The new project from Epiphany "Big Piph" Morrow finds the rapper and hip-hop ambassador tackling a new medium — the small screen.
"Far From Finished" is an eight-part, mockumentary style web series created by Piph and directed by Kenneth Bell that follows a fictionalized version of Piph as he tries to figure out what's next in his life while being filmed by a crew for a show called "The Kusp," about artists on the verge of breaking out.
The first two episodes debut Wednesday on his YouTube page, his facebook page and at fffseries.com. Episodes, which are about eight minutes long, will be released each Wednesday after that, with the final two debuting April 19.
The opening graphic bills it as "100% real (but kinda not) docuseries," and the meta, fourth-wall-breaking style is like that of "The Office" or "Abbott Elementary."
"I describe it as a person who has reached some success, but still wants more," says Piph, who grew up in Pine Bluff and now splits time between Arkansas and Atlanta. "It came from talking to a lot of friends who are in cool life positions, who have dope jobs but they're like, 'is this it? What's next?' From that, I used inspiration from my own story."
The result, judging from the first two episodes, is hilarious as Piph gleefully takes shots at his fictionalized, clueless and self-absorbed self.
"I was trying to create a character that people can relate to and don't mind sticking with," he says. "There are some episodes that are more dramatic than humorous, but I wanted the humor to carry a lot of it. I wanted people to watch it and be entertained."
Little Rock's Bell, who has directed music videos by Piph, Black Party, Sean Fresh, A1 Nino, Kari Faux and others, says it wasn't unusual to see the comedic side of his friend.
"Piph tries to do larger things and push the boundaries of what someone would think a musician would be trying to do. The comedy wasn't a surprise. This is stuff that I expect from him."
It's not the first time Piph has worked on a web project. He teamed with Bell and former Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones for a nonfictional web series. He has also produced a one-man show, "The Glow," and has worked with Arkansas PBS.
"I felt I was ready to take the next step and craft this episodic series," he says.
Bell says he watched fake documentary-theme shows like "Abbott Elementary" and "The Office," as well as interview segments on YouTube to get a handle on how to approach filming the series. Perhaps his favorite episode, though, is the one that veers away from the mockumentary format.
"Episode six. It's basically about his love life and one relationship failing ... it's him being this guy with these big ideas and constantly striving for the best possible version of himself. I guess it was fun because it was a break from the norm and there are multiple actors in that episode."
The cast is mostly newcomers with little acting experience, but there are two ringers — Little Rock actors Taylor LeRon and Alivea Disney. LeRon is a profane hoot as Steven, the Disgruntled Mentee, who is unimpressed with Piph's guidance and advice.
Bell says that Disney, who plays love interest Lisa, was invaluable in front of and behind the camera.
"On one of our first days of shooting, she did her part and stole the scene ... we didn't know she was going to be so good. And when she was done, she stayed and helped us give the [inexperienced actors] direction. If someone is helping other people do what they do, I'm all for that."
Since this is Piph we're talking about, whose albums include "I Am Not Them," "Such Is Life," "The Calm" and a 2021 EP also called "Far From Finished," there is a musical component to the web series. New singles will be released to accompany each episode and "Takeoff," a jazzy slice of hip-hop featuring Dee Dee Jones and Bijoux, is already out.
"Each track is inspired by the theme of the episode," he says. "This is weird. The track is me ... it goes with the show, but it's not the character Piph so much as it is myself. The soundtrack is made from life imitating art."