We met artist, poet, and rapper Pink Siifu at our studio on a rainy Wednesday morning (aka yesterday). We ate a few vegan donuts together as the rain splattered the windows and created a nurturing warmth in our space. The rain seemed to ground and relax Siifu, who evokes a calm spirit that feels like he’s walking on air.
Pink Siifu is someone who is constantly expressing the importance of community and honoring both women and those around you. He is intentional in the things he brings into his life and what he creates.
We talked about how music has transcended through his family and the ways in which music can heal beyond sound.
Has your craft been passed down to you? Is this a generational thing when it comes to music?
Yeah, but not purposefully. My grandfather played the trumpet and he played jazz. He based his life out of Nigeria but he was from Birmingham too. My dad played sax but he stopped after my older brother was born. That’s about it. I have a cousin on my mom’s side that plays drums, he’d play background for a lot of bands but it wasn’t an intentional thing. My dad was like, “You gonna do music.” My dad was just down for whatever I wanted to do, which was a blessing.
Did music live in your house?
Yeah, Neo soul, jazz, and a lot of rap. My dad loved Juvenile, Scarface and DMX. My brother put me on to Hot Boyz. I listened to Lil Wayne and Juelz. My mom and my aunt would bump Jill Scott, Badu, and D’Angelo. In the house, black people shit. Family over, auntie playing the vibes, playing the new shit that’s out, and I’d notice what’s tight. I didn’t really start getting into rap until after I did poetry. I used to do poetry in middle school and high school.
Do you feel that’s why your content is more intentional?
A bit more intimate. Starting your performance at a concert or a rap show versus an open mic makes you approach it differently. The energy is different. At an open mic people are ready for what you’re about to say rather than at a show they’re ready to turn up.
The reception is a bit different.
If they about to turn up at an open mic that’s a little rare.
They’re mostly there to listen and take in what you have to say.
Rap and Hip Hop are very healing for our culture. To come out of the 80s and into something that became prolific as a way to connect to our artistry and source brought a very potent energy, especially later going into the 90s.
I feel like everyone was doing poetry in the 90s. If you were a rapper you were a poet.
Also, our speakers and leaders were all poets. Gil Scott Heron gave us a fire rap album!
I love Gil Scott’s, “We Almost Lost Detroit.” My favorite.
I think that our musicians and rappers while on stage have to recognize the power in having people repeat what they’re saying. You’re creating mantras: people are waking up or going asleep to your words.
A lot of them don’t even know it’s mantras. I just found out about mantras in about 2014-15, after I had been rapping for about four years. So I found out about mantra practice four years into me rapping, so I don’t think many know what it is and what they’re doing. When things are hella catchy and just a hook? That’s a mantra!
Yeah those are affirmations! You have people saying these things over and over. Do you feel like music has always held purpose for you?
Hmm, entertaining for sure. I didn’t think I was going to do music until I was in college, but I was always dancing and battling. At all the pep rallies I’d be on the court and in the drumline. Either I was dancing or making beats. I didn’t know I would do rap until college. Poetry definitely got me into rap.
It wasn’t something you set your sights on - I feel like that happens to a lot of people. They either try to run away from it or just do something else.
On my level I feel my grandfather is the only one that really went out and pursued music. My cousin a little too. But my grandfather just went to Africa and pursued music. I moved to LA to cultivate music, and people in my family don’t really move like that. They mostly want you to get a degree, get a job, and move very calculated.
Most of your family is from Alabama?
Most of them are from Birmingham and Ft. Lauderdale.
That’s a whole different world! The south has some deep healing to do - that can be a lot to take on.
Yeah but you’re continuing the legacy and creating the artistic legacy of your family. It’s crazy being from the south and it’s different. From being taught in school how black people are slaves and how black people were hosed down, to having it in your house with your actual grandparents having experienced this. It’s not a distant story, it’s some actual in the house shit.
Right, so what they believe they can or can’t do is very limited, and for you to be the radical child or grandchild, they get very afraid. They don’t really understand how we move in a very free way. That’s a bit hard for them to understand, especially when it comes to changing the way of life from what they know. For example, the food: it’s so unhealthy but so good!
It’s so intentional, its been passed down for generations!
And that’s why it’s so good, you can go to anybody’s house and just feel at home and have some good cooking, it just makes you feel good!
Do you feel pressured sometimes thinking about the healing you have to do for your family, or what you have to set for future generations? Like kids maybe?
Yeah I think about kids, I want a lot of kids. But it’s not pressure, when you take a step back you realize shit is going to happen the way it’s going to happen no matter what. If anyone tries to pressure you or anything, it won’t make it happen faster, you have to let it be and pace yourself.
It can seem like a lot, I know sometimes for me it seems like a lot to unlearn different patterns and heal.
That’s hella work, but it’s not going to be something that happens right now. That takes time, that’s a process. I don’t know when we’ll get over healing traumas.
It’s a cycle! It’s constant! There’s constantly external things being placed on your life, but you can’t look at it like impending doom. It’s always work, everything is work, but there’s beauty in the process. You kind of have to go with the flow.
Do you feel like you live in a free flowing, spontaneous space?
I try to, and I try to be honest with myself a lot of times. I usually don’t know what’s going to ever happen. Obviously the way I flow effects others, but I try to make people realize that it doesn’t matter much what I do, as long as I don’t disrespect you. So I’m going to do as I feel right now, to make me happy, and you should do the same.
As long as you’re doing it with the right intention.
If it’s with the right intent, I feel like it can never go wrong. I try to stay free, I try to not do dumb shit, and I try to make smart and healthy decisions.
The biggest way to help others is to make sure your own internal is good. Living in the moment and being present.
I try to be as present as possible, but it’s hard, especially if you have a lot of other people to think about. As you do more, more comes into your circle. I try to just be healthy.
Be healthy. In the most natural way possible.
Pink Siifu will be DJing at The Flow, November 22.
Keep up with Pink Siifu: @PinkSiifu
Words + Photography: Trayein Duplessis @triiiniiti.xyz
November 2019. Los Angeles.