OMB Peezy has risen quickly in the Bay Area, but it may only be a matter of time before he moves back to the South. Gabe Meline/KQED
OMB Peezy has risen quickly in the Bay Area, but it may only be a matter of time before he moves back to the South. (Gabe Meline/KQED)

Talking With OMB Peezy, the Bay Area's Missing Link to Southern Rap

Talking With OMB Peezy, the Bay Area's Missing Link to Southern Rap

OMB Peezy is tired. It's the fourteenth night of tour, he's been sleeping in the backseat of a Mercedes Sprinter van all afternoon, and the conspicuous Ziploc bag brought to him by the tour's merch girl is getting low on contents.

Meanwhile, the past eight months have been a whirlwind for the Mobile, Ala.-born rapper. Two days earlier, Wiz Khalifa posted his track "Lay Down," adding to the heap of co-signs for Peezy's addictive, nasal delivery that ebbs and flows more like an Eric Dolphy saxophone solo than a 20-year-old rapper from Sacramento. The week prior, he played a New York showcase that attracted industry veterans, and he's signed two record deals in six months — one with E-40's Sic Wit It Records and one with 300 Entertainment, home to heavy hitters like Young Thug, Fetty Wap and Migos.

It's the type of sudden rise that regional rappers dream of, with two anticipated mixtapes on the way: Loyalty Over Love, a 12-song autobiographical song cycle, and an as-yet-untitled project with producer Cardo (who's worked with Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Travis Scott and others). While a line of fans snaked down the block two hours before a sold-out show with Vallejo's SOB x RBE at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma, Peezy talked to me about growing up in the South, being in jail when his son was born, and what he wants for the future.

OMB Peezy: 'I don’t wanna be havin’ to make myself comfortable in places that I’m not comfortable in.'
OMB Peezy: 'I don’t wanna be havin’ to make myself comfortable in places that I’m not comfortable in.' (Gabe Meline/KQED)

How wild has your life been in the last year?

It's been crazy. I seen so much in the last 8 months. It was “Lay Down” that made it go through the roof. This shit's stressful, man — going through all these airlines, all these people, all these shows — but I feel like I'm made for it, so I ain't trippin'.

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You're from Mobile, Alabama. What was it like growing up there?

I grew up moving from house to house, the Orange Grove Projects, and I left at a young age, like 12, so I ain't really get to explore the whole of Mobile. I only got to explore the dirty portions, I ain't get to see no pretty sights and shit, so I can't really tell you too much. I ain't really have no childhood. Everybody else getting Christmas presents, everybody else going on field trips. So everything I tell you would be some bad shit, all the way 'til I get out to California.

What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the Bay Area?

The people, the accents. The way people talk! I thought people only talked like that on TV.

OMB Peezy, outside the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma.
OMB Peezy, outside the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma. (Gabe Meline/KQED)

Were you aware of any Bay Area rap in Alabama?

Nah. I ain't know a lot. I knew about E-40, 'cause he was in movies. The music, it was different, but me bein' Southern, and bein' that I grew up on so many different types of music, I had an open ear to it, so I grew a likin' to it.

You've got a kid, don't you?

Yeah, I got a son. He gonna be two years old on Aug. 18. Leo, he a little badass. He's a big motivator for me. I feel like anyone who have a kid, that's gonna push 'em harder.

You're finally coming up on some money and opportunity. What do you want out of life?

I don't only wanna be able to take care of my kid — I don't want him to see me strugglin'. Know what I mean? I want to be comfortable with life, I want to be content with life. I want my son to be comfortable. I don't wanna be tryin' to make myself comfortable no more. I don't wanna be havin' to make myself comfortable in places that I'm not comfortable in.

You've said before that you were locked up when your son was born.

Yeah, I was locked up. That shit wasn't cool. My son was already a month and a couple days old when I got out. I was happy and mad as hell at the same time. I didn't even know how to take it, 'cause it was my fault that I was in there — I got caught with a gun. I was in there seven months.

Your song “Porch” is a message to younger people. Why did you make that song?

I made it 'cause a lot of people listen to music, like when I made “Lay Down,” people listen to it and they wanna do exactly what the song say. I was like, man, that's good, but be ready for what you're gettin' yourself into. I ain't sayin' don't do it, but be mindful of what you're doin'.

OMB Peezy.
OMB Peezy. (Gabe Meline/KQED)

You talk a lot about the people who supported you early on, like with "When I Was Down." What happens when your reality becomes a lot of fame, a lot of money?

Then I'll talk about my path to that reality. I don't forget nothing. I got a memory like an elephant. And certain shit that happened to me had a big-ass impact on me. You're gonna hear it in Loyalty Over Love – that's what I'm doing, basically, is telling my story.

People talk about Boosie a lot when it comes to your voice. I think there's a more going on than people give you credit for.

I think I'm similar to Boosie too, but that ain't all. I feel like people shouldn't think when they hear me, “Oh, he sound like Boosie” and just leave it that. “He sound like Boosie, oh, he lyrical, he raw, he got this, he got that.” I want people to see my talent for what it is. Not see my talent and just cut it short because I sound like someone they heard. It's deeper. There's a lot goin' on.

After this tour, this next project, this documentary — where do you want to be in a year?

I wanna move out of California. Move to Atlanta. Bay Area ain't ever gonna lose me, cause I'm always gonna have a spot out here. This is my second home, man. But Atlanta, I just gotta have a spot out there. The culture's just the culture.

Look, I come from Mobile. But Mobile's like crabs in a bucket. I don't know no rapper who can blow on in and go back to his city and stay there. Like, my life movin' way faster than Mobile right now. I love Mobile to death, and I love the people in it. But if I was to move back to Mobile, my career would die down right now. So I wanna move to Atlanta, 'cause that's where everything is – the music is through the roof, studios, the vibe is just lovely, everything is cool. Just like the Bay.

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OMB Peezy performs with SOB x RBE at the UC Theatre in Berkeley on Tuesday, Aug. 1. Details here.

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