Photo Courtesy of Pearl Harba
“The way I go about my music, I don’t say, ‘I’m gonna make this type of record, I’m gonna talk about this or that’. It’s just whatever catches me at the moment. I don’t wanna be predictable since my story is not always the same.”
These are the words and primary construct behind the artist self-described as “Brooklyn’s Pearl Harbor.” But he’s hip hop, so to be clear, it’s Pearl Harba, pronounced with a distinctly New York brogue. Born, raised, and currently broadcasting live out of Bushwick, the new emcee has been in the game for years, yet this is his first foray as a performing artist. In the past, he’s played DJ, hosting shows on Da Beatminerz Radio, and serving four years as the station’s programming director. There was always the interest to rap, always the passion and skill, but never the time until now.
“I didn’t want my music to suffer from having too much going on,” explains Pearl Harba, 32, who has just about wrapped production on his premiere record, a 15-track mixtape titled, Deliver Us. “Now that I’m in artist-mode though, I have time to record.”
Pearl Harba’s music is subtle, influenced with inspiration from hip hop’s past and present, and slightly tugging at a larger moment towards traditional production. As the emcee observes, more and more contemporary artists are returning to the roots of hip hop artistry—be it ever so gradual—and finding ample opportunity to distribute their music with the growth of online radio. He describes commercial radio as a “good source for generating money,” awash with poppy tracks and looped arrangements. Yet even though it’s hard to hear good hip hop on Hot 97, the new generation, he contends, knows how to track it down.
“People know where to find Rakim; they can get his music sent straight to their computers and it’s easy,” comments Pearl Harba on the ubiquity and convenience of digital music, and the resulting promulgation of old school rap. “Hip hop moves in cycles and it’s starting to fix itself. It begins with the DJs first. If they go one route, everyone goes that route. At first, it was all about conscious rap then came the party scene, then gangsta rap and controversy. That’s why people love hip hop though. It’s so diverse.”
The Brooklyn rapper also points to the success of festivals like Rock the Bells, featuring acts like A Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang Clan, and Lauryn Hill, as evidence of the trend, and he acclaims the latest work by rappers like J. Cole and Busta Rhymes. According to Pearl Harba, artists are shifting attention back to lyrics, as audiences are again growing attuned to subject matter.
He observes, “Artists are writing more for the audience, and they don’t wanna hear about how many yachts you got. They can’t relate to that.”
Still tied to the spirit of local hero, Biggie Smalls, the “Brooklyn Boy who made his dreams come true,” Pearl Harba collaborated with one of the legend’s former cohorts, Sadat X, on his forthcoming mixtape; Sadat X is known mostly for his work with Brand Nubian. Also on the record, Juganot is featured on the first single and music video, “My Way,” and producers Multiple Blastoff and Born Sinner had a hand in overall production. It’s a project nearly complete, which will segue Pearl Harba into the next phase of his debut: a full-length LP.
True to character, Pearl Harba’s hustling to hit the streets of his home fort as a force.
“In New York, I’d like to see hip hop bridge the gap between artists at the top and artists at the bottom,” he says. “The OGs aren’t pulling up the youngbloods like they should. Busta, Nas, Jadakiss—they all have the power to pull someone up. Down south, you see these bigger artists co-sign young guys because they believe in them. If New York came together as a whole like that, wow; that’d be crazy.”
A predilection for the future, courtesy of the unpredictable Pearl Harba: Aspiring artists working with veterans, building a network and scene, where mixtapes like Deliver Us can come out of nowhere and blow through the roof.