On a recent Sunday evening, P-Lo’s friends and fans crowd into a small Tenderloin art gallery for the listening party for his upcoming album, More Than Anything. This also happens to be the rapper and producer’s 26th birthday, but he’d probably be in just as good a mood even if it wasn’t.
“More Than Anything means a lot of different things. I have this certain belief in myself that I want to show through my music,” P-Lo announces, beaming, as everyone gathers to hear his new project, released independently on May 12. “And through my music, I want people to feel the same way I feel about myself as themselves.”
Cal-A, the event’s DJ and one of P-Lo’s co-producers on the album, hits play on the opening track. Girls take selfies in front of a giant print-out of the More Than Anything album cover, which features P-Lo’s gold-toothed grin in front of a soft, beige background. Bay Area hip-hop celebs like Iamsu and Dave Steezy mingle with other artists in the room; Rexx Life Raj, who's embarking on a tour with P-Lo in June, walks in with an adorable French bulldog. P-Lo introduces each song emphatically on the mic, and then everyone cheers him on as he dances earnestly to his own music.
P-Lo, aka Paolo Rodriguez, first gained recognition as the producer of Yo Gotti’s “Act Right” and Wiz Khalifa’s “Bout Me.” A Pinole native, he’s made countless beats for fellow members of HBK Gang, including Iamsu, Sage the Gemini, and Kool John. When people talk about the “post-hyphy” sound of the contemporary Bay Area rap scene, they’re likely referring to his work, which evolves the sparse synths and hard-hitting drums of the 2000s into something sleeker and more radio-friendly. Even though his reputation as a prolific slap-maker precedes him, he also has a strong resume as a rapper, with regional hits like “Going to Work” and “Light This B-tch Up.”