Good things really do come to those who wait and according to Bandcamp, we all should have gave up long ago. Fuck that, it has been eight years since the charismatic Melbourne MC PEZ (Perry Chapman) dropped his fabled debut, A Mind Of My Own – yielding the summer anthem The Festival Song with 360 and neo-soulstress Hailey Cramer. Now he’s making a triumphant return on EMI with his new album Don’t Look Down set for release on November 4 and available for pre-order now… and we can’t wait!
Don’t Look Down is a hip-hop blockbuster boasting legendary guests like Paul Dempsey, Paul Kelly and longtime ally 360. The first single to be lifted from the album is the soaring ‘Calling Out’ featuring Paul Dempsey who brings his urban blues to the song. Says PEZ, “I spoke to my label and was like, ‘I really need someone who’s got pain in their voice to be able to sing this and make it believable.'” When the alt-rock Dempsey was proposed, no one reckoned he’d roll with it – but they were wrong. “He came back really quickly and was like, ‘I love it – I love the lyrics, I really connect with it, I’d love to do it.”. Watch the video for ‘Calling Out’ here:
As a kid, PEZ’ dream was to play basketball – only injury forced him to quit. Feeling “aimless”, he began to rap. “Before I knew it, that became a new direction – which was exciting.” He developed a refreshingly individualistic homegrown hip-hop, drawing on his affinity with vintage music – The Beatles, Van Morrison and Michael Jackson. PEZ was determined to employ live instruments – and craft melodic hip-hop. In 2008 he premiered with the independent A Mind Of My Own. The Festival Song blew up, reaching #14 on the ARIA Singles Chart and placing at #7 in the triple j Hottest 100. PEZ scooped an AIR Award for “Best Independent Hip Hop/Urban Album”. However, success came as “a surprise”, the rapper recalls. “I was hoping that things would do well but, when you’ve made a record in your bedroom, you don’t really know what the hell’s gonna happen.”
Even during that “hiatus”, PEZ collaborated – notably rapping on 360’s Utopia smash Live It Up. And the live fave gigged, last hitting the road with ’60 in 2014. Yet embarking on Don’t Look Down saw PEZ rediscover his passion for music – and his mojo. It was “therapeutic”. The emerging beatmaker aKidCalledJay became pivotal to the album. PEZ randomly bumped into this old basketball pal at a 360 show and realised that he was now producing. Jay would assume the role of PEZ’ motivator. “We just ended up building this chemistry.” PEZ also teamed with M-Phazes (Eminem), Styalz Fuego (an ARIA “Producer Of The Year” for his work alongside 360), and, from A Mind Of My Own, Matik.
Don’t Look Down charts PEZ’ evolution. “I feel like my perspective has shifted quite a bit, just with age maybe – just maturity,” he ponders. “You start to see the world a little differently.” Above all, he’s living in the present – transcending youthful cynicism and learning not to “fixate” on hypotheticals or simply “overthink”.
The album’s figurative title, Don’t Look Down, is recycled from a track a novice PEZ cut with his brother Tys – and it served as a bold mantra. “It really did feel like going head-on into the fear and just look the Devil in the eye,” he says dramatically. PEZ wrote Don’t Look Down as an all-new song for his daughter, roping in rising Sydney electro-pop star Kota Banks.
Many names on Don’t Look Down will seem familiar. 360 raps on two tracks – one the defiant, rockin’ banger They Try To Tell Me. “We’ve had a history of writing just kind of tongue-in-cheek, funny stuff together,” PEZ says. Others reappearing include Hailey Cramer (PEZ’ live vocalist), Tys, and singer/songwriter Raymes. The cruisy Arie-Elle, PEZ’ moonlighting photographer, elevates the powerful closer No One. Indeed, no matter how dark his music, PEZ ultimately offers “hope”.
And PEZ is optimistic. In October he’ll join Thundamentals’ Never Say Never Tour – performing with DJ aKidCalledJay in a “back-to-basics” hip-hop paradigm. “I definitely feel reinvigorated – inspired again to wanna make music,” PEZ enthuses. “So I’m excited for the future, in that sense – and just excited to have got over that hump… It’s just an exciting time.”