I adore the silent nights when a cracked window will bring the sounds of planes overpassing and the chirping of crickets surfing. These are the nostalgic nights where father time appears without warning, rewinding the years like a Blockbuster VHS due for return. I think of the people that only live on in memories and yearbooks, the once beautiful girls that were betrayed by Cheetos and cheap condoms, the class clowns that are now the butt of Facebook jokes, and the music. Yes, all the music that filled my iPod, that came from the click wheel generation. Back when J. Cole thought he was Simba, Charles Hamilton thought he was Sonic and Wayne thought he was the greatest rapper alive. I think about the ones I believed would be stars. XV comes to mind, I’ll never get over not seeing his green backpack on a Freshmen cover. PAC DIV comes to mind, Church League Champions for the tunes and Maniafor the cover. CurT@!N$ comes to mind, how I wish for another Killer Tape, but fashion sadly has him now. And, of course, Pill comes to mind. He started off as Killer Mike’s prominent protégé and eventually ended up under MMG’s promising umbrella. Just a few years ago I was watching him perform in the notorious New Era Flagship Store on Lucky Street in downtown Atlanta. Sadly, the store's no longer there, much like Pill’s presences in hip-hop.
I remember downloading the 4075: The Refill mixtape back when I was a blog scavenger, back whens posts changed lives and mixtapes didn’t sound like albums. Well, this one did. It wasn’t bars over radio tunes, he mixed original records with classic beats, it was the first time I heard a southern rapper over Biggie’s “Kick In The Door” and Nas’ “Got Yourself A Gun.” It was only his second mixtape but there wasn’t anything amateurish about his approach. He rapped about the streets with a rawness that can only be spoken by someone that was adopted by the streets, painting pictures of the corners, the drugs, the fiends, it wasn’t the lavish living of Avon Barsdale; more like Boldy, who was trapped in the trap. He made the trap rap that critics considered destructive into something that could be appreciated by the hood and HYPEBEAST. He was making infectious, Gucci-esque bangers like “Trap Goin Ham” and balancing it with honest introspection like “Glass." Atlanta had plenty of rappers trying to sell a similar perspective but very few could articulate and deliver with the skill and tenacity of Pill. He was exceptional, hence the almost instant praise. He sorta reminds me of Jody Breeze, not just the skin complexation and hair of wool, but both were technically talented and rapped from the dope boy viewpoint. Jody’s career never took off but before embarking into the land of forgotten, Wayne gave him one hell of a feature.
From the traps of Atlanta’s 4th Ward to The Source’s Unsigned Hype, from rapping with Killer Mike to receiving praise from Andre 3000, from unknown rapper that dropped his first and second mixtapes in 2009 to the 2010 XXL Freshmen Cover, Pill was moving with the momentum of a locomotive headed to the mountain tops. He needed one final stamp of approval to bring him into the big leagues. That came when Rick Ross introduced him as the latest member to his MMG label. When Wale signed to Maybach Music people waited for a hoax announcement, when Pill signed to Maybach Music people rejoiced anticipating an album of bangers. This was when Ross had the golden ear for production, the kind of production that would take Pill to the next level sonically. If he could sell his fabrications, imagine what happens when he has a rapper that lived the reality his lyrics illustrated.
The potential of their union was showcased on the first MMG compilation, Self Made Vol 1. Featured on seven out of 15 records and the only rapper with a solo song, Pill was making waves along with Meek Mill. It was perceived that these two would be the label’s torch bearers. No one predicted that in a years’ time, Pill would be departing from the group, before the release of Vol 2. Turns out, he was signed under Warner Brothers and simply connected with MMG through good will, he never had any paper work tying him to Ross. Similar to how Rich Homie Quan never signed under Birdman for Rich Gang. MMG put him on a national platform, but while rubbing elbows with the biggest boss, it ruined his ties with Gangster Gibbs. While coming up, Freddie and Pill worked together often and each time it was magic. The Ross/Jeezy beef put them on opposite ends of the battlefield, resulting in the end of their comradeship. If I had one wish, it would be a full-length collaboration between the two.
Even without MMG, Pill had amassed a growing following. He just needed the right promotion, a strong single, an impressive album, and he would secure a spot as one of the new school titans. It didn’t quiet happen. Pill dropped the anticipated The Epidemic mixtape in 2012, but while being well-received, it was the last full project he’s liberated. Label issues likely hindered the long awaited Over The Counter Drugs album, as time went on he released less and less music, the momentum that surged him through the industry and internet came to an abrupt halt. New rappers appear from the jungle daily, new sounds will fade out the old. It felt like he was slowing drifting away; to the public eye, he was now only primarily active on Twitter. Especially during football season, his timeline displayed the highs and lows of being a Falcons fan. He would tweet “Another beautiful day, gotta thank the Lord for that” the way Diddy would tweet “Rise and Grind,” it wasn’t for branding or to start a trend, just a man appreciating his daily scenery. He would generically tweet out iTunes links to his old projects, rarely mentioning anything forthcoming. The occasional fan would ask him about music, but for the most part he mostly just blended in with the rest of us. Laughing at award shows and commenting on current events. If he was in the studio, there was no music to prove it.
He went from daily tweets and Instagram updates to complete inactivity, his last came on September 30, 2014. His last Facebook update came two years prior, November 6th, 2012, encouraging people to vote Obama. It’s like he vanished without warning, without a trace. There wasn’t a diva moment, where he confessed his gripes with the industry before deleting his accounts. He didn’t pull a Hopsin, announcing a retirement and plans to move to a faraway country where he could start a new life. This was a rapper at one time tap dancing on stardom and yet, here he was, completely missing. It wasn’t like when Earl disappeared, Complex didn't send a search party to Samoa, no “Free Pill” movement was initiated. The last time he took an extended absence from music and social media, he was incarcerated for about six months over a minor incident and previous charges. The DJBooth staff attempted to contact him through numerous emails and acquaintances with little response. Those who did get back to us said they weren't in contact with him. It’s a possibility that he’s back behind bars, recording in a cave, or simply off the grid. We can’t be sure. We searched Fulton County jail system for a Tyrone Rivers, his government name, and one inmate stood out. He was booked on 10/20/2014 and not released until 1/16/2015. All the charges seem to be from 2012-2013, one being failure to appear in court. Pill told Revolt that while locked up in 2013, he was hit with that same charge despite being in prison. Could that explain Pill's disapperance? We can't be certain, right now we're running off pure speculation.
His avatar on Instagram is a picture I took years ago, reminding me how often I would see him around. Pill would just walk through events, without security, without an entourage, and receive love from everyone. No hand went un-dapped, no woman un-hugged, he didn’t have the aura of a celebrity. Somewhere between a regular guy and a hometown hero. He could live a normal, modest life if that's what he desired, existing somewhere in Atlanta as a local legend, surviving off the royalties from “Pac Man” and whatever is left from his time at Warner Bros. Still, it’s very odd that he just vanished. None of his industry friends have batted an eye, even his former mentor Mike Bigga. This could be an elaborate scheme, a reinvention, the music that he made is much different than what is being passed on as “trap rap” today. Maybe he’ll reemerge as a new artist, better than before, ready to regain what was lost during his disappearance. Only time will tell, until then, I’ll play 4075: The Refill once more, in honor of you. Wishing you good health and beautiful days, wherever you are.
[By Yoh, aka The Pharmacist, aka @Yoh31]