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A founding member of Pro Era, the rap collective that launched Joey Bada$$ to stardom and ushered in a new wave of New York boom-bap, Powers Pleasant has been at the core of New York’s hip-hop world since he was a teenager.

A producer and DJ, Pleasant has toured with the world with Bada$$ and produced for some of the most exciting names in New York, including upstarts like City Morgue and icons like U God. Most recently he leant his skills to Escape From New York, the latest project from Beast Coast, the mega-collective formed of Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers. With a mixtape promised in the next few weeks and an album on the horizon, we hit the streets of his hometown with Powers Pleasant to chat the future of Pro Era, honouring Steez’s legacy and the next wave of New York talent.

The last year has seen you step out as more of a solo artist – how do you approach your own music versus producing for someone like Joey Bada$$?

Shit man its, all the same, I approach all music from an organic standpoint. I always produce from a fan’s perspective. Sometimes as an artist, we get lost in what we want to do. So I always approach a session from a “what does the world want to hear from this artist at this current point in time” perspective.

If you had to pick between DJing and producing which one would you choose and why?

I mean I would pick producing but they go hand and hand to me. Sort of like would a rapper prefer being strictly a recording artist or a touring artist? You feel me? You gotta do both. Djing or performing live is an amazing feeling that’s like no other. Connecting with the people in the room and all feeling the energy and moving to the same rhythm is a phenomenon that can’t be duplicated or faked. Producing is a whole other phenomenon, coming up with an idea or concept and bringing it to life’s a feeling like no other.

You’ve been working with a ton of New York talent recently – do you have plans to put together a full-length project soon?

Yes, I’m dropping a mixtape or project or whatever you want to call it before I go on tour this summer. Then a full length after. I wanna unite NYC. There are so many talented artists out there.

What was your favourite moment working on Escape From New York?

Shit every moment, we all really brothers, so its so dope working with your family on something. I remember one of the first sessions we had we made One More Round, Coast Clear, Desperado and Vintage Chanel all in one night. The energy was crazy.

Who’s the most exciting artist in New York right now?

I’m really fucking with Kota the Friend right now, he’s from my hood. We actually started Pro Era at one of his shows years ago. Pop Smoke’s hard too; he’s gonna be the next to blow from NY.

What does the future have in store for Pro Era?

A fucking album, been long overdue. It’s done, just sample clearances holding it up. Everyone has solo careers too; I think people get caught up thinking we’re a group when we’re really a collective.

It’s coming up to the fifth anniversary of Steez’s passing. What’s the best way for fans to honour his memory?

However you choose, I never really been one to mourn publicly. More of a spiritual thing.

Photography & Art Direction: Ade & Michelle

Catch Powers Pleasant on the Beast Coast tour from 23 July.