“I really gotta protect these things right here,” Pi’erre Bourne says as he covers his ears, demonstrating what he does when new rap music is played around him.
The 25-year-old producer and rapper knows the role he’s played in redefining trap music over the past few years, and there’s no need to muddy his palette with anything average. “If you’re gonna play some music, play some Whitney Houston. Play some shit! Because I don’t wanna hear something that sounds like a beat I made. That’s the worst.”
Moments earlier, Pi’erre walked in to meet me at a hotel in New York’s Lower East Side. He was alone, which is pretty normal for him; he was raised as an only child and his family moved frequently. He currently has no management and, as our talk unfolds, no evident desire to be surrounded by anyone.
Pi’erre Bourne doesn’t have an open-door policy. Any fan of his knows he’s very choosy with his roster of collaborators. He’s famously worked closely with Young Nudy (most recently on their joint album Sli’merre) and Playboi Carti, and he’s produced songs for Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert, Trippie Redd, and a handful of others. But the ratio of those who call for Pi’erre beats to those who actually get them is wide. And as a solo artist, Pi’erre Bourne didn’t welcome features on his The Life of Pi’erre mixtape series and one-off EPs (including his most recent with producer Cardo).
Anything me and Carti do, or me and Nudy do, it just gets copied or imitated.
Pi’erre is uninterested in making hits without a reason, and he protects himself from the downfalls of virality by making career decisions based on familiarity and loyalty. He understands his role in the success of songs like “Magnolia” and “EA,” and he’s frustrated when labels and artists think they can use cheat codes to achieve the same results.
“If they can’t get ahold of me, everyone has really said, ’Fuck it,’ and they’ll go get a copy.” he says. “It’s the ones that don’t really know me—the ones that just need some beats—who I don’t like working with. They just want whatever will make people click the most.” While you can still win off a Pi’erre-type beat (“Statistics have shown it can be done,” he says), it’s discount versus designer.
His new album, The Life of Pi’erre 4, has been delayed for over a year because of sample clearances and management issues. “I really felt like I needed to make some changes in order for my project to come out,” he explains. “I made those changes and it’s coming out.”
Throughout our conversation, Pi’erre maintains that he’s indifferent about the industry obstacles he’s dealt with, and says he’s now more interested in staying out of the mix and sustaining a solid sense of self. As he’s awaited the release of TLOP4 and worked on projects like the newly released Sli’merre, Pi’erre has re-mapped the blueprint of his team, studied others’ mistakes and recalibrated his focus towards loved ones. At the time of our meeting, he had just returned from an insightful trip to Belize (home to the majority of his family) where he got a chance to explore a new appreciation for his blessings and accomplishments. Our conversation, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.
How was Belize?
Belize was cool. It was just hard to leave. I went as a kid, but this was my first time seeing everyone again. Basically my whole family lives there. It’s a really big family. Like, I didn’t even get to see everybody. Next trip I’m gonna be out there longer.
Did moving around so much as a kid shape you as a person?
It helps when I travel now because I’m used to being on the go, so when I have to go to this place or get up early, I’m not slow to get out of bed. I’m good at packing. I love traveling. I used to hate moving around because I hated having to meet new people and get new friends. But that helped, too.
Did being an only child shape you, too?
Now it’s easier to be independent. I’m a very independent person, so it works out. I have to get up and do things for myself, and I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.
Do you have a manager?
Right now, no. I fired my manager at the beginning of this year. I really felt like I needed to make some changes in order for my project to come out. I made those changes and it’s coming out.
What’s been going on? Is it really just sample issues?
To be honest, it’s a lot of bullshit.
I’m like the only person in the industry who really does everything himself.
Like industry shit?
It’s that, but... I don’t know. It’s so old now that I put it behind me. Everyone used to think I was crazy, off some conspiracy theory shit, but I really just be following my intuition. If I feel it in my gut that something’s wrong, something’s wrong. To sum it up, I just needed to reevaluate who I had around me. I was given a second chance to fix my infrastructure before the album comes out. Once it comes out, my life’s gonna change again, so I want the team to be well structured so it’s not a bunch of chaos when it does go up. It used to make me mad, but now it’s cool.
Have you always been the kind of person that keeps to himself?
I’m big on vibes. I’m like the only person in the industry who really does everything himself. I don’t know if that makes people feel some type of way—if they like it, fear it, are intimidated by it. I honestly don’t know, but I’m just being myself.
