Pi’erre Bourne has known who he was from the very beginning. Before the South-Carolina-by-way-of-Queens bred artist shifted the landscape of Hip-Hop production with Playboi Carti’s chart-topping song, “Magnolia,” Pi’erre made it his business to sleep in the studio and live in the booth.
While still working as an engineer for Epic Records in 2016, Pi’erre would use his off days during the week to tighten his rap skills and record songs in the studio after he finished engineering other artists’ work. Fast forward five years later, and he has now been the man behind a flurry of hit singles, and released four entries of his The Life of Pi’erre series — named after his idol Kanye West’s album, The Life of Pablo — which he closes this month with his latest studio album, The Life of Pi’erre 5.
However, despite the success that Pi’erre has seen on both the production and rapping fronts up to this point — with The Life of Pi’erre 5 being his highest-charting solo project on the Billboard 200 albums listing to date — he still acknowledges that he is not where he wants to be from an artist’s perspective. “I don’t feel like I’ve made it as an artist or a rapper yet,” he says. “I still have a long way to go. My album just came out and we’re, like, No. 35 on the [Billboard 200]. I know everyone else around me is happy because it’s like, ‘Hey, this the best since your first release,’ and that’s cool. But I want to be No. 1. I don’t care about 35. I have more work to do.”
Even while he still fights for that No. 1 spot, The Life of Pi’erre 5 reflects the lyrical and emotional growth Pi’erre has gained since dropping the last entry in 2019, while maintaining his usual high-level production. He speaks candidly about different familial ties, adjusting to fame, and the rap heights he still desires to reach. Tracks like “Couch” exemplify this, with Pi’erre crooning about how he used to sleep on his friend’s couch, and now they are no longer in touch.
“A lot of people will say that’s what they did before the fame, but not a lot of people just tell their stories,” he explains. “I feel like, with TLOP 4, I touched on my life a little bit with songs like ‘How High’ and being around Queens with my friends and stuff, but that was brief. With TLOP 5, I really wanted to dive in and open up about certain things that I’ve been through.”
In a conversation with Billboard, Pi’erre Bourne talks about releasing his latest album, The Life of Pi’erre 5, what it means to bring this series to a close, and how living life has positively affected his music.
So The Life of Pi’erre 5 is finally out in the world. How does it feel now that the album is released?
It feels pretty good. I feel like it’s the perfect time, now that the world is opening back up, with everyone being able to walk around without face coverings everywhere. It’s a perfect time for everyone to come out and come to the pop-up [shops] and get back to feeling normal.
I know this album has basically been done since 2019. Have any of these songs been tinkered with and remastered since you initially finished them?
A majority of it I definitely finished right about the time I turned in The Life of Pi’erre 4, but I did a lot of new material last year around my birthday in September and October. I did a lot of new material for this album then, so it’s about half-and-half. I didn’t want to just put out a bunch of old stuff.
What made you want to start the album with a conversation with your grandma?
That song [“Switching Lanes”] actually leaked. It leaked before I could finish my creative input, so I just wanted to put it out how I had it planned originally. With the leak, though, there’s but so much I can change, because people love leaks. So I kind of left it how it was — but I made my grandma’s part the intro on the album, instead of everything on one song.
TLOP 5 marks the first time you’ve included other artists in the series since the first one you dropped. What made you want to include Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, and Sharc here?
Since this was the final TLOP of the series, I wanted to add a couple of features with people who have helped me out in my career and helped really get me out there with the public. So, getting Uzi and Carti was the perfect thing to do.
The documentary that you dropped to coincide with the album was also really insightful. Do you plan to make more archival documentaries like that?
Actually, we have over three years of archival footage, so we’ll just keep gathering content. The documentary was really just meant to explain how I started The Life of Pi’erre series, but there’s a lot more content I wanted to come out. I didn’t now because I didn’t want to put out a bunch of stuff at once. I want people to really understand how this started, who I am, and why I’m doing this, so I felt like that documentary was an introduction to explaining all of that.
I’m happy everybody is responding to it well, and they’re asking for more. All the content that’s in the documentary is from 2016 — so that’s pretty dope, that everyone is excited to see stuff like that and wants more. Because I have so much more.
You said in the doc that you knew that the TLOP series would end when you “were on.” What was the moment when you knew you made it as a rapper?
Honestly, I don’t think I made it as a rapper yet. I feel like I made it as a producer. With TLOP 4 and 5, that’s been me getting everyone to see that I’m rapping, but a lot of people still haven’t heard TLOP 1, 2, or 3. There’s still a gap to be filled between the millions of people that know me as a producer as opposed to an artist. I just have to gain more awareness, and that’s pretty much what the music has done.
