Producer and rapper Pi’erre Bourne wasn’t on anyone’s radar a few years ago, but listening back to this year in rap, the 24-year-old from Queens put his stamp all over it. Producing a series of crossover hits featuring his muffled bounce, his big songs got under your skin and messed with your rhythms.
Pi’erre’s summer jams with Playboi Carti—“Magnolia” and “wokeuplikethis”—were everywhere. So was “Uh Oh Thots!” for Trippie Redd and XXXtentacion. This winter, the Pi’erre-produced smash is “Gummo” by 6ix9ine, perhaps the hardest-sounding NYC street track since Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Boy.” Pi’erre disavowed the song after 6ix9ine was accused of sexually assaulting a minor, but you don’t always get to choose what song hits (or apparently where your beats go).
The sound that Pi’erre cooked up was so hot this year that the viral sensation “The Race” by Tay-K 47 was created over a knock-off composition produced by S. Diesel originally entitled “Pi’erre Bourne x Playboi Carti Type Beat,” It’s currently at around 100 million views on YouTube.
Rounding out the best year of his young life, Pi’erre also produced damn near full projects for Playboi Carti and Young Nudy, popped up on Big Sean’s and 21 Savage’s albums, toured with Drake (he’s providing beats for his next project) and got his own imprint on Interscope: Soss House Records.
Talking on the phone from Miami where he was headed to the studio, Pi’erre did not give away the secret sauce to his beats as part of our Big Year, Big Talk series. But he did talk about getting hacked, moving to Atlanta for audio engineering school and sleeping in his car, executive producing the next Carti record, and why his own next solo album, The Life of Pi’erre 4, is coming out on February 10, the anniversary of Kanye West’s College Dropout.
You’re out in Miami, producing and recording Carti’s next album and The Life of Pi’erre 4. How’s that going?
It’s great. We’re just tying everything together now. We’re about 85% done with both. We got the songs. I just want to try something a little different on this project, as far as Carti’s shit. Anything that I do on his shit, I want it to stand out.
The last Carti album had such a recognizable and coherent sound. How are you changing that going forward?
Really, on the first project, me and Carti had just met each other. Now we’re way more comfortable working together. I pretty much know what he wants to do next. It’s not going to be too different as far as what everyone’s heard, I’m not changing my beats completely, I’m just trying new things and Carti’s fucking with it. I’m not going to say we’re the same person, but if I make a bunch of beats in a day and then pick two or three, more than likely, Carti’s going to pick those beats. Same wavelength.
Did I read correctly that Papoose is your cousin?
Yes, my cousin Dada Stone is Papoose’s cousin. He used to rap with Papoose in Papoose’s group Thuggacation when I was younger, but I never got to meet him. When I was staying in New York, he was doing a video. I think it was on Labor Day or some shit. You had to wear an all-white outfit, but I couldn’t go to the video shoot because I didn’t have the clothes. I was so hurt. I was like, “I’ll hop on the train quick!” It was in the city and my grandma lives in Queens right by the train. They were like, “Nah, don’t even worry about it, you don’t got the clothes.” I didn’t want to show up and play myself. It’s all good though.
He’s married to Remy Ma, who we also featured in one of our Big Year, Big Talk interview.
When they find out, that shit’s gonna be crazy. They’re gonna call my cousins and be like, “What the fuck?!”
They do rap music and you do rap music. Do you see your styles overlapping at all?
It’s a possibility. Both of them can rap their asses off. I fuck with their relationship because both of them can really rap.
You had a giant 2017: “Magnolia,” Nudy Land, “Uh Oh Thots,” “Poles,” “#FREESMOKE,” “Reason.” That’s a bunch of big songs.
It’s been a huge blessing. Last year, in my mind I wanted to do all this shit, but I did not know that I would. Me and and Young Nudy had been working for a while, and I met Carti because he was a big fan of Young Nudy and he heard my beats before. But honestly I don’t know why all this success happened. If I was to pull my beats from 2011, 2012 until now, it’s the same characteristics. I didn’t have to change anything. It’s awesome. So organic that it’s weird. A lot of people have to do all kinds of extra shit to get on, but the game came to me at the perfect time. I’ve been preparing.
Were you surprised by how well the Carti record was received?
Yeah. Carti leaked “wokeuplikethis” early before the album. And we got such a good response, it shocked me. That was the first song we did. When we were going back in working on more songs, we did “Let It Go.” And then I thought we were done with the album, so when I made the “Magnolia” beat, I thought we were working on the next project. But that shit was so hard, we couldn’t play ourselves. He put it on his shit and it went crazy. I’m excited for our next shit. I want to fuck the game up.
People describe your sound as “lo-fi,” but you’re an engineer and you could make your music sound however you want it to. So it’s a chosen style not a technical limitation. Do you feel like that’s a point that gets misunderstood?
Yeah, definitely. On Carti’s first album I didn’t sample anything either. No chopping up samples. I love to do that, but I didn’t do it. There’s a lot I can do, I’m just not doing it all the time. They got a little bit of Pi’erre and the world went crazy. They don’t even know what I have to bring to the table, for real for real.
