Droppin’ Knowledge: Jiyu Purp Creates Spiritual, Life Affirming Hip Hop on His Album Earth is Ours – Interview & Review

Last month, Dallas, Texas based hip hop artist Jiyu Purp released his first long player, Earth is Ours, an album suffused with spirituality and positivity, but one that hits hard, too. The rapper was born in Texarkana, Texas, a small city that abuts the border of Texas and Arkansas, and shares a metropolitan area with its namesake in The Natural State. Purp has lived most of his life in Dallas, with a stint in Houston, the state’s largest city, as well.

Purp told Backseat Mafia that when he was growing up, his parents frequently played hip hop at home, especially from the West Coast of the United States, and he absorbed a lot of music from a variety of sources.

Purp dropped a self-titled EP in 2016, and then released. the single “Now” this past November. The song addresses some of the current travails in the United States. “Now” is a call to arms, a clarion to wake up and pay attention because too many people are walking in their sleep: “We all we got/we free now/Us vs. robots/we free now.”

Earth is Ours, Jiyu Purp’s new album, starts with a bang. The first sound we hear on the record is a lightly tapped gong, then,”Blue Line,” the opening track, kicks in the door, with a distorted voices, a horn loop and pounding drums. (The Blue Line is a light rail commuter train in Dallas.) We accompany Purp as he goes about his day: “Dallas where I built myself/mastered the maze.” And then, he spits the incantation “Earth is ours/earth is ours/earth is ours/earth is ours/earth is ours,” the album’s overriding theme and the foundation from which the music springs.

“Fly Above” announces “another day in the universe,” and Purp raps over a melodic vamp, with snapping high hats and a sing-song chorus. “Blank Canvas” adopts a more menacing tone, “Essential” includes a company of children’s voices in the hook, and in “Clear,” Purp spits simply and declaratively over a shimmering melody: “How we gonna see the day when we ain’t judged by race/maybe it had to come to putting a mask on your face.” “Clear” also features an assist from California rhyme artist Fashawn.

The album’s title track ends the LP, and it’s a bright, optimistic song, with a saxophone carrying the melody. The last words we hear are these: “The title of the album, Earth is Ours, to me, is a mantra. It’s a response to systematic oppression. It’s a celebration of process.” And then, once again, the gong sounds and the journey is over for now. This is real hip hop from the soul, that stands up to repeated listening, with limber word play and a philosophical bent to its message. Cue it up and start again.

Backseat Mafia recently spoke with Jiyu Purp about the new album, some of his inspirations and his favorite place in Dallas for chicken and waffles. This conversation has been lightly edited for publication.

Backseat Mafia: When did you become an active music listener? Do you remember a specific artist who sparked your journey? Who was the first artist (or artists) you identified with or became enamored with, and influenced you to become a musician?

Jiyu Purp: I remember when [the music video for] “What’s My Name” by Snoop Dogg would come on TV. My mom said I would run to my room and put on a plaid shirt like Snoop was wearing in his video, and I would dance around the house. I was about 2 or 3, and that was the beginning for me.

BSM: Artists who inspire you, or anyone who inspires or influences you and your art?

JP: Blu inspires me. Just how free he is in his music and how much he can release in a time period, but it’s always authentic and not forced. Tierra Whack is tight too, she’s wild. B.o.B. I really appreciate how free they [all] are in their music. It has no boundaries, yet they are always true to their craft. I like that.

BSM: On the record and on your Bandcamp page, you give a shout out to Bright Side Coalition. What is the Bright Side Coalition?

JP: Bright Side Coalition is all about finding your own light, looking on the bright side of any circumstance to the best of your abilities, and being able to unite with your people.

BSM:  Your new album is called Earth is Ours. On Bandcamp, and in the title track you say, “it’s a celebration of process.” What do you mean by this?

JP:  I feel like as humans, we can get caught up in focusing on the future or pondering on the past, while forgetting about the present. So for me, Earth is Ours is a reminder that everything is going to work out how it is meant to work out. So enjoy the moment and appreciate the process. 

BSM: You also say that it’s a “response to systematic oppression” and “a mantra.” Can you explain a little more about what you mean by this?

JP: We currently live in a capitalistic society. In capitalism, nothing is free. But if you were born, then life is your right. And so far, it looks like no matter what is done to humanity, humans are still being born. So, Earth is Ours.

BSM: How long did it take to make the record? Where was it recorded? Who handled production on the album?

JP: The album was completed in about a year. I began recording it in 2019. I recorded the whole album in my bedroom. The production was handled by ZForbes, Sekko, fushou. , Really Will, Kwanli, and Kenneth English.

BSM: You were working on the album during a time of significant turmoil in the United States. Did outside events affect the album and its creation?

JP: It did affect the creative process, but it didn’t. I have always rapped about whatever was going on at the time, in my environment, or the bigger picture, for the most part. So in that sense, no. However, the weirdness of the times managed to influence some of the bars.

BSM: Does the album have a theme?

JP: The theme of the album is the title. It’s meant to carry a victorious feel… Hopefully everyone listening caught that vibe in some way.

BSM: “Blue Line,” a big, booming track, starts the album. Is it autobiographical? Can you speak a little to the creation of this song, and what caused you to write it?

JP: That song is pretty much me putting my foot down and introducing myself. When ZForbes sent me that track, I knew it would be on the album, but I didn’t know where. I let the lyrics come to me naturally without any rush or force. About 2 months before releasing the album I decided it would fit best as an intro. At first it was the outro, but I feel like it sets the tone in a proper way.

BSM: Is there one song on the album that has a particular significance to you? Can you explain?

JP: Track number 2, “Fly Above.” That song is my soul, it will live forever. It captures the current events, but it comes and goes on a high note. It feels like everything is gonna be alright.

BSM: Who is speaking at the end of “Pelicans?” Why did you include this spoken word outro?

JP: That’s my girlfriend. That’s actually a poem she wrote for a project in college. It’s relatable to the topic of the album. She let me hear it a couple years ago. While pulling the album together, I realized that poem lined up with the message I was trying to communicate. She’s dope.

BSM: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you and/or the album?

JP: You can find me and my music on your favorite app to jam your tunes on. Follow me on instagram @jiyupurp , and @itsjiyupurp on twitter. And if you been listening, keep listening cause it’s gonna get gorgeous.

BSM: Upcoming projects/collaborations/future plans?

JP:  I’m releasing another album this year, stay tuned, until then, Earth is Ours.

BSM: Shout outs to a favorite spot in Dallas?

JP: Big Mama’s Chicken And Waffles is a good spot that I like to eat at in Dallas. You can’t go wrong. [Editor’s note: Sadly, it appears that Big Mama’s is currently closed.]

BSM: Favorite artist from Dallas? Artist from Dallas you think people should know about?

JP:  I recently heard a couple of tracks by Free Blck.. They are out of Dallas and I really like their sound.

Earth is Ours is out now on Sunday Dinner Records. Support independent artists and record labels by purchasing a digital copy of the album.

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