Pras Wants to Give Back to the Black Community With Blacture

Making quality music is a difficult process—it’s even tougher getting it to blow up. Hip-hop artist Pras has done both twice over, first as a member of the legendary Fugees, then on his own as a solo act. Out the gate, Pras always wanted to stick around, give back and make the most out of his impact and influence.

“I remember when me and ‘Clef (Wyclef Jean) used to be in church together,” Pras tells XXL. “I would say, ‘Yo man, we gon’ tour the world, we gotta do this for Haiti.” Pras’ music has impacted far beyond the island to which he has ethnic roots—it has centered on the realities of black people across the diaspora. But more recently, he’s taken that mission statement even further.

Pras now is at the forefront of Blacture, a media platform with entertainment, health and editorial arms, in addition to a blockchain-based cell phone. Even with this immense undertaking, Pras hasn’t left music behind, releasing his Wave Culture EP in May. He sat down with XXL to talk about his new music, his legacy as a musical artist and his ambitious goals for Blacture.

XXL: Is there a story behind the title Wave Culture?

Pras: It’s not a story, it’s just where we at right now, culturally speaking. It’s like everything’s a wave now. The culture is woke. The culture’s on a transcending incline. So when I think of Wave Culture, I think of all of that, plus letting the people know the vibe that I’m on. That’s why the album cover is a picture of Patek Philippe. That’s a wave right now, but I been on that wave like 20 years ago.

How did you get into watches? And how did you get into business with Patek Philippe?

I been into watches since I was a kid. When I used to go to Canada as a kid, my uncle was the rich uncle of the family. So he used to always tell me about etiquette, what you should wear, the Zynga, the Patek, the Rolex and all that. So I always aspired, like “Man, if I get there one day, I’m gonna have the finer things in life.” With Patek, I just got involved with them maybe like six to seven years ago, just built a relationship. They love me in the sense of what I represent. I don’t fuck up they brand and they know I really have a true love and passion for it.

It’s not a trend for you.

Right. I was telling them when this was gonna pop off and they was shocked when it did. They know that I know what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

What’s your creative process?

It could be anything, man. It could be my crew just sitting down talking about a bunch of shit. That’s how it usually is, you just talk a bunch of shit. Talk about everybody, talk about what you just heard. Then you’ll hear somebody’s shit and be inspired. Like J. Cole, when he dropped his latest shit. Or when Kendrick dropped. Then you have Drake when he sampled that Lauryn Hill shit. Sometimes when you hearing music, that makes you feel a certain way. It just puts you in a zone.

How did you decide to drop an EP now?

My team. I always been working on music. But it had to be right—you cookin’ that crack. You gotta make sure when you put it out to your customers, they come back for that crack. We just decided, “Yo, it’s now or never!” You can’t be scared. You don’t know how people gon’ react, but sometimes you just gotta let it live in the universe and let it take it’s course.

How long did it take you to put it together?

I been working on it for two to three years. We were working on a soundtrack for my movie Sweet Micky for President.

The EP sounds really modern. How did you make the stylistic decision to go that route?

I don’t wanna sound like 1988! You got some people who just wanna be stuck in the zone that they’re in. I naturally just like to progress, so even though it’s modern, it’s still me without tryna reach [or] do too much. And I love what’s going on out there. I just wanna add my vibe to it.

You have a song called “Old Ye” on the project. What is it about Kanye West from back then that inspired you to create that song? 

I knew Kanye when he first got off the bus from Chicago and came to the city. Kanye shot his own video for “Through The Wire,” and when nobody believed in him, he did it himself. His creativity and just being bold and pushing the envelope—Kanye stepped on MTV [VMAs like] “Yo listen, no disrespect but Beyoncé should’ve won that award.” Or the Kanye who would say things that we all thinking, like with the George Bush [thing]. Then to see what’s going on right now, I don’t know if it’s sheer brilliance or borderline collapse.