How do you get that hazy, layered, sanded-off sound?
When I play my melodies… I don’t know, I just put my all into it, into the instrumentation. I’m not just bullshitting around, whether or not it might seem simple to someone else. The vibe is there. I make sure I got the right vibration. I know how to put that vibe together.
That’s what comes across, your songs have an atmosphere to them. Almost like a smell. Or a color.
Yeah, purple. Dark purple. That’s the color.
How do you feel your skills as an engineer influence your production?
It helped with levels, learning what shit was too loud, what frequency ranges are good, that kind of thing. I was producing before, but I was self-taught, so going to school for engineering, it was more like, “Oh, that’s why I was doing. That’s the knob I was turning and that’s what it does.” I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just playing around, creating.
Do you still use the same production software that you did before engineering school?
Yeah, FL. I still use Fruity Loops. It was hard to find a copy of Fruity Loops on my Mac computer, because my engineering school gave me a Mac computer, so it took a while to find the right Fruity Loops. In the meantime, I used Ableton, which I like. So I use those together. I heard Studio One is dope though, and Reason. I want to use those.
What are your wildest dreams for Soss House, your imprint on Insterscope?
To be the biggest label of all time. Best music, best art, videos, films, commercials, something on somebody’s Instagram… I want us to change the culture, to have a big impact on the world with the brand and label. Right now, I know because of people finding out I went to school for engineering, people are enrolling in the SAE Institute schools. I have an influence based off my path and journey. The success that’s in my future, that’s what I’m trying to change the world with. If they see me do it, they know they can do it, too.
How’s the Drake album sounding so far?
I haven’t heard it. I’ve been working in the studio with Carti since I got off tour with [Drake], but we’ve been communicating every day. He’s out here actually, so I might pull up on him today or tomorrow and see how that shit is sounding. But I already know it’s crazy, it’s Drake. It’s fucking Drake! That shit is going to sound amazing. I’m lucky to be a part of it.
When you work with another artist and it’s their song, do you want to have a final say over the mixing?
Hell yeah! I love to be involved in the process of the song. I like to be in the studio so if things can go a certain way, I can speak up. I might have an idea, and since I made the beat, I know how to change it. Now everyone’s trusting me more. If I can’t get in the studio with people, I have them send the song back to me as stems, so I can do post-production. That’s really what I’m mostly doing as a producer. After the vocals are down, I’ll go back in and make that shit sound incredible so we both make a masterpiece. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get that back into the culture. Back in the day people used to have jam sessions. It wasn’t just, Take this, record this, put it out—and then get your ego stroked off it. You know what I’m saying? I want to do it the right way, and make music for the world to love and receive. Like some Quincy Jones shit. Some real producer shit. Legendary shit.
One day maybe you’ll be on your Quincy Jones shit, directing string sections and orchestras and all that.
That would be so cool! Just think if they played some of those Carti songs, though. We didn’t even get time to do anything like that. I’ve recorded people playing saxophone and trumpet in the studio before. Trust, I’ve got a bunch of stuff up my sleeve, I’m just trying to do it the right way.
You also rap, and I read you used to be way more of a bars-focused, writer-type rapper. You’re more about vibe now. What changed? And in general, what are you hoping your raps can deliver?
One, I want to be the biggest rapper ever. That was my first dream ever as a kid. I would tell my mom, “I’m going to be like Lil Bow Wow.” She was like, “You better do your homework and stay in school.” But the beats took off first. As far as bars, I could always write. I’m just having fun now, though. I see what everybody likes. I’m not going to play myself and make a bunch of ’90s hip hop songs right now. That’s not what the world is gravitating to right now, that’s not what they’re playing in the clubs. It’s my bounce. So honestly I can shift it whenever I want to. But right now I’m having fun with what’s going on.
I know it’s not new, but I wanted to say how refreshing it was to hear Bob James’ “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” in your song “Drake & Chill.” With all this talk about the generational divide, here you are as one of the young people coming up and you’ve got the same loop as Run-DMC’s “Peter Piper.”
My family’s from Queens. My grandma moved to Jamaica, Queens, from Belize in the ’60s. She had my mom, had a lot of kids out there, and their peers were Run-DMC, LL Cool J. That shit is crazy now that I’m doing music, because I was born way after that, but my mom is like, “If you only knew the people I used to see growing up!” It’s not like she told me growing up and it influenced me to do this. She told me later on. It’s like it was meant to happen. I grew up down south but my whole music influence is Queens, it’s New York. I learned how to rap up there, make beats, chop up samples, downloaded Auto-Tune up there when I was 12. I’ve always had the New York influence but I grew up down south, going to parties with girls twerking to Gucci Mane and “Laffy Taffy,” the snap era. That’s why that bounce is in my beats. I got a weird combination, but everyone’s getting exposed to it. I could go crazy with east coast shit, Dipset shit with the samples high-pitched. But that’s not what niggas want from me right now. They want that bounce. The sound’s gonna change though, because everybody can’t keep doing the same thing.
