Miguelito doesn’t care if he’s just going to Ralph’s, he’s still going to rock the most fringe.
Jerette Hampton is in the middle of a cluttered loft apartment in Downtown Los Angeles, staring at a lit eucalyptus and mint candle as the melted wax starts to pool. Sitting at a high-top table, he watches the flame bow as the air kicks on before it returns to attention. A few minutes before, the 25-year-old rapper—who now answers to Pimp Pimp P or some combination of those words—was recording on a microphone set up by the door and he’s taking a minute to switch gears. When the door opened I had to sidestep SaySoTheMac, another Los Angeles rapper who shares P’s affinity for pandering, contributing a verse for Pimp P’s album Whole Lotta Pimp Shit, which was released at the top of the summer.
The apartment belongs to his main producer Fizzle and Pimp’s older brother Desto Dubb, a well-respected rapper himself and L.A.’s go-to juice sommelier with a consultation history that includes Justin Bieber. While Pimp Pimp P is collecting himself, Fizzle leans over a desk and clicks at his computer to save the work. There’s a replica of Christ the Redeemer balanced on top of a studio monitor so it looks more like a prostration. He could have just been showing respect to the blue, purple and pink Gucci Mane ice cream face-tatt stickers on the mirror behind the desk.
“Stop calling me ugly on [Instagram] Live. I’m not ugly on Live.” – Pimp Pimp P ad-libbing on “1 Hit Wonder”
Pimp Pimp P is a strange product of time and location, a jut in the smooth line of L.A. rap’s trajectory since the end of the jerkin’ era. Fizzle and Desto’s shared apartment mostly functions as a studio and when P would hang out before rap he saw everyone from the Stinc Team to Lil Pump make music. While Fizzle has produced for Desto for the better half of a decade, Pimp P didn’t participate until some time near the end of 2017.
“Nigga always wanted to be a rapper, but Fizzle gave me a chance,” he says after the candle lost his interest, “[One day] he told me to go in the booth. That’s how I knew I was ready.” Neither of them remember when he said this—because they shouldn’t—but the Soundcloud stamp for Pimp Pimp P’s first track, “P Talk”, reads December 15th, 2017. Most people didn’t know about the song until after Christmas Day though, when 03 Greedo included it in his “No Good Freestyle” released shortly after he got out of jail for the last time (before starting his heavy sentence in the middle of 2018). Around the 3:40 mark Greedo passes the spotlight to Pimp who, up to that point, had been a skinny figure dancing with a posse in the background.
Once the camera refocuses, Hampton, now shirtless, stares back at it before belting “I’m never slackin, never lackin, I’ll cry on this muthafuckin’ beat” and starting a sequence of dance moves. By 4:15, they cause him to kick off a shoe.
“Crying on the beat” is the best description for “P Talk”. There’s no sharp, outlined structure to Pimp’s declarations and his voice pushes from strained to hoarse as the song continues. Like future tracks, he anchors “P Talk” with a pliable hook; here it’s the simple announcement “IT’S THE PIMP PIMP P”, that he shrieks out whenever he feels the song needs to circle back on itself. It’s difficult to be more straightforward with an introduction. He actually appeared in the L.A. streets overnight, doing the dash while highways are barren for the holidays and it’s mostly fun.
“I used to tell Fizzle I just needed one beat, just one.” – Pimp Pimp P reflecting on his rise
Pimp P was raised near 104th and Avalon on the Eastside of the 110-105 freeway junction and grew up doing “regular shit” as he says. He and other rappers from east South Central affectionately refer to this area as “The East” or “The Eastside” and it includes Watts, Nickerson Gardens and Hacienda Village. “On The Eastside you gotta be raw,” says Pimp, “Most places ain’t turnt up how we turnt up. We got more energy, L.A. in general. You come to our city we’re gon’ be live for you. I was born to be live.” It took some time for Hampton to develop this kinetic presence.
