... or so he says on "Limbo," the follow-up to the New Orleans rapper's well-received "Floating While Dreaming."
In 2014, native New Orleanian Pell cut the properly named Floating While Dreaming. His combination of ethereal beats under lyrics that were largely about his inner life was unlike anything that came out of New Orleans, in part because Hurricane Katrina forced his mother to evacuate to Jackson, Mississippi, where he lived until he attended Mississippi State and got serious about performing.
Pell will play The House of Blues’ Parish Tuesday night, and Floating While Dreaming brought him to the attention of TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek. He liked Pell, remixed a track from the album, and that experience led Sitek to produce and release Pell’s new album, Limbo, on his Federal Prism label.
Sitek toughens up the beats a bit, but his hand isn’t obvious until you know it’s there. Then TV’s touches seem to be everywhere, whether in the guitar crunch of “Almighty Dollar” or the terse, stop/start rhythmic phrase that creates an air of tension for “Cafe du Monde.”
Still, Pell’s voice and his choices this center of the album. He's compelling as a precise and intelligent commentator about what’s going on around him as well as inside him. “Almighty Dollar” deals with life on minimum wage, and when he sing/speaks, “For the whole day / I’ve been waiting / for the money / to come raining,” you know the first stop he’ll make when the class war begins.
But Pell leads a varied life and can access good times as easily as the hard ones. More importantly, he can talk about them just as credibly. In “Confession,” he raps, “I’ve been feeling awesome” and I’m buying that too.
We asked Pell for a list of songs that he loves but thinks have been overlooked. Here it is, and like Pell's own songs, it's hard to believe that these songs need any introduction.
1. “Lightwalk” by Solo Woods
2. “He's Heating Up” by Homeshake
3. “Umami/Water” by Le1f
4. “Young Bride” by Midlake
5. “Why iii Love the Moon” by PhonyPpl
6. “Foreign Fields” by Kacy Hill
7. “Foxes (Can't Blame Her)” by OG Swaggerdick
8. “Badmon” by Leather Corduroys
9. “Troubles” by Imad Royal
10. "Incomplete" by Pell