When Pink Siifu and Ahwlee met at Mndsgn’s birthday party in 2015, they both felt like they’d finally found the childhood friend they’d never known they needed. Now, six years on, they’ve finished their third studio LP together as rapper-producer duo B. Cool-Aid. Leather Blvd. — the sequel to their 2017 debut BRWN and their sophomore LP Syrup from the following year — celebrates the slick swagger of its titular fabric, calling back to an era of indoor cigarettes and well-dressed sophistication, albeit with a schoolyard twist. The LP’s first single, “Cnt Go Back (Tell Me),” features Liv.e, Butcher Brown, Jimetta Rose, V.C.R, and Maurice II — only a fraction of the names on the project’s stacked lineup of guests.
On the forthcoming record, Siifu and Ahwlee lay out their contemporary approach to neo-soul, with Siifu delivering sultry hooks and suave bars atop Ahwlee’s velvety beats. While many modern-day artists attempt to capitalize on nostalgia, B. Cool-Aid’s gritty, vintage sound brings the mysterious decadence of the Jazz Age into 2023 without forcing it.
For an early look at Leather Blvd., I spoke to Siifu and Ahwlee about their synergistic partnership, collaboration as a lifestyle, and what it means to be an Aquarius.
This Q&A is taken from the latest episode of The FADER Interview. To hear this week’s show in full, and to access the podcast’s archive, click here. (edited)
The FADER: The last time I was in L.A., you were shooting a music video. Can you tell me more about it?
Pink Siifu: The video for “What’s up.” The single drops on Valentine’s Day. It’s definitely a romance track. We’ve been shooting just hella visual content to use throughout the rollout. I don’t wanna put nobody on blast, but just shooting videos is hard sometimes when you try to shoot with different folks. It’s good to stay with your core people, but I like collabing with new people. It’s a new album, so I wanna give it a little newer look, but I’m realizing that sometimes I just need to work with my core people and build something. Albums too, working with an engineer: Sometimes you wanna work with a n***a that you know gonna get your shit sounding right. It’s like [if] you got a tailor, you gonna go to them knowing he gonna get it fitted right; ain’t gonna be no adjustments after that.
Ahwlee: Some people don’t see the vision quite like we do.
PS: If you wanna work with me and Ahwlee — photos, videos, fashion — you gotta kick it with us. If you kick it with us for a week, maybe two, you gonna know what the fuck we all about. That’s why I love Jack McKain, because even when we first started shooting with him, he would invite me over. Our first photo shoot, I didn’t know where we was even gonna shoot. I hit him to shoot, and he gave me a budget, and I ain’t really had the bread for it. He was like, “Cool, let’s just kick it, get to know each other and shit.” I spent the night over at his house, where we ended up shooting the next day, and he’s like, “Yeah, bro. I get paid for my shit but I’m all about it if we connect. That’s what made me want to shoot your photos.” I really love that approach in working with new people. It’s the only approach that makes sense right now to me.
I’ve collabed with some folks [where it’s] like, “Shit, I hope they don’t think I just used them,” because they’re not my everyday friends. Collaborating is cool, bro, but if ain’t nobody vibing all the way, it’s just cool for the moment. I like collabs that’s a lifestyle type shit, like, you gon’ always see them together because they fuck with each other.
That’s the hard part about navigating the music industry in general: You wanna build authentic relationships, but then sometimes, you don’t. How do you separate the people that you just wanna work with for the moment from the people you wanna keep in your life forever?
PS: Exactly. Sometimes that shit don’t add up afterwards. It might add up on the track, but the process to get that bitch done was like damn…
A: It wasn’t really gelling like that.
What makes the collaborations on this project special?
PS: This was some real homie shit. It felt like everybody helped us on this shit: Everybody came and lended they type of characterization, even the down to skits. I collaborate on a lot of my albums, but this felt like a movie.
Ahwlee, you’ve described the album as having a schoolyard or lunchroom type vibe because of how many different people from different backgrounds and generations are on it. So if this movie is a teen rom-com, which artists belong in which cliques?
A: I would put me and Liv in different groups. I’d be with the burnout squad, getting fried and not going to school. And Liv would be in the squad with the cool n***as, but we still fuck with each other. That would be the vibe between us, like, “What’s up, what’s up?,” but we go our separate ways type shit. I’d put the ladies in the cool-girl clique.
PS: All the ladies in the cool girl-clique, but then you got your haters — not really haters, but they just fed up with shit. You got the ladies that’s the cool girls, and you got the ladies that’s fed up with shit. We got a bunch of those.
What’s the story, in the movie, of how you guys get together? And then tell me the story of how you actually met.
PS: On Ahwlee’s concept, we probably come back to buy the block we grew up on, name that bitch. You feel me? But yeah, we met at Ringgo’s [(Mndgsn’s)] on his birthday. That shit was beautiful.
A: I felt like he was like a homie that I didn’t have growing up but that I met when I was grown, like, “I kinda fuck with this fool.” Some long-lost homie shit.
PS: That’s definitely how it was. There wasn’t that many n***as I met in L.A. like that.
I know both of you really liked the Low End Theory parties back in the day. I’ve never been to a real Low End Theory show, so I’m wondering what they were like.
PS: It’s so many crazy stories. Prince pulled up! I wasn’t there for the Prince one — I had left L.A. — and I was so mad because that’s my guy. But yeah, FlyLo used to come do a set. Ras G, African Space Program… That was the Blackest shit I seen in L.A.. Them n***as [had] the African tribal patterns on, jumping on the speakers. That whole system was built for Ras G and n***as like him. Them speakers really what I feel like n***as need to keep alive. They had the sound beautiful, and n***as was coming up there: I seen Anderson .Paak play as Breezy Lovejoy. I seen The Internet play with Syd and Matt Martians and Chris[topher Smith] only — it was a trio before Steve [Lacy], before Pat[rick Page II], before Jamil [Bruner], Purple Naked Ladies [era]. It was fire to see everybody in the same spot.
