An interview with Pink Siifu

At an electric DC stop on tour with B. Cool-Aid, Pink Siifu takes in the moment and reflects on his long journey.

Pink Siifu. Art by Tyler Farmer.

Black music’s greatest contemporary artists push the boundaries of genre, abandoning labels in favor of experimentation, to make something that just sounds good and makes you feel good. Pink Siifu is one of them. His releases have gone from lo-fi hip-hop on Ensley to the rage-filled dissonant punk tunes of NEGRO. For a few years, he was on straight bars, rapping his ass off on his collaborations with Fly Anakin, FlySiifu’s and Smokebreak. On his most recent solo project, a masterful blend of an album that many consider his breakthrough, Gumbo’! he floats between every type of beat you could imagine, tying them together through the perspective of a wandering Black artist who’s naturally soaked up a range of influences. A nomad, Siifu has spent time in California, the Midwest, the Southeast, the Mid-Atlantic and New York, developing and honing his craft and propelling himself worldwide. 

In November, Pink Siifu will begin the European leg of his tour with Ahwlee as the duo B. Cool-Aid, in support of their second album together Leather Blvd. The two met at a Low End Theory event, a party hosted by mndsgn, and their music sounds like it. The album, produced in part by Butcher Brown and DJ Harrison, contains 16 tracks of brown sugar. Bold and brash bars are split with soft, harmonious vocals, resting on top of post-bop jazz sounds fused with funk elements reminiscent of Herbie Hancock. Featuring all-stars Liv.e, Fousheé, and more, Leather Blvd. is a concept album that feels safe and comfortable. Conversations about maturity, love and loss, and personal discovery, all taking place on your cousin’s porch in the neighborhood where you grew up.

Back in August, during his DC show at DC9 Nightclub, Siifu brought out Fly Anakin and Quelle Chris, along with a special guest appearance by local rapper Ankhlejohn.  As part of promotion for the tour,  B. Cool-Aid established a dress code of leather or formal attire for the evening. Very few people were decked out but no one seemed to mind due to the temperature. It was sweltering but drinks were cheap (for DC). When we first got there, we happened to catch Siifu right as he was coming down from the rooftop bar. He greeted us with a warm welcome, introducing us to the crew.

Pink Siifu performing with B. Cool-Aid at DC9, 8/10/23. All photos by Gustavo Marinho.

Because Pink Siifu has roots on the East Coast, spending more and more time in the DMV and Baltimore in recent years (his twins were born in the same hospital I was: Mercy Hospital in Mount Vernon, Downtown Baltimore) it felt like a homecoming of sorts. Friends and family of Fly Anakin and Pink Siifu were in attendance.

Pink Siifu himself describes this B. Cool-Aid project as “family reunion” music, so, naturally, they hosted one in the green room after the show. Once everyone had performed and finally retired to the green room, we got to spend some quality time with Siifu, Fly Anakin, Ahwlee, Quelle Chris, and Ankhlejohn. They treated us like we’d known them our whole lives. Hugs were shared, pictures were taken, drinks were poured, stories were told, and cousins, brothers and sisters streamed in as the performances ended.

Before the green room festivities, I pulled Siifu aside during a lull after Quelle Chris’ set. Dressed in leather from head to toe, Livingston Mathews filled his sheet of Bambu with about half of the weed I brought for him and a gracious amount of funnel, and we headed out to the venue’s back stairwell. We chatted about his life as a father, his time spent on tour, musical inspirations and aspirations, and what has changed in his life in the two years since he released his album Gumbo’!.

Pink Siifu and friends backstage.

Jourdan Taylor: So, how has your life changed since  Gumbo’!?

Pink Siifu: Shit, I had some babies. I’m a little more financially stable… and I went on tour with my homies. I took the homies, took my day ones on tour.

I feel good. Doing more mature things, for sure, and I’m just more grounded and of level mind, just trying to think about what the next chapter looks like.

Leather Blvd. has been described as neo-soul, jazz-rap, and g-funk. How would you describe it in your own words?

Shit, it’s all of that, but like really just Black. I just say it’s like Black music. It’s like, you know, “family-reunion-music” type shit. Grown and sexy too. Neo-soul for sure. G-funk for sure. “Streets Got Pages” is definitely g-funk, but I feel like that’s kind of maybe the only g-funk track we got.

I feel like all of those influences are definitely in there. Ahwlee is from Long Beach, I’m from Birmingham/Cincinnati so, you know, all that funk/Midwest jazz shit is definitely in that shit. Ahwlee is a genius and we had Butcher Brown and DJ Harrison, shout out them niggas. They helped us out with everything like soundscaping and everything.

That was gonna be my next question – what was the workflow like as far as composing the music and then directing the instrumentalists and singers? At times there were somewhat holy or orchestral sounds running throughout the background of certain songs on the album. Who was crafting that sound and how did that get laid down and recorded?

I mean, I feel like we all played a part in doing that for sure. But Butcher Brown and DJ Harrison definitely were the main players. Yeah, you know, there was just—Ahwlee was having shit, I had some ideas, and we were all just forming that shit, for real, for real. I definitely had some direction in that shit, but I feel like we all were bouncing off each other in the thick of it when we were creating shit. But like, it definitely was everybody just being like “Okay, word—let’s do that. Let’s do that. Let’s do that.”

We were all just trying shit and [Butcher Brown and DJ Harrison] gave us all the gems to just try whatever with them, so it was dope. That was our first time having a lot of instruments at our disposal and musicians that could play whatever we wanted.

How are the kids? What’s this phase, this chapter of fatherhood like for you?