This was an amazing year for music but there was definitely a lot of people sounding the same. What’s the next wave?
I don’t know, but whatever it is, somebody’s going to copy it. People are copying me and lot of other hot producers right now. Sometimes I’ll be on Instagram and click play and be like, “Did I make this beat?!” I never felt that way until this year. At first, I didn’t understand what I did. I fucked the world up. “Pi’erre Type Beats”—that’s a thing.
It’s so prevalent, I was gonna ask:,does it upset you to see noname producers trying to sell a “Pi’erre Bourne type beat?”
Nah. I started seeing those type things last year when I was working with Nudy on YouTube. When you typed my name that was the autofill search result: Pi’erre Bourne Type Beat. Now, it’s crazy. An abundance of beats are made to be like mine. They’re copying the beats they heard. They aren’t copying the beats on my laptop. They can’t copy my mind.
They can’t copy all that Queens influence mixed wit 2007 snap rap.
Nah, they can’t.
I would love to hear that 2007 shit come back. Hyphy, snap rap…
It was some feel good shit. Everybody was just having a good time.
I also wanted to talk about “Hacked My Instagram Pt. 1 & 2.” That song is great.
That was never supposed to come out until TLOP 4, but I put it out when my Instagram got hacked. The story behind that was, I was feeling myself after the Carti shit came out. My Instagram was going up and I thought I was getting verified. I was like, “I know I’m getting this blue check soon!” So I got this email, clicked the link, my dumbass logged in and they took over my shit. It was downhill from there. I didn’t know any other way to let everyone know I got hacked. So I changed my passwords on everything else, including my SoundCloud (they tried to get into that, too) and posted that song to let everyone know. Because I would never post anything crazy. I didn’t have any other platforms to let people know, so I just put the song out. I didn’t know everyone was going to go crazy on it. I love that song. All this shit I say in that song really happened. I was living in my Escalade, because my dumbass moved to Atlanta and didn’t know SAE didn’t have dorms. My mom had just moved back to New York. I was like, damn, what am I gonna do! Just figure it out. I slept in my truck until I could get an apartment. It was cold as fuck.
What year was that when you were living in your truck?
2014, February. Right when that ice storm hit Atlanta.
So you were homeless, but you had an Escalade.
Yep. I’d go to my homie’s house, take a shower, and then his parents would kick me out of the house. I’d be like, “Damn, it’s cold!” Everybody knew I didn’t have any relatives down there. I went down there to focus on music, I dropped everything else, so I couldn’t just turn around. I mean I could have turned around, but I had dope beats and I knew if I could just stay in Atlanta, it would work out. Then I met Young Nudy, and that’s like my brother now. I’m good.
That’s a crazy story.
I ain’t even really told everybody. I want to put the story in my music. If it’s in interviews, I feel it spoils it.
So when they hacked your Instagram, what did they do with it?
They posted crazy shit but then blocked me so I couldn’t see. When I got it back, I saw they were messaging hella girls, trying to get nudes, numbers from a bunch of rappers. They hit up everybody. Not everybody responded, but a lot of people did, like, “What’s good bro? FaceTime me!” They were getting a lot of famous rappers’ numbers. It was around the time everybody was getting to know who I was, but I didn’t have a lot of followers. I guess my new followers probably didn’t know I was hacked. It was a bad time.
You have a super recognizable producer drop—a door creaking open and Jamie Foxx saying, “Yo Pierre, you wanna come out here?” What have you gained from that?
People know who I am. A lot of producers are overshadowed. Nobody cares to look for credits, so tags at the beginning reminds people that Pi’erre made this. And then if it’s a hard ass song, it solidifies it. If it’s a wack ass song? It wouldn’t do it justice. But because the song is crazy, it blew it up.
Not everyone does it. You never hear “It’s Kanye West on the beat, hoe.”
Yeah, but he got certain sounds. You can tell it’s Ka anye’s beat. Like if you listen to “Baby Girl” on 21 Savage’s shit, you can tell that’s mine just because of certain percussion I use. If you use certain sound effects, you can stand out. Some producers might be scared to use it, too. They might think the artist would take that off.
When is The Life of Pi’erre 4 coming out? And when is the next Playboi Carti album coming out?
TLOP 4 is coming out on the College Dropout anniversary [February 10]. And Carti, he’s rare, so you have to ask him.
Is TLOP 4 coming on on that anniversary because you’re such a Kanye fan? Or because the title is like The Life of Pablo? What’s the connection there?
You gotta see! You’ll see in a couple months. I feel as though I’m the new Ye. I don’t want to be a self-declaring type of guy, but I watched his documentaries on YouTube, and after some shit happened in my life, I’m like, “Damn, I went through a lot of the same shit.” This year I started going through a lot of what he was going through as he started his rap career. His production was going up first, but he wanted to rap. That’s why I felt like I should drop it on the College Dropout anniversary. Watching interviews from back then and how he responded, prepares me for what I’m doing now.