Jimmy Ness lets his Soul Glo
100s (pronounced “hunnids”) was born in the wrong era. The 20 year old has been fascinated by the ‘70s since being exposed to American Pimp, Iceberg Slim’s autobiography and nuclear levels of hair spray. His parents moved him to the Ivory Coast due to failing grades and his last two years of high school were spent in a three-bedroom house with 15 others. During this time, 100s heard Mac Dre’s “Gumbo” and decided to make music for pimps, pushers and paper-chasers.
Three years after returning home to Berkeley in 2010, debut album Ice Cold Perm was released. With the same stony-eyed stare and a cover inspired by Snoop Dogg’s Tha Doggfather, 100s embraced his influences with rhymes about running game, retro cell phones, Cali beaches and floor length jackets.
He quickly gained a fan-base and Fools Gold records picked him up after noticing the music industry was missing immaculate hair. Earlier this year, 100s followed his debut with the purple-tinted IVRY. The eight track EP focuses on retro R&B crooning and synth-heavy production, but still packs the essential freaky raps.
I spoke to the half Black/half Jewish rapper about whether he prefers The Mack or Superfly, his musical heroes and why he’s open about never actually being a pimp. Despite being quite reserved during our conversation, 100s mentioned his time in the Ivory Coast was one of his favourite things to discuss so we also covered topics including culture shock, catching Malaria, and realizing how lucky Americans were with their living conditions.
What made you decide to go a little more melodic with IVRY?
I guess, it’s just growth. I’ve always liked more melodic music than traditional rap so I guess it was just a matter of time. The more you do something, the better you get at it. There’s just different kind of songs that you learn how to do as you get better at what you do. I aimed to kind of do that [make more melodic music.] I have this whole concept behind IVRY. It was actually a concept album. I never really explained the concept.
Can you tell us a little about the concept now?
It’s kind of abstract of course, but it chronicles this person in this other dimension in the future or in a different time or whatever. It was meant to be almost like a story. If you really listen to it all the way through and you change the tracklist around it would have been a different story with different events in life. It just takes you to a place, to a time.
You were talking about a project named Sex Symbol, before IVRY dropped. Are they the same thing?
Nah, Sex Symbol, I need to chase down everybody I said that to. That’s no more, that’s not happening. That was just a phase. I was kind of hot off some shit, but that’s not happening. I guess, what it would have been is now IVRY.
You often collaborate with Joe Wax. Can you tell us about him?
He’s been producing for maybe five or six years. We went to the same middle school and we both got sent away at the same time. He got sent to some boarding school in the middle of nowhere and I got sent to Africa, so we bonded over that. Then we came back and started making music.
Even if he’s not necessarily producing the song or whatever, he helps me create. He’s my guide and my homie. He’s always involved in what I’m doing. He has really good taste.
You like to be heavily involved in the creative process?
Yeah, IVRY was the first time I’ve co-produced.
We’ve talked about some of your rap influences, but what about other artists that had an impact on IVRY? Prince?
Yeah, I love Prince. Hell yeah. Prince, Rick James, all of these people.
Rick James had quite a flamboyant style as well.
Exactly, he was a genius you know. If you really listen to his catalogue, the stuff that not everybody knows. If you really dig, he’s a genius. He probably played bass and fucking electric guitar and whatever, super talented dude.
What do you love so much about the 70s-80s? What exactly drew you to that era?
I don’t know, I don’t really think it was a conscious decision. Ever since I was younger, I was fascinated with that era and identified with it.
Do you prefer The Mack or Superfly?
Honestly, I would pick another one. I would choose Willie Dynamite. I really like Willie Dynamite. I guess after that film, I like The Mack better than Superfly. I’m a movie guy.
You’re influenced by people like Too $hort, Mac Dre, Snoop Dogg etc. But can you also tell us about Dre Dog?
I’m big fans of them. Dre Dog, who is now known as Andre Nickatina, he’s a Bay Area legend you know. I mean he’s a legend period. It’s hard to describe what he is and what he sounds like, you’ve just got to listen. He’s super different.
Have you met any of your musical heroes?
I met Andre Nickatina. I brought him out in San Francisco. That was some dream come true shit, know what I’m saying? [laughs.] I’ve been a fan of his since I was about 13 year’s old. I opened for Snoop one time but I’ve never met him, this was like a while ago.
You’re a comedy fan as well, who’s your favourite comedian?
Eddie Murphy. Well Eddie Murphy now, ahh you know… but Raw or Delirious Eddie Murphy, that Eddie Murphy.
Do you think your interest in comedy also effects the music? A lot of people said the video for “1999” was pretty tongue in cheek.
I guess since the music is a reflection of me. I enjoy comedy and that’s part of me, so maybe it does bleed into it, but I wouldn’t say I purposely do that. I take what do seriously, you know. It’s about perception, some people get the music and some people don’t.
As a 16 year old, were you scared when you landed in the Ivory Coast? That’s quite the culture shock.
Yeah, now that I think about it, it’s kind of surreal. It’s like, did everything happen? But it did. It was hard to adjust because it’s like night and day. When you’re over there and you think there’s this whole other world, it’s like another planet exists.
You had Malaria five times? What’s that like?
I probably had it more. When you’re from America or whatever, you’re fragile. You’re not conditioned for those types of diseases. Back there people are conditioned, but when you didn’t grow up with it, your body doesn’t know what to do. How I would describe is like you’re cold and you’re hot, your body aches, you have nausea, no appetite. It’s just like… shit. [Laughs] It feels like “this is the end.” It’s horrible. I feel like as you get it more you get over it faster though.
