Master Peace, AKA Peace Okezie, never wanted to be a musician growing up.
“Lots of artists already know what they’re going to be from the jump – they’re taking piano, guitar, singing lessons and whatnot. That wasn’t me,” Okezie says, Zooming in from his home in the quiet suburban London town of Carshalton, on the Surrey border.
And yet here he is, fresh off the back of releasing Peace of Mind, the 23-year-old’s latest EP, packed with indie-rock bangers that recall the heyday of bands such as Bloc Party and The Vaccines. And that’s just how Okezie likes it. Since he started releasing music in 2018, he’s worked hard to subvert stereotypes of what kind of music Black artists “should” be making, choosing instead to go down a punkier path.
“Yeah, why does society force us to do drill?” he asks on brash banger Country Life, before entering more romantic territory on Veronica, the EP’s runaway hit. “There’s something ’bout Veronica, I can tell that she likes me /Something in her aura, I can tell that she feels me”, Okezie sings against a backdrop of clanging guitar riffs.
“I wanted it to feel chanty, British,” he explains. “That one was just a bit of flirty fun.”
By his own admission, Okezie went to “quite a posh school”, where the soundtrack to daily life included LCD Soundsystem, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Arctic Monkeys.
“I didn’t really know too much about all that, but my friends were putting me on,” he says. “My parents listened to a lot of gospel music at home and Phil Collins and A‑ha. Then I’d listen to indie with all my school mates, but I had friends from the hood who listened to a lot of street rap as well, like Giggs, Sneakbo. I always had my ear to the ground.”
This medley of influences compelled Okezie to carve out his own sound and make it as unexpected as possible. “People like me aren’t confident to do that because they don’t want to show who they really are. I want to show who I really am.”
Authenticity, for Okezie, is everything – he hopes that’s what listeners will remember most from listening to Peace of Mind. “It’s OK to stand out and be different, as long as it’s organic to you,” he says. “We’re all human. I have the same problems as some guy from Lancashire, Manchester or Bristol: love, heartbreak, financial struggles. We’re all in the same boat and I want to be more relatable in the most honest way possible.”
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born and raised in Surrey, and I’m still based there.
20% What kinds of emotions and experiences influence your work?
Past relationships, new situations, friendships. Frustration as well – I feel like I was being overlooked a little bit when I was dropping my previous songs.
30% What brings you peace?
The little things. You know when you’ve had a long day at work or you’ve been in the studio all day, and you just come home and have dinner. People don’t deep how underrated dinner is. Warm food! Your life could be going fucking shit but you know you’re gonna have dinner. It sorts everything out. I’m a foodie.
40% Is dinner really that underrated?
Some people skip dinner! And go straight to the pub. How can you skip dinner? I’d skip breakfast and lunch. Not dinner, though. Never dinner.
50% If you were cooking food to impress someone, what would you make?
I’d do an aubergine curry. I’m not veggie or anything but I think that would hit the spot.
60% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
It was something along the lines of: trying to look cool stops you from being yourself. It hinders what you could really be. Nobody cares! Just be yourself. People will see you’re not forcing anything. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
70% If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?
I’d get rid of our government, mate. They’re fucking shit. How are they getting a pay rise when NHS staff are having to beg? It’s so insane. That’s the first thing I’d do. Everyone would praise me up and then I’d leave it to someone else.
80% What’s a bad habit that you wish you could kick?
Not living in the moment. I always overthink about what could possibly go wrong. I need to just let things be.
90% Love, like, hate?
I love my mum! I’m a mummy’s boy, I’ll keep it real, all day. I like going out to the pub with my friends, even though I don’t drink. Just for the vibes. I hate that we’ve got to pay for travel. Travel should be free, if I’m totally honest. I know that’s impossible but travel is so expensive. What the fuck?
100% How did you celebrate your last birthday?
I went to Margate. It was a little vibe – we went to the beach. It was pretty cool. It was quite racist, though. I feel like people there are only used to seeing their own kind, so when a couple bruddas come down to Margate they’re like, what the fuck? It was fun but eye-opening.