I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Little Rock, Arkansas rapper Big Piph. We featured Big Piph’s video “Why” a few weeks ago, and now Piph is out with a new campaign for an interactive music experience in the form of a mobile app. I was excited to talk with him about his current projects, his recent trip to Africa, and how race relations are impacting hip-hop–specifically his own music.
Introduce yourself. Who is Big Piph? Where are you from? Where are you headed?
Big Piph is the evolution of “Epiphany” becuase the former is more SEO friendly. I’m a realist emcee who only speaks on what I know, think about, and experience w/ somel creative juices mixed in. I’m from Pine Bluff, AR and headed to the top! Just trippin, I’m headed wherever makes sense for whatever project I’m on.
At what point did you start rapping? Were you involved in music as a kid?
I made the decision the summer before my senior year in college, but didn’t start writing seriously until about 2002, maybe? I was never that child you thought you predicted would be involved with music, although way earlier in life I did make up hella songs with my sister, Kiisha. I was a singer back then. Due to my lack of pitch, tune, and range; my fam is glad that didn’t pan out.
Who are your greatest influences?
A homeboy from childhood named, Tone Pro, who got me to love hip-hop and write my 1st bars and a collegiate friend named, Wayne Moore, who got me to freestyle and become more creative.
You play with a group called “The Tomorrow Maybe.” Tell me about them. Also, most artists don’t rap over a full band. What is different about your process because of this compared to rappers who just use a DJ? Why do you think you chose to include a full band?
Well, I do do the traditional DJ setup as well and occasionally I prefer it not just because of mobility, but because it’s a different sound and feel. Still, 80+% of the time I prefer the band b/c of the musicality and freedom. I started working with them because I just wanted to add more production and musical aspects to my show. In my opinion it just made it more fun and better to watch. For the most part, it’s just all around doper. Plus, I sincerely like and respect each and every member. They make me a better artist and man. As far as the process, we rarely create new music together. I tend to do my solo thing and then bring those creations to the squad and then we “enhance” all to make it our own.
You guys recently took a trip to Africa to do workshops and perform. Tell me about that. What did you take away from that experience? What do you think you were able to leave with the people there?
We travelled courtesy of the US Embassy as a result of American Music Abroad. We were chosen from 400+ bands as 1 of 10 to perform, conduct workshops, and create music with native musicians and youth. This one is hard to summarize as there were so many elements to the trip that resonated. From the land, to the culture, to the people, to the performances every moment was something to absorb. Also, the bond between the band mates became stronger as well. As far as what we left, besides dope music that reaches the soul, I hope it was a good example of what cultural exchange should be that has slightly shifted their world as it did ours.
You released an EP, I Am Not Them, last month. The album is pretty socially conscious and at times very matter of fact. Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration for the EP?
Well, hopefully it was good too. Honestly, it sounding good is my first goal and all else are the following requirements. I just try to write for where I am presently in life and capture it musically in a way that resonates w/ others. Honestly, I rarely if ever go about a song by saying I want to make a statement other then this is me and it’s where I am. Also, I try to grow artistically and challenge myself just a lil bit each time, so, this music was the result of that.
I think it’s hard right now not to be focused on race relations in the United States, and you really hit the nail on the head in ‘Dear White People’. Can you talk about writing this and performing it and what it means to you? Do you think that the current state of race relations in America is impacting hip hop as an entire genre in any way?
Thanks for your compliment. I originally had this song idea that was solely going to be about “white privilege” and would be ultra-satirical in nature. It started evolving a little bit more and I realized I was gonna paint my thoughts in broader strokes and wanted to form a song with an infectious hook despite the biting material on a subject that was frequenting my thoughts. Not only did I find that slightly humorous, but I thought the tone would match how many white people want to act like how situation is. Happy and rosy when it’s much more bleak and the flowers are bout dead. But yeah, race relations are affecting hip-hop and always have. Although not always noted mainstream, these thoughts have always been expressed, they’re just overshadowed by the other songs in the genre. But now, we hear lyrics hitting mainstream songs and we have Top 10 artists in the game dedicating songs and even albums to the subject. Still not nearly enough, but it’s a start.
You launched a new app campaign this week. What is it? What’s your goal? How can we get involved?
It’s for “I Am Not Them: The Legacy Project.” The last project “I Am Not Them: The Pre-EP” was just that. The warm up for this one. This is what I call a “living album” in that it’s a 1st of its kind interactive app based album. The ambition is for it to engage, highlight, and connect the FAM (or users) through storytelling. And of course, the music is dope. The goal is to raise $25k to build the thing and you can get involved by making a contribution and getting excited. You can check it out, HERE. But also please share and feel free to tell a friend to tell a friend. I’ve been working on this one a long time with a group of very cool folks. Honestly, we believe it will be revolutionary album for the music industry, but the goal is just for the FAM to be immersed in the experience. Oh, also when the project is finished, 10% of the proceeds from further sales will go to Global Kids-Arkansas.
Anything else you want to add or that we should know about you and your music?
Folks can check out www.bigpiph.com to check things out. Good music. Good times. Not for everybody, but it might just be what you’re looking for and didn’t even know it.