The year is 2017, E.O.K. (Era of Kendrick) and with the ninety nine cent single engulfing the streaming-downloading ecosystem—there’s much ado to be made about the vicarious life of the full-length music project. Lazy listeners will swear on Illmatic (and perhaps their unborn seed) that the notion of the classic alt soul album died on April 21 of last year with our beloved Purple One. However, Los Angeles–based duo Pink Siifu and Swarvy’s debut album Two Thousand and Nine certainly defies that philosophy.
Tracks like “Purple Kisses,” “3AM,” “’09,” and “Break”’s wavy drum cadences, dirty samples, and fresh instrumentation—evoke a sort of Hendrix mythology about it all. Post Hendrix-Dilla-D’Angelo to be exact. Like if the three smoked and vibed in a homie’s living room and recorded an album—raw, overnight (which, to be honest, is how twothousandnine was created) let’s just say Pink Siifu’s gritty vocals and Swarvy’s organic production miiiight’ve gotten close give or take three less icons or so. To even arouse a wishful daydream of a magical collaboration like that after a good (year-long) listen of an album recorded in the era of the audio selfie; is quite the accomplishment.
It’s almost one in the morning when Pink Siifu and Swarvy arrive to my spot downtown L.A. with party favors. We vibe on those for a bit, crack the windows and jump to it.
Where did you two meet?
PINK: At Ringo’s [MNDSGN’s] house. Swarvy was staying there when he first moved out to L.A. We didn’t talk that much.
SWARVY: He came over to the house and I was smoking in the living room, that was the first time we saw each other—
S: I didn’t even hear his music but soon as I heard his voice I knew I wanted to make something with him.
Photo by @vash.ni
You’re from Alabama?
P: Birmingham. Birthplace of Eddie Kendricks and Sun Ra.
S: I’m from Philly.
How did your home cities influence the creative choices made on the project?
S: Not as much as it usually does with most people’s. The whole album was influenced by D’angelo, Dwele, and Dilla. During the time that I was staying at Ringo’s [MNDSGN’s] Dilla was all we were listening to, and like watching so much live footage of D’Angelo and trying to stay on that vibe. Background vocals and all.
P: We released the album on Swarvy’s and Dilla’s birthday. Swarvy was playing Welcome 2 Detroit the whole time and in that zone—so the influences were really L.A., Richmond, and Detroit as far as the album vibe goes.
S: But I can say for me, yeah Philly definitely influenced me. Record stores in Philly are all soul and jazz shit really. I grew up listening to the Roots. And my dad put me on to mad music growing up. He plays guitar, he used to play in bands.
Photos (3) by @ethos_25
How much of the album is sampled?
S: Half and half. The tracks switch back and forth. “Popsused2pushthatbarrywhite” was a sample. “Skatiiin” was a sample. We were mostly in the living room making shit on the computer speakers, Pink’s writing while I’m making the tracks, then the next morning he goes into the studio and records all of the vocals.
P: In one of the sessions we were actually stuck inside of the house, both of us had gotten sick—so we started fucking around with sampling records, mixed in some live instruments and a couple of days later had an album. Then at the end of the week we had a mix and—
S: I mean this dude [Pink] writes really fast so… he’s like one take pretty much for almost everything.
Swarvy, Did you take drum lessons as a kid or do you play by ear?
S: Both. I took piano when I was five, then guitar, then bass. Back in Philly I played in a ton of different bands. I played orchestra…
Both of you play drums?
P: Yo. Swarvy’s like a child of Prince. He plays everything.
S: Nah, not everything. I just play the rhythm section. All the live drums on the album I played myself as well as all of the instruments on the album.
P: One thing about Swarvy, he plays so many instruments and all of his instrumental sounds are have different styles. Don’t sound like one person. That’s why a lotta people don’t think Swarvy produced the whole album.
Did you write Two Thousand and Nine in or out of session? What was the process like.
P: We definitely wrote most of 2009 songs in session. As far as writing processes go? Sometimes I just sing a melody all day. Or what I think might be a hook. Or I bring in little verses rap verses that I’ve written on the train—then fit the a verse to which ever track I feel like it connects with in session. All the live beats—I’m making vocals while he’s making the tracks live.
S: A lot of what we do is written in the same room—same time.
Photos (2) by @qlick22
What’s 3am about?
P: Chillin’ and smoking. Swarvy was going through shit. I was going through shit with my relationship.
Is heartbreak more inspiring for you to write about than love?
P: Ain’t that the same shit? [laughs] When I’m in pain I write more love-type shit. When I’m happy I feel like I write more activist-type shit. I like writing all of it.
S: Sometimes, I’ll tell this dude something and I’ll leave the session and come back and he’s already put what I said into a verse. Like when I left the studio to move my car and when I got back the first verse of a new song we were putting down was “rearrange your parking.” [laughs]
Do you feel a need to include politics or activism in your work?
P: Sometimes. But I’m not really an activist—I can’t really say that I am. But I’m definitely about aligning with the highest power and niggas getting in touch with themselves and opening their eyes—but like I don’t… I’m more like a lover than an activist. I’m always gon’ have some type of love shit in my songs.
Photo by @vash.ni
The L.A. scene is so lush right now. Who are you vibing with musically?
S: There’s so much raw talent right now.
P: I’ll say Iman Omari, Mike Mitchell, Jon Bap, and Logii have the illest albums coming out this year. Norvis Junior for fucking sure. Zeroh, Jerimiah Jae, the whole Black Jungle squad, DJ Harrison, Ohbliv, Dibia$e, the whole Vibe Music Collective, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jimetta Rose… the whole Mutant Academy, Ras G—seeing Ras play is very very dope. He’s like that OG ass rapper who still plays like a hungry one—
S: Like the Arkestra. They’ll play a song from the ’20s, then some bugged out shit after. Keeping it true to the unpredictable roots of the genre. Ras G does that with hip-hop.
Is there and underground scene anymore or has it all been blown out by the internet?
S: In L.A. there doesn’t feel like it. There’s just different vibes.
P: I guess there is, but it’s now just a matter of when niggas catch on. It’s just a matter of time before everybody catches the wave so you can’t really stay underground for long.
Deals and album sales don’t exactly define success anymore, at least not on our scenes but do you feel like dope artists are getting the right amount attention? Do you feel successful?
S: I do. I’m teaching and playing. Everything I’m doing is in music so like, I already feel successful. I don’t wonder where I’m placed in someone else’s mind, you know? I feel like a lot of the homies feel the same way. As long as we’re making music it’s good.
P: I definitely feel successful but I also feel like some niggas sleep on artists and others gotta wake up. I definitely feel like they are some artists that should be more known. But it’ll happen if they just keep grinding.
S: Everybody got their own timelines, though. Their own meanings of success.
P: But niggas is definitely leveling up. MNDSGN, Iman [Omari]… I feel like they should be getting way more attention but they’re definitely catching that wave now. We all are.
Swarvy with Pink Siifu - 3AM - (Official Music Video)