Paulie Think has an unconventional take on two genres founded on unconventionality: hip-hop and punk. “They were always parallel to me,” the DIY musician says, “anti-authoritarian, street music with a celebratory and rebellious tone.”
Think played in his first punk band, Not-Us, from ‘87-‘89 in Chicago. They opened for the likes of GWAR, UK Subs and Broken Bones. After he left the band, Think started writing raps and headed out to hip-hop open mics—during which, as a white guy, he says he didn’t always feel welcomed with open arms.
“I would literally have people screaming racial expletives at me while walking toward the mic,” he remembers. “It was pretty brutal, but my love for rapping made me continue on and earn respect. Once I started doing my own solo hip-hop sets, I started integrating the acoustic guitar [in] ‘93.”
He then began throwing in folksy storytelling and twang, all of which Wilmingtonians will hear it mashed together at Paulie Think’s show at Juggling Gypsy on March 21. Though it isn’t Think’s first visit to the Tar Heel State, North Carolina always has been a hot spot for meeting and collaborating with talented artists. He’s toured up and down the East Coast based out of MC Homeless’ Greenville home. Think also joined Richard Faulkner, Cold Rhymes Collective and Grape Juice Scott from Raleigh (now in Portland) for a Pacific Northwest tour.
“I’m playing with Charlotte hip-hop staples Legend Status, Shadow and Justin Aswell at the Milestone in Charlotte on March 19,” he continues. “I’ve played one of the first Spazzfest in Greenville and will be playing there on March 22. . . . It’s safe to say NC and I got a nice ‘lil relationship, which I look forward to growing further.”
Blending folk, punk and hip-hop hadn’t hit many (if any) local stages at the time. Though, alternative artists like Ceschi Ramos of Fake Four Inc have since expressed similar stylings on Chicago’s alt-music scene. “The guitar I play was a gift from [Ramos],” Think notes.
Nevertheless, Think has carved out his own niche with “I Shot,” “Feel This,” “Dunny Smash” and his latest 2017 release “Dunny’s Tamales” with No Trend Records. It’s heavily influenced by Think’s bilingual background. Two songs are entirely in Spanish, while Spanglish appears throughout.
His latest DIY sessions single “Mah Truck,” was inspired by a surprising 2014 encounter in downtown Dallas. As he and a friend were walking down the street, a guy in a truck yelled “Fuckin’ queers!” Think imagined what a song would be like from “that guy who yells from his truck.” “I thought it would be fun to do it from his perspective and make it more of a comedic piece,” Think details.
Written and sung from an adopted persona, Think’s acoustic ode to his pickup truck is delivered with an exaggerated country accent. Stereotypical tropes center on the narrator bragging about his conquests:
“Suckin’ titties in my truck / whoa! / I fucked your sister in my truck / whoa! / I fucked my sister in my truck / whoa! / my pick-upppppp truck!”
Beneath the surface, however, Think draws from life’s many layers and hues: political, personal, social and comedic. He’s also a humanitarian and ties those endeavors into his artistry whenever he can. While he’s done hurricane-relief work in Houston and Puerto Rico, he’s currently planning the fifth annual Hip-Hop For The Homeless in Austin,Texas (date TBD). Think was homeless for a winter in Chicago during his own struggle with addiction, so the issue hits home.
“Using my ‘lil artist juice to organize grass-roots boots-on-the-ground efforts,” he quips. “I did homeless assistance work during the Polar Vortex here at home. I’ve performed at Folxmas, organized by Whitney Flynn from Days n’ Daze the last two years in Houston, which raises a lot of food for a food pantry there. Right now I’m organizing a ‘Sk8brds to Puerto Rico,’ where I’m bringing skateboards to a couple orphanages on the island and La Perla in San Juan. I’ll be down there for 15 days doing the work in between shows of my hardcore punk band Shots Fired! Shots Fired!”