Gilbere Forte’ may not be a household name yet. But with a drive that is lacking in too many people that are “trying to make it,” a few buzz-worty mixtapes already under his belt, and a list of influences and collaborators that range from Philadelphia compatriot Freeway to French house legend, producer/DJ Bob Sinclair, there’s no denying that his ascension into the upper echelon of not only hip-hop, but the music world as a whole. We had the chance to talk with Forte’ about his most recent project, the recently released EP, Pray, a collection of songs that delve into a personal study of himself. While the record may touch on heavy subjects that always come with a struggle to reach the top, the man behind the music couldn’t have been a more pleasant person. Before we began our chat, he let us know he’d been feeling “blessed, every day.” And it’s hard not to when you see your hard work paying off. Read our interview below to find out what Pray means to him, his thoughts on Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and why he’s been able to connect with audiences around the world.
Let’s talk a bit about your new mixtape, Pray. It deals a lot with your own trials and tribulations in the past year and half and your growth as a person. How does the title fit into that and what was its overall concept?
It was basically my opportunity to restore faith in myself. I was at a point in my career where I didn’t even know if I wanted to do this anymore because of the hardships of being broke but having a strong vision and a crazy passion to make music but you’re not able to get it to pop because of the situation that you’re in. It really took a toll on me. Getting deep into this project, conceptually I was like, I’m gonna create an opportunity for me to find confidence in myself again. That’s where this project came about.
Thematically, Pray is similar to Woodkid’s The Golden Age, dealing with the passage between adolescence and adulthood. It’s somewhat of a personal psychoanalysis. Would you say that Pray serves the same function for you?
Yeah I would say so. And I’m a huge fan of Woodkid so that’s quite a compliment.
There’s been talk of an accompanying short film in the works. When is that looking to be released? How would the movie and soundtrack collaborate?
What my original plan was that this entire project was going to be the ideal soundtrack for this short piece that I’m trying to put together. Hopefully towards the end of the year I’ll be able to have this final product together to go perfect with the project. I just had to put it on the backburner just a little bit because I really wanted to make sure the branding around this particular project was there.
You worked with Active Child twice on Pray. Was there a reason for that? Did you just feel it was a good fit?
I was always a fan of Active Child. When I discovered his music I was like, ‘Yo, this shit’s incredible.’ I honestly didn’t know how to reach out to him or anything like that. So I was like I’ma just e-mail him. So I was able to find his contact information and I e-mailed him I was like, ‘Yo, your music is very inspirational. This is the type of music that I really vibe to.’ Next thing you know he responded back, we linked up in L.A., chopped it up, started vibing out and started creating.
Now along the same vein, fellow Philladelphian RAAK produced all of Pray. What made you go this route instead of picking from a variety of people to produce for you?
Well me and RAAK have been producing together since day one, since the age of 17 all the way up through all the other projects. We both were kind of in the same state, mentally, spiritually. Trying to be successful but still dealing with the quarrels of trying to make it in this business and get your music out there to the world. He knew exactly how I wanted the music to sound and we have a strong chemistry when we work together.
What song on the project do you feel is most important to you?
For me I’d probably have to say “Nolita”. I think overall, it was just the kind of record, a personal story, that I was able to get out of my system and find clarity on. Moving forward within myself and I think that as a whole, the emotion that I put into that record encompasses a lot of the emotion on the entire project. Sonically, the way that track was produced and arranged, it really introduces the sound of music that I’m trying to introduce moving forward. It’s definitely a prelude to what I have coming next.
Even though you’ve been in L.A. for a while now, you split your time between there and Philly. What’s your relationship like with both those cities?
They’re different. Philly’s home. L.A. went from being a place to get away and vacate to being considered another home for me. Being here, as much as Philly, it’s like the best of both worlds. I look to the East Coast for a strong recharge and being on the West Coast, there’s so much more atmosphere that’s so influential on me and the music.
You seem to have quite an international following. Any thoughts on why this might be?
Yeah one of the things that kind of spawned it was when I started to work on a couple house records for a couple DJ’s. Then that spawning to an opportunity to work with Bob Sinclair and traveling to Paris, going out there to promote my music and do a short tour with him. Me going over there and getting that form of inspiration, and I brought it back home, brought it back to the lab, it allowed me to create a new energy in my music that I knew it would have the same effect on people over there as it does domestically. That just gave me a sense of personal entitlement to be a world star.
Outside of the music, and the film you’re working on, do you have any other projects in the works?
I’m actually releasing a Pray hat in collaboration with this L.A. based brand called Let Us Pray. I thought it was pretty sick that they were able to get my vision, and ironically, my hat named Pray. They were just very supportive of my campaign so I’m happy that I’m able to get those out too. It’s sort of an extension of me.
Any last words for the fans?
You can find any information on me at GilbereForte.com. I got a lot of new viral stuff coming out. There’s going to be music videos for every record on the project, mostly. I’m honestly just trying to utilize this project as an introduction to who I am and I hope everybody gets a chance to appreciate it the way I do.