Groundbreakers: Gilbere Forte

The culture isn’t moved by those who nudge it forward, who gently tab — culture is moved by those bold and brave enough to truly push and break new ground. For “Groundbreakers,” we’ll highlight some true groundbreakers from the worlds of music, art, sports, and beyond.

Today, we talk to Gilbere Forte — a rapper redefining what it means to be a rapper by working with everyone from hip-hop heavyweights like Bun B to indie rock bands like the Freelance Whales — about how film scores influence his music, the importance he places on fashion, and much more.

From your “Alors on Danse (Remix)” with Kanye to your more recent PRAY album, you’ve always been willing to step outside of what’s usually considered hip-hop. Do you see yourself as a hip-hop artist?
I absolutely do. I think what's great is my ability to communicate my style in other worlds of music while maintaining a hip-hop foundation. My focus is to push the bar and eliminate hip-hop's separation from other genres, and bring all of my influences together. Music is all one sound.

Creative people often want to look as if their style emerged out of a vacuum, but the truth is real groundbreakers take the foundation of their influences and build their own buildings on them. With that in mind, what are your biggest influences in music and beyond?
For me, my biggest influences have been film scores. The moment when music in a film can actually made me cry or feel excited, confident or vengeful is so powerful. I took note of how deeply in-tune my emotions were when reacting to these compositions, so I’m always trying to recreate that experience in my music.

Taking in life in general has also always been a great influence. Like people watching, and trying to understand someone’s perspectives and story without even speaking to them. I take that and apply it to the music I hear in my head.

It’s clear from your “PRAY” video that you also pay a lot of attention to the visual components of your work. From fashion to video, how important is a look to your style and the message you’re trying to convey?
I think the aesthetics of my life and how I appear is a major point of engagement with those who want to see and understand my message. From fashion to art, music and film, I brand myself based on my feelings and emotions. I want people to see themselves in my experiences and become a part of the journey.

What’s next for you?
PRAY II is dropping very soon. As for the future, I can't predict it, but she's calling my phone.