With the whole TMZ thing, I know what he’s tryna say, but when you swimming in those waters, you gotta make sure you are extremely careful. You gotta articulate that shit so fuckin’ well. I don’t believe Kanye is trying to say anything disrespectful about slavery, but if you not gonna explain yourself where there’s no doubt on what you’re saying, stay away from that. I feel like you shouldn’t be vilified for liking or disliking something. He shouldn’t be vilified if he like Trump. It’s a free fuckin’ country. It doesn’t mean he agrees with everything this dude is saying, but at the same time, if you gonna go there, you better explain to the people what you mean? It can’t be just “Yo, I fuck with him!” He’s a complex guy, like [Tupac Shakur].

You see the duality of both of them?

I been around people with dual personalities. I mean, Lauryn Hill. I been around that vibe. It’s a complex vibe, because they got so much going on in they mind, they so creative. So anyway, the song came about just because like yo, this dude inspired me, from the first time I met him. It’s just kinda like, we want that ‘Ye back.

What made you wanna step into the media platform world with Blacture?

I felt like the culture needs it. We need a voice, something that’s ours. I feel like being so blessed to be doing what I love, to be sitting here right now and have the access that I have, the lifestyle—that brings a certain responsibility. We as black people don’t have no one to represent us on the tech side of the world. So I wanted to do something that’s going to be for all of us. That’s why Blacture-the thing we launching in the fall—it’s gonna be a mobile device.

It’s a smartphone called The Motif. What makes this device special?

It’s gonna pay the user to use the phone. You know what niggas gon’ do with that. Niggas gon’ be entrepreneurs overnight. Right now we are the number-one influencer when it comes to culture. But we get dismissed or bypassed. People culture vulture us and don’t give us no credit. Well now we’re gon’ get credit. The moment is now. You seen these guys on television, quoting lyrics from rappers. That’s the new thing now.

So corny. On a major, serious news outlet. “I ain’t even know that shit, Nas said that?” It’s so funny. When I did the Super Bowl, we were the first black-owned anything that ever took a Super Bowl ad. Sixty-seven percent of all Super Bowl ads this year had some form of urban, hip-hop influence. But we ain’t getting credit for it. You still see black kids getting shot up, getting harassed, all that shit. But you know why that is? Because we don’t take ownership of the shit we created. Black Panther was hot, boom, we moving on. Ten years from now, there’s gonna be a generation that never heard of Black Panther. You talk to a generation now, they never heard of fuckin’ Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. They never heard of fuckin’ The Bodyguard. But they all heard of Scarface, Goodfellas, Casino. But that’s because we are being tolerated and not celebrated. So now, I just feel like we gotta take ownership. That’s what Blacture is.

Let me tell you something ill. That Super Bowl commercial, I paid for that shit out of my pocket. I could’ve made a commercial. I had Antoine Fuqua direct the shit, I coulda been Black Panther in that shit, Wakanda type of shit. But I wasn’t tryna do that. I wanted to do something that’s gonna reflect for the culture, speak to the culture. That’s why I had that blindfold and the tape around me like “Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated.” And I didn’t give a fuck. That’s what that meant for me. Letting the culture know I’m with y’all.

The 20th anniversary of “Ghetto Superstar” is very soon, what’s your favorite memory from that time?

I have a lot of great memories, man. First of all, rest in peace to Ol’ Dirty Bastard. It was a lot of great moments: Halle Berry, Warren Beatty who I became great friends with, Jimmy Iovine, who really gave me that opportunity and really stuck behind the record. I got over a billion plays on that; that shit’s great.

Do you remember how it felt when it hit you when you recognized “Ghetto Superstar” was really taking off?

I felt like how any nigga would feel. I’m getting paid! I’m just playing [laughs]. It felt good man, coming from the Fugees. I always used to think: “I don’t really give a fuck, I’ll be behind the scenes, I’m the one who put the group together, I’m the mastermind.” People be like, “That’s great, but if the world doesn’t know, it don’t really fuckin’ matter.” It’s unfortunate, but that’s where we at right now. I’m blessed. Twenty years in the game. You know the lifespan for the average artist?

It’s way shorter than that.

It’s probably shorter than an NFL lifespan. You’re here today, tomorrow, you know what I mean?

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