As an artist, how much do you think you’ve grown since you first started the TLOP series
I’ve lived more life. When I first started TLOP, I was just living in the studio, and I didn’t really see much, so my creativity was in a box. Now that I’ve been able to travel the world, see things, and just meet so many different people in the world that love my music, I’ve learned so much more. I feel like that’s helped me grow as an artist and, lyrically, just have more things to write about. Since I started just living my life, everything started to take off, and I’ve had a lot of things to talk about in my songs.
On the hook for “Couch,” you talk about how you and your brother don’t really talk anymore. What are your emotions behind that song?
I know everyone gravitates towards that song, it’s very personal, but I’m pretty clear as far as what the problems were that I was trying to touch on the song. Not too many have said that on a song, ‘Hey, I’m sleeping on my friend’s couch.”
And I’m not trying to be an a–hole with what I’m saying on the hook of “Couches,” that’s just what it was. It doesn’t get more to the point than what I said on the hook, as far as sleeping on my friend’s couch, and now we don’t talk anymore. Anything else, that would just be some drama shit, and I’m not a dramatic person. I feel like everyone can relate to it.
It doesn’t have to be my brother, either. It could be my cousin, a friend of mine that I call my brother. It doesn’t have to necessarily be my brother. I have only one brother, and me and him talk all the time, so it wasn’t about my little brother.
You’ve mentioned how much you hate leaks, and also tweeted in November of last year that “making music is the easiest part of all this shit.” What’s the hardest part of all this, then?
It’s been very hard for everyone because of COVID. The process of making music hasn’t changed. That’s never changed for me, so I feel like getting it out to the public and putting it out the right way is a lot harder. No one really knows the right or wrong way. Sometimes, it’s just luck or chance, or the right timing. I feel like that’s the part I meant in terms of things being “hard,” but making the music, making the songs is what I’ve been doing since I was a child so it’s the easiest part. I’ve just been learning and getting better.
On the production side, the pause you put in “Drunk and Nasty” sounds similar to the one you placed in Carti’s song “Place.” Is that concert pause becoming something you’re starting to utilize more?
“Drunk and Nasty” was a leak for a long time and it’s always had that pause. But I always kept it how it was, the only thing I changed was adding Sharc to it and putting a drill kind of vibe to the beat when he starts rapping. But as far as my part and the basis of the song, I didn’t want to change anything, everyone loves it how it is. Since there are no concerts consistently yet, it’s hard to see how the crowd will gravitate towards it, so I’m happy to be doing these two pop-ups that I did. Everyone likes it because I know a lot of people at home who do music aren’t sure what the hell people like.
You tweeted that Carti has more verses on the deluxe version of the album, and there will be many samples. What else can fans expect on the deluxe?
Well, a lot of things can change, so I don’t want to say I have everything ready right now because I’m still waiting on songs and features. So, I don’t want to say it’s going to be anything specific, but I definitely wanted to put samples on the songs that were on TLOP 5. Like, I have different versions of the same song that just have samples within the beat that I chopped up that were really dope to me, and I want people to hear that kind of production with those songs. You never know what they’ll say, but they might gravitate towards it even more. I didn’t want to add any new songs to the deluxe. I wanted to do a real deluxe version where the same songs I already put out receive a newer version.
With the last deluxe, it was COVID, I knew the world was shutting down, so I knew we needed to just get some songs out for the fans, but I didn’t have a plan yet for [TLOP] 5. I didn’t want to put out a new album, so I just kept pushing TLOP 4 last year with the deluxe. But this time I’m like, “Alright, the world is opening back up, I want to do a real deluxe.”
I’m still iffy on it because I kind of like the album how it is, but I have the versions with the samples already on it. Me and Carti, we linked and he did a couple of records, like a remix to some of the songs that I put out on 5. But when me and Carti work, we’re so sporadic, so I don’t know if they’ll still be on there. We might have a whole other plan with what we’re doing going forward. I know I tweeted what I tweeted, but I’ve always tweeted certain things that go left, so I’m hoping my tweets stay true.
Is there anything else fans can look forward to coming soon?
Right now, we’re finishing up the Balmain tape that I’m working on with TM88. He made all the beats, and I rapped on them, so that’ll be the follow-up to TLOP 5. And Sharc, who is on “Drunk N Nasty,” is dropping his debut project and I made, like, all the beats on there. That’s coming this Friday, so that’s what I’m gearing up for — and getting this Sosshouse thing to go crazy. Chavo is dropping, Jelly is dropping something soon, just a lot more Soss coming out and more videos for TLOP coming out. I also got a lot more projects, including one with Cardo [Got Wings] that I just finished, so I’m ready to get them out.