Yo, Pi'erre Bourne Is Out of Here
The producer of Playboi Carti's "Magnolia" and "wokeuplikethis" discusses his work and explains why he owes his career to illegal downloading.
Photo by Justin Staple
The hardest beat of 2017 begins with some character development. There's plenty to talk about when it comes to Playboi Carti's titanic, Richter Scale-defying single "Magnolia," which has Milly Rocked its way to the heart of the zeitgeist. But the conversation begins with the phrase, "Yo Pierre, you wanna come out here?" Right away, before anything has been hidden in a sock or anyone has run from a cop, there's this guy, Pierre. And it turns out he's not just a stray line of dialogue from the Jamie Foxx show; he produced the damn thing.
In just a few months, Pi'erre Bourne has become one of the most lauded new producers in rap, thanks not only to his work with Carti—he produced six of the 15 tracks on the rapper's debut project—but also with rising artists like longtime collaborator Young Nudy and Soundcloud sensation Trippie Redd. His own rapping, via the smoothly introspective if mostly overlooked Life of Pi'erre mixtape series, has seen modest success, too. The upcoming fourth installment will feature collaborations with the likes of 808 Mafia and Wheezy, but the appeal of Pi'erre Bourne's music goes beyond a trendy list of features.
"I don't have to put on. I can just come in and be myself," Pi'erre explained on a recent stop through the VICE LA offices. "I don't got to dress a certain way, or do this and that. Some artists, they got gimmicks with them and all this extra shit. Eventually, even themselves, they're going to get tired of it. Me? I'm never going to get tired of being myself."
The producer broke down some of his biggest songs for a recent episode of Noisey Radio on Beats 1, and he elaborated more on his rise in the extended interview below.
Noisey: When did you start making beats?
Pi'erre Bourne: It was a summer in New York. My uncle had Fruity Loops on his computer, and I thought it was like a game or some shit. He just let me fuck with it 'cause he knew I was bright. So he really wouldn't have to show me shit. Like with video games and stuff, he didn't really have to ever explain what was going on; he just gave me the controller. And he would come back in the room and be like, "damn, you've beaten the levels, like what the fuck!"
So with the program Fruity Loops, I just thought it was a video game, so when I got on it, I was just doing stupid shit. Like I would record my voice and then put it in there and make a beat out of it on the pattern. I didn't know how to, like, make sounds with the VSTs and stuff yet. But that was the first time I was engaged with the program. When I was like ten or 11, I received the program on my computer. He gave me his computer. So it became my computer, and that's when I really got hands on with it. It was damn sure before the PS3 came out. I know for a fact. 'Cause I never got it. I just got into making beats more when everybody got that.
Making beats and making music is kind of like video games in a lot of ways.
Exactly. And then even the sounds that I use, it's similar to video games. I love video games.
That's lucky you didn't get the PS3!
Nah, for real. It was just like, when it came out, I was already over the video game craze. Like I was the only little kid that didn't really give a fuck about the games. I would rather be on my computer making beats. I just didn't wanna waste my time.
I think it was when I went to Belize in fourth grade. I had my Gameboy and shit, but I couldn't play it no more. My batteries went out. So I got really into my culture, as far as like, what the kids do out there. We was just having fun, playing soccer and shit. We wasn't caring about no TVs, no electronics. Like we was just running around, just kids having fun, "tag, you're it."
Yeah. They showed me that we can, too, go without all of these things that we possess. I got introduced to that when I was kid. That trip really changed me, as far as my outlook. I've just been on a mission, like, since. I knew when I was kid I was going to be doing stuff. I just had to prove it to my family. I did it in middle school. I was dropping diss songs on niggas.
What's one of the songs you're most proud of from high school? Do you still have it?
No, I don't 'cause they shut Imeem down. It was like a Youtube: Imeem, that was like the music shit.
Yeah, I remember that.
And then Myspace combined with Imeem, and all the music on Imeem went away. So like anything that you had on there first, it was gone, 'cause it integrated with Myspace music. So I lost all my songs on there, all my middle school songs. I was really rapping then. I was really about bars and shit. I found out my cousin was Papoose.
Yeah, my mom's nephew used to be rapping with him all the time. When I was a kid, I was really writing raps. The shit nowadays? I'm having more fun. It's more a vibe. But then, it was bars, metaphors, all day. Like every bar gotta be a metaphor, like some wannabe Lloyd Banks shit. That nigga used to try to eat a nigga on a song. I used to try to do shit like that. I was doing a lot. I found Auto-Tune when I was like 12. That changed my life.
The T-Pain era.
