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How Peezy Went ‘Against the Grain’ & Achieved a Top 10 Rap Hit

The Detroit underground mainstay achieved his own commercial success with "2 Million Up" and hopes to help a new class of rising artists do the same.

Peezy may not be able to name his breakout moment – “I’ve always been popular,” he adds with a smile – but he does remember the first time he felt like a real rapper.



See latest videos, charts and news

See latest videos, charts and news

It was “March Badness” at Detroit’s Little Caesar Arena in 2019, a concert starring Yo Gotti and his CMG roster. The Memphis CEO brought out Peezy as a guest, just a few months before the local mainstay would have to turn himself in to serve an 18-month sentence for RICO related charges.


Walking on stage to his locally anthemic single “I’m Good Pt. 5,” he heard the crowd of 16,000 fans chanting back the lyrics behind a sea of cell phones, immortalizing the moment. “Everybody lost they mind,” he recalls. “I’m like, ‘Oh s–t — even though I’m on my way to jail, when I come home, I’m onto something.’”

Since his return from prison, “every day been lit,” the 34-year-old rapper says. This year, Peezy experienced a career high with his 2022 single “2 Million Up,” which achieved TikTok virality, accumulating nearly 200,000 video creations. The track’s success also translated to major Billboard chart impact, peaking at No. 8 on Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and No. 9 on Rap Airplay. “2 Million Up” also made appearances on Hot Rap Songs, Rhythmic Airplay and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.

While “2 Million Up” led to unprecedented success, it was initially a point of contention. Peezy finished the track six months prior to its release, attributing the hold up to disagreements with his team. Since the track’s sample of Dennis Edwards and Siedah Garrett’s oft-lifted 1984 classic “Don’t Look Any Further” wasn’t cleared, Peezy wanted to release it for free rather than through DSPs — something he says his manager didn’t agree with.

But for Peezy, the money didn’t matter. His goal was instead to “catch a buzz, put some music out and get people talking.” And he did just that, defying his management, self-funding the video and releasing “2 Million Up,” which quickly began gaining 100,000 views a day, he says. “You try to listen out of respect for people being around a little longer than you — but at the same time, I know what I know,” he explains. “Me going against the grain is the reason why we’re sitting here now.”

Leaned back in the private room of a Los Angeles restaurant among his entourage of 14, Peezy is visibly exhausted from a busy few days, but cherishing his new life. Raised between the east and west sides of Detroit, Peezy describes his upbringing as “fair at times.”

“You don’t really see what’s bad when you grow up in it,” he continues. “It feels regular even though you know something’s not right.”

He recalls witnessing “a lot” of the crack cocaine epidemic, which took place throughout the United States in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and reflected on members of his community achieving material success through the “smoke and mirrors” of illicit activities. “Of course you want certain luxuries,” he says, “But when you see the outcome, you want to find a way to still have [the luxuries], but with a different outcome.”

Despite the influences surrounding him, Peezy says he learned hustle, drive and determination at a young age from his parents, and aspired towards more than what he grew up around. He leaned on rap as a form of art and self-expression, dropping out of high school in the 11th grade and later joining Detroit’s notable rap group, Team Eastside, alongside then-members Babyface Ray, Dame, Snoop, Reke and Perry.

“When I started, it was just about the art,” he says today. “It wasn’t about the money. I just love making music.” His first project with Team Eastside was given out for free. “That was the marketing strategy,” he explains. “I be telling [my team] to just put the music out. Stop figuring out a way to trick the people [with marketing].”

Team Eastside, along with their early west side rivals, Doughboyz Cashout, soon became emblematic of Detroit rap. While the two groups had their fair share of clashes at first, they put aside their differences, avoiding a repetition of past fatal rap beefs in the city. (Doughboyz member Payroll Giovanni even calls Peezy to catch up during his interview with Billboard).

After Team Eastside amicably went their separate ways, Peezy signed to Ghazi’s Empire Distribution in 2017 — joining a long roster of fellow Detroit artists, like Babyface Ray, GT, Payroll Giovanni, FMB Deezy and Drago. Under Empire, Peezy continued making a name for himself outside of his home state, by way of popular underground projects like Ballin Ain’t a Crime and No Hooks.

His momentum was abruptly cut short due to his 2019 imprisonment, something he says Ghazi knew was coming before signing him. “Til this day I don’t know what he saw in me,” Peezy says of Ghazi. Thinking back on his time behind bars, Peezy feels the experience was harder on his family than it was on him. Detained in Ohio, the rapper received frequent visits from loved ones and passed his time reading, writing and doing “real n—a s–t,” he says, without elaborating.

“[Before], I wouldn’t read,” he says. “I was never going to sit, pick up a book and learn certain things until I was forced to.” During his three months in solitary confinement, he wrote plans for the future, journaled and read self-help, psychology and CEO books. Sometimes, Peezy would read the dictionary. “I’d go through it and find words I didn’t know to use them in raps,” he says.

The formative experience of being locked up led to a shift in Peezy’s lyricism and style upon his release, leading to a mainstream boom for the rapper, starting with his critically acclaimed 2022 album, Only Built 4 Diamond Links.

Currently on tour with thirteen stops to go — including Detroit, Denver, New York City and Atlanta — Peezy feels certain of his positioning in hip-hop and where he’s headed. “I think rap is at a standstill,” he explains. “Either you’re making drill or rap that’s talking about something. I listen to all of it, but I’m on the side that’s talking about something. Because I’ve been through a lot.”

While Peezy doesn’t consider himself to be a conscious rapper, he sees himself in a class of “substance” rappers, with messages to offer through their own wins, mistakes, hopes and experiences. “Yesterday, somebody [told me about] how I changed their life,” he says of his show the night before at The Belasco. “People say my music puts them in better moods, makes them want to hustle, go back to school, make money.”

Once he achieves his own goals as a rapper (including collaborations with John Legend, Cee-Lo Green and Andre 3000), Peezy wants to go back to school himself to study contract law and “be [his] own shark.” “That’s gonna be a new venture for me,” he adds. “I never want to stop learning.”

But there’s still much to accomplish for the Detroit mainstay. Many of his dreams center not on his own rapping career, but on #Boyz Entertainment, his indie label housing Flint up and comers Rio Da Yung OG and RMC Mike. He hopes to build his own empire, drawing inspiration from labels like Quality Control and the late Young Dolph’s Paper Route.

“It’s kind of like ‘each one, teach one,'” he says, referencing the African-American proverb. In line with the proverb’s message, Peezy played a role in advancing the careers of rising rappers, as other veteran acts in Detroit once did for him. Today, Peezy is committed to creating avenues for “the guys that everyone else is scared to deal with,” while also aspiring to raise up singers and pop stars.

He calls his latest project, Ghetto, “some of the best music I’ve ever made.” The eight-track offering exudes Detroit sensibilities through Peezy’s delivery and production choices, coupled with tracks that deviate into other rap regions, like “First Night” and “Heart In It.” The lone features are women: singer Brielle Lesley and first lady of Detroit’s rap scene, Kash Doll.

Once his albums are released to the world, the “kind of shy” rapper ceases to listen to them. Instead, his current rotation includes Benny the Butcher, Griselda, D Baby and Babyface Ray. “I be thinking a lot of music sweeter than mine,” he admits, adding with a smile, “Even though I know I’m sweeter than everybody.”