By Miles Raymer
November 11, 2014 at 04:41 PM EST

The rapper Pell hails from New Orleans, but his style has little in common with the syrup-swilling sound that most rap fans associate with the city. His new album Floating While Dreaming mixes the ongoing cloud rap trend with a heavy shot of organic Native Tongues vibes and more than a few hints at the young MC’s affection for indie rock, including a single that features indie crooner Dent May on the hook.

“The style is just 100 percent me,” he tells EW. “I like to think in some capacities I’m ahead of the curve. I can make something classic and timeless but still catch the ears of the youth and the people who are looking for a hit single. Something that’s relatable right now. A lot of people out right now are trying to talk about something different from what they’re doing, and it’s easily transparent to the listeners. Nine times out of 10, the ones that are respected for these braggadocious lyrics are talking about lives that aren’t even theirs.”

Pell has been making music for about five years, working at it with a career in mind for the past two. “The first tour I did,” he recalls, “it was cross-country and we were in a Suburban. It was very humbling, but at the same time a very fun experience.” Following Floating‘s release he’s been accumulating a fan base that’s starting to look like the beginnings of something big. “It’s unexpectedly expected,” he says of his success. “It’s a completely humbling experience, but at the same time it’s something I’ve been working for every day for the past two years.”

He just finished up a U.S. tour behind Floating, and next month he plays a pair of shows in Durban, South Africa. But he’s already looking toward his next projects, and his plans extend much further than just making more rap records.

“Right now I’m doing a lot of writing,” he says. “Not just music writing. I’m working on a book, a memoir of sorts. I wanna do TV shows. I have like two scripts that I’m working on currently. Other than that, I’ve just been trying to learn as much as I can.”

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1. Vampire Weekend – “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”

“Vampire Weekend is one of my favorite bands and have been since high school. I really find inspiration in the lyrics and how they are connected by the smooth sounding arrangements.”

2. Kings of Leon – “Revelry”

“The guitar part played on this record is dope to me and I love the ‘ooohs’ at the end that almost make Caleb Followill sound as if he’s howling. Intense.”

3. Gucci Mane – “Nothin On Ya (feat. Wiz Khalifa)”

“It goes without saying, but I will say it—Gucci is one of the best to ever do it. This song is catchy and can definitely be compared to my most recent club experience.”

4. Kid Cudi – “REVOFEV”

“Sometimes you need to have music around that helps feed your growth in life. I think that this is a song that speaks to many different generations that have experienced and been a part of change. I love Kid Cudi’s perspective, and I can’t knock the emotion of his effortless delivery.”

5. Sampha – “Indecision”

“Sampha’s voice is really the key here. The chorus is amazing–it’s triumphant and speaks to the everyone that’s scared of the future, while also regretting past decisions. ‘Let it all work out.'”

6. Tame Impala – “Mind Mischief”

“I think the aesthetic that I get from the music video for this is what really sold me on the song. It’s very ambient until the dynamics at the end, proving that Tame Impala knows what they’re doing for sure.”

7. Curren$y – “Hold On (feat. Young Roddy)”

“First, I love this record because it’s produced by New Orleans’s own Nesby Phips. Second, I believe that there is a certain confidence about Curren$y’s delivery that forces you to engage with his words.”

8. Dom Kennedy – “When I Come Around”

“Dom Kennedy’s cadence isn’t methodical, it’s passionate and his own. As he wraps you into the rhythm of his rhymes, you can’t help but notice how cool and convincing he is with his words.”

9. The Spinners – “It’s a Shame”

“This is an undeniable classic.”

10. The Spinners – “I’ll Be Around”

“This is an undeniable classic, pt II.”