Image via Donald Morrison
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When you enter Sei Less, the first thing you see is a large lit-up sign saying “I’m here for a good time, not a long time.” The quote is attributed to Drake. The name of this Chinese restaurant near Times Square was apparently inspired by Fabolous and French Montana’s 2022 song “Say Less.” The video was shot at the restaurant “in honor of the Asian community.” In August, Sei Less unveiled a special limited edition menu in honor of the 50th Anniversary of hip-hop, with two VIP cocktails named after albums from Jay-Z and Diddy. One drink will only set you back $50, you know, one dollar for every year hip-hop has been around. This is where I meet Detroit rapper Peezy for our interview.
Peezy spent the better part of 15 years attempting to cultivate the type of rap superstardom he finally reached in 2023. He’s positioned himself to be one of the big breakout acts from Detroit just as the city’s regional hip-hop scene has taken the nation by storm. Similar to how Atlanta became ground zero for inventive rap music in the mid-2000s, Motor City is slowly becoming hip-hop’s next big cultural hub, with artists like 42 Dugg and Babyface Ray putting the midwestern city’s penchant for both assertive lyricists and laid back shit-talkers on the map. Peezy exists somewhere in the middle and it’s almost impossible to imagine his city having this moment without him at the table.
The “2 Million Up” rapper’s storied career began with Team Eastside, a now-infamous Detroit supergroup that spawned at least three of the city’s current best rappers: DameDot, Icewear Vezzo and the aforementioned Babyface Ray. I first discovered Peezy’s informal storytelling and dark humor in 2018’s No Hooks, where Peezy detailed outlandish heists and hilariously specific street tales, all under the belief that a song doesn’t need a chorus to be good. But by 2022, Peezy had begun recording songs with hooks and appeared to be moving into a new phase of his career. He assumed the role of OG, spending time putting on Michigan artists like Rio Da Yung OG and RMC Mike and refocusing his own music to be slightly more sophisticated. His latest release, GHETTO, is his most accomplished yet, with features from Ty Dolla $ign, Key Glock and Larry June. It shows Peezy attempting to take his punched-in Detroit flow to soaring new heights, experimenting with a more mainstream approach to rap through soulful samples, traditional song structures and blockbuster features.
Peezy showed up to Sei Less wearing a dark green and denim Louis Vuitton zip-up sweatshirt, with Louis Vuitton jeans and white Nike Air Force 1’s. He moved like a man unbothered and unworried, dapping up strangers and friends as he made his way through the restaurant. We entered a private room and shuffled into a large red leather booth. Peezy’s manager plugged his own phone in to play music, sprinkling songs from GHETTO in between singles from Drake’s new album and Veeze. At one point, the manager abruptly changed the song before J. Cole’s verse on “The Secret Recipe,” causing Peezy to question the sanity of his manager to great effect. The entire room, including the manager, paused to laugh at Peezy’s indignation. Although Peezy doesn’t say much during the dinner, it was moments like these where you could tell that he’s always listening and that he has a very quick sense of humor.
Peezy orders just about one of everything for the table. There’s chicken satay, a bevy of dumplings, and lobster mac and cheese. I discover he’s pescatarian and we begin the interview over a bowl of shrimp fried rice. He was at his most animated when discussing Ghetto University, an initiative he’s in the process of starting that’s meant to teach up and coming rappers or sports stars how to be financially responsible. Peezy explained that he’s passionate about the idea of helping people like him navigate the financial pitfalls of early success in the music industry. It’s a natural step for an artist who is currently looking to move beyond music. He also tells me he’s extremely interested in fashion, having gone to Fashion Week in Paris for the first time this year and even dedicating a song on GHETTO to the experience. “I can’t lie I love Ricky and Louis, it’s hard to choose, me and Goyard got a relationship, that’s my boo,” he says in the song.
There’s a sense of gratitude that emanates from Peezy when we talk. He’s just over two years removed from an 18-month prison sentence that threatened to derail his career, and in that time he’s kicked his lean habit, picked up a healthier diet and recorded his most successful music to date. He also just announced his first American headlining tour and is thinking of getting into acting. As our dinner winds down Peezy tells me New York is his favorite city aside from Detroit and that he plans on meeting some friends in Harlem later. We walk out of the restaurant and he’s bombarded with cameras and people asking for photos. The last thing I see is Peezy stepping into a Black SUV stuffed with shopping bags, just as the car pulls away.