“I mean, I’m a pescatarian, but they have really good fries!” beams Powers Pleasant, admiring the mountain of Nando’s wrappers piling out of the tour bus bin. The Brooklyn native is three shows into a twenty-date tour, DJing for close friend and fellow Pro Era founder Joey Bada$$, where the pair face massive sold out venues across Europe on a nightly basis.
Founded in 2011, Pro Era has grown to become one of the most formidable hip-hop cliques to emerge in the last decade. “In the back of our minds we thought that we were gonna do this and that, and that it was going to be lit,” Powers reflects. “You kinda half believe it, but when it was actually happening we were like ‘Wow, we’re actually doing what we said we would.’ It was incredible!”
Ahead of Joey’s set each night, Powers is tasked with selecting the records that will get the crowd suitably turnt with a warm up DJ set. As well as surefire US bangers like Cardi B’s ‘Bodak Yellow’ and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘HUMBLE.’, he’s been experimenting with playing UK music in his overseas sets. “‘Man’s Not Hot’,” he exclaims. “That one goes off! I didn’t know it was a parody at first, and when I got told I was like ‘Hold up, this isn’t a joke, it’s fire!’”
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Powers has been enjoying getting familiar with British rap music over the past few years. “Sometimes, as an American, not to sound ignorant, but sometimes grime sounds like ‘Mans Not Hot’. We can’t really differentiate sometimes,” he admits. “I love the UK scene though, Giggs, AJ Tracey, Dave. I’ve been rocking with Skepta for a while though, ever since ‘King Of Grime’ track dropped. Little Simz is my favourite man, she’s so nice and friendly in person but on the track she is a savage bro! I heard that she’s slept on over here? I find that so hard to believe, she’s just as good as anyone else that’s out there.”
The 23-year-old producer and DJ has grown up with a diverse range of influences. His first experiments with music were as a drummer, and he put his skills to good use in a rock band from an early age. “Really my main influences were Jay-Z, Kanye West and Pharrell. But I love Rage Against The Machine, Fall Out Boy, Panic At The Disco,” he says. “I was listening to every type of music in high school. I was like the weird kid, but I was cool. I fucked with the band geeks, the nerds, the cool kids, I was in every social circle growing up.”
Powers turned to production as he found his way amongst his Pro Era homies, and in 2015 released his debut EP, ‘The Powers Pleasant Experience’. “The reason I started producing was down to The Neptunes and Kanye,” he admits. “They were my life from like 13 until I was 18. The melodies and harmonies, that was the illest shit I’d ever heard: the whole seven chord pattern, the jazz chords, that was so interesting to me. I came from a jazz background, my dad was a jazz drummer, and to hear all that in hip-hop it was an experience man.”
Behind the boards is where Powers truly expresses his creativity. “I’m pretty nasty on drums, but I also play keys, a little guitar, so I make it work in the studio. I know what I wanna hear, and I also know how to get it” he explains. “I’d rather start from scratch and make some fire shit that’s 100% for me. Don’t get me wrong I sample too, nothing wrong with that, but I just feel more comfortable doing it my way.”
To date, Powers’ biggest production credit is for his work alongside Kirk Knight and Adam Pallin for Joey’s infectious ‘Devastated’, which lead the campaign around his second album ‘ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$’, but he hopes to top this with his forthcoming solo project that he intends to drop early next year. “My last EP was a free thing I dropped on SoundCloud, but this is my debut project,” he states. “Right now I’ve got Joey on there, Flatbush Zombies and Denzel Curry. I’ve got some big things that I can’t really talk about right now but just know it’s going to be dope!”
While he may express him best through rhythm and melody, Powers is also well aware of the political significance that comes with being a young black American artist, touring the world, making music and spreading positive vibes in the Trump era. “I think we maybe speak our minds a little too much!” he grins. “But we need to come together and stand for what we believe in. Right now I don’t feel as if we do have a place of equality and I don’t know if we ever will, but the fight is always necessary.”
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Words: Mike Wood
Images: Lewis Royden
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