Peter Jackson breaks down each song on his new No. 1 album 23 & A Half
On any other occasion, he’d probably be out at a venue popping bottles in celebration, but due to the pandemic, Peter Jackson was just kicking it at home with his family.
Stretched out on a couch watching Suits at 1 a.m. on Friday, you’d never guess Jackson was just an hour out from officially releasing his long-awaited 9-song project, 23 & A Half. But PJ wasn’t exactly calling it a day after reaching the climax of a 6-month recording period, or taking a break from an intricate promotional campaign fully underway. Rather, he was waiting patiently, perhaps nervously, for the results of his thorough planning and commitment to success. It may seem a bit harsh, but anything short of 23 & A Half debuting at No. 1 would forever be a bit of a stain on its overall success in Jackson’s eyes.
He believed in the music, and after completing the project there was no wavering from the belief that the album had what it took to reach the No. 1 spot on iTunes Canada’s coveted Hip-Hop/Rap chart. The project started with the recording of the LXKES-produced “Help Me” sometime after the New Year, and culminated with the making of “Replay,” produced by Serbian up-and-comer LP On The Track.
While lounging on the couch, Jackson was originally expecting to see if he had cracked the charts at around 3 a.m. (or midnight West Coast time), but a text came in sooner than expected which broke the good news. Not only had 23 & A Half hit the charts, but it was also the No. 1 album.
“One of the producers on the project said albums wouldn’t update [on iTunes] until 12 a.m. Pacific but they updated at 1 a.m. Eastern,” Jackson recalled over a recent FaceTime conversation. “I saw his text and jumped up, woke my girl up, kissed her, and cracked a bottle of Rosé Moët. Texted my mom, and called my tour manager.”
It’s been a long journey for Jackson, but over the past couple of years his growth has accelerated to new heights. If anyone can attest to his work ethic and the dedication to his craft, it’s engineer Dave Sheldon, who recorded and mixed 80% of 23 & A Half.
“It’s been a trip. We have worked together off and on since the beginning,” Sheldon explained. “I may be wrong, but his first time recording anything was on my very first Sound Blaster Audigy rig in my parents living room back in the mid 2000’s.”
He continued: “I’ve been all-in on him since that first recording session, but this is the most work we have done together on one project, and you can bet it won’t be the last. This album is the most cohesive thing PJ has done from start to finish. It doesn’t sound like a bunch of songs recorded over a 2-year span, stitched together and released as an album. This project had the foresight, we had the endgame in mind from the start. Everything from the hi-hat samples to the featured artists… it all means something… You’ll understand when you hear it. So hear it!”
Production on 23 & A Half—Jackson’s eighth project since 2010—also included work by Mike Vegas, Dub J, Kaddy, Marley Waters, Vokab and Mike Future, who recently launched a new production company with Jackson.
“I sent Peter this beat through an email I came across, and when Peter sent me the record back I instantly knew it was hit,” Mike Future explained of “Hurt,” track 7 on the project.
“You can feel his emotion in the track and I believe that’s something special about Peter… him putting what he really feels into his songs. This record really brought us a lot closer on both a personal and business side. We have a lot of big things in the works for the future. Peter has opened up a ton of doors for me and I can’t thank him enough! Really excited for this album to drop. He’s been working really hard grinding on it for a long time.”
Kitchener-Waterloo producer Dub J has also known Jackson for quite some time, and featured the 9-0-Nickel CEO on his 2018 compilation Blame Me (“Speed of Love” and “Make Believe,” which has clocked over 375K streams to date). The importance of the release was not lost on Dub, who produced the Jim Jones-assisted song “Fell.”
“I’ve known PJ forever… I’ve watched his come up from the beginning. I’m honoured to be a part of the legacy he’s cementing for himself… especially to get the opportunity to do this record with a guest spot from Jim Jones. Watch out for more work from us.”
Along with Capo, 23 & A Half also includes guest appearances by Ghostface Killah, Fetty Wap, JRDN and Canadian singer-songwriter Amber J, who features on the opening song, “Pray, That I,” produced by Mike Vegas.
“The first day I met PJ was the day we wrote the song. The creative energy was crazy,” said Amber.
“We both are always ready to work. It was just a few days after Kobe Bryant passed away. I think a lot of people were reflecting on their lives and legacies. Soon as I heard his verses the hook pretty much wrote itself.”
It’s clear that those involved with the album have high expectations for its success, which makes landing the No. 1 spot that much sweeter for Jackson, who has spent considerable energy building a strong and reliable team around him. Longstanding members of his family like his tour DJ, DJ Young Legend, who is always one of the first to break Jackson singles when they come out. It’s clear he’s more than impressed with the latest addition to the team’s catalogue:
“I think 23 & A Half is one of Peter Jackson’s biggest projects and it comes at a time when quality music is needed for the city,” said Young Legend of the album’s significance.
He broke it down: “23 & A Half is loaded with records that fit different vibes for all situations and from a DJ standpoint that’s very important. ‘Help Me’ is a record you can turn up to in the clubs and a record like ‘Bill Clinton’ you can roll something up and take in the punchlines. Working as Peter Jackson’s tour DJ has helped me become one of the most talked about DJ names when you talk about the club scene in the city and it’s allowed me to remain prominent in an often overcrowded industry where DJs are concerned. Working with PJ for the last five plus years has afforded me valuable experience in the music industry and has prepared me for the next level in our journey to widespread success.”
