Though he’s always been called “Pure,” the Santa Rosa MC known as Pure Powers took the name literally about four years ago, when he quit using drugs and alcohol. Now the 29-year-old, who began rapping in eighth grade, is about to release his first full-length album studded with guest MCs and turntablists from around the Bay Area.
“If I would’ve gained success at the height of my addiction, I’d be dead,” says Powers over burritos at a Santa Rosa taqueria. “I chase different highs now. I chase the high of a good crowd. I chase the high of a beat that motivates or inspires me.”
On paper, it’s easy to pigeonhole Pure Powers, whose “government name” is Brendan Powers, as a white rapper who looks and sounds a bit like Macklemore, last year’s Grammy winner for best rap album. “It’s a compliment,” he says of the comparison, but quickly changes the subject. He’d rather talk about his own music than try to convince people he’s someone else.
Powers, a Sonoma County native, had to leave his home to find perspective. “I wanted to be a gangsta rapper from Occidental,” he says. “Growing up in Sonoma County, I wished I’d been living in the ghetto. I was upset that I always had two parents looking out for me.”
With a shrug he chalks it up to “the human nature of ‘the grass is always greener.'” Then he moved to Hawaii and found out what it’s like to be a minority (his high school was mostly Pacific Islanders), before living in Oakland, which he loved. Powers came back to Sonoma County a few years ago and started making himself a fixture on the North Bay’s hip-hop scene.
Whether it’s writing lyrics, posting on social media or making copies of flyers for upcoming shows and taping them up around town, he’s literally a one-man band. “The days of someone just randomly finding you and investing a bunch of money into you, that’s over,” says Powers.
The work shows through on his album, which will be released Sept. 13 at his show a Aubergine in Sebastopol. Plenty of guest voices and turntablists provide a variety of sounds on the 19-song bonanza, titled My Album. Standouts are “Too Bad,” “Time Won’t Wait” and “Mystic Vibes,” the latter containing a sexy sax riff and a fun story about connecting with a woman on the dance floor.
Not one to sit back and relax, Powers is already working on his next two albums. And he’s feeling better than ever about his career. “The name with Powers means now that I’m 100 percent me,” he says. “Pure human, ya know?