How do creatives kill their darlings while maintaining their sanity? This wisdom, knowing what to leave on the cutting room floor, does not come naturally to artists. It’s something to be learned through trial, error, and a lot of fighting with the self. A level of perfectionism is met with the ceding of control. But expert producers and curators know, over time, how to trim down and deliver the best experience possible to listeners, even if it means their favorite track gets left on the hard drive.
With the release of his debut, Life Is Beautiful, Beast Coast resident producer Powers Pleasant faced this age-old challenge of picking and choosing. As he tells it, the process of putting together Life Is Beautiful was one of organic communion, with a few perfectionist quirks.
“It was me making music with my friends, and it all sounded good together,” he tells me. “I wanted to save some songs for some other shit, and I wanted to give people a nice taste and show some versatility. There’s plenty of flavors on there, a little bit of everything.”
Across eight songs, Powers showcases his range. There are standard East Coast bangers (“Vintage Chanel,” “Pull Up”) paired up with triumphant West Coast bounce (“Can’t Fucc Wit It”), and a smooth track (“Hit My Line”) to balance things out. The album is a testament to Powers’ natural chemistry with friends he’s primarily been working with since high school. Powers first devised the Beast Coast dream in the halls of a New York high school, but now, they’re international.
“It was fucking amazing,” Powers tells me of the recent Beast Coast tour. “I would sometimes stare as I’m flying in the sky, like, we started that shit in high school. I never thought, in a million years, we’d be playing amphitheaters. We got four tour buses, two trucks. Mad crew! We never had that type of production before. It’s amazing to see where things have gone and where it’s going to go.”
The tour helped Powers see the impact and depth of his music. Watching fans go crazy to the sound of his production lit a fire under him. “I saw the impact of my music live and direct,” he says. “My merch, that shit’s been selling out. I’m like, ‘Wow, I can do this shit.’ The movement’s strong. It’s a blessing.” That blessed feeling translates all over Life Is Beautiful, from the title to the homages in production, to the sheer joy we hear from the likes of Joey Bada$$, Meechy Darko, A$AP Ferg, and more. Powers crafted the project for the love of rapping, for the love of hip-hop, and the love of art.
“I will go at something ‘til I feel like it’s in a great place, but then other times, when something works, and people love it, and it’s in a great place, you gotta leave it,” Powers explains of his process. He doesn’t necessarily consider himself a perfectionist, but he does carry some of the cardinal tendencies. Namely, tweaking into oblivion. “You don’t wanna overthink it,” he continues. “I’m somewhere in between. I like to think I’m a perfectionist, but I gotta know when to stop because I’ll change and change [the music] and it won’t make a significant difference.”
In 2018, Powers Pleasant learned to step away from endless tweaking and just let songs breathe. A combination of getting tired of the cycle and learning to believe in himself gave him the confidence to advance his process and appreciate his output. “I learned to trust my magic and myself. If this is what I did—and maybe it’s some weird shit—this is the art that I meant to create,” Powers attests with a laugh.
Still, nothing is ever easily won. Powers admits to taking a long time—too long—with Life Is Beautiful. He only knew he finished the project when the powers that be told him it was now or never. “My manager was like, ‘Yo, if you don’t put this out now, it’s never gonna come out. You gotta put it out. It’s time,’” he recalls.
The process of cutting songs for the album was bittersweet. Powers believes people can’t miss what they don’t know, but the prospect of leaving his favorite tracks off his debut album did lead to some fights with himself and his team. In the end, Powers considers himself an adept curator, someone who knows when to let something go.
“It’s not difficult for me, because I know if something might not make it this time, it’ll come out another time,” Powers reasons. “Our fans, they be sending me little voice memos and shit of things I previewed like, ‘When’s this song coming?’ I’m like, ‘Yo, chill out. Just wait for it. More music on the way.’ It’s just the beginning.”
Indeed, it is just the beginning for Powers Pleasant, but a massive tour and a debut album with an intro from the venerable Sway is not a bad start. From Life Is Beautiful, Powers learned two valuable lessons: “Next time, don’t take so long!” and be mindful when clearing a host of features. The album feels like a feat for a producer still finding his signature sound. He may not even want a signature sound, citing two sides of a spectrum he would like to fall in between—Pharrell Williams and Kanye West.
“People are starting to tell me I have a sound, but I’m not worried. I feel like it’s still developing every day,” he exults. It’s a mindful attitude for a producer on the rise who’s found his niche in some ways and, as he says, is growing in others. Powers Pleasant notes that his album is meant to mark his promised longevity. He feels like he says “It’s just the beginning” too often, but what else can he say? There’s nothing like the first time. Life Is Beautiful will not be Powers’ best work, and it shouldn’t be.
As Powers Pleasant grows and matures his sound, he’ll look back on the album as a stepping stone, not a landmark. In the meantime, he’s rejoicing. In Powers’ own words: “We fucking did it.”