Interview: Even at Life’s Lowest Point, Cleveland’s Peso Tells Us to “Don’t Look DOwn”

Humans have an intrinsic fear of hitting rock bottom. The potential for life to go off the rails and sinking us into the depths of despair is horrifying, knowing that even all the preparation in the world wouldn’t be enough to completely prevent it from happening.

Cleveland’s Peso knows first-hand when life pulled the rug out from under him – evicted from his apartment, losing both jobs and a worsening pill addiction all while finding out that he had a kid on the way. Pressure piled up on top of Peso and threatened to break him.

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“In the end, you know, I had to man up. When I found out I was going to have a son, I grew up so fast. I just knew I was going to be responsible for a little boy so that shit matured the fuck outta me really fast,” he tells me.

His sophomore album Don’t Look Down is a response to his moments of vulnerability. Even when pushed to the edge, he’s adamant that you should never look down and that the only way out is up. It’s a journey of him overcoming his demons and he aims to bring us along for the ride.

Listen to Don’t Look Down here and read my interview with Peso down below.

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Turntable Thoughts:

Tell me about yourself.

Peso:

I’m from Ohio though I’m based out of Cleveland, that’s where my collective is – Feed The People. It’s me, ToneThePoet, Seth Hasan, Xoe and Timothy Reynolds. We all make music, Xoe makes beats, Tim’s got his own clothing brand plus we also do charity and shit. 

Turntable Thoughts:

How long have you been making music?

Peso:

Seriously…probably about 4 years starting from when I joined Feed The People. I used to make music in high school too but nothing serious though.

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Turntable Thoughts:

Could you tell me about Don’t Look Down? What’s the album about?

Peso:

It was like the thought in movies where the characters are walking on cliffs and shit, or scaling a building and they’re always like “Whatever you do, don’t look down!”. I was trying to apply that to life in general. 

When you feel like your life is on the edge and you’re about to fall, you can’t let that shit happen. You can’t look down and gotta figure a way out. Just that scary feeling of hitting rock bottom.

Turntable Thoughts:

Was it inspired by any particular experience?

Peso:

Before I made the album, I had just moved back from Cleveland. I was evicted from my apartment and got fired from both my jobs.

I was on pills and shit. Was really depressed and not healthy at all. Didn’t really know what the fuck I was going to do. Then I found out I was having a kid and got even more scared. 

I wasn’t in the right spot – mentally or physically to raise one. In the end, you know, I had to man up. When I found out I was going to have a son, I grew up so fast. I just knew I was going to be responsible for a little boy so that shit matured the fuck outta me really fast.

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Turntable Thoughts:

Has life been looking better for you recently?

Peso:

Yeah! Well, for the most part. Everything has been pretty solid. When you got depression, you always got those hard-ass days but everything is mostly cool for now. My son is healthy and things been looking up. 


Turntable Thoughts:

Do you have a favourite song on the album? Personally, mine is “Can I Live”.

Peso:

Mine is either is “It’s Good Til It’s Bad” or “Are We There Yet”. Probably the latter though, cause that’s the one I fought my engineer the most to get on the album. Just cause I’m not the greatest singer in the world and it was my first time writing a song, more so than just a rap song.

It’s basically about the question that people ask when they’re on a road trip, and that’s what this album is – a road trip. When you’re on a long drive you start asking yourself “Damn, are we there yet? It’s taking forever.” It’s like me asking my mental health if we’re there yet. Do we feel fulfilled out of life yet and wondering when the fuck that’s gonna happen. 

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Turntable Thoughts:

What do you think are the biggest differences between Don’t Look Down and your debut album There’s No Room In Here?

Peso:

Just getting better. I knew more about things I was weaker in. Also, Don’t Look Down is more ‘complete’ since I had a vision for it along with its sound. The artwork, the style, the vibe…everything planned out before I even started working on the music. 

I also worked on my songwriting in general along with my singing and song structure. 

Turntable Thoughts:

Made you feel way more comfortable too right?

Peso:

Yeah. Before I was always unsure of myself and how my music would go over with people. With this album, I didn’t really give a fuck and was just happy with what I was making. 

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Turntable Thoughts:

Could you tell me more about the album’s recording? How long did it take and who did you work with?

Peso:

I started fall of 2019 and we didn’t finish until November 2020. 

My engineer, Zech, used to live in LA but he had to move back to Pittsburgh to be closer to his family cause of Coronavirus. So in May 2019, I had to drive out there for a weekend to knockout recordings and foundations of the album. Then I went back in August and added in all the extra shit or redoing stuff.

After that, we started working on features. I linked up with Seth Hasan on “More To Go”, Draya Jade on “Another Day” along with background vocals on “It’s All Good Til It’s Bad”. Then I also worked with Cam Stephens who did the hook on there. In those 2 weeks it was just me and Zech laying down guitar and bass on “Downhill” and this dude Jordan did guitar on “Are We There Yet”. 

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Turntable Thoughts:

Sounds like Don’t Look Down was way more collaborative.

Peso:

That’s what I’m trying to do more. Rather than just getting features, it’s more like if someone had a tone of voice that I think could be in a song, whether just a bridge or ad-libs, I would hit you up. I’m trying to use people’s voices as an instrument and ‘orchestrate’ them.


Turntable Thoughts:

Moving away from the music for a bit, you also paint on the side right? Could you tell me more about that?

Peso:

I fell in love with painting in 2016 cause I randomly felt like doing it one day and bought a bunch of shit. I got addicted to it for years but stopped because I wanted to focus a lot more on the music. 

I’m about to pick it back up again cause we got an arts centre here and the art director asked me to come in to teach a class for some kids. So I’m going start getting back into that lane. It’s a very different way for me to express myself. 

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Turntable Thoughts:

Would you ever use your art as part of your music career?

Peso:

Yeah, people always ask me that. I haven’t yet though I painted covers for Tone and Seth. I definitely will one day for sure. 

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Turntable Thoughts:

What are your plans for the future?

Peso:

Definitely my new project that I’m working on. New body of work plus I’m gonna be painting a lot more. Hopefully put out a short film at the end of the year with my homie Jayson. 

I had this really dope idea for a film for Don’t Look Down but Covid kinda ruined it, though I still got to make some music videos too. Also got a new music video coming this month for “Colors (Interlude)”. 

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Based in Melbourne and Malaysia. Jensen is a part-time journalist and full-time music fan.

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