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Interview: PT Vell Is Focused On His Aviation As A Rapper

PT Vell is an artist from Richmond, Virginia. He's known as a storytelling artist that focuses on capturing the listener's ear and taking them on a journey through his trials and tribulations. In the past, he has worked with numerous artists like Illa Styles, fellow Virginia Union alum Nick Verses, and most notably Skinnyy Hendrixx. On his most recent single Soul, he flows gracefully over flutes and funky vocals to discuss how ill he is while noticing how he needs to get better with his craft and manifesting all he wants to accomplish. I had the time to speak to him about his growth in the Rich city along with discussing some recent trends in the culture in the middle of the COVID pandemic.

Jay: You have an upcoming album named Aviation that's due to drop later on in the year. Can you give me more information about it and when it'll come out?

PT: Aviation is all about elevation and people who have been listening to me and seeing the profession as far as sound and stage presence. It’s about taking to the next level. I don’t want to put too much out there but I got something unique for the rollout of the project. I got some surprises and dope features. It’s a real band-friendly album as far as live shows where everything I perform it; I’ll have a band with me. It’s has a wide barrier. Production comes from the likes of NameBrand, Devious Mind, Buno Beatz from North Carolina, sounds I wanted to put together with different producers. Like the way Soul sounds, I love a lot of sample flips and I’m picky when it comes to beat selection. I have a strong liking for piano and horns.

Jay: That’s something I heard on your song Soul, especially with the flutes. One thing I do notice with your other projects as well are the lack of bass more strings and piano keys, and I like that.

PT: I love strings and sounds like that but the album though got some knockers on there. The features are going to be ill. I'll tell you a couple of guys that'll be on there: Nick Verses, Junnie Mac, [Illa] Styles, Skinny Blaine Cooz, just a few names on there. It’s an hour in total.

Jay: Since the word "aviation" was mentioned, you got to tell me where the name Pilot Talk originated from.

PT: Crazy. I love talking about this story actually. I go by PT vell now, but PT is abbreviated for Pilot Talk. It started back in 2008 at [Virginia Union at the time, freshman year in history if I recall correctly. I’m a real big Curren$y fan. I think it was also around the time the first part of his Pilot Talk series came out. I was trying got get my Twitter up and running in history class. I needed a name that flows and is easy for people to remember. I made my handle pilot_talk. I was on my music grind from 2008 on and continued to figure everything out over time.

Jay: That last statement made sense. People will call me by my handle all the time and it's really like a business card to a degree. Better yet a branding tool.

PT: People call you by Twitter name out of the blue in the street, and that went on for a couple of years during and after Union. I ended up calling myself Pilot Talk because of that. Shoutout Curren$y. It got real because one of my guys back then said "Yo, you don’t think there would be issues between you and Curren$y because you're going by the name Pilot Talk and he has a project series called the same thing?"

So I emailed Curren$y manager to see if going as Pilot Talk would bring any legal issues. Two days later I got an email from the manager who wrote me back saying there’s no problem. I said thank you. That’s why I rode with it for a very long time.

Jay: You released several projects over a decade span. Your first official album was in 2017 with Dynamic Uno, your Thank you EP in 2018 to various collaborative EPs and features with other artists. What were some things you had to learn along the way to being a better artist?

PT: My lessons started with basic marketing. In 2017, I put the album together all by myself but the rollout wasn’t bad… but as far as marketing such as branding, I learned that merch can definitely help. CDs, hats, it's so much you can actually do to market and push your brand. The rapping is the easy part but what are you doing outside of rap to push your product? From back then to now, the technical aspects matter from the little things such as sound scans and mixing and mastering too. It's overall growth but definitely focus on developing your marketing.

Jay: You were featured on Skinnyy Hendrixx's single D'Angleo for his project Smooth League Villain, collaborated on an EP in 2020 called Case Closed, and did some outdoor shows together in Richmond and Newport News earlier in the year. How did the bond between you and Skinnyy Hendrixx develop?

PT: It started in 2017 at Infuzinons [an old club in Richmond] and we were doing a show. When I perform at shows, I don't leave right after. I check out the talent. During the show, I saw him and was like "Who is this skinny ass, slinky ass dude performing like this?" He was moving with a lot of energy. This was when his Lucid Reality project came out I think.

Jay: I remember covering that project in 2017 when I used to write for VirginiaGotNow.

PT: Word! So I'm in the correct time frame then. He had the crowd going crazy and he caught my attention for the whole set. We locked in right at Infuzions in 2017. I even spoke about it on one of the songs in Case Closed. It's been all love ever since. We push each other in whatever we do. When we lock-in, we always have organic energy and vibes ever since our first interaction. The first record we ever did was Walk Away and it was a smash hit. We're like Batman and Robin with music even down to editing our own videos and photoshoots. If he's on a set, I'm on his set and vice versa. He wins, I win.

Jay: What’s the best no you ever received?

PT: Great question. Here’s the no right here. It was last summer at Mike Million crib. Me, Illa, Junnie Mac and I was recording a song for Aviation. I recorded the first part of this verse in a session and came back to do the second verse. As I'm recording they’re overhearing me and after I did the verse I said "Yo, that joint, good?" Illa said "You just wrote that? Nah, bro. That was trash. The verse is not it." He told Mike to delete the verse. That was the first time anyone told me, no and that a verse I written was trash. I wrote the new verse right there with him. They're my circle. They aren’t yes men. Artists need stuff like that so they can humble them. Having friends like that means they care about the craft because they don’t want you to put out bullshit. It hit me like DAMN.

Jay: Do you feel that having online shows would still be a relevant thing in the next year or so? Some examples are the earlier days of Verzuz, Noah Page and the Secret Bonus Level show that would be streamed on Twitch, and Travis Scott wtih Fortnite.

PT: I think the pandemic started a lot of new trends so, for them, that right there became helpful. It won't be as frequent as it is because things are still starting to open up. As a marketing tool, hell yeah! When the trend started, Skinnny Hendrix performed at the online show at The Dark Room in The HOF in Richmond and a good amount of people tuned in. People are getting more and more creative with it because of the online aspect.

Jay: Do you think that maybe having a stream for live shows would be more of a commonality? Like how the Dipset versus The LOX Verzuz is going to be?

PT: It's a great marketing tool man. It can be that for anyone in any medium for real. It could be beneficial for singers, writers, DJs, poetry, shit, whatever honestly.

Jay: Who are some indie artists that you would like to shout out?

PT: The circle Illa Styles, Junnie Mac, and Skinnyy Hendrixx, dope album (read the writeup for it here) check it out. Radio B. Michael [Millions]. The Mutant Academy collective. Smyth Knight and Kidz at Play. I tell them all the time they’re very creative gonna make it and very unorthodox, T.R.I.G. and Nick Verses. Shit, it’s a lot of artists I could keep on naming.

Jay: How would you describe the Virginia music scene to someone who has never been to Virginia?

PT: Versatility is the keyword to answer this question. The Richmond music scene has a taste of everything: soul, pop, just whatever it is, Richmond has all that in one. It's a one-stop-shop for all things music and even down to the battle rap aspect like how Southpaw Battle Coalition and RVA Rap Elite does. There’s an avenue for everything. It's a wonderful place to start in music. I listen to the Richmond rap as frequently as I listen to Kendrick and J. Cole. The calibre here is phenomenal.

You can find all of his music on all DSPs and stream it on Spotify. His Instagram is @official_ptvelland Twitter @Pilot_Talk .

Written by: Jay Guevara. @justinhisprime on all social media.

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