Lately I’ve found myself getting lost in the production of rap music, rather than the lyrics themselves. The beat itself is the first thing that captures my attention, and whether the lyrics or mind-blowing or not, a beat that slaps will overpower anything. Sure, speaker knocking drums will get anyone amped up, but my favorite thing to do is to look for the creativity of how a producer manipulates a beat. The best producers are quickly identifiable by their unique sound, and at the moment, there’s no better producer that draws me in like Pi’erre Bourne.
Ever since breaking on the scene in 2016, the South Carolina-born producer has been on a tear, linking up with artists like Playboi Carti, Young Nudy, Lil Uzi Vert, and Young Thug. What makes Pi’erre stand out from his peers is the pure simplicity of his beats. Take a track like Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia,” which till this day may be Pi’erre’s definitive work. The beat consists of a magical four-note loop, with melodic flutes and syncopated synths, that sound like you’re traveling through Hyrule.
That’s Pi’erre’s thing though. He loves to pair bright video game-esque sounds with trap drums. Those two elements alone are nothing new, but the way he incorporates the sounds together are distinct. It’s in a way confusing, but somehow makes total sense.
Pi’erre, of course, uses more traditional sounds that make up a beat — heavy bass, snare kicks, hi-hats, dark pianos, etc. — but the way in which he deploys these sounds is a bit awkward. His drums sound like they’re submerged deep under sea level. His piano keys sound like he’s playing them off of one of those old Fisher-Price toy pianos.
This is all deliberate — mix them in with sound effects reminiscent of an old pinball machine, distorted synths, and samples that sound like they could come from your favorite 90’s cartoon show, and what emerges is a beat rich in sounds that clash, but somehow don’t step over each other. It’s absurd. On the Pi’erre-produced “Sunflower Seeds,” we open with a plain drum kick alongside playful guitar strings, then layered over bouncy background noises akin to the congratulatory music after finishing a level on Super Mario Bros. It sounds like you’re floating on a cloud while you watch the world move around you.
What also makes these beats work is Pi’erre meticulous choice of collaborators. Young Nudy, who performs “Sunflower Seeds,” is one of Pierre’s most frequent partners, and the first rapper of any note to grace his beats. Nudy will by no means give you jaw dropping lyrics, but him and Pi’erre work so well together because Nudy knows how to let the beat breathe and just blur in with all the madness surrounding him.
Their 2019 mixtape Sli’merre perfect encapsulates the partnership. On certain songs, it sounds as if Nudy is just merely talking instead of rapping, because his delivery on top of the pristine production meshes so well. In an interview with The Fader, Nudy describes what it’s like picking out a Pi’erre beat:
There’s a lot of shit where my beats come from. Little cartoon shit, because I’m big on cartoons. I might hear some Power Rangers sounds, I might hear some shit that I haven’t heard since I was a little kid, it might just be certain little noises in there that I like. I be liking shit with different weird noises, because I know how to bring me out to those sounds.
When Pi’erre isn’t dishing out his beats to artists, he’s holding on to them for himself. Going back to 2016, Pi’erre created his own mixtape series titled, The Life of Pi’erre. The latest installment to his series, The Life of Pi’erre 4, is where Pi’erre shines the brightest both as an artist and producer. Throughout the mixtape, like his beats, Pi’erre takes an unconventional approach with the use of his producer tag. While tags are typically found at the very beginning of a song, Pi’erre randomly drops them in wherever he sees fit.
His now infamous: “Yo Pi’erre, you wanna come out here?,” tag, which itself is sampled from an episode of The Jamie Foxx Show, will find its way multiple times in a song, almost as if they’re lyrics. The unpredictability of the placement goes against conventional song construction, but has the listener anticipating the next tag to drop. Like the artists he works with, Pi’erre himself isn’t a phenomenal lyricist. But where he flourishes is in finding melodic pockets within his dreamy production, and keeping you entranced through the mixing of the tape.
From top to bottom, the mixtape blends heavenly from to song to song, easily allowing you to get lost in the exotic sounds. Then, just as find yourself disorientated by the production, Pi’erre powers the mixtape with over-the-top sound effects — his own spin on the classic Trapaholics mixtape tag (“Damn Pi’erre, where’d you find this?”), a lions roar, and multiple samples referencing brining him the sauce. It gives the project the nostalgic feel of a street-bought mixtape.
With plans to make another installment in The Life of Pi’erre series, as well topping the Billboard Top 100 Producers Chart this year, Pi’erre Bourne hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. While his odd style is still working its way through music, producers are still finding a way to catch up to his sound. A quick YouTube search of “Pi’erre Bourne Type Beats,” finds people attempting to capture the essence of his sound, but none come close to replicating his uniqueness. Pi’erre Bourne is one of one, but hopefully more rappers and producers will take note of his irregular style, and not be afraid to take their own unusual approach.