Between back to back releases from heavy hitters Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa it’s definitely going to be a SaveMoney summer. With big names like Chance and Vic putting on SaveMoney, it’s easy for the average listener to miss some of the lesser known, but still solid, SaveMoney releases. Which means it’s time to stop sleeping, and listen to iiiDrops by Joey Purp.
Sandwiched between Chance and Vic’s records, we have storytelling powerhouse Joey Purp’s newest project iiiDrops, released at the very end of May on SoundCloud. Joey offers up everything a mixtape, especially a SaveMoney Crew mixtape should be: a project loaded with jams, deep thinking, passionate flows, Chicago-driven politics, and an immense amount of potential. Not for nothing the title of the project could be a subtle hint that it’s about time hip-hop fans get their vision cleared up, because Joey Purp is out to prove his moment is here.
In terms of discography, Joey isn’t as decorated as some of the other members. Notably, Joey put out The Purple Tape in 2012, put together a Best Of… in 2013, and spent the rest of his time teaming up with SaveMoney’s Kami to form their passionate duo Leather Corduroys.
Note the word “passionate.” Joey’s flow has always been distinct in how ardent, raw, and in your face it is, while still managing to sound pleasing to ear. He’s not just charging up his gritty voice and screaming at you, instead, Joey is thoughtfully emoting. The man knows how to deliver.
Joey’s awareness of his style translates into these booming, grandiose opening horns on the project’s first track “Morning Sex.” The track pops off with horns backed by a jolting, almost hollow drum beat. The first twenty seconds of the song really sound like a wake-up call. As soon as Joey starts spitting, he makes the theme of the record clear: bifurcation. Joey’s being on “both sides of the burner, both sides of the murder,” is the driving force of the tape’s most prominent narrative. By setting up this dissonance between having ties to, while still trying to get away from and above the violence, Joey begins to develop a complex narrative of living in Chicago. The bars carry themes of trauma, the fine line of life and death, and Joey’s desire to “live for you,” and tell the full story of his Chicago. The hook is where Joey goes one step further to solidify the mission statement of the project, promising to “show you how it feel[s] to see a homicide.”
If you’re new to Joey Purp, this first track is a strong snapshot of all facets of his style, from the delivery to the beats to his clear fixation with the grittiest reality he can bring to a song.
Sadly, there’s a lack of follow through from the first song to the second. Joey’s making me all these promises in the first track, but the topic and beat of the second track arrives as a complete non-sequitur. “Girls” isn’t a bad song by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a cut with a nice groove, a jittering, dance-inducing percussion, and a surprisingly body-positive message towards women laced especially into the Chance feature. The song is appropriately poppy, perhaps as poppy as Joey can get within his own style. The real issue with the track is its place on the mixtape. For as sharp of a spitter as Joey is, he loses the motifs he creates through his crafted bars by not paying special attention to the tracklisting and transitions.
Joey also runs into the problem of having too much hook, which in theory is not a bad problem to have. Certain songs on this mixtape have me craving more of Joey’s passionate bars and less of the repetitive hooks. Topical songs like “Money & Bitches” and “Kids” are diluted by the continuous hooks. A real shame, because those songs carry important messages that aren’t worth dodging in favor of cycling a trap hook.
A song like “Photobooth” shows off some versatility in production. Joey can’t be all horns all the time. This track’s beat features a pounding flute lead with frayed edges. It’s certainly catching, and backs his breathy bars rather well.
Of course, the real shining moment on the tape is the sixth track, “Cornerstore,” featuring Pivot Gang’s own Saba. If you really want to know Joey Purp, this is the track. The opening line, which also happens to be the hook, of this track is driven by an innocent flavor of nostalgia. The images of “flamin’ hots and cheese” are almost painfully childish; painful in that the childhood memory is marred entirely by the street crime. A quick transition from snacks to drugs and life sentences in prison mirrors the abrupt loss of innocence native to the South Side.
Joey pulls no punches with his delivery either. His voice comes across ragged and torn, as if he’s trying his hardest not to scream. Right in the middle of the first verse, you can hear Joey loudly gasping for air as he tells an all too familiar story of being exposed to gun violence at a young age. At the same time, Joey brings it right back to an offshoot of his main theme with the lines “and white kids deal with problems that we never knew to bother/ Arguing with their dads, we pray we ever knew our fathers,” this time pointing out the alarming difference in types struggles he sees kids dealing with. For most of Joey’s verse, you can tell he’s brought himself to the edge of his emotions. Make no mistake, this track is out to level the listener.
Saba’s verse is just as emotive and vexed. He manages to layer in the same veins of lost innocence and worry over the future by painting the picture of his concerned grandma getting him ready for school, and not being able to sleep at night until he returns home safely. The story of Saba’s verse also conjures up the sentiment of complex ties to the violence of the city as he walks by his classmates, selling drugs, while he’s the only one who “tried omitting the crime.” There’s an extra band of pain as the bars describe young Saba’s eleven year old best friend turning into a stranger because of the violence that surrounds them. The verse ends by echoing the same note of desperation and longing for childhood that can be found in the hook; Saba just wanted a little snack before school, but “that block is a monster.”
iiiDrops is an exceptionally promising next step in Joey’s career. He’s pushing himself, his storytelling, and his production choices. The issues he’s running into are there, between disjointed tracklisting and saturating songs with unnecessary hooks, but they’re far from overly detrimental. What really counts with this mixtape is that we see Joey is not afraid to give us his soul, and keep giving it song after song. 2016 is going down as a staple year for all of SaveMoney, and Joey Purp is no exception. So stop sleeping, listen to the tape, smile, and then give it another spin.