“SpaceGhostPurrp signs to 4AD.” Those four words, spread around the blogosphere like a wild fire, changed the possibilities for mixtape rappers. After years of watching mixtape rappers rot on the vine waiting for advances from Def Jam, finally indie rock labels have started signing rappers. We eagerly await the day that other artistically vibrant mixtape rappers can get picked up by labels purporting to represent the best of the underground. But for now: SpaceGhostPurrp is on 4AD.
Thing is, if you were playing a game of placing mixtape rappers on the most logical indie label for them (i.e. Action Bronson=Matador, for the New York traditionalism), Purrp to 4AD makes a warped sense. Existing as an amalgamation of Three 6 Mafia at their scariest and DJ Screw at his screwiest, the music conjured up by Purrp on Mysterious Phonk: Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp isn’t that dissimilar from the traditional fare on 4AD. Swirling haze, stomach-flipping bass, terrorizing atmosphere and music probably recorded under the influence of illicit substances? You could have used those same descriptors for anything 4AD put out in the mid-‘80s. But I bet no one at 4AD thought a day might come when they’d be releasing an album with a song called “Suck a Dick 2012.”
Over the course of his mixtapes, and now this album, SpaceGhostPurrp paints a very different picture of Miami than what the likes of Pitbull present. In Purrp’s Miami, the drink of choice is Alizé and Lean, and women are “goddesses.” His music is called “phonk” and all his friends are called Raiders, even though he’s from Florida. When songs have hooks, they are often afterthoughts to the debased verses, or they are whispered like they were recorded from a quarter mile away in the middle of a slasher flick. And that’s ultimately the greatest strength of rappers being able to do this on their own terms, away from the hit-centric confines of Def Jam and Interscope: Like A$AP Mob and Odd Future before him, Purrp arrives fully formed, with his own unique, fully realized aesthetic vision. He’s not waiting on the right producer to sculpt his sound; he’s already got it perfected by the time of his first LP.
Remastered tracks culled from his mixtapes are mixed on Chronicles with brand new concoctions. The new version of “Get Yah Head Bust” is a good entry point into Purrp: it oozes like slime out of a sewer grate and Purrp whisper-raps like he’s Hannibal Lecter. “Black God” imagines Lex Luger’s trap & circumstance beats as post-apocalyptic fight and inspiration music. “Bringing the Phonk” clangs internally like the collapse of a great computer network, while Purrp cuts the seriousness by sampling a woman’s moans in between his verses about “making that Monopoly.”
He’s not the strongest lyricist, but this is a pretty flawless advertisement as Purrp as a producer. Remember when we were supposed to revere Salem because they were “slowing down” screw music and “warping” it into something new? Here SpaceGhostPurrp annihilates any necessity for that flash-in-the-pan tomfoolery. Here’s a guy slowing down sizzurp-inflected rap to the tempo of a broken iron lung, spitting self referential verses (“SpaceGhostPurrp and I’m kissing on your chick”) coming scarier than any horrorcore act, and killing Witch House dead in the process. SpaceGhostPurrp won’t cover magazines and won’t be a crossover guest on a Nicki Minaj album. But if you want a rapper soundtracking your scariest cinematic nightmares, Purrp’s your guy.