words • Pedro Gonzalez
photos • Nino Lenzini
Amir Tripp is inside a studio in Bucktown discussing his forthcoming debut album Pyro, but if the 25-year-old artist is nervous, he’s doing a great job at concealing it. Rocking a puffy North Face jacket and a shirt made by his friend Stefan, he’s calm and collected on the surface, a characteristically stoic nature belying his eagerness to finally have a full body of work out in the world.
Under the Tripp Heavy pseudonym, his first big look in Chicago’s music scene was “Yuh Yuh.” Released in 2014, the lively, summertime jam and its accompanying music video –which perfectly captured the vibe of the song with its sunny weather, friends, and baseball–amassed over 30 thousand views on Youtube. It was one of those unique first records that set the bar high.
Yet the path to March 9th, Pyro’s official release date, was a tumultuous one filled with computers crashing, a change in management and a slight name adjustment. In the process, two full projects worth of music were written and lost and Tripp was forced to start back from square one. Instead of giving up, though, Tripp dug his heels in, kept his head down and for eight months worked relentlessly on what would become his first official full-length ‘tape.
Towards the tail-end of 2017, the west side native reemerged with “Design 2.0” and the loosie “Slide On Ya,” featuring Madison-based artist Trapo and former classmate and neighbor Saba, both respectively released in October and December. Nonetheless, his return would not be official until the statement record “Hardball,” which dropped at the top of 2018. In it, the westsider raps with righteous self-assurance “tell my coach that we’re going to the ‘ship, put 100 on the board like Wilt” over a blaring trumpet produced by Tripp’s long-time friend and often partner in crime Zay Rock. Partly inspired by the major motion picture, the single has already become a proven arena-status anthem.
Perseverance through life’s tribulations is Pyro’s overarching theme. Chronicled throughout 12 songs and with only two guest appearances (King Louie & Saba), Tripp is taking full control of his own journey and powers as an artist. We recently sat down with Tripp to talk about the project, his work with Zay Rock and creating genuine music. Check it out below.
Your debut project is about to come out, what was the process like leading up to it?
Stressful as fuck. I had already lost two projects because of shit happening with my studio, computers crashing and fights – all types of shit like that. Pyro is basically shit that I came up with in the last seven to eight months. I wanted to do a project that was extremely catchy.
Yeah, I’ve noticed that most of your releases have been fun and very energetic, but in some of the previews you’ve uploaded on Twitter I’ve also heard different range in moods and emotions, is that something you were also trying to do with the project?
Definitely. I wanted this to be a reflection of me. Honestly, I felt the songs I’ve been putting out are only showing one side of me and what I was able to capture with the album was every side. There’s a lot of artists that drop a bunch of similar shit that kind of sounds the same, but I feel like that’s not being genuine. There’s a part of you that you leave out when you do that.
I want to be an artist that however I’m feeling, whatever type of emotion, I can capture it.
Backtracking a little bit, I remember a couple of years ago I was first made aware of you from the “Yuh Yuh” video. Was that song a part of those albums that were lost?
Yeah, that project I had for that record is gone. I made all the beats, so I could have tried to remake those songs but I was in a different space creatively by the time it all went down. I want to reflect on how I’m feeling right now instead of recreating some old shit.
A lot of stuff can happen in three years.
Exactly. I feel music is an expression of a moment and if that shit gets too old, I don’t even feel that way no more.
— the many faced god (@AMIRTRIPP) March 7, 2018
You have a great chemistry with Zay Rock, how did you guys come together?
That’s funny because his dad is a pretty big Reggae musician, so the first song I ever recorded was in their basement and I was in eighth grade. But, I always grew up with Zay older brother. Zay was the little brother of the group and he was always cold as fuck in piano. He actually showed me how to use beat machine and shit.
In this promo run leading up to the album, I’ve seen that you’ve uploaded little storyboards that come with previews of the ‘tape. Who helped you with those drawings?
This kid named Makhai from Baltimore.
Did you set up the tracklist of the project in a way that it has a narrative arc?
Yeah, we definitely wanted it to be a story, almost like a comic strip where you can follow along to each drawing while you’re listening to the album. For us, we wanted each drawing to capture how the songs sound and feel so when you look at that image and listen to that song, you can be like “damn this really matches.”
Speaking of the tracklist, I saw that you had some pretty big names on there and I was wondering how it came about and how was it like working with the likes of King Louie and Saba?
I got that King Louie feature kind of on some industry shit, knowing people. But with Saba, I’ve known him for a long time, we’re both from the west side and grew up around Austin. Saba probably grew up a few hundred yards away from me. We were right around the corner of each other. We were actually in Columbia and had classes together. I think we ended up dropping out around the same time [laughs] but we used to ride the train home and I used to give him rides home too, we used to freestyle in his basement.
But we were never recording, we were just freestyling. Then he took his route and we met back up and we were like “it’s crazy that we’re here today, we need to do some shit.” We made “Slide On Ya” the first hour of us kicking it again and then we did the song for my album once we came back to Chicago.
From what I’ve heard, your songs could pair up really well with visual –as proven by “Yuh Yuh”–are you planning on doing more videos soon?
Yeah, we wanted to get a product out first before I flex my move. I probably wanted to spend all my efforts on visuals when I didn’t have an actual album. Now we’re going to put out the album out there, let it marinate and casually drop visuals from it. We have a couple of things in mind.
You dropped only two songs last year and “Hardball” in 2018, but I’ve seen a lot of blogs not only cover you but place “Hardball” as one of their feature songs of the month. Only dropping one single leading up to the project is a bold move that seems to be working.
I appreciate that. We just want to do this shit organically. Obviously, we could have tried to gas it up with a video with Saba or Louie, but we wanted to keep the focus on my music right now. That’s why we put “Slide On Ya” out there first and then we wanted to bring back to my shit with “Hardball.” It’s working out and people are picking it up.
What’s the plan after the ‘tape drops?
More chunes [laughs] yeah more music. We’re working on a lot of shit.