Pumpkin is a female emcee from France and one-half of Mentalow Music together with her producing partner Vin’S da Cuero. Today marks the release of her new EP titled Silence Radio, a contemporary boom bap gumbo expertly seasoned to knock out Soul Food connoisseurs of all cuts. The Find is one of the hosts of this release, so we sat down with the French-Spanish emcee/poetess to find out more about her melodic word acrobatics.
What’s your earliest memory of hip hop that really inspired you to actually participate yourself?
It all started when I discovered MC Solaar. The first song I heard was “Bouge de Là” from his first album Qui Sème Le Vent Récolte Le Tempo. It was in 1991, I was about to turn 11 years old. I loved the energy of the music, the dancing and I found it very poetic, powerful and revolutionary. I was blown away by the fact that you could sing without knowing how to sing and it was all about rhythm and words. I do not know why exactly but I wanted to do the same.
Your press release says Silence Radio was formulated as an intimate storytelling session. For our readers who don’t understand a single word of French, what’s the story you want to tell with your music?
The track titles on Silence Radio have various meanings. The very big subject behind this project is communication. How difficult it has become to actually really communicate with people, have their full attention, despite of the all the means we have today [Silence Radio]. We feel others are only one click away from us so we do not really feel the need to say important things anymore. It’s all become very superficial. Also, it’s about the feelings you hide inside, things you do not have the courage to say, so you keep them silent [Cache Cache]. It’s about not having the courage to express yourself, be you, unique, fear opinions [Examen de Physique]. We talk a lot without saying much [Substance].
It’s also about being an independent artist and not really be played on the radio [Play]. And last, it’s about how important it is to know when to stop being connected to the virtual world. Turn all the devices off and learn to appreciate the moment and pay full attention to the present, the people you are with, what surrounds you, in peace. We are experiencing a lot of stress doing many things at a time. [Silence Radieux]
Lots of lessons to learn: be and love yourself, work hard to achieve your dreams. Time is now. Speak up your mind. Relax. Take care of others. Have fun. Listen. Learn.
Photo: Ben Lorph
It seems like most guests on your EP are people you know, have worked with before, or perhaps even consider ‘friends’. Is it outside of your comfort zone to work with artists you do not know or can’t meet throughout the process?
Yes, it is a conscious decision. I feel comfortable with people I get along with and it makes the whole process more interesting and I can tell when I hear the result. I could do a song with someone I do not know but I would do my best to meet them, Skype, talk, whatever… It’s boring and meaningless to work separately without knowing the person at all.
I knew most people before collaborating with them on Silence Radio. For me a song needs to have a meaning, a story behind it. I have known 20syl for many years, but we are not what you would call close friends, and I was lucky to record in his own Studio in Nantes. I was introduced to Ty by Teru -a common friend- and we have seen each other various times while doing the song. I met The Forreign Beggars (and 20syl too actually) at a Festival in Madrid years ago when I used to leave in Spain and we realised we had friends in common: Beatspoke from Barcelona, my best friends.
Beatspoke were the one to encourage we to contact DJ Vadim because he had said to them he likes what I did on the Beatspoke album. So we met in Paris, he invited me on stage at The Electric concert and there it all started. Supafuh is a close friend, I did my first album with him, so is Pater Jacob from Barcelona, and Vin’S da Cuero is my love. Quiet Dawn and DJ Lyrik are friends too.
“It’s boring and meaningless to work separately without knowing the person at all“
Producer Vin’S da Cuero is your significant other. How did you two meet and fell in love? That must be a very romantic hip hop story…
Back when I was living in Barcelona, we were both part of the international hip hop crew called Vibe League created by Supafuh, based in Lyon at the time.
Before we were together Vin’S had produced 2 tracks on my first LP L’Année en Décembre. Our relationship started in Paris 5 years ago on December 30th and we spent the first week of January together 24/7. Then, I went back to Barcelona. After a month together, I decided to leave Barcelona and live in Paris. Everyone but us thought it was a mistake…
Mentalow Music is a platform by you and Vin’S. For those who aren’t familiar yet, what makes Mentalow Music relevant and noteworthy compared to all those other independent labels out there?
We founded it because we were experiencing difficulties getting our music out there. So, one day we sat down and decided that we had to do it ourselves in the right way. It’s a lot of work but it feels good and it’s worth it. We have very little money so we had to learn new skills, which is a great thing. Vincent is a beatmaker but he designs our websites, newsletters, I take care of promotion, concerts, writing…It’s team work.
We are not better than others, we just did not want to wait maybe in vain for a chance to be picked up by a label. We also regularly put mixes on Mixcloud, we have an interesting and fun show that mixes food and music, it’s called Bring Your Own Music.
It seems like the independent hip hop scene in France is blooming. At least from an outsider perspective. How do you experience that as a French emcee?
I am very excited about what’s going on in France. There’s a lot of people doing things again which creates contagious energy. I do not like all of it but it does not matter, obviously it’s good to have many different styles. In my personal case, I felt I had to create my own thing, own structure, own little world. Not because we do not want to mix with others but because we have projects we want to release, and for that you need to be organised and structured.
With Vin’S we are control freaks and because altough we tried we do not really have access to the local nor the national scene for the moment. Here you have to “be part of it” although they say they like what you do. It has been easier and more natural for me to make interesting work connections outside of France.
Are you able to live off your music?
I do not live off my music. At the moment, I am spending almost all of my money in my musical projects. I am passionate about what I do and for me its was important to release the EP on vinyl, no matter what. The project is not complete if I can not hold my own vinyl in my hands. It’s an expensive hobby, especially now that I am jobless. But I have precious time, which is a luxury to me.
Hopefully, we will sell enough to make more Mentalow Music projects afterwards. I am sure we do. I recently had an interesting meeting with my bank. The girl was amazed by what I had accomplished but in the end what matters to her is only the money on the account. I’ve worked in many different types of jobs. The last one was a prêt-à-porter boutique manager.
Let’s believe the Mayans that the world is going to end in roughly a month: what record would you listen to if you’re on top of a mountain watching the end of the world?
Nina Simone’s I Put A Spell On You for the track “Feeling Good”