Pouya’s Music Has Stopped Some Fans From Committing Suicide
Pouya has an understandable—if irrational—fear about the vitality of his music career.
"My biggest worry as an artist [is], 'Will I stop having things to rap about?'" Pouya tells XXL. "I get writer's block sometimes, like every other artist... [but] I keep having life experiences and that's what helps me. That's why you can't record every day; if I record every day, I'm not living life, I don't have shit to talk about."
The Miami artist leans on true experiences in his art—it's an aspect that has helped his 2018 sophomore album Five Five resonate with fans. The follow-up to 2016's Underground Underdog finds Pouya leaping from party-ready tracks to gloomier songs that address loneliness, heartbreak, paranoia and suicide.
"I don't care if I have a singing song, and a rock song, and this and that, ‘cause each song is its own world," he says. "All I care about is making good songs. That's how I put together a project."
Now in the midst of his Five Five tour (which also features Wifisfuneral and Shakewell), Pouya sat down with XXL to discuss Five Five, his creative process and the effect that his fans' devoted support has played as his girlfriend battles a rare form of cancer.
XXL: What's the significance of naming your album Five Five?
Pouya: The reason I named it Five Five is because, yes, that is my height. I was always the smallest kid in the group, the smallest kid in [physical education], the smallest kid amongst all my friends. But I always felt like I could hang with those guys. I always felt I was just as cool as them, as tough as them. I had a huge heart, but I was always so small physically. And that’s what Five Five means to me. Like, yeah I'm small, but I got a huge heart, and when I step on that stage, I'm humongous.
The difference between the singles “Daddy Issues” and “Suicidal Thoughts in the Back of the Cadillac Pt. 2” are stark. Was that by design?
“Daddy Issues” was like a sort of girly song. Anybody could bump “Daddy Issues” but I was more on the girly side. “Suicidal Thoughts…” on the other hand was just digging deep into my heart and soul. That was a real emotional—it’s hard to hear that song now. It resonates with me so deeply. I was in a very, very dark place when I wrote that song. I’m still struggling with some issues in my life, so that song really resonates with me. “Handshakes” is just one of those like, "fuck you" type songs. One of those hard-hitting—you gotta have some hard-hitting songs—and I do have a couple.
"Daddy Issues" is very relatable. Why did you decide to write that?
My producer [Mikey The Magician] helped me write that. We were both in the studio together like, "What should we write about?" And we just decided to write about women. I basically wrote a story of when you fight with a girl, but it's like you need her. “Sometimes I can’t fuck with you bitch/Wanna buy you a flight and send you back to your dad's house," but as soon as you’re gone, I want you back. You have a lot of issues in a relationship, but it’s worth it at the end of the day. If it’s true, it’s worth it. That's what that first verse meant to me.
Was “Handshakes” written out of frustration or another emotion?
"Handshakes" was written out of anger and frustration, with my middle fingers up to the sky. 'Cause think about it: On the hook I say, "Inside plottin' on me, outside handshakes." Imagine I’ve shook so many hands in my life, but how many of those hands really care about me? How many of those people will be at my funeral?
You touched on a lot of different struggles on “Suicidal Thoughts in the Back of the Cadillac Part 2,” including how weird things have gotten for you as your career started to pick up and you got more successful. Do you feel like your success is a sort of prison sometimes?
Success is scary sometimes. Fame is scary. I don't even consider myself famous, but I still have enough fans where I get recognized a lot of places I go. Sometimes it's a little scary, 'cause your privacy is something that once its gone it'll never come back.The fans have really helped me with my issues, my struggles with anxiety and depression. I found out that a lot of people feel how I feel. That's why I make the music I make, for the kids that are suffering.
What's the best thing a fan ever said to you?
I get this almost every day, but, "You changed my life" or "You saved my life." There's no four words stronger than that.
Does that make you feel an increased responsibility with your music?
Oh, I have a huge responsibility. But I have to be here on Earth, because I feel like I was here for a reason. And I struggle a shitload too, but I have to be here. I've had fans write suicide notes and tell me like that they wanted to kill themselves and that I saved their lives. That's untouchable. There's no words to explain how that makes me feel. I feel like I have a duty to help these kids out.
How is Five Five different from your previous work?
It's better. That's the main thing. It’s 100,000 times better. The lyrical content is better. The beats are 1,000 times better. You hear all the inspiration. It's the best music I've ever made, so far. My next album is gonna shit on this album. This is my sophomore album. When I made my first album in 2016, I was like, "This is the best I've ever done, I don't know how I'm gonna top it." Then I made Five Five and I was like, "Oh, fuck that album." When I make the next album, I'm gonna be like, fuck this album. I'm gonna keep growing. Like how OutKast did it, they kept growing and getting better. Like how Kendrick is doing right now, he keeps getting better and better. It's ridiculous.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2018?
My plan for 2018 is to do more shows, see more fans, go to more countries, just grow as an artist. Give back more to the fans. Be less selfish, that's one of my plans, I just wanna give back to the fans, they gave me a career, they gave me money, they gave me success.
What keeps you motivated musically?
My family, my friends, my girl, my fans. It's easy to stay motivated with music when you're surrounded by people that are pushing you forward. The people around me, all my friends are rappers—it's great. All my friends are super talented. That keeps me motivated.
How have the issues that you and your girlfriend are dealing with affected you creatively?
Right now, as my fans know, most people know, my girlfriend is sick. She's going through a pretty hard [cancer] treatment. So yeah, it's affecting me emotionally a lot. My fans have been there since the moment we came out and said, “Hey, she's sick, she's going through something.” It's been tough, but the fans have really helped give her the support. We're just gonna try to get through, that's all you could do push forward.
Does stuff like that—getting support from people who don't even know you—make you feel like you're going in the right direction?
It feels great. I post a photo of me and my girl saying, “Hey she just got a tumor removed, the surgery went well" and thousands of thousands of comments, nothing but support. That keeps her spirit up. Going through a tough sickness, you need that support. Because with your spirit up like that, you can get through anything. It’s been going well, a lot better than I expected. That shit's never easy. It's cancer, it's not "easy," and that shit will never be easy but there's a way to get through it and to be positive.
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