Right when T-Pain was, like, lit. Google was lit! People don't know all this shit. I grew up through the whole technology change. I had searched "T-Pain vocal effect." And I downloaded that shit. I knew how to download shit already 'cause I was downloading music and movies on Limewire. I grew up right around the perfect time!
"Google was lit! People don't know all this shit. I grew up through the whole technology change. I had searched 'T-Pain vocal effect.' And I downloaded that shit."
And this is before they shut all that shit down, too. I was hurt. That was my life, bro! Downloading, just getting everything—all the sounds—for free! Like, all that shit. And then one day I was in school, at high school, I tried to go to the site, and it said "FBI anti-piracy warning." I was like "ah, fuck! It's over with!"
So what did you do from there?
I had enough sounds by then. Trust me, bro, I was racking up. I haven't really downloaded any more drums since then! To be honest, I still got all my sounds from high school. All my drums and shit are pretty much from high school. Or I'd morphed it into something a little different. The Carti stuff—I'm happy that the world gravitated toward it because they don't even know what I used to do!
Let's talk about the Carti stuff a little bit. That's probably what most people know you for right now.
Definitely. Definitely. I don't even be trying to play myself.
The "Magnolia" beat or whatever.
Shout out to Playboy Carti, my motherfuckin' brother. I made the "Magnolia" beat in my friend's Mustang. On the way to Zaxby's, smoking weed. ( Laughs) That was like a daily routine throughout the week. 'Cause once I met Carti, we started going to the studio every day. At like 6 PM, around that time, we would start the session. Once I figured out how niggas was moving, I made sure I had ten beats done before each session. The first session, though, I just went through all the beats I already had and picked the best ones. I was smoking, like, all day. Trying to find that ones that are, like, really vibey 'cause I was like, if it's vibey, you can't ignore it.
The first day I met him I only played one beat. But it was the "Let It Go" song. I was kinda nervous on what beat to play first because MexikoDro was in the studio, and he got some hard-ass beats. And I was like, these niggas made "Broke Boi." I can't come in here and try to top that!
I thought Carti, like, took one of your beats from K$upreme or something?
That's "wokeuplikethis." I gave a pack to K$upreme one day, and then, like, the next week I came back, and K$upreme said Carti got on it. I was like, "Carti? I gave those beats to you! Why would you do that?" And then, shit. I looked on my fucking timeline and it was already going crazy! Then they said Uzi was on it. That was the beginning.
Then, because of—the "Woke Up" beat, people were saying it sounded like a "Plug"-type beat, so I was like, I'm gonna kill y'all niggas with "Magnolia!" That's how we got "Magnolia": 'Cause I was upset. Like, "fuck, man, they didn't put my tag on that shit. Nobody knows I made this beat." I was like, "damn, this what happens to the producers! Damn, it's happening to me! I gotta do something quick!" ( Laughs). And then I thought the tape was done! I really thought the tape was done, and then I pulled up, and I was like, "I'm gonna see if Carti fucks with this." 'Cause the bassline is different than the other beats.
That one has more adrenaline in the beat. I made it while my friend was driving this Mustang. I don't think y'all understand. He wasn't cruising. Like, we was speeding to Zaxby's, smoking weed. Like, that shit be so fun, bro! Like, y'all don't understand, man! That shit was cool.
I always say the best way to judge if a song is good is to blast it in your car and drive fast.
I've been doing the car test since they taught me that shit in school for engineering. I'd already been doing that! Even after playing it on the nicest speakers, I'd still have to run to my car and play it in there. And if I can't knock it like it's the next song on the radio, it ain't there yet.
When were you in the Mustang making the "Magnolia" beat?
It had to be like a week before South By.
That's crazy that's so new.
Yeah. And "Woke Up": They did "Woke Up" on Valentine's day. He told me that's when they recorded it. And then Nudy's shit dropped the 21st. They played that shit all March. Spring break in Miami, I heard they was playing that shit. All spring break. Like, that's where everybody heard the "Yo, Pierre" first. And then "Magnolia."
Niggas gotta stop sleeping on my brother Nudy. Nudy's going crazy.
How did you meet Nudy?
It was on the East Side. I was engineering at this studio, but I was staying there, too. It was like a house studio. So upstairs they had locked up, but it was basically like an apartment up there. And then downstairs, it looked like a house, but when you go into these rooms, it's a nice-ass studio. It was called Mad Studios, owned Corey Mo. He used to be Pimp C's engineer.
