From Watts to Hill Valley: The Dreams of Pistol McFly

Harley Geffner explores the L.A. spitter's newest album.
By    June 6, 2019

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Harley Geffner is pretty sure you dudes will never get the key code.

We all have dreams as a kid that dissipate as we get older. The goalposts move and we create new dreams, but we should all aspire and progress towards something. That’s how Watts, Los Angeles-born Pistol McFly sees it. He’s seen so many of his homies lose sight of their goals or get sidetracked. A large portion of Pistol’s own journey is in helping his friends navigate their respective paths.

He titled his newest album Road Trip, which he explains as a metaphor for life. “It’s a metaphor for how we start in one place with the aspirations and hopes to be in another. And everything we see along the way, you look out the window on the road trip, and see things you don’t see at home. You see brand new things every day. So I’m just rapping about new experiences, people, love, love lost.”

Road Trip chronicles not only these new experiences, but also how he felt in those moments and what they meant to him. His vivid storytelling is so conversational that you feel like you’re in the room and experiencing these emotions alongside him. He’ll repeat back a bar he thought was fire and chuckle. He’ll hop on a phone call and ask his homie to grab him a honey Backwood. He’ll reference the cul-de-sac where we used to slap box. He’s skating through your turf with psychedelics in his book bag.

Pistol grapples with the more serious questions through an assessment of his priorities. He’s free-spirited and wise. A self-proclaimed black hippy (“but I’m not Kendrick”) who comes from a place where negativity abounds, the same area from which currently incarcerated 03 Greedo hails (free him). Yet McFly approaches things with positivity. He used to carry his pistol wherever he went, which is how he got the name. Pops thought he was going to be one of the bad kids for a while too. “One of them active kids,” he proclaimed, with a laughing smile in Pistol’s new mini-documentary. But look at him now, trying to make money to lift up not only the homies, but their moms too.

On “Caught Up,” Pistol’s dealing with an old friend as Madison Rose’s vocals soar behind. It starts with a phone call like any other. Pistol says he’s got a dub on a bottle of Henny. But he knows his homie is struggling and tells him that he’ll help carry the weight. But there’s only so much Pistol can hold before he crashes. He encourages his friend to make his own way and explore the larger questions within himself. Then he chants on the hook:

Keep your business in order
Bring your n****s to the water
But you can’t make them drink it
Just make em think harder
Watch the fruits of our labor
Take us further than we thought of
Do your best not to get caught up

He’s not just giving meaningless advice or pontificating. Pistol’s attempting to actualize his vision for himself and his homies. As he says later on the same song, “a lil n**** had big dreams but nowadays I barely sleep, I’m up, every fucking evening making sure my future kids eating.”

McFly understands that patience is the key in seeing these dreams come to fruition. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier, as he confirms on the peaceful “Meditation.” The dudes who made it are all telling him it’s coming if he stays on his grind. But he’s BEEN on his damn grind, working overtime, hoping not to lose his sanity.. On another song, he questions whether that grind and ambition has caused him to lose some people along the way.

He voices his frustrations with these tribulations and the effort he’s putting in to get past them. He asks questions like “How he find a cure for AIDs, but I can’t find a job for more than minimum wage?” But in the end, he always circles back to the glass half-full perspective. Even if the lyrics can read a little cornily, you can feel his frustrations in the tenor of his voice when he’s heated vs the more meditative tone he takes when he says things like “We all planets, we all stars, we all-stars, we super far, I swear to god I love all my dawgs and all my moms who bout to get this guap.”

He intermingles deeper thoughts, dreams, and insecurities with the everyday realities of things like him still bumping College Dropout or smoking kush on the go. “Jah Bless” is a stoner anthem to lie in a pastoral field and let the rest of life’s problems drift away. “Shit that makes you wanna smoke weed for the first time again,” he says. He’s smelling love in the air, smoking indo’ in public, kissing the sky to say goodnight. It’s a whimsical aside from the headier topics on the tape, but, taken in conjunction with them, creates a beautiful vision of tackling life’s problems with force.

McFly also takes some victory laps in celebrating how far he’s come from being penciled in as a bad kid from Watts to be hanging in Hollywood. He takes dates to the opera. Money in his pajamas and fans in Tibet. The album wouldn’t be authentic without a little gloating, and the best of his boasts can be found on “Paid in Full” andYoung N****.”

Pistol finishes the album on a high-note by saluting those who couldn’t be here. He thinks about friends, whose faces appear to him in the clouds. He reminisces about the good times they shared and tells them where he’s gone since.  Remember those bars I spit you? Yeah, I’m still on that music shit and dropped them in a verse. Tiff, she said she good, I told her whatever she needs, it’s good.

It’s a high-flying spiritual anthem for bright beach days, and that’s part of what makes Pistol special. His outlook on all of this shit is so positive and all about progression. Mixed in with some slightly overplayed platitudes about life being a trip and trying not to fall, McFly imparts a real sense of maturity in dealing with the machinations of life.

He is just working on trying to be himself and help others realize who they, themselves are too. “You don’t have to fall in to your surroundings, it’s okay to be that weird n**** from the hood,” he says in the mini-doc. And then on I Gotchu, McFly raps “La Di Da Di, I be / rockin to a different tune / dancing like I’m at a different party / prolly off the shrooms.” Everyone’s life moves at its own pace and Pistol wants you to find that lockstep in it. I have some homies who already seem to have given up on finding happiness in their early 20’s. Maybe I can take something from this album in my dealings with those friends. Or maybe I’ll just smoke to it in Topanga.

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