'I want to have a food truck, a vegan food truck within five years. I want to own a property'
Joey Purp is a vegan. I don’t know why this information surprises me as much as it does. It isn’t that I’m expecting a throwback hip hop stereotype, holding a hamburger in one hand and a Sony PlayStation console in the other, but for someone who raps about the dark underbelly of Chicago – about money, murder and all the girls in “the Mercedes Benz with their tits out” – over bouncy popping instrumentals, he’s not what I anticipated.
Joey is in Atlanta with his manager when we speak over Skype, at an environmental initiative hosted by Toyota. They’ve got wind of his veganism and asked him to be involved in their green coalition – he’ll stay on in Atlanta for the Afropunk festival later in the week. “I’ve been a vegan for almost a year now,’ Joey tells me, when I express surprise at his dietary habits. “I’ve been vegetarian for almost seven years so it was a logical step.”
Listening back to my tape of our interview, I think it’s fair to say that I stay on the veganism thing a little too long, asking him a few too many complicated (and perhaps unnecessary, since I’m writing for a music magazine) questions about the effects of the diet on his body and lifestyle. I’ll admit I have a vested interested in the subject as I’ve been flirting with the idea of a vegan diet myself.
It is a mark of Joey’s good character that he answers my questions without once rolling his eyes. In fact, he offers sincere, carefully thought through responses that are actually quite revealing about the man beneath the music.
“I just feel after researching the human body slightly – I mean I’m not a doctor or anything – but finding out a little bit about the human body and our make-up, and how we’re designed to break things down and stuff like that, I just felt it was the best decision. When I first became a vegetarian I was really unhealthy. I was really overweight when I was a teenager and it just changed my life so drastically in a positive manner that I just kind of stuck with it.”
He tells me that he has seen a visible impact on his body, beyond the weight loss. “It’s better for your blood stream,” he says. “It changes your breathing and your lung capacity. It changes your skin. And the way your skin looks and your skin feels. It’ll change your hair. It’ll change everything. Your nails get stronger. Your body just goes through changes and then you’ll feel more energetic.” He pauses, looks at the glass of wine I’m holding (in my defence it is past 9pm on a Friday night). “But also hydrating. Hydrating is very important. I’m big on water.”