Pell knows about patience.
The New Orleans native is two years removed from his last project and three from his breakout mixtape, Floating While Dreaming, but he’s stayed busy in the meantime, from headlining his own tour to making festival appearances to being a key member of the team behind the acclaimed La La Land soundtrack. Most recently, Pell released a trio of songs with producer London On Da Track, one of which, “Patience,” just received a fresh new mix and a vibrant video in the spirit of the artist’s hometown.
Unlike many artists today who favor a quantity approach to making and releasing music, Pell is focused on remaining patient.
“I’m an idea guy so sometimes my ideas take a long time to formulate but I never abandon them,” he told me. “A song is just like a child, you never abandon it… I don’t want to be out here just to be out here, and I feel like that’s what a lot of artists do. They want to have the success but they don’t really care about tomorrow. With me, I care so much and I love this so much that the conversation will come from the intricacies that you hear in the music.”
It’s this mindset that sets Pell apart from many of his peers, a focus on putting time and energy into something that will last—not just until next week but for years to come—and is more in-line with his influences, legacy artists that range from JAY-Z to New Orleans icons like Juvenile and Lil Wayne.
For Pell, bridging the generational gap is all-important. It was the fuel for remixing “Patience” (“The choice came from making it something that was home to New Orleans and something that could cross-pollinate between generations. We have a history of live music but to blend that with recorded music is important.”) and it’s the reason he peppers his live shows with NOLA classics (“Some kids may not know those songs… at the end of the night they looked it up like, ‘What is this?’ They’re gonna share this with their friends and a whole generation of kids that are underneath me.”).
Pell cites remaining accessible as the best approach for blending the two worlds of old and new. Influences will bleed into an artist’s music naturally, he says, but staying open and allowing it to fit in with the times is how one remains relevant.
“We’re in a society that’s overstimulated—to be able to do multiple things and present it in a way that people can digest is very important,” Pell explaining, citing his latest video as an example. “You don’t want to fatigue your audience but at the same time you do want to stimulate them in order to keep whatever you want to present going and keep a conversation around it.”
He continued, “That’s why, in terms of ‘Patience,’ we could put out the regular video, but what does that do further the conversation about New Orleans music? It doesn’t. That’s cool, but how do we tie these things together so that we can have people who wouldn’t talk about this type of music having these conversations.”
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So far removed from his last project, Pell has had plenty of time to figure out precisely how he wants to create these conversations. Most importantly, though, he’s had plenty of time to figure out himself as a man.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself. When I first started putting music out I wasn’t really sure of myself. Not skill-wise, but how I present myself, because we’re all dynamic people… We have to realize that people change. I met a lot of my idols, OGs that helped mentor me, and I’ve realized how dynamic they were. That taught me a lot about myself—I have to be able to adapt. This is an ever-changing game and I have to change with it. The only thing constant is change, in life but especially in hip-hop and music.”
Change has allowed Pell to strike a balance between his career and his personal life: “I learned how important family is. My grandma died last year while I was on tour and I almost was going to keep touring. I was so committed to this shit that I almost didn’t go to her funeral. But I realized when I went home how the support and love for her and the support and love for me and all my family members is so deep that I do have a hip-hop community, but just as if not more important is the community that I have at home.”
These days, he’s more aware that a bump in the road doesn’t spell failure. It's merely a necessary step on the road to success. “You have to learn patience within self to really appreciate the victory,” he says. "Not every day is a win. A lot of the times you are bouncing back and a lot of times when you plan, you don’t plan to fail… but it’s a natural process of life, and once you have enough of those moments in life that teach you to be patient and wait on your time, you understand that that’s a key to moving yourself ahead and progressing as a human being. You can’t force shit.”
It doesn’t take a detective to figure out a theme here; “Patience” is more than a song, it’s Pell’s guiding mantra and a quality that seeps into all facets of his life and career. It’s one reason why he feels, four years after his first release, like he’s just getting started.
As someone who has turned down multiple major label offers, it’s also the biggest key when navigating the always important challenge of reaching people as an independent artist:
“[Reach] is the most important issue an indie will face because a lot of times it’s—coming back to patience—it takes a lot of time to do certain things that you want because you have to make an impact. You don’t have a lot of people working for you, you don’t have that infrastructure, but you have to make sure that whenever you drop something it pushes the needle forward.”
While the information and the ability to make an impact as an independent artist has never been greater, it just may take longer without the help and backing of a major label. “But if you want a career, it’s worth it,” Pell adds.
The new New Orleans mix and video for “Patience” is just the start of Pell’s refreshed focus on making an impact for himself and his city, one he hopes sparks conversation “and inspires other New Orleans artists to use me as a vessel to get their ideas out and hopefully do better than what I do. That’s the goal.”
After he promised that multiple projects are on the way "soon," including a full-length album, I asked Pell to boil the concept of patience down to one thought. After pausing for a moment to think, he said, “Patience is what you need in order to succeed, and also the greatest key to finding out some of life’s most troubling questions.”
He’s still figuring out the answers to those questions, but he's in no rush. He'll get there in time.