Did the Ivory Coast change your perception of the world? I bet you came back with an idea of how lucky you are with the living conditions in America.
Yep, one hundred percent. One hundred percent. I tell my friends that all the time and I always try to get that across. The same way that Jewish people have a birth-right to go back to Israel. I think African people should have that too. It gives you a wider understanding of what’s going on and makes you realise that all the petty shit that you worry about or deem important really isn’t.
I’ve heard there’s a lot of internalized racism over there and white people get special treatment over their own culture.
Definitely, of course. That’s just part of it. I don’t really know what it stems from, but you always see that. It’s maybe because they were colonized by white people or whatever. Some African people think that white people are better. It’s really insane.
How long did it take you start making music after you returned from the Ivory Coast?
When I came back, I wasn’t really fucking around you know. I had so much time to think and visualise what I wanted to do when I was there, that when I came back I didn’t waste my time.
Have you been back?
Nah, I want to go back. I want to go back soon. Hopefully I go back soon. I think there’s a festival over there next year so I’m going to try go to that.
You’re proud of your African heritage, are you equally proud of your Jewish side?
Yeah. I would say that I’m not as in touch with my Jewish heritage as my African, but I am proud of it.
Ice Cold Perm was a reasonably polished project. Were you working with labels behind the scenes at the time?
Hell no! [laughs] It was me, my friend Joe and our friend Oliver, who is Joe’s big cousin. He has a website called dreamcollabo.com, which initially put it out. Me and Joe just recorded it in his bedroom. We would all talk about what would make it and what wouldn’t ya know, and then we just dropped it.
What made you decide to sign specifically to Fools Gold? I’m sure there were also other labels that approached you.
I just liked what they had going on. I knew that I was moving towards that kind of melodic sound, at least at that time. It felt like a good fit.
Were you nervous about performing on some of your earlier tours? You gained an audience quite quickly.
Not really. I recall I was nervous the first show I ever did. After that, once you kind of realise that this is your passion, everything comes out on stage. As soon as you touch the stage and you realise that this is your time, you forget about everything.
I know you’ve toured Australia before, how was that?
It was amazing. It was weird for me to just see that I had reached people out there and they embraced me. It was super cool, I loved it and would love to go back.
Where do you see your sound going next? Maybe into Funk?
Ah… no. I guess that will all be revealed in time, but I am working on new things. I’m working on a lot of stuff. I’m not going to talk about specifics, but it is coming and you’ll see.
Have you collaborated with Danny Brown?
No, it hasn’t happened yet.
You’re in an iPhone 5C commercial. How did you get involved with that?
My friend the same guy who put out my mixtape, Oliver, he was doing the casting. I wasn’t going to do the ad. I was trying to help him find people to do it. I think it was last minute and he was like: “Dude, I can’t find anybody. Just send me a picture of you or some shit. “ So I sent him a picture and they liked me, so I did it. It was fun.
When did you start growing your hair?
Shit, I would have been 10 years old or something. It was Fifth grade.
Why did you do it?
I don’t really know. A lot of the people I was fans of had long hair. Whether it was from rock music or whatever. I used to really like wrestling when I was younger and all these old wrestlers had long hair, so that’s what I wanted to do.
How would you rate your hair in comparison to DJ Quik’s on Rhythmalism?
Ah, I don’t know if I’ve seen it on that particular album cover. He’s got a hell of a perm or whatever it is [laughs.] I mean it’s nice or whatever, but I like mine more.
I watched some of the Hollywood Shuffle film you sample on “My Activator.” What’s your favourite type of Activator?
[Laughs] I don’t even know any different types. I don’t know shit about them. I just love that movie.
You obviously like the 70s look and you’ve got the hair, did people ever call you gay?
Of course [laughs]. Of course. Yeah. I’m not an insecure man. I’m chilled. I don’t get caught up in that shit. If you want to call me gay or whatever you think, that’s your opinion. I can just be me. I keep it moving. I don’t think anybody necessarily is meant to be understood.
I heard a rumour that some classmates of yours claimed you were pimping girls at 16 years old at Berkeley High?
Ohhh no. No, what the fuck! [laughs] See I didn’t even go to Berkeley High.
Sorry I’m asking some tougher questions.
No, it’s all good. I like these questions. I get tired of the weak-ass ones.
You’ve also said previously when you’re talking about “hoes,” or whatever, that doesn’t necessarily translate to real life and real people. Can you tell us about that?
To me it’s clear, but I’ll explain it. Not every record is necessarily about a pimp and a hoe or whatever people think it is. It could be anything. It could be a metaphor, it could be taken however. That’s why I said it’s not meant to be taken literally. If I’m talking about that, it could be something else. It could be what’s going on in my life or whatever. It’s just abstract as it comes. When I’m writing I’m not always thinking about that type of shit.
You’re pretty open about admitting you have never been a pimp and you’ve never claimed to be one. What do you think about people who criticise your authenticity?
It’s only an issue of authenticity, if you view it as one. If you view it as expression and it’s not meant to be taken literally, there’s no issue of authenticity. When it comes down to people judging it as if it’s meant to be taken literally, then yeah the issue comes into play. If it’s pretty much any genre other than rap, then people know not to take it literally. It’s just an expression, you don’t know what the fuck they [the performer] are talking about. On some level, I would compare it to that. Of course I’m open about it [not being an actual pimp], because I don’t want you to take it literally.
You see yourself as a performer and as a musician first?
Yeah, one hundred percent. Honestly, I have two projects out and I’m always growing and doing stuff, so people will see what everything turns into.