New Orleans native Jared Pellerin is taking his time, despite pressure to produce.
In a hip-hop landscape that grows more turbulent by the minute, 25-year-old rapper Jared “Pell” Pellerin is surprisingly zen. A New Orleans native, he moved to Mississippi with his family after the storm, went to college there, returned home in 2014 for just over a year, and then shipped off to L.A., where he currently resides. But despite all this motion, he’s stayed grounded.
Pell plays two sets at Voodoo on Saturday—1 p.m. in the Toyota Music Den and 2:30 on the Wisner stage. It will be his first time performing here since last February, when he played House of Blues. He’s excited to be back, and wishes he was staying longer.
“I want to set up shop in New Orleans for longer than I have been recently,” he says. “Because back in 2014, I was able to work with Aurelién [Barnes, of New Breed Brass Band] and Jamie [James Seville], and a lot of people from 0017th, who showed me hella love and let me use their studio whenever. It was really beautiful.”
Pell was still living here when he released his first full-length project, Floating While Dreaming (2014), which got positive reviews across the board and put his name on the map. Technically, it was a mixtape, but it had the consistent quality and cohesiveness of a debut album.
“I wouldn’t be mad if it was classified as that, because it was the first time I actually put in a level of work that I was proud of,” Pell says. “I think whether it’s an album or a mixtape, it’s still my first real commercial body of work, and that’s how I see it.”
Since Floating While Dreaming, Pell has only released one EP, the 5-track, 17-minute Limbo (2015). It’s more experimental than his debut, produced entirely in analog by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek.
“Dave really opened my mind to how you create with your ears and not with your eyes,” says Pell. “A lot of times, in our genre—and I don’t believe in genres, but I do notice it in the people I work with, usually—we’re looking at a laptop or a computer screen. We’re not playing real instruments. Everything can be done from Fruity Loops, Logic, Ableton. It was cool to see him work on all analog, and have me feel like I wasn’t forced into a box of looking at something linearly. I was more open, and because of that, the sound went a lot of different places.”
Pell has put out some looseys since Limbo, but we’re still waiting on a full-length follow-up to Floating While Dreaming. This might be a cause for alarm for many in the hip-hop community, where quantity is the name of the game. But Pell has bigger plans. He claims the next project is coming “soon as hell,” but he doesn’t seem anxious to take it out of the oven before it's cooked through. It’s all part of a pre-designed path, which he lays out in detail.
“The way that I planned out my projects is like a trilogy,” he says. “The first installment is Floating While Dreaming, and it’s a metaphor for going through the motions. Sometimes, when you’re really focused on your craft, it can feel like you’re not peaking your head out for air. And that project was meant to be a breath of fresh air.
“The second installment, with Limbo, was meant to be a balance between being where your dreams have taken you, but also not fully manifesting your dreams,” he continues. “It’s about ascension. Limbo is usually a purification before going to heaven or paradise. It was more like I see where I’m headed, but I’m still floating. I’m not fully there.
“And then the third instalment, I can’t reveal the name, but it’s more of an album of fruition,” he sums up. It’s a bold vision, and one that’s driven Pell to take his time, despite mounting pressure to sign, to crank out content, and to sound more like other artists.
“I think that my mentality will always be that of an independent artist, because other than the infrastructure and an advance, I don’t think there’s much that labels have to offer,” he says. “The music game is a wild, wild west type situation, where it’s good to feel like you have an anchor and that you have a team, but that has to come internally before you enter into these type of partnerships. Now that I have that, I’m confident that I can do whatever. But I don’t want to knock any blessings if they come knocking at my door.”
In short, Pell is right where he wants to be. He’s rolling with the punches and staying patient, but that doesn’t mean he’s resting on his laurels. Aside from his next album, he’s been finishing up an EP called Girasoul, produced by Bill Delelles of Chrome Sparks, which is set to come out sometime in December. He’s also collaborated with other artists, stretching the limits of the “Pell sound.”
This summer, he teamed up with London On Da Track for “Jam,” an uncharacteristic trap banger. In the fall, he released a “NOLA Mix” of “Patience” (another London On Da Track collab), alongside a video complete with a second line under the I-10 and an all-female brass band. It’s as much a memento of where Pell’s mind is at right now as it is an homage to his hometown.
“I always create every day,” he says. “And because of that, I’m not really pressed for what I made yesterday to come out today. I feel like I have to sit on it. I believe in having everything be timeless, something that I can look back on 10 years from now, 15 years from now. When I’m doing my residency in Vegas, I’ll have these songs that I still love. So there’s no rush.”