U Not Like Me
Pi'erre Bourne's career highlights as a producer have ensconced him in pioneer territory. While artists behind the boards and in the booth alike are emulating his sound, the multihyphenate's focus is on elevating his own rap career.
Words: Georgette Cline
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Summer 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

A jab Pi'erre Bourne threw in the fifth grade, ignited by a game of punch buggy, no punch backs, is the catalyst for the celebrated rapper and producer’s current career. After he got in trouble for hitting another student and was prohibited from attending a school field trip, Pi'erre was forced into three days of "torture" with the younger kids, which he spent writing rhymes. Once his classmates returned, his teacher brought in a DJ for a special event. "They were like, 'Who in here raps?' And I’m about to raise my hand, and all the little kids are like, 'Him, he raps," recalls the 28-year-old hip-hop doyen, as he sits in a purple-lit lounge at Universal Music Group's New York City office on a sunny April day. A tween with a bit of stage fright back then, Pi'erre began reading the lyrics he wrote. “So, when I got done, I put the paper down, and I looked up and everyone was doing this,” he begins clapping, recreating the positive reception he got that day. "I’m like, Damn, this shit feels good. That's when I was like, Yeah, I want to do this for the rest of my life."

Over two decades later, Pi'erre has achieved his childhood dream. Though he’s been pushing his own solo artistry to the forefront from the start, his talents behind the boards brought him critical acclaim first. Producing Playboi Carti's three-times platinum 2017 smash "Magnolia" thrust P into rap’s purview and winning a Grammy award for his production work on Kanye West’s 2019 Jesus Is King album earned P further respect. He’s a pioneer for a generation of SoundCloud rap that has elevated tenfold. An anomaly at the time, his impact on the next generation of hip-hop's youth as a contemporary producer is evident. Ebullient beats dripping in color and quality. Trap 808s, radiant synths and sweeping melodies.

"All these little n***as sound like TLOP 4 leaks, TLOP 5 leaks, Carti leaks," Pi'erre maintains of the sound many rappers seem to be pushing today that stems from his originality. "Everybody's thriving off of stuff like that. So, yeah, it’s going to work. Nothing to complain about. We're still curating the music even if we do or do not get credit for it."

Stellar Pi'erre production on Carti and Lil Uzi Vert’s "Wokeuplikethis*," Young Nudy's "EA," Travis Scott's "Watch" featuring Uzi and Kanye, Uzi's "Bean (Kobe)" featuring Chief Keef, Juice Wrld and Young Thug’s "Bad Boy," Drake and Carti's "Pain 1993," Thug's "Surf" featuring Gunna, Ye's "On God" and 6ix9ine's "Gummo," plus many others, have contributed to P’s multiplatinum success as a producer.

But the artist's ability to rap has always been his focus despite some being late to the party. Since 2014, Pi'erre's dropped seven solo projects that feature his resonant rhymes and another seven joint efforts serving as producer. "Yo, Pi'erre, you wanna come out here?" the tag that sparked his ubiquity, a bit of Auto-Tune, a range of delivery from breathy sing-song to barring up, plus a whipping carnival ride of sounds and anecdotes on getting paid, laid and staying prayed up can be heard across tracks like "Guillotine," "Poof," "Hacked My Instagram” and "4U," among others. His The Life of Pi'erre series, inspired by Kanye’s own TLOP album, has five installments. "This is what you smokin' dope and dreamin' ’bout/This is catch the Holy Ghost, scream and shout/Swear to God, I'm the greatest/Fuck being the hood favorite, I wanna change the world,” he confidently raps on "It Is What It Is" from the inaugural 2016 tape.

For the last few months, Pi'erre’s been connecting with the people on road and across continents to perform tracks from his catalog on The Purple Tour, his headlining performance trek aptly named for the color he’s become synonymous with. Look at his TLOP 4 cover art and every post on his Instagram for evidence. “It’s every day,” Pi'erre says of wearing the royal hue.

Today, the color is on his SossHouse merch shirt and a purple scarf he keeps pulling over his head. Growing up on Hey Arnold!, the "Mauve Avenger" episode specifically, sparked Pi'erre's love for the chroma. The Purple Tour included 16 dates stateside this past spring and has 17 more across Europe during the course of this summer. Pi'erre has gone global. It’s been two years since he booked his very first headlining expedition. Right after this tour, he’ll go on another in support of his forthcoming third studio album to be released this summer via his SossHouse imprint through Interscope Records, where he’s been signed since 2017.

