Pez is ready to tackle round two of his career as the poster child for Aussie hip hop. He’s done the hard yards, done the shows and done the touring. He has also released an album and is working on another – no mean feat. None of this is an easy slog for a rapper Down Under, but he has done it with poise, hard work, determination and a love of the scene and the music. A couple of hurdles set him back briefly, but the champ is back – and he’s ready to deliver like never before.
“I’d really started to like hip hop by the time I was 15 or 16; I really liked all sorts of music at that stage and not just straight up hip hop. I actually wanted to get into basketball and wanted to go overseas and play professionally – I really wanted to get into that – but an injury took the rug out from underneath me, so I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life at that point. That was when I started writing raps and I found myself doing music. It made me feel good because it was a form of expression, my own life, my own feeling.
“I could write about stuff I wanted to write. I felt better ultimately about it; it sucked at the start because I wasn’t really good at it, but I found a new outlet to put my energy into and from that just got in touch with a few people and it went from there. I actually heard on the grape vine about a guy I went to school with but wasn’t that close to – but we hooked up and once I’d made the decision and I realised that I’d made that decision, I was settled. I didn’t want to be working a job for the rest of my life I’d probably lose it doing that, and now when I can’t write I get all edgy and unbalanced.”
Indeed, his first album – A Mind Of My Own - captured all of his thoughts and visions in a neat package. It was a long, drawn out process and something that needed a commitment, yet that wasn’t a deterrent, rather a motivation. “It did take quite a while to complete,” chimes Pez. “Actually around four or five years really; I was up and down with my own self confidence and I’d gone from being really good and then the stresses of life would get to me and I thought it was crap again. I wanted the album to encapsulate a period in my life; I was doing a lot of soul searching and by the end I’d found a fair bit of balance. I tried for the positive spin and even though there were some tough times, I definitely wanted that balance no matter what mood I was in. I never wanted the album to beone dimensional and that’s why it was so many years in the making!”
A few years on in 2012, Pez is getting ready to do it all again. “I guess it has been a bit of a drawn out process again because I was dealing with getting things done the natural way; when you have to focus on your health and things aren’t going great, it feels like you sort of lose the focus. So I really feel like I’m back at it and I’ve got the new single coming out. I’m also working on the second album, which is feeling a little more personal than the first. In A Mind Of My Own I was looking out at the world a bit and focusing on what has been on my mind. I was in a darker place for a while. I was allowing myself to be vulnerable where now I find myself going places I didn’t go previously, it’s a little more personal in that sense. People comment that the first album was uplifting and wondered if I would ever go the other way, so that’s kind of why I say this darker element is more prominent. It’s the place I’m feeling now and once I’ve done a few more songs, I think it will have the balance it needs to get it out.”
The production will definitely evolve as well, as he describes some of the collaborators and producers that will work with him. Rest assured these are the who’s who of the local scene, but it will extend to instruments and other influences. He explains it in these terms: “it will be pretty classic hip hop in that sense, but I’d really like to blend some other elements in there so make it stand above what I’ve done before. I even recall a time and instance where not that long ago, you told people that you rapped and they’d laugh at you. Nowadays, you can make a life out of music and if you’re lucky you’re not working a job and touring overseas. It’s crazy – and all of this feels like just the start. The sky is the limit to some degree,” says the upbeat Pez.
Inspiration, too, remains easy for Pez to find. In the rap game, influence is all around – the urban, street linguistic type nature of the music makes anything influential. But for Pez, it was one Christopher Wallace that played the biggest part. “Yeah man, Biggie Smalls is really the person that made me want to rap; he was the one that made me really get into the music. I wanted to get into it and be much more than just the guy who buys the music. I also liked the guys like Jay-Z and Eminem and even a bit of Tupac, but I dig the people who make you feel an emotion rather than people who just go with the crowd. I wanted to go against the grain and create honest music I guess.”
As for the scene in Aussie right now, he reckons it’s the best it ever has been. “Hip hop in Australia is real good right now, the best ever. I’m a big fan of a lot of the young talent that is coming up and having had the veterans pave the way for all of us that have come afterwards has been very important. For a while there, I was more into American hip hop where as now I’m into the Australian side. It’s inspiring and it’s going somewhere. People are making music that is on an international level; not just with the sound but also the lyrics and it’s special to be a part of something like that, that you can make a career out of. So yeah, now it’s definitely changing for the better.”
So with one album complete, a second not too far away and a refocused energy, how is Pez finding life right now? “It’s great man,” he says unsurprisingly. “The past was about pushing the album and the stresses of all that, but more recently I’ve started to get my flow back and started getting some stuff ready for the next album. It’s so much work to get over this kind of hurdle so I’m really trying to keep out there and keep it happening as best I can. And definitely, I want to keep evolving my sound as much as possible. For me it’s such an important thing, probably the most important thing. I want to explore new sounds and new ideas and do things that I haven’t done before. I don’t want to go down the same path as I did; for me now it’s about taking a bit of a gamble and wanting to keep pushing the boundaries.”
Finally, Pez is looking forward to easing back into touring with a couple of gigs planned at your local drinking hole. “It’s actually pretty cool because you never get to those suburban venues,” he says. “Normally you do a show at Hi-Fi or The Corner Hotel so I’m pretty pumped to be hitting up some of these other places with my boys. The lineup will be awesome for hip hop and I look forward to playing a few new songs.” He also adds that this is just the warm up – look out for the new album and a proper block-party style tour to follow. The last album saw a 30-something-stop tour schedule. Let’s see whether this time they can triumph over that already impressive feat.
Pez [AUS] plays at the Ferntree Gully Hotel on Friday April 27 and the Chelsea Heights Hotel on Saturday April 28 with special guests Mantra [AUS] and Tys [AUS].