JOEY PURP is redefining what it means to hustle. As a byproduct of Chicago’s eclectic neighborhoods, from Lincoln Park to Garfield Bridge, the 22-year-old has become one of the pillars of the SaveMoney crew: a group of hard knock success stories that’s cultivated ambition from the onset while providing a relatable voice for the city’s youth and beyond. They’ve made beats for the sake of making beats and revived gospel and footwork, but they’ve also inspired one another to be something bigger.
The proof is in Purp’s latest project, iiiDrops, The 11-track effort features the likes of Chance, Vic Mensa, Saba, Mick Jenkins, theMIND, and Knox Fortune, and it’s a definitive coming out party for an MC that tackles flows like a Chicago Bears linebacker. His charisma shines through via booming horns and an effortless bravado on “Photobooth” and “Morning Sex”, but when he’s not chest-thumping over spikes of energy, Purp’s anxious to disclose his personal views. “White kids deal with problems that we never knew to bother,” he raps on “Cornerstore”. “Arguing with they dads, we pray we ever knew our fathers”.
With iiiDrops being a sleeper hit, we recently caught up with the Chicago native for a quick chat about his new project, SaveMoney, and why he’s focused on making “dope shit”.
When did you first get into hip-hop and rap music?
It’s been a lifelong thing I suppose. I’ve always been into rap and shit. When I started getting older, it became more apparent that it could be more of a serious thing. I didn’t really realize it at first. But once I did, I started taking it more serious.
How has your taste in music changed since then?
I think it’s just gotten more potent and personal. It just got better. I’ve become a more mature person and I know myself more so I know what I like and what I don’t like.
Well, if you could collaborate with any artist right now, who would you work with?
Man, I don’t know. That’s a loaded question. I would say Lil Wayne, obviously, because he’s an icon and he’s one of the greatest influences in my life musically and otherwise. Lil Wayne would definitely be one. But outside of that, I’d say Pharrell just because I’m a huge fan of everything he produces.
If you could have written one song, from any artist dead or alive, what would you pick?
Definitely “Heroin” by Lou Reed, because the writing is amazing. Or maybe something from Frank Ocean. Everything he writes is amazing too.
Frank Ocean needs to drop the new shit already. I’m tired of waiting.
Yeah, I know. It’s a lot closer than everybody thinks though.
Where were you at in your life when you first started working on The Purple Tape?
I was just a kid, honestly. I had friends that rapped a lot and made mixtapes, but I was an adventurous kid. It was cool at the time but after that, I realized that I had bigger responsibilities to the people listening to my music to be making that quality of music. I just felt like I wasn’t putting enough effort into it. Once I grasped that and understood it all, things just started clicking.
Given the overall vibe of iiiDrops and certain tracks such as “Girls” and “Photobooth”, do you write songs with a specific audience or listener in mind?”
It’s whatever the vibe is, honestly. Whenever I hear a song or listen to the instrumental for a song, I just kind of feel out the vibe. That’s just what I do with it.
What was it like working with Vic, Chance, Knox, and the others on this project now that everyone’s generating a crazy amount of buzz?
It was the same as always. I mean, we don’t necessarily talk about that stuff amongst each other. We just kind of make music, you feel me? We treat the idea of making music together the same way that we did when we were kids. It’s just natural.
What was it like working with Mick Jenkins? When did you first meet?
Oh, I’ve known Mick for years now. He lives in the city and we both make music so we chill. But this was our first time making a song together and we just knew it was coming. So when I was working on my project, he came through for a couple of days to catch the vibe and we ended up with “Money & Bitches”.
How would you compare iiiDrops to your previous work?
I think it’s just more personal as I said before. It’s more accurate; it’s a more accurate and sharper picture of the imagery that I’m trying to paint, you know what I mean? It’s just better and it’s more mature and closer to who I am as a person. It’s a more rounded out sound.
How has the city of Chicago played a part in shaping that sound?
Man, the city is everything to my sound. It’s just the experiences that I lived through. I don’t really have a sound as much as I have a viewpoint because all of the songs on the project are different sonically. The city created this perspective that I have now and it allows me to make music in the way that I do.
What does the SaveMoney crew mean to you and your career?
It means less to my career than it does to me personally. SaveMoney is a family. Primarily, if I wasn’t rapping or if none of us were making music, we would still be friends and we would still be family. But when it comes to my career, we’re like a focus group of sorts. We just come together and bounce ideas off each other and make dope shit.
Why do you think the crew has had such an influence over the current hip-hop scene?
I don’t know. I probably couldn’t answer that as well as somebody else could. I think primarily because we strive to be ourselves which makes us different from other people, if that makes sense. It’s original because with music, we’re very us.
Well, you recently posted a pic on your Instagram of you, Vic, and Chance, freestyling at a show back in the day. Do you miss the carefree days of being an “unknown” or are you now more focused on making a name for yourself?
It was never really an “unknown” thing for us because Chicago has always had a buzz around it. I definitely reminisce often about the days that were simpler but I’m never unappreciative of the blessings we’ve been receiving lately.
What do you think separates Chicago rappers from the rest?
I think it’s perspective. It’s the same thing that separates Chicago from everywhere else. It’s just about appreciating the environment that creates a certain feeling.
In terms of your career, how do you maintain individuality as an artist?
I don’t know. I guess it’s about being comfortable with myself at all times.
Do you tap into any artistic facets outside of music that you find help with your creative process?
A heavy influence in my music is the way people carry themselves — like a conversational analysis throughout the day with what people say and what makes them move. I don’t think it’s really like a physical art. For me, it’s more like “people watching”.