Plus Sign is a rapper, educator, writer, community organizer and self-elected President of the World. In November, he dropped *~love 2~*, their 19th album, on bandcamp. A sonic collage of experimental, pop, hip hop, electronic, and shoegaze, *~love 2~* invites us into Plus Sign's dreamscapey world where love reigns and staying hydrated is always encouraged.
How would you describe your message in your music?
“Love. Also, the message is “Me Me Me.” (laughs) ‘Cause like love means so many different things to different people. The message is love, the message is freedom and about taking the rapper, the young black person, to the absolute extreme of freedom and furthest reaches of hip hop and electronic music and folk. It’s punching through the wall of the 21st century. "
How long have you been rapping?
“My first rap song came out when I was fifteen. But I’ve been rapping since I was a kid. Me and my brother used to rap a lot, and would go on rapmusic.com. So, I could freestyle coming up, and I know kids don’t freestyle anymore—like, off the dome shit. I was at the tail-end of that era, where, you know, you listen to NAS and freestyle! So, I’m glad I got to experience that.”
What drew you to rap or hip hop?
“My dad played it a lot when I was a kid. I have really early memories of listening to Biggie in his car and this one time when he was playing Biggie and I was rapping all the lyrics. And, so Biggie was alive, so I had to be 5 or 6. So, My dad turned around and was like, “I hear you saying those curse words.” And I was like, “Uhhh!” So, I was immediately attracted to it. It was in my environment and my dad was really into rap—still really into rap. Which is pretty cool.
I really love the concept that we—or, hip hop grows with us. Like, we’ve seen Hip Hop go through these stages and now it’s turning toward itself for inspiration and self-referencing. Now, we come to a point where contemporary rappers such as Lil Yachty, Kodak Black, etc don’t really listen to Biggie or Tupac. How do you feel about that?
“I have two brains when it comes to that. I’m like a music journalist, I’m an art person, I love all that shit and I care about all that stuff. But as a rapper and as a kid, I’m also like yeah, it is cool to listen to an album, but it’s not that interesting. That shit is really dated and that’s just Hip Hop. It’s all about the slang changing, and you being up on the slang. It’s all about the new producer sound coming out and you being up on that. It was in New York, and now it’s in Atlanta. I think stuff like that gets exacerbated because life is so hard, and capitalism, and like if you don’t get represented as an older Hip Hop artist, that’s your kids. So, it matters for them. But, otherwise, I don’t care. I think Lil Uzi Vert is dope, I think Future is dope. People act like Lil Yachty, these people, like they’re not entertainers. They know how to be pop culture figures, they know how to network. It’s not like they're just some high school kids who wandered onto a studio set or something. So, I think they’re beautiful, they’re wonderful.”
“Who I listen to throughout this year, or any year, is Kanye, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Drake, Lil Wayne, The Weeknd, Travis Scott. I believe and experience them as really fucking great artists. They get it, they get what it’s about. I love it.
“I hadn’t been making albums with music for the past few years because the mainstream rap sound started to sound like my sound--except, it was cleaner and poppier. There was no reason to do that. I couldn’t make my beats sound as good as The Weeknds’, my hooks weren’t gonna be as crisp as Drake’s. So, I started doing a lot of a cappella work and noise and drum work. So, it’s way more experimental on either side of the spectrum.
People would tell me that YEEZUS reminded them of my work a lot. Because that’s what it used to sound like. I used to scream a lot, there are all these crazy passages, and all this emotion and stuff. This album is about chilling and doing yoga and being in love. This was the first album in a while where I tried to make something more poppier and musical and something that could be listened alongside Pop Rap or Electronic contemporaries. I didn’t feel like I had a voice and my partner Sasha was—it was just one of those things where they encouraged me. They encouraged me to do it. They booked a performance for me and I wrote a song in their apartment that night, on Ableton. The next week, I had basically written a whole album. It just kinda, like, needed to come out of me."
*~love 2~*: The inspiration is just about being encouraged by Sasha and being chill and feeling good and feeling like I had something to say. I want to do some rap shows and get back to that kinda thing. Also, my experience in the DIY scene in the last couple of years is really huge in the album and in the way its constructed.
While I was doing the a cappella performances in these house venues, I got used to performing in the realm of people all around me. At the same time, I’m teaching workshops in the DIY community and the various non-profits that I worked with. So, the album has—all the songs themselves have—there’s just an energy embed into it. Specifically the song “Hardcore Body Chill,” [in it] there’s a section for doing yoga. When I do it live, I have people do yoga with me.
On No Money No Borders & Social Media: “I’m fine with all of my work being on the internet. There’s no paper trail, there’s no waste from it. It’s just kinda kooky and new and fresh for me to do that. I saw another artist doing it. I wanted to go viral, I wanted to be the “super famous success story,” or one of those things that happens to people in the past decade. And it didn’t happen. But, I still…love it. It’s fun for me. It means I can make things super fast and get it out and just workshop and work faster than ever before. So, I love it. I have no desire to press a million copies of a record, or anything. Like, Chance has never made a physical album, besides his first mixtape he was handing out in high school. So, that’s fresh to me.”
“I elected myself president of the world in October. Now, I’m working with my partner Sasha, who’s First Boi of the World. We’re working on a project called, “No Money, No Borders,” which is exactly what it sounds like. #nomoney #noborders [is] just us starting a popular uprising to destroy the barriers to freedom and happiness.”
“Viral social media uses the power we already have as individuals connected to the internet in all these ways that are outside of these systems that are failing us. I’m doing a presentation drawn from that essay and from that presentation, I want to do a film about it and keep going toward getting grants for the project. The idea is to involve other artists and producers of culture to create art, memes, and things that are meaningful to them with these two hashtags in mind. I’m just setting up the infrastructure for this.”