With 14 albums out this year (so far), the musician and producer speaks on the energy behind his complicated sonic world
I first heard Pretty V in the dimly-lit junkyard tones of the South London club, Venue MOT. Birds flitted in the basement; flowers sprung up from the concrete; love emulsified in the thick, cellophane air.
A voice of childlike wonder crackled out into the audience. “I love you,” it squealed above a broken, hypnotic beat. Wakefield, England’s Pretty V—previously known by the monikers Voldy Moyo and v7backin2007—sketches a fresh sound from bedroom experimentalism, vulnerable and cutting at once. Pretty V, he tells Document, “is just a nickname from being called a pretty boy. I chose it to give myself a chance to fool around a bit more.”
Pretty V’s songs are littered with references to pop culture: Vivienne Westwood, Kate Moss, Parisian jewels, and Obama. The artist’s work calls on an unlikely gallery of icons, from Cardi B to Ice Spice to Morrissey; he refashions their sound to fit his own fantasy. A child of the internet, Pretty V joins an unraveling thread of UK blog rap contemporaries on a fervent pursuit to write and release music that prizes rate of creation above all else. “Most of my work is [made] on my phone [with] an editing software I’d like to keep to myself and my friends,” he explains.
With approximately 14 albums out this year already—not to mention a compendium of singles and collaborations, and almost-daily mixtapes—the immensity of Pretty V’s output evades the understanding of even his most devoted fans. “I make whatever I feel sounds good in that space,” says the artist. “I release every single on the same night [that] I make it. And then, later, [I] weave the tracks that I’ve made that week into a full project.”
That proliferation is infectious. Pretty V has earned a cult following—a few notable names in its ranks—springing collaborations with London treasures Archy Marshall (best-known as King Krule) and fellow hip-hop artist and producer, Jadasea; the three musicians formed a band called Aqrxvst and made an EP.
“To an unacquainted listener, I’d say my music is similar to a diary: I try to write as much as possible and read as much as possible.”
Comprising three tracks, Aqrxvst Is The Band’s Name is a minimal murmuring of discordant guitar and hazy vocal streams, touching on the city, the truth, and the sky. “We made that record in Limehouse in 2020,” Pretty V says. “We did, like, two sessions and it was finished. Me and Archy actually put out a single earlier this year called ‘52.’”
For the uninitiated, a Pretty V search can lead you into the conflicting worlds of hip-hop, trap, ambient, and grime. You could be sucked in by a lurid soul sample, or spat out by an illegible track about milkshakes. Says the artist, “To an unacquainted listener, I’d say my music is similar to a diary: I try to write as much as possible and read as much as possible.”
Pretty V’s scrapbook is a galaxy of stars, reliving memories from the early-2000s. At any given moment, he could be heard incisively repeating the name Vivienne, where other lyrics fail; rapping whimsically about Miley Cyrus getting the best of both worlds; or screeching a wash of indecipherable autotune.
But hidden under the rocks of Pretty V’s sprawling catalog, more contemplative lyrical moments can be found. Such as with the track “Romance,” in which he meanders through a cold night of jazz-infused love: “She pulls me in I pull back / Asked me if I’ve ever heard about 3 6 Mafia / I pretend to listen / I pretend I enjoy that shit / I don’t know I think I enjoy it / I just think it’s kinda corny to pretend that it’s that lit / I’m broke I just need a fix.”
Alternatively, in the ambient album Tale of Red Star, spoken word and rainy field recordings set the tone for earnest discussions of the power of gravity, the world burning and turning, and the bequests of strange red stars. Pretty V’s capricious nature leaves the audience clutching for answers. Yet, it also feeds the mystery. We can’t help but feel lost in his dreams of cut-out magazine icons, expensive perfume, and bedroom philosophy.