“Make no mistake about it; I’m a hip-hop dude, man. I don’t want anyone to confuse me with any grime or anything. I’m hip-hop through and through.” So begins HHC’s interview with current UK buzz artist Pyrelli, with the north London lyricist wasting no time in separating himself from the long line of sub-standard ‘artists’ who’ve jumped on the homegrown rap bandwagon in recent years, apparently thinking that wearing an oversized baseball cap and having a video on Channel U equates to possessing real talent. To hear the 24-year-old self-proclaimed Lazy Boy tell it, he’s just as bored and frustrated with the state of modern hip-hop as anyone. But with his new album ‘Vitamin A: A Twist Of Fate’, Pyrelli isn’t just talking about the UK scene needing something new, he’s taking action.
Raised amidst the bustle of Tottenham, Pyrelli’s love affair with hip-hop began early, with the pre-pubescent soon-to-be poet gravitating towards early-90s kiddie rappers close to his own age, namely Kris Kross, Illegal and Da Youngsta’s. It would be the release of Snoop’s infamous 1993 album ‘Doggystyle’, however, that would really set Pyrelli on his path to becoming a true microphone fiend. “I was ten when I heard ‘Doggystyle’ and I just thought ‘That’s the shit!’” he reflects. “I actually wrote down and learnt all of the lyrics to the whole album, from the intro to the last track.”
It would take almost a decade of practice before the wider UK rap community heard Pyrelli’s distinctive style, with the MC first being introduced to the masses as a member of the One collective. An eleven-man British Wu-Tang of sorts that also counted recent noise-makers Mr Ti2bs and Sway as members, One released their relatively well-received album ‘Onederful World’ in 2002. “I believe that we were a great group,” offers Pyrelli when asked about his time with the talented yet short-lived crew. “But now with the benefit of hindsight I believe that we each could’ve cranked up our input and put out more songs. We took criticisms to heart and I don’t think we had enough confidence in ourselves at that time to weather those blows when we got them.”
Pyrelli views his decision to step outside the security of a group situation and go solo as one of his greatest personal challenges. But it appears to have been paying off. With the charismatic MC able to fully flex his creative muscle and take his music in whichever directions he chooses, releases such as ‘Tha Organ G’ have seen comparisons made between his own multi-layered flow and the wordplay of rap greats such as Ghostface Killah and Pharoahe Monch. High praise indeed for someone still seen by most as a new kid on the block, but do such compliments put unnecessary pressure on an artist yet to fully carve out his own musical identity? “Those comparisons mean a lot to me,” begins Pyrelli, clearly both humbled and excited to hear his name mentioned alongside such lyrical giants. “To be honest, I would never have said that myself, but if that’s how people feel then it’s all good. But I definitely don’t take those comparisons lightly. When I’m writing I put myself under tremendous pressure anyway. I know the type of hip-hop I like to listen to so I’m always trying to make music of that quality. I’m my own worst critic, so I’m not leaving the studio until those verses are right. If there’s a word out of place I’ve gotta redo it.”
It’s clear from speaking to Pyrelli that his passion for music extends far beyond just ensuring his own material is up-to-par. During the course of the conversation he breaks down the staying power of Biggie’s ‘Ready To Die’, speaks enthusiastically about the talents of Houston gangsta-rap OG Scarface, and marvels at the apparently effortless genre-hopping achieved by reggae legends Sly & Robbie when they worked with soul diva Gwen Guthrie on an 80s album the rapper recently found in his mother’s vinyl collection. It’s this same passion for sonic perfection that also sparks Pyrelli’s less than favourable comments about the wannabe wordsmiths who might consider themselves his competition. “People are not actually cultured in this art form,” he states, with the same fervour usually reserved for the responses of golden-age cats being asked their opinions on the hip-hop of today. “A lot of people are saying they’re rapping, but they don’t really understand the depth of this music. To me, that’s the key. I speak to guys and they’re like ‘I’ve been rapping for two years and I’m ready to do my album.’ I’m like, ‘Yo! I’ve been doing this shit since 1994, man’. But some of these guys today just don’t get it. I believe you need to have a real understanding of this art form, pay those dues, learn the craft, and make sure this is something that you really want to be a part of and that it’s something you love.”
Ultimately, it’s Pyrelli’s ability to blend the sincerity of his old soul with the thoughts of a young mind that could see him succeed where others have failed, by bridging the gap between today’s MySpace generation who might only know him from his ‘Up Your Speed’ collaboration with Sway, and those older heads who want to hear some substance and genuine verbal skill. The diverse ‘Vitamin A’ definitely covers all the bases without ever sounding disjointed, offering the youthful energy of today’s current UK urban scene (‘Introvert Me’), playful humour (‘Fashionably Late’), commercial viability (‘Caravan Of Love’), and intelligent social commentary (‘Know No Other Way’).
“I understand my position and I believe it’s a unique one,” Pyrelli offers in parting. “I’ve kinda got some of the old-school mentality with new-school capabilities and it’s about me making the correlation between the two and bringing both of those elements through in my music. So with this album I’m really just trying to get the awareness up so that people understand who this Pyrelli guy actually is.”
Pyrelli – “Introvert Me” (All City / 2007)
Pyrelli – “Caribbean Love” (All City / 2007)