Floridian SoundCloud rappers and philosophical Shakespearian quotes may be on to something. Just as Juliet pondered whether a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, so too can we ponder if that which we call Smokepurpp by any other name would sound just as lit. The other name, in this instance, simply being Purpp. “I feel like it's more friendly than having Smoke in my name — not that I don't smoke or anything,” explained the rapper and producer from somewhere in Sofia, Bulgaria. Its here, in the middle of the Balkans, that Purpp has come for the first stop on a European tour that’ll see him go everywhere from Stockholm and Moscow to Barcelona and Berlin. It’s all part of the meteoric rise of the 21-year-old musician who released his first tracks on SoundCloud a mere four years ago, and his debut mixtape, Deadstar, only two years ago.
His road to international fame hasn’t been without bumps, of course. Like many other rappers in his peer group, Purpp was dealt a particularly hard blow by the death of Lil Peep, and subsequently struggled to ease off the use of Xanax and lean. But with the new year comes a new chapter – Purpp is currently planning to release three new solo projects and a group effort with his Gucci Gang crew.
As the rapper prepared to touch down in Berlin for his set at Festsaal Kreuzberg on Wednesday, February 20, we caught up with Purpp to talk anxiety, nearly dying during the creation of Deadstar, and watching “the alien shit on Discovery Channel.”
You have both Deadstar 2 and Sounds of Space coming out this year.
Right. But before Deadstar 2, I have a six track EP coming out in the next two weeks. Some good features on there. Lil Pump is on it and one more person's on it. I don't want to say the name, because this is one of the biggest of the biggest.
Is this six-track EP that's coming out Sound of Space?
No, Sound of Space will be coming out after Deadstar 2 [and] don't forget the Gucci Gang one.
How do you have time to do all this?
All I do is work. I really don't like doing anything but music. This is what I wanted my life to be, so all I do is music.
Last year, you and Lil Pump gave up Xanax. What were some of the things that informed that decision?
I recently just stopped drinking lean too... Besides that, I wasn't really on anything. I was not really on anything too heavy but the Xanax, because I grew up prescribed on Xanax. When my friend Lil Peep passed away, I was just like, I got to put that shit to the side. I'm not fucking with this.
Really for me, what helped me focus was the Xanax, because I have severe anxiety disorder. I move around a lot or I'll panic for no reason for stupid shit. I've had Xanax prescribed since middle school. Getting off it was hard, but it was the best thing I did because my mind is clear.
It's also important for your fans too that you're open about dealing with anxiety.
Yeah, I really am. Also, it made me feel bad because in Florida, we kind of started that wave not knowing that all the kids were going to get into it. That shit hurts. I didn't want to be that guy.
You also changed your name to Purpp. Did you give up weed? I don't think anyone expects that you'll give up smoking anytime soon.
It's funny because I actually did quit. I never told anybody, but I did quit smoking weed for a while.
Why did you quit?
I feel like I just needed to clear my mind and really focus. When I stopped doing Xanax, I went into a really dark place. I got into Percocets and then Oxycontin. I was spiraling out of control. I didn't care about music. I didn't really care about shit. I was in a dark place. I wasn't a nice person. People would tell me they felt like I wasn't there. I cut everything out from the end of October up until New Years or somewhere around January. I started smoking again. I really try not to get into that other shit.
It can be hard sometimes, if you're around it. The temptation can be there.
Especially since I really don't lie about my lifestyle. I hang with drug dealers. It's all kingpins. That makes it hard.
Did they give you shit for it or were they pretty understanding about it?
No. They were happy about it. I actually got some of my other friends to stop. They were surprised that I stopped, because… I'm going to break this down to you. The reason why I was on drugs so heavy is because I was never an artist. In high school, I was selling drugs. In the mix of that somebody just got me to rap, and then it just popped off. I wasn't expecting it. Me and Lil Pump were not expecting to blow up.
I started making music on the drugs, so when I stopped doing drugs I didn't really want to make music. It just became some weird cycle. I had to really tell myself I don't need the drugs to make the music, and then I just got back into working on it.
I'm going to always talk about drugs in my music because drugs were a big, big, big part of my life, big part of my story, big part of my image. Big part of everything. It made me who I am today — overcoming all that shit. If you listen to Deadstar, it's really all about me feeling like I'm dying. The reason it means so much to me is because I nearly died making it. Making Deadstar 2, I was in that same cycle. I was nearly dying. People were worried for me. Then, once Deadstar 2 was finished, that's when I was like, okay, I'm done with this shit.
Going into the themes of your work, you reference space a lot. Did you have any favorite science fiction movies growing up?
Growing up, I liked 2001: Space Odyssey. Just random shit like that. I would watch all the alien shit on Discovery Channel. It just drew my attention to know that we're so small and the universe is so big. For all we know we could be lint in somebody's pocket.
Catch Smokepurpp in Berlin at Festsaal Kreuzberg this Wednesday, February 20.