But on this late weekday afternoon, it’s peaceful, with rows of brightly colored, neatly kept ranch houses quietly baking in the 90-degree sun. The only passersby who seem interested are a few elementary school-aged girls and a random Purrp cousin who all roll by on bicycles.
Purrp is slouching down in the passenger seat, nervously tugging on his unseasonable black hoodie. Every few seconds, his eyes dart to the rearview mirror, and then out the window across Risco Park, a playground and baseball field in his neighborhood that’s now abandoned, sun-browned and dotted with the silvery confetti of old potato chip bags. Coming here was Purrp’s idea, but he didn’t want to do it in broad daylight, surrounded by melanin-challenged folks lugging expensive camera equipment.
It all seems a bit ominous, but then again, the rapper is a master of creating a menacing musical mood, one full of creepy samples, low-end rattles, and throaty, laid-back incantations seeping up from sonic muck. It’s a hermetic world portrayed on his recent debut album for 4AD, Mysterious Phonk: Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp. The 14 tracks form an airtight capsule in which Purrp has arranged everything from the beats up into a narcotized mush full of the threat of violence and the promise of sex. Track titles like “Paranoid” and “Danger” are a clue, as is the unapologetically nasty “Suck A Dick 2012,” a half-joke track that helped build Purrp’s internet legend.
Stylistically, the album manages to cross a divide, both deftly and naturally. It references and updates several strains of ’90s street rap, something he digested early, thanks to his family. “My flow is old school—my delivery, the style of my music, how I come off. It’s Southern-style, though,” he says, shifting in his seat. Purrp tugs again on his hoodie. His hand is tattooed with the face of Felix the Cat. When he smiles, a neat row of four gold teeth glint in the sunlight.
The old school knowledge comes courtesy of early neighborhood exposure to Miami legends like Trick Daddy, Trina, and JT Money, as well as his cousin Mike’s personal favorites—Three 6 Mafia, DJ Screw, and DJ Quik—along with East Coasters like Wu-Tang, Nas, and Biggie. From his dad came a love of “militant black conscious groups” like Public Enemy. Purrp’s mother, meanwhile, played Tupac nonstop and even rapped herself under the name Sunny. “She was dope. She had this whole female-Snoop Dogg flow,” he says.
Despite his old school roots, Purrp is unmistakably a ’90s baby, with many of his beats echoing the lo-fi, computerized post-genre sounds that capture the feeling of the current rap landscape—and which emerge and spread on websites like Tumblr. It’s on these social media sites where a now 21-year-old Purrp first gained momentum, a phenomenon he now regards with mixed feelings. “Everything you do is gonna be out in the open on the internet, and I think the internet is a big-ass movement where everything’s popping on there,” he says. “But if you wanna be an artist with your own craft, you can’t expose your art on the internet, because bitches are gonna take your shit. It’s happened to me a lot.”
Now, he’s more guarded, especially when protecting the boundaries of the international crew over which he presides, dubbed Raider Klan—or rather, as they type it, RVIDXR KLVN. He started it around 2008 with his late friend Jitt, whose premature death two years ago inspired Purrp to take all of his artistic endeavors more seriously. Some of the more high-profile members include Houston rapper Amber London, Seattle-based Key Nyata, and fellow Carol City denizen Denzel Curry.
These days, he refuses to name the exact number of his crew—“Niggas will start putting other niggas in their groups to fuck with us”—but it includes a spectrum of loosely affiliated people across many disciplines, all personally approved by Purrp. “Some are musicians, some are street niggas, some skate,” he says. Only a few are actually from his home turf, which, as the sun sets, is starting to feel more like a small, active village.
Purrp lists the various geographic locations inhabited by his crew. “We’ve got Raider Klan Florida,” he says, “[but we've also got] Raider Klan Cali, Raider Klan New York, Texas, Chicago, we’ve got Africa—everywhere.” Someone rolls up on a bicycle, peering into the car suddenly. Purrp explains the new arrival is an uncle. “Did he scare you?” he asks, laughing and flashing his teeth again. “He scared me.”
As both the Klan and its leader’s profiles simultaneously rise, he’s gearing up for the ride, with no small goals in mind. “I’m ready to just do what I gotta do and get it out of the way and make history,” he says, quickly peering at his phone. It's blowing up again, all calls from the same girl. But he refuses to answer, only the music on his mind right now. “I want people to remember how I brought the game back to how it should be.”