P-Lo Brings The Funk And Positivity On His Sunny New Album, ‘Stunna’

A lot of my favorite music lately has come from my home state, but surprisingly, the bulk of that comes from the northern half. From Guapd4000 to Larry June to Rexx Life Raj, I’ve found that the Bay Area has made the music that most resonates with my spirit, whether it’s for reflection, relaxation, or turning up. Now, I’ve added P-Lo to that list, thanks to his new album Stunna.

Like the other Bay mainstays mentioned above, P-Lo is a rapper and producer who’s been at it for a long time but has only recently begun to receive more acclaim despite his contributions to movements and the blog-era fame of HBK Gang. You might remember their 2013 “Gas Pedal” from Sage The Gemini and Iamsu! as they rode the wave of the hyphy movement’s late 2000s popularity.

Since then, P-Lo has released four albums, including 2019’s Shine, and become a fixture at Golden State Warriors games, performing at halftime and even reshooting his recent “One Thing” video to take advantage of the team’s most recent championship parade. With Stunna, he continues his mission to spread positivity and shine a light on the growing second wave of Bay Area dominance. He was kind enough to break down his new album via Zoom, discussing those Golden State championships, the responsibility of representation, and the benefits of his newfound love for yoga.

So just right off rip, I always ask an artist, every album has kind of a thesis statement or a theme. What would be the thesis statement or theme for Stunna?

Stunna is like a… it’s a frequency. It’s energy. It’s a belief. It’s a level of confidence that I have in myself, in which I feel like people can also reach that same level, or whatever capacity that means for them. So Stunna is just a frequency, it’s a confidence, it’s positivity. And I think all the music represents that.

One thing that I’ve always loved about your music is the bounce. That Bay Area bounce is very different than probably any other kind of music in the hip-hop world. Why is it so special and why does everybody want a piece of it?

It’s just the amount of weirdness and uniqueness that sets it apart. Because a lot of Bay Area rap is rooted in funk. So a lot of the bass lines are really funky, really different, really odd, really, really interesting. And I think the Bay Area has always been ahead in setting new waves and precedents all over, not just in music, but just in tech and art and fashion and everything. It’s like living 10 years ahead of the whole world.

You have a song on Stunna called “My Ghetto Report Card Freestyle.” Can you just tell me about high school P-Lo? Where was he? What was he doing when [E-40’s album] My Ghetto Report Card dropped? What kind of an effect did that have on young P-Lo?

Man, I was in the ninth grade. I remember buying the bootleg of My Ghetto Report Card from my homie Bryan Fisher — shout out to Bryan Fisher. I bought it off of him for $5, it was a burnt CD. Later on, when I got really close to 40, I had to confess to him. I was like, “Hey yo, 40, when I was in middle school, I didn’t actually buy the album. I bought a burnt CD of the album.” And he was like, “Oh man, don’t worry about it, man.”

That whole CD had so much influence on the production style, everything. That project embodied the Bay so on point at that time, especially when the “Tell Me When To Go” video came out. And I remember sitting at my homie Buddha’s crib, and when that shit premiered on BET or TRL. It was the whole black-and-white video. Everybody’s slow motion, shaking their dreads, it was incredible, bro. That time period is so vital to even what I’m doing now, from the production to the songwriting… I still pull so many inspirations from that whole era, from the whole Hyphy Movement to this day. Even if you listen to this project, there’s so much influence from that time period and still trying to flip it and reinvent it.

I feel like modern kids are having a little bit of their own Bay resurgence, thanks to Stephen Curry and Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, and I know that you have been a huge, huge aspect of that. The time you describe was around the time of the “We Believe” Warriors. Y’all weren’t doing too good back then. And now they have championships.

Multiple championships, man. Growing up, it was really hard. The Warriors weren’t winning as much. That time period, the “We Believe” Warriors, coincided with that whole scene. That was such an integral part of my life too. Because that’s right in high school, the Warriors are going crazy. Even though they didn’t really go that far. We embodied the underdog mentality that the Bay Area has always had. We’ve always been the underdogs and we’ve never gotten the credit that we’ve always deserved.

Being a part of it now and being able to go to the games, performing at halftime, and just being a part of the culture of the Warriors is such a true honor. Shout out to the Warriors organization for reaching out and always making sure we’re taken care of. And it’s just so dope. We’re doing the album release party in the Chase Center Plaza. It’s a free event, it’s for all ages. It just celebrates the album, brings the community out.

Yes, sir. Now I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about what it means to be this visible as a Filipino person in hip-hop culture representing the kababayan.

I hold a responsibility. I’m cognizant of the responsibility of doing that because I’m one of the few Filipino-Americans in music that’s at the forefront of it. And that holds a lot of responsibility because you know when you break down the door, you might not get the full thing of it, but the people behind you are going to be able to really take that and go. I feel like that’s a responsibility that I’m taking upon myself also. I want to make people feel comfortable in who they are. And that’s something that I’m also still figuring out is who I am and what I represent.

I think we’re starting to see some benefits of that. Jo Koy got the movie in theaters, and Guapdad is doing his thing. H.E.R. is going to be on ABC as a Disney princess. And you’re all from the Bay.

Yeah. I mean, feel like we Filipinos are the Puerto Ricans of the West Coast. I think that’s the tether to what New York is. The Filipino community is so intertwined and it’s such a melting pot, especially in the Bay, just like everyone’s together. Well, at least how I grew up. It’s a little different now with gentrification and stuff going on, but how I grew up, it was interwoven.

Now, if someone was going to be just flipping through the playlist on New Music Friday and they see P-Lo and they have a bunch of options from the new album from Stunna, what’s the song that they should click play on first to really understand who P-Lo is and what Stunna is and want to listen to the rest of the album?

I think the perfect song for that is “Good” featuring Larry June. I feel like it’s an embodiment of who I am. It’s an embodiment of what the Bay Area represents. It’s me and Larry, it’s unity, and it’s funky. I think it just has all those things that embody what P-Lo represents. Especially the positivity in the song. I think that’s what the whole album’s about. It’s just about having that confidence, having that confidence in yourself, having that belief in yourself, and being positive. Knowing that you’ll be able to make it through everything with belief and positivity.

And the video looks fun. The video looked like a lot of fun to shoot.

It’s a great time man. Everything’s just natural like an afro, man.

I know you do a lot of interviews. You probably get a lot of the same questions. You probably get tired of answering all the same questions. Do you have anything that you have always wished somebody would ask you about?

Something that I want to start talking about is my journey in yoga.

Yoga! P-Lo does Yoga! Now I have no excuse not to do it!

I started maybe last November and it’s been an interesting journey. It’s definitely mentally challenging, it’s physically challenging and spiritually challenging. So anyone that I talk to or come across I’m like “Hey, you should try this sh*t.”

Oh, you’re that guy now?

I’ve turned into that guy now. I got one of my roommates coming with me now. I think everyone should try it. It’s really good for mind, body, and spirit and balance in life.

Stunna is out now via EMPIRE. You can get it here.