By his own account, he was shy growing up and his producers and engineers confirm he shook that off right before he started rapping. “He didn’t talk that much when [Desto] would bring him around,” Fizzle says, “One day that changed for some reason.” His brother Desto Dubb was the nearest example for growth and the elder Dub’s hustle-by-any-means attitude, motivated Hampton. Pimp P’s first song was put out under the name “Lil Dub Kill” as a nod to his brother. Despite his quiet demeanor, P was always fond of dancing and joined a jerkin’ crew when that was the dominant sound of Los Angeles. He even recalls dancing with rappers like Drakeo the Ruler, who Pimp claims had a painted mohawk at one point.
When asked about the development of L.A. rap since jerkin’ Pimp shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s pretty much the same. They speed [the beats] up, they slow ’em down. It’s regular.”
“It’s all wonderful. Naw it ain’t all wonderful.” – Pimp Pimp P on performing live
That may be true to an extent for much of New L.A. rap—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing—but Pimp Pimp P exists outside the normal timeline, like a point floating above a linear plane. No one raps like him, regionally or nationally. “P Talk” could have been a one-of-one but loosies sprinkled throughout 2018 (“In the Field”, “Diamonds”, “P.I.M.M.P.”) showed that he was capable of maintaining this nebulous and frantic style. His album Whole Lotta Pimp Shit, released at the beginning of June this year, shows the range of moods and textures possible when you don’t really care about verse-chorus-verse-chorus song structure. He’s reflective and self-aware on “1 Hit Wonder”—assuring fans he’ll “never go under” while still calling himself a one hit wonder—blunt about his needs during the arcade anthem “Cheese” and the perfect balance of pious and sacreligious for “God on Your Side.”
“I fuck with Titanic (1997). I like when he saved that bitch.” – Pimp Pimp P the Cinephile
Bucking tradition without saying something interesting is pointless though. The joy of Pimp Pimp P’s music is seeing how this effervescent approach to rap pairs with the absurdity of what he actually says. To show how dangerous his associates are he suggests they’ll “rob you like Osama bin Laden” (“Bin Laden”) as if Bin Laden was the D.B. Cooper of this millennium. He screams “no disrespect to God” before saying “I don’t give a fuck if you got God on your side bitch.” (“God On Your Side”). “Cans” is the closest we get to biographical information. He interpolates Future’s hook on “Where Ya At” to ask why everyone cares now that he’s performing at underground shows like “Don’t Come to L.A.” and headlining yachts chartered for birthday parties—the latter of which led us to discuss the Titanic quote above—but didn’t pay him attention was when he was picking up cans on the street for change.
Pimp Pimp P’s language is tied to South Central with phrases like “It’s regular” and “BOP,” but he has unique applications for slang—like calling himself “The Regularest Nigga Alive” in his Soundcloud bio— and also adds to the lexicon. On last summer’s “Time I$ Money” he opens the track with “It’s a phenomenal, personal somination bitch.” This word, ‘somination’, stumped fans and Pimp says he’s frequently asked what it means. This year’s “Silky Somination” only made people more curious. (I think it means the same thing to Pimp Pimp P as ‘kairos’ did to the Greeks but it doesn’t matter.) He addresses its meaning on the second track of Whole Lotta Pimp Shit when he says “I can’t spell it, bitch you can’t read it”, telling anyone losing sleep to relax because it’s obviously not for them.
“You know what they said about the real Titanic? I watched an interview with some dude who saw the light from the iceberg but didn’t trip on it. Like bro why did you let thousands of people die like that bro? That’s cold. Why would you even say that in an interview? I woulda kept that to myself.” Pimp Pimp P the Historian
There’s no reason to call Pimp’s music “experimental” because usually that’s a way to save face when “I don’t have the ability to describe this thing I like” is too painful to write. I can’t explain why Pimp Pimp P’s songs wear away at you or how he comes up with some of the most quotable music out of the city in the last year. When I tried to draw it out of him he said, “Man I just say whatever comes to mind. Whatever make a nigga feel good or sound good.” To get the truest evaluation of Pimp Pimp P’s music you have to listen to his subtle self-commentary layered in the songs: “I was just crying on this beat”, “We just here”, “It’s Mr. Smooth Flavor” or “What else we supposed to do?”. None of these are direct answers, but Pimp Pimp P says you wouldn’t understand anyway.