I don’t really know what the delay [with the album] was. It’s a lot of bullshit. I’ve worked on a lot of people’s projects, and people don’t understand that they really fly me out somewhere and I’m locked in for a month straight, then the song might never come out. So everyone’s looking at me like, ‘Where’s your album?’ And it’s like, ‘I was with this person! Then I was with this person!’ One time they was acting like I couldn’t tweet about it; I couldn’t post. So shit like that happens. It’s been a real deal learning experience. At first, I used to really get upset and ask, ‘Why is it like this?’ But now it’s just like, it’s life. Shit happens. I refuse to stress about something over and over and over again. It gets old.
But to see you remaining solid and not changing yourself for anyone is cool.
That’s one thing I will say I was afraid of: people trying to change me. That’s really what I was big on, just making sure I don’t change.
When did you decide that?
When I was a kid. Me and my uncle had a lot of “what if” conversations. They were so in-depth that we had a whole plan. It was like, if [I get famous], I already know what I wanna do. But at first, it was happening so fast that I didn’t even get to do what I wanted to do. I was doing what everyone else around me wanted me to do. I was just going with the motions, learning, until I figured out what was best for me. And once I figured that out, it was like, I might still stick around or I might remove myself. It’s been a lot of that: figuring out certain vibes.
I haven’t really linked with a lot of people, either. When me and Carti were going up, I didn’t want to ruin what I had going on trying to chase something when I didn’t even know what the outcome could possibly be. I’m comfortable with what's going on. Other producers wanna go work with this person, this person, this person. I don’t do that shit. I really gotta fuck with you. I don’t want this shit to come out and we’re not cool. That’s already happened to me before and I refuse to let that happen to me again. I wanna be a part of the success of the song; I don’t wanna just see the post, like, ‘Damn, that’s a big ass crowd!’ I wanna feel it too. That way, it could possibly inspire some more music, another beat, any other form of creativity. I don’t wanna miss out on the shit we worked so hard for. I want it to be real so we can recreate it.
Being around so many different artists, do you see commonalities in the way an artist like Nudy records vs. Kanye, for example?
Everybody has their own style. Even if someone might say this person sounds like that person, everyone has their habits. They might have this pack of Backwoods, this weed, this kind of food, this girl… All these things I look at are key ingredients to what they’re about to make. So if they make a good song, everything they had that day is part of that formula.
Where are you most comfortable? Who’s around you?
I’m most comfortable with my friends, my childhood friends. It’s been cool to have them in my sessions when I’m out here. It’s not even that I feel safe, but I feel like I can be myself. They knew me before everything. I’m good by myself too, though.
What are the most important things to you right now?
Are you religious?
I am. See, I’m trying to keep this music shit just music. The minute I start talking about other shit, they’re gonna find reasons to not like me. I’m not gonna be that kind of artist. I’m learning from Kanye. Some shit he does, I would never do.
These [points to Yeezys on his feet]. I like Nikes. I don’t wear these, Carti got these for me. [Laughs]. I was at his house yesterday morning, and he was like, “You want some Yeezys?” After my Belize trip, I’m not turning down anything because I can’t take anything for granted. Somebody presents something to me, and even if I don’t want it, my cousins in Belize might want it, so that’s my whole philosophy now.
But I will say, faith is everything, with anything in life. You have to have faith in something. But there are non-believers. And that’s what I’m saying, I don’t wanna upset anyone. When I was in college, that’s when I learned, everyone is not like me. Some of the people in my class would say the craziest shit and it was really their opinions. I was like, “This is the world? Fuck. All right. I’ll just leave my thoughts to myself.” I want my fans to just like the music and not make them turn away. That’s probably why I stay out the way.
Does that ever stop you from saying what you want to say?
I mean, when I’m doing shit like this, hell nah, I cannot speak my mind. I gotta realize it’s a publication, and people are watching. I don’t wanna say nothing to lose an opportunity. I’ve done shit like that—tweeted something and people twisted it into some whole other shit—and then it’s like, damn, I’m the evil guy. I don’t wanna add more fuel to that because that shit ain’t real. I’m a good guy. If anything, I’m trying to change people’s lives. I’m trying to set a better example for myself. I feel like sometimes, with social media shit, people get a perception of me, and you can’t really dictate what that perception is, which is why it sucks.
It sucks. I try to stay off of it as much as possible.
Me too, and that’s been helping too. I got hacked like the first month I was famous.
That’s why you named that song “Hacked My Instagram”?
Hell yeah, that was not a gimmick. That was to let everyone know my Instagram was hacked.