It wasn’t no escaping, too. A lot of n***as used to just come, play, dip, because you really had to talk to n***as if you was in that bitch. It wasn’t no green room. Fuck a green room. If you gonna try to keep Low End vibes alive, n***as gotta talk. That was the whole vibe: everybody in the same shit regardless; FlyLo, tall as shit, tryna duck n***as because everybody wanna be talking to FlyLo. I miss that shit like a motherfucker.
You’re both Aquariuses. What characteristics of Aquariuses do you embody, and which aren’t true for you?
PS: Every time somebody tell me about Aquariuses, they tellin’ me [Aquariuses] is free spirited, or they do whatever the fuck they wanna do. I’m definitely that n***a. I’ll just do that shit. Sometimes I consider afterwards, but I already did it, so that’s it. Every Aquarius I know is like that… And every Aquarius I know is a flirt. N***as be flirtin’ like a motherfucker, organically. Ahwlee, can you say that?
A: Absolutely, man.
That’s why you’re life ruiners.
PS: Ahhhhh, n***as be sayin’ that. Shorty be like, “You an Aquarius? Ah, shit.”
A: “I can’t be messing with you.” It’s like, “What you mean?”
Ahwlee, what about you? Before the interview, you said you can’t consider things because you’ll overthink them.
A: If you really get in that thinking mode, it get out of control. You got to go on first instinct to move right. [Being an] Aquarius, it’s like you on a ship with a sail, and the wind gon’ do what it’s gon’ do. There’s no engine in this boat. You gotta rely on the wind, so if you not tapped into what you tryna do and focused, you just gonna be in the ocean spinning around. You got to lock in and just do that shit. Some people fuck with you — generally, [they] fuck with you — but it’s always gonna be the ones that’s like, “That n***a not shit.”
Siifu, you’ve said how important names are to you, and I don’t know if you’ve ever told anyone… Why B. Cool-Aid?
The origin is some fried n***a shit. We was tryna come up with a cool name that low-key is an umbrella for some shit, like it encompasses a lifestyle. Ahwlee was like, “Yo, I think it’s this one Bernie Mac skit” — we don’t know if it’s Bernie Mac, though, because we couldn’t find it…
A: It was Bernie. It was from the Bernie Mac show.
PS: So in the Bernie Mac show, that n***a talking about brown Kool-Aid: at a party, when you go to the alcohol, and they mix that shit brown. I was like, “Oh shit, that’s us.” We mix everything together, and it’s Black too. So the B stands for Brown, and the Cool-Aid is just on some cool shit, but it also encompasses where we’re from and what type of energy we wanna bring: fun energy, gathering energy.
That’s why every album name got a hint of brown to it: BRWN, Syrup look like brown-ish orange gold, and then Leather: brown hide. And the album covers — tryna have Brown folks on the album, make sure we implement the brown colors.
Ahwlee, I bet you think it was a Bernie Mac skit but, you were really on shrooms and just made it up.
A: Lowkey, bro! I was looking for it forever. I watched the whole show again.
PS: [Laughs] We was tryna sample it on the first [album] and we couldn’t find it. It might’ve been Ahwlee’s joke.
A: That’d be funny.
PS: We gotta find that shit. I wish that n***a Bernie was still alive, man. Rest in peace, Bernie Mac.
Leather Boulevard comes out on March 31st. What else can you tell us about it?
A: It’s boutta be an experience, man. I’m about to take you down the block, to every nook and cranny of the boulevard.
PS: It’s some shit that ain’t out right now. We got our own pocket, our own lane. I feel like it’s nostalgic but it’s new. I’m excited as shit this for n***as to hear this shit, bro. I can’t wait for the musicians to hear this shit, too — and all the heads, all the OGs. I definitely want some older folks to hear this, older artists. It’s for everybody.
Are you planning to tour around it?
PS: We wanna do some shows, for sure. We tryna do some intimate shows around certain cities, some smaller cities first just to let n***as know what the vibe on. And then we tryna do some shit in Europe.
I know you worked with a lot of legends for this album — some announced, some not yet announced. Were there any other legendary soul bands in particular that you referenced while making the record?
PS: We always bumping D’Angelo.
A: Sly [Stone], Ohio Players.
PS: Slum Village, Marcus Miller — hard jazz artist, fire as fuck. I was in that bag. I was bumpin’ a lot of Summer too. I love Summer Walker. We ain’t bumped that much Dwele, but that n***a in us. Shoutout Dwele. We love you, bro.
A: Come back, bro.
PS: Badu, Jill. The intro feel like Jill Scott, like what she’d be doin’ live. When I seen Jill Scott live, that shit be feeling like a jazz play. I love Jill Scott. We been making [the album] for four years, so it’s hard to tell you what we been bumping the whole time. It’s been different shit, but that’s definitely the root.
What elements from jazz shows do you wanna bring to your parties?
PS: Dress code.
A: The sophistication.
PS: N***as gotta pull up with leather. Shit, bro. I just want motherfuckers to just really listen to this shit and show everybody they know. If you know people who love good music and you love feeling good when you’re around your folks, around some family, I just want you to play this shit. Pull up to the shows. We been gone for a minute, and we got something that everybody should should gravitate to.
A: Come and get refreshed.
PS: Get some leather on while you listening to it. You gotta listen to it in your leather. When you taking your girl out on a date, put this album on. When you just kicking it with the homegirls, with your homies on some kickback shit, bump this shit. Trust me, it’s gon’ be vibes.