"GM, that's all I’m giving away right now," the rapper reveals, hinting at the new album title he's working on. "That’s the acronym." [Editor's note: Pi'erre Bourne has since announced the title of the album, Good Movie, released on Sept. 2.] Definitely not Good Morning, which countless fans thought he was abbreviating while he’s been teasing the title across his social media accounts since March. The LP is complete as far as post-production, lyrics, writing and mixing goes. He's got some rap friends in mind to "make it a bigger situation than what it already is." Touring is keeping him from anxiously awaiting the final result. “I need to be even more consistent," Pi'erre adds. "It was cool to release the music that I got to release last year, but I have to really just keep pushing the envelope further.” Pushin P, for real. Last year, he dropped five solo and joint projects in total. Two on which he was rapping—TLOP 5, Yo!88 with producer TM88—and three featuring his beats—Frazier Trill with his SossHouse artist Frazier Trill, 47 Meters Down with Sharc, Chavo's World 2 with SossHouse's Chavo.

Pi'erre's been surpassing the limits of normal since he was a kid traveling back and forth from his roots in South Carolina to his grandmother’s house in Southside Jamaica, Queens. The entertainer’s family hails from the Dangriga town of Belize. Pi'erre, born Jordan Jenks, was spitting rhymes on a New York City basketball court at 5 after witnessing his uncle and the family member's friends huddled up rapping and kicking the beat. Preschool P hopped right in. "It was a flow," remembers Pi'erre, who names Dipset, G-Unit, Three 6 Mafia, Young Jeezy and Kanye West as early inspirations.

"It wasn’t like real words. And they was just like, ‘Yo, this little n***a good. Oh my God.' [My uncle] helped me write my first rap and then I just believed in myself to a thousand percent. So, I didn’t really need anyone around me, like, "Yeah, keep going.' I grew up an only child. All the time I had to myself, I just fell in love with being able to express myself with writing.” His uncle gave the then-aspiring MC his first laptop, on which Pi'erre learned FruityLoops, the production software that would ultimately catapult him to luminary producer status. The relative introduced P to the sounds of Kanye West, with whom Pi'erre would eventually form a working relationship.

"When I first met Kanye, he was like this big thing," P shares. "And we were flying out [to Wyoming] to work with him. And then I didn’t even have to go because the first song he plays me, I made the fucking beat. He didn’t know I made the beat ’cause they took my tag off, the 'Watch' song. Mission was already accomplished, but I was happy to meet him and see his reaction." Pi'erre officially crafted his first beat in 2008. By 2010, he was dropping tracks like "Kool-Aide & Sugar," a lyrical milestone over Snoop Dogg’s "Gin & Juice" beat. P's stock was rising in high school as he became more popular for his music.

College followed, where he studied graphic design and initially formed the SossHouse multimedia company with two friends, Marko Visuals, who shot many of the TLOP 4 videos, and AJ, who creates artwork and merch for Pi'erre. "When I came up with the idea, it was basically like S-O-S-S, an acronym for Something Original, Something Symbolic. So, you have SOSS, as in it's you, it's originality. It’s just your own personal flavor." Now, it’s Pi'erre’s full-fledged record label with five signed artists: Chavo, Big Jelly, Bermuda Yae, Frazier Trill and J Billz.

A graphic design concentration didn’t last long because music was Pi’erre’s calling. He dropped out after a year and took an engineering course at SAE Institute in Atlanta. The experience led to a full-time engineering gig for Epic Records in 2016. "That shit fucked my head up," he admits, looking back on the job. The silver lining was that he spent downtime from recording other artists at the major label studio to record, engineer and produce material for himself, which would become the first three TLOP tapes. All three were released in the span of four months from September to December of 2016.

The Epic studio was also where he worked with and developed a friendship with Young Nudy. "Loyalty is rare nowadays," Pi'erre expresses of his bond with the Sli'merre collaborator. "It’s bigger than just music." The engineering position overall had P on autopilot. "I’m learning, getting better, but it’s turning me into a robot and a machine. If anything, it was like if I was in a factory making beats." So, he quit and bet on himself. His TLOP 5 documentary explores the static he was feeling about it and his hopes to gain more credibility as a rapper. "So, that was just to help people understand, like I’ve been doing something before I even met all these famous people."

