of the too tight pants and all of that! It is what it is.
MR: How do you plan, if at all to escape the ‘Trap Music’ lane?
Pill: That’s only one side of me. I just wanted to give people that side of me. There’s more to come. Stay tuned!
MR: Alright but if you start singing on R&B tracks, I’m not going to know what to do.
Pill: [LAUGHS] I’m not gonna be singing on no R&B tracks! I’m not Drake! No disrespect to Drake. That shit’s dope but that’s not me!
MR: Are you twittering like everyone else in the world?