Tomorrow, the Claremont Colleges will have a chance to see an emerging hip-hop star from the Windy City—for free.
Joey Purp, a 22-year-old MC from the South and West Sides of Chicago, has been part of the scene for a minute. His first project, “The Purple Tape,” dropped in 2012. By the end of 2015, Purp had contributed memorable features on critically-acclaimed projects by fellow SaveMoney members Vic Mensa, Towkio, and Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, and had also made a guest appearance on Comedy Central’s “Why? with Hannibal Burress.” Purp also paired up with Kami de Chukwu (another SaveMoney member) at the beginning of the year and released one of the decade’s most intriguing hip-hop mixtapes, “Season,” under the name Leather Corduroys.
“iiiDrops,” released for free online in June, is Purp’s best work yet.
The project, which blurs the line between album and mixtape, portrays Purp in a more complex light than his previous work. The opening track, “Morning Sex,” has Purp rapping about being caught in between our city’s notorious street violence (“I done seen both sides of the burner/I done witnessed both sides of the murder”) and the promising but stressful world of hip-hop (“Look in the mirror all I see is the money/I close my eyes all I see is the money”). Backed by a horn-heavy beat from Thelonious Martin and Donnie Trumpet, Purp reminisces about days filled with Hot Cheetos and “20 nickle dros” on the record’s fourth song, “Cornerstore.” He then proceeds to show us how his world has changed since, with his brother getting locked up and witnessing gentrification reshape his stomping grounds (“Now up in the corners where killers used to inhabit/They built a row of new condos where they tore down project buildings”).
Purp doesn’t shy away from today’s political atmosphere, either. On “When I’m Gone,” featuring heavy-bass production from The Gift, Purp raps: “The system just made a victim out of innocent people/Set us up for failure and teaching us that we are not equal/What if they close the police stations and the fire stations/And the school is shut down and politicians’ building vacant?”
But for every verse of so-called ‘conscious’ rapping, there is another that celebrates and glorifies the excesses of underground hip-hop stardom. “Girls @,” which has a playful guest verse from SaveMoney’s prodigal son, Chance the Rapper, Purp drops a verse that describe his favorite type of woman: “Where all the girls at?/With the credit cards and the high heels/The Mercedes Benz with the big wheels/When they hear this jam, they can’t stand still.” Unsurprisingly, “Girls @” has become the project’s most popular track, racking up over a quarter of a million views on YouTube. “Money & Bitches” has Purp bragging about outrunning the police with a suspended license and high on his own supply, unfazed: “If they catch me, seven or ten is my minimal sentence/But my Jesus piece fully golden and plus my pockets is swollen.”
The album’s combination of thoughtful tracks that deal with Purp’s personal dilemmas and more commercial-friendly hip-hop bangers was generally well received by critics. I’m not entirely sure how the performance will be received by the Claremont College community, though. For one, Purp’s notoriety on this side of the country is relatively small. Only a handful of friends not from Chicago recognized the name, and most of those who did weren’t too familiar with “iiiDrops.” Purp’s prolific use of the n-word might also not carry over too well on a campus notorious for its PC leanings, especially if white students shout it out as they’re singing along in the crowd—like many of them did during Isaiah Rashad’s show last semester at Nochella.
But, as a kid from the Southwest of Chicago, I can only hope for the best. Seeing this dude perform tomorrow is going to be strange. I’ve been following his music since high school, and him performing at Walker Beach is a confluence of two worlds I never thought would meet. I’m hyped, but hesitant. His hour-long set is longer than “iiiDrops,” which runs a little over 45 minutes. If we’re lucky enough, that might mean a SaveMoney guest appearance. Still, even if the performance isn’t the best, Daze should be a cool musical interlude between now and midterms. Find me near the stage trying to get an Instagram pic with Purp to show off to the homies back home.