A few months later, Playboi Carti got a hold of Pi'erre’s "Wokeuplikethis*" beat, which led to an Uzi collab and the beginning of the life-changing moment that is "Magnolia." "I don’t get to engineer and record a lot of people like that anymore," P says. He’s focused on his solo rap momentum these days. “So, doing that and seeing how that transpired and changed me and Carti life, yeah, that’s still going to be top, for sure." The song has more than 566 million Spotify streams and 168 million YouTube views currently. A neon trap classic for the culture.

Producing is a habit, but this is the new era of Pi'erre Bourne the artist. TM88 has been privy to Pi'erre cooking up hip-hop heat for almost a decade. Friends since 2014, the two recently teamed up for Yo!88, a 2021 joint project featuring P rapping over TM's audio dope. The latter, whose production savvy on Drake's "Way 2 Sexy" with Future and Young Thug earned TM a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 accolade last year, compares Pi'erre's rhymes to a 1990's sitcom. "You can see him living a regular day," TM88 describes of the picture P paints with his music. "He just doing a whole bunch of cool shit. He might go through his ups and downs, but it’s still a wavy-ass show that you wanna see every week. It makes the everyday, average person feel like they can be him. Pi'erre is super relatable. [The fans] love his beats, but I feel like they love him rapping on his beats more."

Brandon Brown, Vice President of A&R at Interscope Records, also met Pi'erre in 2014, as "a kid with a fresh sound," three years prior to P's major label signing. "One of the big things that separates Pi'erre from the current rappers out there is his vulnerability," Brown says. "A lot of his songs are about girls and relationships. He makes his own beats and can record himself. So, that’s a talent that a lot of artists don’t have. He can come up with the vision and execute by himself." Pi'erre is a visionary who speaks for the regular guy, according to Brown, whose favorite P track is "Poof."

Pi'erre dropped the Juicy J joint album Space Age Pimpin' in June and is preparing to release his self-produced GM album before summer ends, with a song called "Jehovah's Witness" that he's excited to debut. Fans also want him part of another project, Playboi Carti's looming Music album. P and Carti recently talked, but P's tour life and his own impending album have him booked and busy at the moment. "Man, I would love to give the people what they want, but I don’t know what the people want," he conveys.

What P is sure about is his purpose: to help heal people with his solo music. Heard straight from the mouths of his supporters. The music professional’s sonic creativity has even quelled his own anxiety and performing has helped him through the grieving process after his cousin died in April. Expect Pi'erre Bourne to live further in his truth as an artist this year because there’s a lifelong goal he is trying to achieve.

"I didn’t get in front of the class and make a beat," he affirms. "I went outside and I heard someone making a beat and I tried to rap to the beat. So, I’m not ever gonna be satisfied with anything based on my production. That's ’cause the kid in me would be upset. The adult me always be like, Nah, I still gotta keep going because this was not the plan. Yeah, put money in my pocket, change my life and help me, my family out, but even they know, it’s time for you to go to the moon."

Listen to Pi'erre Bourne and Juicy J's Space Age Pimpin' Album

pierre bourne photo @tajwop

Read Pi'erre Bourne's interview in the 2022 XXL Freshman issue, on newsstands everywhere now. The issue includes additional interviews with the Freshmen featuring BabyTronCochiseSaucy SantanaBabyface RayKenTheManSoFaygoBig ScarrBig30KayCyyDoechiiKali and Nardo Wick, 2022 XXL Freshman producer Wheezy Outta Here, Lupe FiascoKevin GatesNLE ChoppaYvngxchris, producer DJ Dahi, engineer Teezio and singer Chlöe, plus a breakdown of every Freshman Class from a numbers standpoint, a look back at what the 2021 XXL Freshman Class is doing, the story of why the 2016 XXL Freshman Class gets so much respect now, a deep dive into the world of NFTs through hip-hop's lens and exploring rappers' most valuable collections. You can also buy the 2022 XXL Freshman Class issue here.

See Every Artist in the 2022 XXL Freshman Class

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