Oh, man, my babies are good! They’re about to be two in September. They’re good and they’re healthy, you feel me? Our babies are cute as hell. Everybody’s good, baby mama’s good, mama’s good, dad is good.

What do you listen to around the kids? Anything in particular? Anything you feel strongly about them hearing?

I play them everything. Some new shit, I listen to some old shit. I got a playlist for ‘em, for sure. It got some jazz in it. Shorty put some music in there, she plays Billie Holiday sometimes and some [Erykah] Badu. They were born to Badu and Sun Ra, no cap. I had those two’s songs playing when they were born.

But, yeah, they definitely get the good music, but they also listen to a lot of Gracie! [laughs.] Shout out to Gracie’s Corner, she probably gets the most spins in the house. And Doggyland [laughs]. Snoop got a show for the kids, that shit’s hard. My babies love that shit.

Did having kids influence your style at all? Maybe how you dress or… How have you felt about influencing them in that way?

Nah, it just made me wear…crazier hats… [laughs] just so that I could just have them remember their daddy is the nigga that just got crazy hats. I’ve always been that nigga and now I just want to be that nigga more and more and I just…yeah. I mean, the style is really dope.

I’m more into self-defense and working out and shit, and I want that a lot for them, so I want to put them on that shit once they get to a nice age of understanding. 

Well, what does it mean to be a protector, what does it mean to be a provider for you? You know, a father in the “classic” sense, I guess?

I mean, really just making sure everybody’s good. Just like making sure niggas are in a good space, you know, making sure you not just leaving niggas out. I’m learning that I gotta check in a lot more all the time. Now that I got babies and a whole family, I’m just making sure nobody feels like they’re left out. That’s really what it is, on some “man-shit,” just making sure you try to share what you can. You don’t want to burn yourself out but you gotta extend yourself as much as you can.

How’s life, man? I know you’ve been to Europe on tour and stuff. Are you staying in nicer places? Are you and the team being taken care of differently?

It be up and down. You know, it’s still on the up-and-coming, for sure. But it’s definitely nicer. It could get nicer [laughs] but, like, it’s nicer for sure. I ain’t really got no complaints about where I’m at right now. I’m kind of cool. Just making sure the team is right, everything behind the scenes is good. I feel like I can’t really complain right now. I’m in a blessed place.

How has experiencing different types of wealth changed your view of having wealth? How has that changed your view of the world?

I mean, the ability to travel, really. Traveling has changed me. Seeing more shit. I think that’s more important than having ends to do shit. I think being able to have an opportunity to see more of the world has made me go like, “Oh, what’s that?” I’m from the hood so I’m really seeing a lot and it’s been in stages. I’m just always getting my head rocked with some shit that I don’t know about. So, I like that shit.

Do you feel like you’ve “made it” at this point? How do you feel about artists who have a timeline for when they have to have made it?

I mean, making it is all relative. I feel like it’s all about just getting to the point that you want to be at and then maintaining that. I don’t think I’m at the point where I want to be, but I feel like I have enough to be financially stable probably for the rest of my life off of this art shit. So, I could have “made it”, you feel me, but I definitely want more for myself, for my art, and more access so I definitely have more work to do.

I feel like it ain’t really no time based on it. I think you just gotta be intentional with what you’re trying to put out and just pay attention to the details of all your shit. I feel like you’ll be good, I feel like you’ll be getting what you want. Execution is a motherfucker though. It’s hard to execute shit so you need to gain strength in that, but everybody is good at their own pace. The tortoise won the race. Everybody good at their own pace, for real.

What’s the future look like? For you and for B. Cool-Aid?

Oh, yeah. I mean, trying to put out a little part two, we got some songs that didn’t make the cut,so we’re trying to put out a little continuation. 

You’re a deluxe album type of nigga, bro.

I’m a deluxe ass nigga so we gon’ try to do a lil’ something with B. Cool-Aid, at least. Then, for the solo shit, you just gonna have to wait and see. I got some shit cooking you just gonna have to wait and see, you know, when it’s gonna hit the streets. You feel me? [laughs]

Who in the scene are you fucking with right now? Not just rap but punk and shit too. Who are your favorite artists right now?

Fucking with Paris Texas. I’m fucking with Yves Tumor. I’m fucking with Liv.e of course. My baby just dropped an amazing album.

Any future collaborations you can talk about or potential collaborators that you want to make music with?

I’m fucking with Steve Lacy’s new shit.  Shout out to Lil Yachty, he’s been going crazy too. But oh, no, I forgot Teezo too, shout out to Teezo he’s been going crazy.

I fuck with all of them – I’ll work with a lot of folks for real, if niggas ain’t weird. I fuck with a lot of folks. Shout out to everybody doing they thing, for real. Shout out to that nigga Smino, fuck with Smi. I fuck with that nigga Brent Faiyaz, for real. I went to his show up in Chicago, that shit was crazy. I’ve never seen that many niggas singing the words… like that shit was crazy. I already fucked with him but that show really made me like “Aw, yeah.”

I fuck with the fighters too – [Gervontaa] “Tank” Davis. That nigga [Terrance] Crawford… Crawford and [Errol] Spence. Man, I fuck with Spence too, but Crawford goddamn! I fuck with Shakur [Stevenson], I fuck with Stylebender [Israel Adesanya]. A few niggas. I try to stay black-owned for real [laughs].

Everybody going crazy. I fuck with everybody that’s going crazy and that’s serious with their shit, that’s motivated… That shit motivates me, for real.

Also, I just wanted to shout out Sha’Carri Richardson. That’s my nigga. I love you, shawty.