From laying down verses with Killer Mike and T.I. in high school, to the nation's infatuation with "goin' ham," Pill comes full circle.
If you want an example of just how quickly Hip Hop has gone from vinyl to viral, Atlanta’s Pill is one hell of a case study. With little more than a regional buzz and a guest verse on Killer Mike’s I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind, he’s released two mixtapes that have media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times and MTV taking notice. You’d think being previously endorsed by the likes of Killer Mike and Andre 3,000 would keep people from sleeping. But the recent showering of Bronx cheers received by OJ Da Juiceman just proves that all things trap related don’t necessarily translate to the larger (read: biased) Hip Hop audience.
Interestingly enough, Pill combines elements of what made “Snap,” “Trap” and “Crunk” popular. And while his name has origins more closely rooted in street football than street pharmaceuticals, the titles of his mixtapes make it clear that he’s no stranger to the trap either. But he’s also a true student of Hip Hop music and culture—so much so that he’ll regularly hit the studio with a six pack of boxers as well as a six pack of beer in tow. About a week after the release of his second mixtape literally had people “goin ham,” Pill explained how he reconciles all these seemingly contrasting elements.
DX: It’s been about a week since the tape came out, what’s the reaction been?
Pill: The response been crazy. The server crashed the first night we put the tape up, so that’s always a good thing. Radio down here is picking “Trap Goin Ham” up, so it’s all good. I ain’t heard nothing bad.
DX: What would you say is the biggest difference between The Prescription and The Refill?
Pill: The Refill is more original tracks. I wanted The Refill to be kinda like an album and a mixtape, because I jacked more tracks on the first one. People were like, “Hey man, we need some of that original shit,” so I gave them that and some jacked beats too. It’s along the same lines, and I don’t want to stray too far away from the formula. It’s like I tell everybody else. The [Atlanta] Falcons went to the Super Bowl [in 1998] after they played great all season. They smashed everybody and only lost a couple games, then got to the Super Bowl and switched the game plan up and lost the fuckin’ game. Play like you played all god damned season! So that’s what I wanna do as an artist—play the same way I been playing. Ain’t no need in switchin’ up. If they like it, what the hell I’ma switch up and do something different for?
DX: With the sampled beats you did use, you went after more classics this time as opposed to just the hits on the charts. Was there any particular reason for that?
Pill: Right. Those were just beats that I felt. I did a few classics on that last one, but I think I did more classic shit this time because I didn’t have room for them on the last one. Those were some of my favorite beats coming up. I respected [Notorious] B.I.G. and 2Pac so much coming up. I knew if I was gonna rock over their beats, I had to make sure my shit was crispy clean. I freestyled over one of ‘em…
DX: Oh word? Was that “Fossils,” where you used the “Kick In the Door” beat?
Pill: Nah, I freestyled on the ‘Pac one [“Wreckage”].
DX: Okay. I was going to ask about that track because it was really personal. Do you ever have reservations talking about your background and your family so openly?
Pill: Nah, it ain’t nothin’ man. As an artist, you wear your heart on your sleeve anyway—that’s if you’re a real artist. You can’t really hold anything in. Personally, I think music is life. So what better way to do it than to put out real shit? It’s a representation of self, and I’m a true student of the game. I came up surrounded by real shit. You hear people talking about being on food stamps and standing in that welfare line, so why wouldn’t I let people know that I been fucked up out here for years too? If that’s what’s gonna come out, that’s what comes out. I can’t be like, “Nah I can’t say that part.” That’s fake to me.
Some people just like to glorify the jewelry, cars, hoes and the clothes. But they don’t really want to tell you how rough it was. I got this saying: “If everybody is bosses then who the fuck the employees is?” I mean who the hell is working if everybody is a boss? I don’t get it. Somebody had to be fucked up, because everybody didn’t come in the game ballin’. Who had to scuffle up some change to get on the bus? A lot of people try to skip past that step to get to the music. But I’m not one of those artists that skips past shit. I’m letting you know raw and uncut.
DX: For those who weren’t really following, the first time a lot of us heard you was on Killer Mike’s I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II—that “If I Can’t Eat Right.”
Pill: Yeah, that was originally my track. I freestyled that whole song at DJ Swift’s house. I was on that liquor. [Laughs] I came in and asked him to play me some tracks. It was Mike [Bigga]’s session, but I think Mike went upstairs to holler at somebody or something. So he loaded the beat up, I did my thing, and everybody came back down and heard it like, “Oh shit.” A couple weeks later I heard the new version, and I was like, “Damn. That’s what’s up. That shit rides.”
DX: So did you two hook up because of the Adamsville connection?
Pill: Nah, we connected in high school because of his cousin Chris Brown—no relation to [Pop star] Chris Brown. Me and his cousin played football together. I freestyled around school doing talent shows and shit. He told me his cousin was Killer Mike and I was like, “Get the fuck outta here with that shit!” This was around the time when he got the trap blazing. We’re young, and he’s on his way to his first Grammy and shit, so I didn’t believe him.
[Mike] had a birthday coming up, so Chris invited me to the party. I’m thinking about just bullshitting at the party, meeting some girls and getting numbers. Chris introduced me to his big brother, and within 30 minutes they had the mic and the camera set up. They wanted me to blaze the mic, and being the microphone fiend that I am, I was like, “Hell yeah!” So they recorded me and eventually went back and played it for Killer.
