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Friday, January 9, 2015

Moment of Truth: Pep Love on the Elbo Room and What the Bay Area Hip-Hop Scene Needs

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 1:34 PM

click to enlarge Pep Love performs tonight, Jan. 9, at the Elbo Room.
  • Pep Love performs tonight, Jan. 9, at the Elbo Room.
This piece is part of SF Weekly’s new weekly hip-hop column, Moment of Truth, beginning now with a conversation with Pep Love and then continuing every Tuesday here at All Shook Down. Moment of Truth will seek to address the pulse, vibe, and condition of hip-hop in the Bay Area and beyond; often bringing you takes from the personalities that form and live within the culture. And with that, here’s our inaugural Moment of Truth interview on Pep Love.

The Hieroglyphics crew isn’t just a Bay Area hip-hop staple, it's the Bay Area hip-hop staple. From 1998’s game-changing 3rd Eye Vision, to a slew of elemental solo releases from Hiero’s MCs, few albums from the Hiero Imperium catalog resonate as soundly as Pep Love’s 2001 existential and uplifting Ascension. The sage-like Oakland rapper just put out the Dolla Daily EP, his second release in the last three years, and checked in with us on a call ahead of tonight's (Jan. 9) show at Elbo Room to talk about his continuing career, Hieroglyphics and the state of hip-hop in the Bay Area.

Appreciate you taking the time to do this. You in Oakland right now?

I am. In the studio here in the industrial area, off of International Ave.

I know a lot of Bay area hip-hop cats grew up on Hiero and Ascension and are looking forward to the show on Friday.

No doubt. Think it could be one of the last events that they have at Elbo Room before they close down. It’s sad. That place has been there ever since I’ve been old enough to go out.

It’s definitely a cool place for an intimate hip-hop show. How many times have you played there?

Not too many, cause it’s a smaller venue. So like three or four. But it’s a local staple man. It’s a place that’s been there for a long time and it won’t be the same once it’s gone. But they got the Chapel right up the street, that’s a newer venue that’s pretty dope.

Let’s talk about Dolla Daily. Diggin it, it’s cool a EP and I’m happy y’all [Hiero] are making music still and going strong after all this time.

I was just reading about one of my favorite jazz musicians, Yusuf Lateef, who died last year [2013] at 93 years old and he played all the way til he died.

You know, music and creativity…the only reason you stop is ‘cause you lost the ability to do it. There’s no real reason to stop. It’s not like playing sports. Music, art, and creativity have nothing to do with how old you are, it’s just how good you are, really. 
So tell me this, on Dolla Daily, from your perspective, has your style changed at all? I hear a lot of it that sounds like classic Pep Love and some sounds different…so what’s changed about your style, if anything?

I look at it more like my style is just refined. I’m always starting things that are more appealing to both me and the general audience. I’ve toned down some of my vocal inflection and been more monotone cause its easier for me to get my point across and capture people’s interest. Along with the right kind of tempo/tone to the music. Vocally, to be monotone, is a way that you pierce through the music in people, just focusing on your words and enjoy singing along.

Another thing I don’t do, is I don’t really yell. The way I push my voice. I don’t try to pronounce every word to the last letter, which I used to try to do. I intentionally changed that about my style, which to me is just refining.

I’ve always liked your moments of when you have been monotone through your career, because you’re so naturally articulate.

Yeah…it’s just something I noticed because I started recording myself and was my own engineer. I’m engineering, writing and reciting the lyrics. And I noticed that I was getting better takes when I was more monotone, so I stuck with that in a way. My inflection is way more subtle than it used to be.

So you say you’re engineering. Is anyone else producing with you on Dolla Daily?

Dolla Daily was all me. I produced it all, but there was one track that my man Indeed produced, but other than that it was all me and I recorded myself the whole time. But i didn’t mix the record, obviously.

Right on. I love “Stargazin’” and “Parasail Ferris Wheel.” “Parasail..” feels like something out of a dream. Kinda like the title track on Ascension. What’s the imagery of a “parasail ferris wheel” and how’d you come up with it?

It’s meant to be a metaphor for the possibilities that life can bring you when you adopt a positive attitude and good vibe.
Nice. So switching gears for a second, your Wikipedia page says you’re a motivational speaker too. That’s new to me, is that something from the past?

[laughs] I have never been a motivational speaker! Ha…someone pulled that out of their ass. We try to edit that shit on Wikipedia, but they don’t let you do it. I don’t know where that comes from though...If they consider my lyrics to be motivational speaking, then I can say that. Some new-age concepts. But in general the conscious part of hip-hop has been a self-help type wisdom and philosophy for some.

What else are you doing besides hip-hop?

We own our own label, Hiero Imperium. I’m really involved with music mores than anything. Most of what I do revolves around music, even though I try to live a balanced life.

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About The Author

Adrian Spinelli

Adrian Spinelli

Hip hop and sandwiches.


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