The first day we met, shit, I really was just doing a session. Like, I was trying to make some money. I knew my rate. I didn't know who was about to pull up. I was ready for the damn shit to be over and the money in my hand. You know what I'm saying? And then they came, a bunch of li'l niggas, everybody strapped up. I'm just like, "uhh, sup guys?" (Laughs). It was too much going on. But when I hit record, nigga was fire! I was just like damn! This nigga sound like, fuckin', the new EA! 'Cause Gucci was locked up at the time.
Nudy sounds like that 2010-era Gucci to me.
He's from the same place! He's from motherfucking Zone Six. I moved to Atlanta, and I didn't know anybody. And them niggas brought me in like a brother. So that's who I fuck with, still, to this day. Can't ever switch.
You were all coming up together, so it's all inspiring to see.
I was engineering for Epic Records last year, and me and Nudy were still cooking up, like, when I had free time. I had to work a lot. But we were like—Savage was blowing up last year! I was like, man, I need to get the fuck out this studio! And it just so happens, I couldn't get out until a year later. I'm happy all this shit is happening, but shit was supposed to happen last year, to be honest, for Nudy especially. The "Aired Out" video got so many views that they blew up off that shit! I should've been working with Nudy more. 'Cause he would've had the content to drop. Timing is everything. And there's windows for shit. That's why I just been on full. I'm just going as fast as I can. I'm never going to stop. Now I can't stop.
Your time is right now.
And I don't want this shit to end. My thing is just keep going and keep working. High school, we was lit. Not like this, but it feels the same. I don't know about everybody else, but I was throwing parties in high school, performing, and making the music for my news show at school, and the pep rallies. So I got the love off my music already. It's just now, it's the world. It's still the same; it's human beings! It's people, but it's just a lot more people.
So Epic just had you as like the house engineer for all their shit?
In Atlanta, like whoever will come to the studio. And then my sessions would end at like 2 AM. And then I'd tell Nudy to pull up while I work on my own shit. And even, like, Trippie Redd, that's how me and him was working.
Trippie is about to blow the fuck up.
Hell yeah. Proud of him. We had conversations about all this shit before he had 14 tattoos on his face. Right before all that shit, we was having a long talk, and I was like, "boy you crazy as hell, but it's going to work. People eat that shit up." I ain't got no tattoos, though. I'm just glad I can still be myself. Just being myself. Nobody else is doing it!
"If I can't knock it like it's the next song on the radio, it ain't there yet."
Michael Jordan never had tattoos.
He had no tattoos?
But he was a Q, though. Don't they put that shit on your arm? When I was in college, I wanted to be in the fraternity, but I was like, that hazing shit, I'm not on that. Can't nobody try to belittle me.
Where'd you go to school?
I went to Winthrop. I was going to go to University of South Carolina, but I wanted to get away from home.
So you went to school for engineering?
Yeah, I moved to Atlanta. Winthrop didn't work out after a year, so I moved to New York for a little bit. I tried to do my music out there. It didn't work, I got impatient, and it was cold as fuck, so I moved back to South Carolina and tried to go back to Winthrop. I tried to go back without my music equipment, to see if that wouldn't distract me. I was like, "nah, I gotta make music. I don't feel right."
Let's talk about your own music.
I feel like The Life of Pi'erre 4 is going to sound really, really good. I'm just trying to make sure every song can contend with the next song. For the impact I want, it's gotta be like that. It can't be a miss on any song. It has to be all bangers.
And not to put more pressure on you, but you're coming off creating one of the greatest beats of all time.
If y'all think that's the greatest beat of all time, TLOP 4 gonna have 13 greatest beats of all time. One of the greatest beats of all time. I made that shit in 30 minutes in the car.
You probably won't be able to go to the mall and shit soon.
Maybe. I feel like that'll happen when it's time. But I like just going out, and niggas don't know who I am yet. I can still have peace of mind. I be with Rocky and Carti—man, they can't even walk some places. You gotta sometimes enjoy before eventually it's going to be too late, and everybody's going to know who you are.
If I go to the country right now, nobody's gonna know me out there. They're probably not hip to Playboi Carti. But LA, if I'm on Melrose, everybody I fucking run into it's, "Oh, that's Pierre!" I was eating at the Big Wings place. That was the first place I ate when I came in to LA in February. We shot the "Water Boy" video after that, in my first time out here, before the Carti shit, before Nudy's Slimeball 2 dropped. I was just out here for like two days, on some random shit. And then I come back, and we go to the same li'l restaurant, and somebody's like—I got wings in my mouth—"Yo Pierre!" And I'm just like, what the fuck? What's up! That fast! February, March, April, May, June, July. It just keeps going.
Listen to Pi'erre Bourne on Noisey Radio here.
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