A week or two later, we meet back up in the ‘Ville. We cut school to meet him, and he was on his way to a tour—he had all his dry cleaning and shit ready to go. And Mike told me he had some shit he wanted me to spit over. I’ll never forget to this day. He had some old school shit with [T.I.] on there. He was like, “Y’all niggas god damn sound alike!” because both of our voices were high pitched than a motherfucker. This was before Tip even cracked like that…
DX: So this is before I’m Serious even dropped?
Pill: Yeah, this is way before all that. Mike played me a freestyle of them in the studio, and I thought it was raw. So we just stayed in contact, and we he came back, I ended up going to Stankonia [Studios] and recording. I was still going to school then, so that shit was wild. And I always thank Mike for that—that’s my brother.
DX: Now that your building so much momentum, what’s the end goal? Are you trying to get on a major or stay independent?
Pill: I got a few offers on the table, and my lawyer is situating all that shit. I personally want to build up enough of a buzz to where I have some leverage and can demand some shit. I’m not averse to the label situation, because you have to plug into the matrix. I just want them to respect me as a businessman and an artist—but more so as a businessman. We’re running our shit like a label. If you look at it, I probably have more shit poppin’ than a lot of these artists who are signed. And we’re just doing our thing—it’s grassroots and purely organic. This isn’t one of those fake ass, “I did it without a deal,” situations. This is the truly an “I did it without a deal” situation for real.
DX: No doubt. Now I’m sure you’re getting a lot of questions about this, but you and Freddie Gibbs have this very similar career trajectory. And you seem to have a real chemistry…
Pill: Oh yeah, that’s my boy! Me and Freddie have that crazy chemistry in the studio…and we wasn’t even in the studio together until I went to L.A. and did [On The Rox]. His people connected with my people, because I didn’t even know him like that at first. My manager Derek was like, “Yeah, he’s dope” and that made me wanna check him out. And sure enough, when I heard him, I was like, “Aww, man. This nigga ridin’! And he’s on the same shit I’m on too. This is some gangsta shit. I definitely gotta do some shit with him.”
They shot me the beat, and I probably wrote my verse in 15 minutes. After I recorded it and shot it back to him, the rest was history. We started communicating on a regular basis, and it’s been on since we went out there and rocked the shows in Hollywood. Everybody’s been saying, “Man, I wanna see y’all on an album or a mixtape together!”
DX: I was just going to ask if there was any chance of getting you two on a whole mixtape together.
Pill: I don’t know, man. Both of us are just sliding in this shit, so it’s a possibility. We’re both just doing our thing right now. We’re gonna always collaborate 'cause shawty my nigga. So I won’t rule it out just yet.
DX: Okay, fair enough. This is completely off topic, but I wanted to ask you about spitting over these Beyonce beats. What made you decide to go in over “Jumpin Jumpin” and “Put a Ring On It?”
Pill: I like to do that for the ladies and for the hood at the same time. What bigger female artist is there than Beyonce? She’s the shit, and she always has classic material. And it’s not just all Pop; some of it is so rugged that people just eat it up. And it ain’t no dudes who can say they don’t fuck with Beyonce’s shit because she jams. From one artist to another, you can’t do nothing but respect her, because she’s a mogul when it comes to this. She’s always got some fly, dope production. So that just made me say, “Man, I know what I’ma do.” Folks thought I was trippin’, but I was for real.
Next thing you know you hear folks on Beyonce tracks. Then they wanna start using the medical terms and stuff. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so that just lets me know I’m doing something right.
DX: Well there should’ve been a pretty big sign a few weeks ago. I know you’re into football so you might’ve caught this. During the pre-game show on ESPN for the Bears versus the Bengals, the sideline reporter chick came on and said the Bengals were about to go ham!
Pill: [Laughing] What? Nah, I didn’t catch that! Man, that’s so crazy because I sat down with DJ Rob Wonder at the bar, and he was trying to convince me that I had changed the English language. I told him I didn’t know about that. And he was like, “For real. I got some friends over in Europe and all they talk about is goin’ ham. You got everybody saying, ‘Going ham.’”
It’s crazy to see that shit actually happening. At my show before Halloween people started showing up with “Trap Goin’ Ham” signs dressed as pigs! That shit had me trippin’. I’m just sittin’ there like, “Oh shit! What have I done?”
DX: When Mike said “These pigs goin’ ham sandwich” on “Pressure,” I thought that was just a metaphor. I didn’t even know people were saying that down there.
Pill: Like I tell everybody else, I just made that shit for the homies in the hood who I trap with and be around. I was like, “Okay I’ma take it to the club called ‘The Ham.’” That’s what’s so crazy. There’s a club on Auburn Avnue and Bell Street. called The Ham.
So I took the song to DJ Mental like, “Man, spin the song. I got you a drink or two.” Plus he’s a friend of Grind Time anyway from way back when. So, I knew he would spin it for me. I had that song before The Prescription even came out. I just when on a cut a few [more songs], because everybody was telling me, “Man you need to quit bullshitting and go on and do your thing. You fire!” I was telling people I had a mixtape coming, but folks be on that “I won’t believe until I see it shit.”
DX: So this is how The Prescription came together?
Pill: Yeah, I just camped out in the studio. I’d take some jeans, draws and clothes and shit to make sure my hygiene was straight, and just camp in that motherfucker. I swear, I was just straight up sleeping in the studio. I was so amped to go to the club, ‘cause that’s the lifestyle a nigga was in. So I just figured, whenever I wanted to go to the club, I would go upstairs and get a bottle of liquor or a beer. I’d just throw me a little show like I’m at the club and play some more beats and write me some shit. This is my club right here!