In this internet age where it takes only a minimal amount of effort to label yourself a musician, it is truly refreshing to find an artist on the scene with a profound passion for the medium. After listening to him speak for only a few moments, it was easy to see that J. Peguero has that passion. Present within this Miami local is a healthy sense of competition and ambition. He strives for perfection, constantly trying to edge out his rivals while staying true to himself, and his music.
Born in the Dominican Republic, J. Peguero left the beautiful island nation at a very young age, and settled in Brooklyn, where he spent his youth to teenage years. Although it was in Miami where Peguero realized his desire to pursue a career in Hip-Hop, he was no stranger to the genre. Growing up in Bushwick he was often treated to the intense cyphers taking place on the street corners. Becoming so enamored with flurry of heated and witty exchanges, he couldn’t help but want to try it out himself. Freestyling in Brooklyn lit the fuse that ignited in his current home of Miami, and it is only a matter of time before J. blows up.
J. Peguero is part of a burgeoning sub-culture in Hip-Hop in which candor and sincerity are valued above all else; to the point where he earnestly, and unabashedly, credits life as his co-writer. Throughout the interview we see that J. Peguero is not only a talented and funny guy, but a sensible one as well.
FS: Who is J. Peguero?
J. Peg: J. Peguero is a rapper born in the Dominican Republic, whose family migrated to Bushwick in Brooklyn, New York while he was still very young. It was in New York where he was raised, and began to freestyle and his passion for Rap was instilled. In his late teens he moved to Miami, Florida to fully pursue music, and hasn’t looked back.
FS: Would you say you were mentored while you were learning to craft your sound, rather than picking it up through freestyling?
J. Peg: There is definitely a difference between writing songs and freestlying. See freestyling lacks the cadence present in songs that are actually thought out and well written. While writing songs there are several aspects that make it more difficult, like finding a way to mesh yourself with the beat, for instance. When I still lived in New York I went to the studio ever day with my cousins and friends, who were all typically five to six years older than me. I watched them work, picking up things as I went.
FS: I’ve heard that you’ve been on the road recently, performing at a few venues. What would you say is the best thing about your live shows?
J. Peg: Here in Miami, I have a drummer who usually comes with me to shows, because I prefer live instruments when I perform. Having an actual band play the instrumentals instead of using vocal tracks gives me the freedom to ad-lib, making the shows more spontaneous and therefore a little more special for my audience. I put a lot of effort into my live shows.
FS: So, you’re really into giving the crowd a unique experience?
J. Peg: Exactly. I remember watching Busta Rhymes perform, one time specifically, where throughout his set he told the DJ to lower the music. At first, I didn’t understand why, but after a while I realized that he wanted to show everyone in the crowd that he was rapping that skillfully for real, and not over some track, and that stuck with me. I look up to people like that, who can really perform, and put on a good show. I really respect that , and aspire to do the same with my music.
FS: How would you describe your music to your grandparents, if they were to ask?
J. Peg: (*laughs) That is a funny question, it would be super difficult for me. My grandma is old school Dominican, as in, she doesn’t speak a lick of English, so I would probably say something like, “Uhh, Abuela? Well… I do this.” Yeah, my grandma isn’t really the type of person to give out real criticism, like, she’ll give anything a ten. (*laughs) I suppose I could explain to her that I’m telling a story through my music.
FS: So, you’re from New York, but you moved to Miami. How has that influenced your sound?
J. Peg: Greatly, HUGE. Just from living down here (Miami), I mean, I’ll always be a New Yorker, but after being here for a while I found myself starting to actually listen to music, and appreciate it and the culture down here. New york is apart of my music as well; I’ve just picked up things from here, and it has changed the way I say things, or how I structure my hooks, sometimes even the beat. I feel that’s what makes my music different; the fact that I’ve been to all these places, and I mix those experiences into one cohesive sound. Because of that mixture, people often question what to label me as, and that’s why I used that Bruce Lee sample as the intro to Tale of Two Cities. It’s from an interview where he talks about not having a style, and how that is his style. Back then, I related to that, heavily, because I felt that I didn’t have a style; I just made the music I like to make, whether it’s a club song, conscious rap song, or whatever I felt like talking about at the time. No one feels the same all the time, so why should my music?
FS: Interesting. So, what’s your favorite Bruce Lee film?
J. Peg: I would have to say Enter the Dragon
FS: Rest in Peace Jim Kelley. I just have to say that.
J. Peg: Definitely! Besides Enter the Dragon, I would also have to say Fist of Fury? The one where he works at a restaurant, and…
FS: Isn’t that the Chinese Connection?
J. Peg: Maybe. I just remember he worked at a restaurant, and some chefs try to fight him, and he pretty much just…
FS: (*laughs) Dude, that’s the Bruce Lee movie based on his life.
J. Peg: (*laughs) No, man! I’m not talking about The Legend! I think it’s the movie where he first starts using nunchuks. Not sure though, but I’m going figure out which movie it is, and email it to you.
FS: (*laughs) Cool, thanks, man. I have to say that I really liked your song Callin’. It was very catchy, and talked about a lot of different things. Was that song inspired by a specific girl, or just a collection of experiences?
J. Peg: I wrote it about a specific girl. A long time ago, when we were dating, my music career was starting to become more and more hectic. Whenever we could see each other the moment would be interrupted by a message telling me that I had to be a meeting, or what have you, A.S.A.P. Which, of course, led to several arguments. One day, in a studio session, I was stressed about something similar, and my producer threw on that beat, and I literally said those words you hear in the song. It was born from real life experiences, so I would say life wrote that song.
FS: Do you credit Life as a song writer?
J. Peg: All the time. What could be more relatable, you know?
FS: What inspires you as an artist?
J. Peg: I would say there are two things that really inspire me: One is “life,” like we talked about earlier, and another would be my competitive nature. Like, if I hear a really good song, then I’ll immediately want to create three of those. For instance, if I hear Kanye drop a dope new song, then I’ll think, “Damn, he’s a genius! Why didn’t I think of that?!” and I’ll retreat to the studio to create my dope new song.
FS: Have you ever heard something so good that it scares you, as an artist?
J. Peg: Scared? No. I get jealous. It motivates me to create better work, and not just hate on someone’s success.
FS: That’s understandable. I think you’re using your competitive nature in a positive way.
J. Peg: Thanks. I always try to respect other artists working hard. I’ve never understood the hate that comes from some people over another person’s success. Like, when they get mad because an artist is making money from their craft. Isn’t that the point? To do what you love, while being able to provide for your family?
FS: (*laughs) This is true. So, what’s next for you?
J. Peg: I’m currently working on my new mixtape, Heart Beats. It’s going to be a more personal/story oriented project. I want people to get to know me.
FS: Any features?
J. Peg: Possibly. I’m not opposed to working with anyone with the same amount of passion and work ethic, but it’s mostly going to be me and my producer working on it.
FS: When is Hearts Beats slated to drop?
J. Peg: We’re trying for mid to late summer. I want to make sure it’s just right, and not rush it. Quality over everything.