To date, three music videos have been released in support of 23 & A Half including “My Sanity” (116K views), the Ghostface Killah-assisted “Bill Clinton” (71K views), and the latest video, “If It’s You,” (343K views) featuring NJ hit-maker Fetty Wap. According to Jackson, at least three more videos will be released over the stretch of the promotional campaign but no word on which clip to expect next.
On the day of the album’s release, Jackson launched the first leg of a UK promo tour, connecting with Lashawna at Ultreabeam FM. He followed that with an interview with BHAV on Westside 89.5 FM and is scheduled to connect wtih Dre from the PrettyBoyPodcast sometime tomorrow. He’s wrapping it up this coming Thursday, July 2 when he speaks with Spin Milz at Reprezent 107.3 FM.
The “tour” is one of several initiatives getting underway to maximize the album’s exposure and to keep the project buzzing throughout the summer season. And aside from focusing on promotions, PJ is already thinking about next projects in the works, including an EP and another album.
“I am currently working on another EP with a producer. I also have an album in the works called Inside The Music with a documentary series attached to it.”
23 & A Half was released independently by Jackson’s own 9-0-Nickel Entertainment, and sponsored by Alliston, Ontario based distillery Beattie’s Distillers.
“Here at Beattie’s Distillers, we are thrilled to participate and join Peter Jackson on his exciting journey,” commented Beattie’s VP of Business Development Jeffrey Dignard.
“We love Peter’s extremely hard work ethic and most of all, his music. It’s been so exciting to watch a local Canadian artist making such a splash here and abroad.”
Yesterday, we connected with Jackson to get his perspective of each song featured on 23 & A Half. He breaks down the inspiration and origin of each of the nine tracks. You can find that below along with the album stream.
The Breakdown: 23 & A Half
Pray, That I (ft. Amber J)
Produced by Mike Vegas
The “Pray, That I” record is one of my favourites off of the album. I heard Amber J’s first single, and my boy Krown connected us immediately. We went to Cherry Beach and recorded a few records together the next day. I am in love with her vibe and sound. It’s pure, emotional, and so real. Very excited to release it as the next radio single, and video off of the project. I wrote this song the day after my daughter’s birthday, after Koby Bryant passed. Every lyric is what happened, and how I felt. I think I cried 50 times listening back to this record.
Produced by LXKES
“Help Me” was done with my guy LXKES, he also did a record on my Canadian Boy project. Help me was one of the first records I recorded for this EP. It seems to be the whole vibe off of this project, over the past two years I have really kept to myself, and been focused on my business, and my family. Seeing a lot going on around me that I refused to be a part of. I have a lot of love for LXKES, he’s a great producer and I am a big fan of this one.
Fell (ft. Jim Jones)
Produced by Dub J)
“Fell” with Jim Jones was a really dope project. Originally, the song was recorded at Cherry Beach for my next EP I did with a producer named Dub J. But I called him up a few weeks ago and told him I had an opportunity to get Jim Jones on it, and I wanted to put it on my 23 & A Half project. Me and Jim spoke, and got the record done through email. I like Jim and his manager. Great to work with. Very professional, and on point. I am glad Dub J agreed to let me use this on my EP because I feel like it fits very well.
Produced by Kaddy
“My Sanity” was produced by one of my favourite producers in Canada. Kaddy. Kaddy is from my neighbourhood in Ajax, he came up with my young boys. Very talented, and extremely smart kid. “My Sanity” is a great look into my head, and how my mind is working at this current time.
If It’s You (ft. Fetty Wap)
Produced by Marley Waters
“If It’s You” with Fetty Wap is a very special record to me. It was produced by Marley Waters who did “On A Wave” with me as well. One night when I was in the UK with Fetty, he asked me if I wanted to go to the studio and record after our show. We went to a studio in Liverpool and recorded it at like 3 a.m. That night there was a girl named Rania who came with us to the studio, and a group of about 10 of her friends. Which really helped bring out the real vibe on this record. She was amazing, she set up a car service, and took care of us like family. The studio was called Press Play, I believe.
Produced by LP On The Track
“Replay” is my favourite record on the album, I love the vibe, the bounce, the melodic feel. It’s just a feel-good record that I love. The producer is 17 from Serbia named LP On The Track. He is part of my brand new production company I own with Mike Future called Future Starz. Proud to call him family, he really came through for me on this one.
Produced by Mike Future
“Hurt” was a real-life moment I went through that I turned into a catchy record. Mike Future is my guy, love his style, and his leadership in the studio. He knows me, understands my sound, and it really came through on this one.
23 & A Half (ft. JRDN)
Produced by Kaddy
“23 & A Half” was a blessing to say the least. I played JRDN the Kaddy production, told him the name of the album and he wrote the record on the spot in front of me. I love working with JRDN because he really listens to other artists ideas and brings them to life.
Bill Clinton (ft. Ghostface Killah)
Produced by Vokab
This record with Ghostface was produced by Vokab who is also signed to 9-0-Nickel as a producer. He is super talented. Me and Ghostface have a long history. I think we recorded this two years ago on tour together. I have so many big features I have not released yet but I believe we did this the last time I brought Wu-Tang Clan to Canada, or just before that.
You can follow @PeterJackson905 on Instagram.
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