When people think of the Chicago hip-hop collective SaveMoney, the first names that come to minds are Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and possibly Towkio. I hope Joey Purp’s latest release, iiiDrops, will add his name to that (already too short) list. The name may recall features such as Vic Mensa’s “Fear and Doubt” from his 2013 release Innanetape, but Purp has been consistent in Chicago’s rap scene for a few years. He is one half of Leather Corduroys along with SaveMoney member Kami de Chukwu. The two released a strong mixtape, Season, and Purp has appeared on a handful of projects since then, like Donnie Trumpet’s Surf and Towkio’s .Wav Theory. Every once in awhile, a new song from Joey appeared online, my favorite being “Morgan Freeman” which is an absolute banger (and nowhere to be seen on iiiDrops) . I’ve been a fan for a minute now, so I was definitely anticipating this release.
Purp’s singles leading up to iiiDrops confused me in the best way possible. What I mean is that all three singles sounded completely different from one another and weren’t exactly reminiscent of anything he had done before, just like the rest of the project. A few months ago Purp uploaded the first single, in which he rides a colorful horn alongside Chicago native and founder of the group Pivot Gang, Saba, with additional vocals from Mick Jenkins’ side-kick, theMIND. None of Joey Purp’s prior releases have had such a vibrant instrumental and intricate lyrics as this. We get two lengthy, in-depth verses, appropriately about a cornerstore and the significance of a simple shop to the two rappers growing up and their experience with the streets today. I remember thinking that if the mixtape sounded like this song, I was going to be in for a great ride.
The next single, “Photobooth”, sounded absolutely nothing like the previous one, but was just as ear opening. In terms of the instrumental, it’s tough to describe without listening for yourself. Produced by the frequent SaveMoney collaborator Knox Fortune, it sounds like an orchestrated herd of elephants charging at you in the middle of the city. Simply amazing, and I couldn’t even tell you what the instrumentation is. On top of this, Joey spits more awesome bars and although this track is less thematic, it goes perhaps the hardest on the project (and sounds great on full volume in a car).
Days before iiiDrops was released in full, fans were blessed with two more verses from Joey Purp, as well as a Chance the Rapper feature on the buoyant track “Girls @”. The instrumental is my favorite on the project, reminding me of some early 2000’s Neptunes/N.E.R.D with high bells and other random effects revolving around a thick, deep, yet club-worthy bassline. Plus, Chance delivers a hilarious verse asking, “Where all the girls with the book in the club?/ With the reading glasses on gettin’ shook in the club/ Readin’ Ta-Nehisi Coates hummin’ SpottieOttieDope/ with the ‘why I let ‘em drag me here?’ look in the club”. The lyrics from both rappers throughout the song are of very high quality, but I’d like to take the time to point out that Ta-Nehisi Coates is a fantastic writer, and “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” is one of the best Outkast songs(!) All three singles make for some of the best cuts on the mixtape, and some of the most memorable tracks of the year thus far. Thankfully, the rest of iiiDrops was just as enjoyable.
The project starts off on a high-note with Joey Purp sharing his views on violence, success, suffering losses, and experiencing truth on the opener “Morning Sex”. Part of what I like best about this project is that Purp doesn’t shy away from these difficult or taboo topics. The mixtape contains some very socially conscious raps from Joey, and it comes so naturally to him, like on my favorite track “Money & Bitches” with Mick Jenkins. As Purp explains, don’t let the title of the song fool you because there’s a “…point that we making, it’s easy to miss it/ They taught us that hooping and rapping is all we invented/ They taught us to speak your opinion and get you arrested/ And we grew up being neglected by our elected officials”. With dozens of other thought-provoking verses, a catchy hook, and a classic verse from Mick that gets better and better the more you listen, “Money & Bitches” was created to quickly become a common fan favorite.
As the tracks come and go, each one leaves you thinking. Not to mention, each has a distinct feel to it. Purp reaches into so many different genres on this thing; from the laid-back “When I’m Gone” to the trap-autotuned “Kids”, they all seap together to create a mutt-like project without sounding like Joey is biting anyone’s sound.
In the last third of the tape, “Godbody” is one of those tracks that has to be played more than once in a row at each listen, containing witty lines like how selling drugs to undercover cops is “un-cool like your mother’s brother”, (how has no one thought of that?!) and closing the track by taking justified shots at Spike Lee. “Winner’s Circle” with Vic Mensa was a pleasant surprise for me, considering that Vic has consistently delivered weak tracks ever since he signed with Roc Nation. It actually sounds like he put some thought into this verse, so props to him.
The few downsides I see to this project are fairly nit-picky. One is the placement of “Girls @” in the tracklisting. It’s a fun song that should be played in clubs across the nation, but it just sticks out, as it’s sandwiched between two very conscious songs: “Morning Sex” and “Money & Bitches”. However, there’s no question that it was put here strategically as the Chance feature draws the attention of unfamiliar listeners. I also feel like there are some lines on here that are repeated slightly more than they should. There are a few times where a line in the second or third verse feels repeated, like on “Girls @” where Purp raps “She says she never did it with the lights on/ Baby we gon’ see”, then in the closing verse “She says she never did it with the lights on/ That’s called change”. I’m sure it was intentional, don’t get me wrong, but the fact that something just like this happens two or three more times is a little disappointing. Granted, the only reason I noticed this is because the project has literally been on repeat for the last week and a half.
From start to finish, iiiDrops took my already high expectations and put them to shame. Joey Purp is emotionally invested in each track, creating politically charged, and extremely conscious raps which is what all types of music need to have more of. The beats are extremely original and I can guarantee you’ll be reading more about this project at the end of the year in my top 25 albums of 2016. The direction Joey Purp is heading in will allow him to reach a level that I mistakenly never saw coming, and he will soon be part of the conversation whenever people discuss the best Chicago rappers.
Written by Dylan Hardin