Where do you get your song titles from?
That’s a good question. Random. “Planet Namek”? “Honeyberry”? “Pokeball”? “Michael Phelps”? [Laughs]. I be trolling all the time. Like, they really gonna call it this shit. I have a long ass list of just words. But I always figure out a way to connect it to the song. The first song on my album’s called “Poof,” and in the song I say something about magic. There’s another song about someone going through my phone and finding some shit: that one’s called “Feds.” It’s like metaphors, like a code. And I learned that you really get them to learn the title of your fucking song that way.
That goes with the energy of the music. You keep it pretty light and positive. It goes with your personality, too. It’s all making sense, having had this conversation.
That’s really what’s missing, the face and my personality. Everyone knows the name, they don’t know me. Even when I go [on Instagram Live] I’m just in the studio playing music. Eventually, they feel like they’ve figured me out, I guess. But that’s all I give to the world. Eventually I figured out that they’re gonna record this shit and it’s gonna go on YouTube in a couple hours. So I be careful what I say. Once it’s out, it’s out. Luckily, I’ve never said anything crazy [on Instagram Live].
I don’t wanna hear something that sounds like a beat I made. That’s the worst, when someone tries to put me on to new music and it sounds like sh*t I made.
A lot of artists stunt their careers by showing too much of themselves on social media.
People get addicted to the rush. It’s a rush of just, love. People got different levels of insecurity. Someone with low self-esteem gets famous, and everybody’s like, “I love you, I love you!” Then hell yeah, they’re gonna be on their phone all the time. Someone who don’t really give a fuck about that shit, who’s happy with themselves, they’re not gonna go to their phone because they already have what they need.
A lot of people in the industry, it’s like high school. There’s the cool kids, the girls, and people handpick who they bring to their clique. I’m just in the middle like, “Sup, y’all? I’m good.” That’s why I’m excited for my shit to drop. I really managed to remove myself from a lot of people’s shit. At first I used to be mad like, “Damn, this is taking forever to come out.” But now, when it do come out, it’s gonna be a good fucking day. The music sounds good, so now I’m like, let’s see what the world says.
Do you have a bigger intention or motive underlying your career?
Since I was a kid, I felt like I was supposed to change the world. It might sound crazy. Then I started to think I could change the world with the power of music. One thing I saw with Michael Jackson and the “We Are the World” song was he had everyone on the industry on one song. I was like, “That’s how you’re supposed to do it. Bring everyone together.” What other purpose are we here for than to make the world better for whoever’s next?
In Belize, their clouds look different than here because the pollution shit is a real big deal. Traveling a lot has made me more aware that shit is really fucked up. So it’s either I’m moving to Belize or helping to do some shit out there, but I really wanna help.
This trip seems like it was a big deal for you.
Before, I was a kid, and I was telling everyone I wanna rap, and now I come back and everyone’s like, “You did it.” My cousin was like, “I remember you came here and you were rapping to me.” I was like, “I was in fourth grade—I don’t remember that shit!” In their eyes, I did it. I gotta keep it going. In the long run, if I do keep going and I keep going up, I could be a real big deal someday.
Do you like any new music that’s out right now?
I don’t listen to nobody. I’m the worst when it comes to people talking to me about new music or if I’ve heard anything that recently came out. It’s been like that for years now. I really filter music. I really get upset when people play shit because I don’t listen to anything. I’ve done a real good job of protecting my ears. When people play music around me, it’s like [covers ears]. It might be somebody famous and they gonna be really be mad like, “You don’t fuck with my music?” They gonna really be upset with my reaction, but I really gotta protect these things right here.
I don’t like talking bad about people’s music, but a lot of music is just trash to me. A lot of music right now is just like, bah bah bah, bang the keys, and the beat just be off. There’s no substance, so it’s like if I’mma listen to some music, it can’t even be rap music. I don’t even wanna hear it. If you’re gonna play some music, play some Whitney Houston. Play some shit! Because I don’t wanna hear something that sounds like a beat I made. That’s the worst, when someone tries to put me on to new music and it sounds like shit I made. Like, you’re telling me about some shit, like it’s some real insightful thing, when they got inspiration from my stuff. Like, this is ass-backwards! Like, really. What the hell are we listening to this for if they’re listening to us?
That’s really what’s going on. Anything me and Carti do, or me and Nudy do, it just gets copied or imitated. So instead of listening to anything, just stay in the front seat. Keep making shit for them to copy.