Southside Richmond, VA representative Peter $un wants to bring some color into your life. The “hood hippie” makes sunny and eclectic tunes, blending the essences of hip-hop, jazz, and electronic. His latest album, Scumbaby, released October 29, runs 48 brilliant minutes of positivity and bouncy flows. When listening to Peter, there’s a great sense of peace, affectionately referred to by his team as $unny. Inspired by his son, 2Pac and Lauryn Hill, $unny’s music exudes classic soul, wrapped up in modern flourishes.
Scumbaby opener “Work” features perfectly timed inflections and beat switches. Later, on “Rosewater,” we’re treated to swirling productions and a calm and blanketing delivery. Scumbaby is a smooth evolution over Peter $un’s 2017 album .Beautiful Piece of Shit, where a more rugged and bass-heavy sound permeated a funky and creeping cut like “.Rouge.” Even at his most excitable, $unny doesn’t fear the personal. “Broke” and “Drunk” both tease out aurally pleasing accents, outdone only by the reality of Peter $un’s vices and worries—plus, the songs feel classic. “Drunk,” in particular, showcases a light-footed and breathless flow reminiscent of the early 2010s blog era mixtape circuit.
Finding his sound through “trial and error,” Peter $un pieced together Scumbaby like an organic puzzle. He even got over the disdain for his own voice, falling in love with the project over time. While we both agree Scumbaby is his best work to date, for $unny, it’s all about constantly outdoing himself. The next one will be even better, and then the one after that, and the one after that…
How did you find your voice in music?
By trial and error, honestly. And constantly recording and figuring out what works and what sounds best. I got compared to Chance The Rapper a lot when I was starting to make music, because of our vocal tones, I guess. You know how people compare stuff. But over time, I started developing my own sound and trying to go different places with my voice. Then I met [Blue] Rondo, and the production became a big part of [my voice], too.
How did Southside Richmond influence your sound?
I grew up over there. I was born in the West End and lived there until eight or nine. I moved to Southside until I was 19, 20. Those years of my life [influenced] who I am. I learned so much over there. From the type of cars I liked, to women, everything.
You’ve been grinding for a minute, but the new album, Scumbaby, feels like a creative breakthrough. Do you agree?
This is my best work, thus far. It should be like that every time. Whenever I make a new thing, I’m looking to make something better than my last. I’m only in competition with myself. I’m not too worried about what everybody else is doing. Trying to learn more about myself through every release. And trying to connect with people.
Which session for Scumbaby inspired you the most?
I knew there were songs that were dope. You gotta understand, I don’t think anybody likes to hear their own voice. That’s how I lowkey feel about it. I don’t wanna hear that shit back, but the fact that I wanted to hear that shit back so many times, it made me comforted. I feel like I did a lot with my voice [for this project] and played around. I had fun with it more. I was just trying to prove something to myself. When we finished everything and put everything together, it was like, “Alright, we might have a little something here!” I’m onto the next one now. That’s my mindset.
Do you ever get scared you’re gonna burn out?
Every day I’m nervous I’ma burn out. But at the same time, I don’t make music unless I feel something. I could go two, three weeks without recording. I don’t wanna say anything meaningless just because I gotta make money. That’s not my process. I [want] to have longevity for myself. I wanna be here 20 years from now. I get nervous all the time that I’m gonna run out of shit to say, but I also don’t think I’ll run out of shit to say unless I… die, you know?
I get that fear of worrying if you’re gonna run out of words.
If I’m not having fun, I don’t wanna do it. I don’t wanna feel like work! I take time for myself to get my mind right. Learn new things. Do something new, get inspired by that, and come back to it. Always need that time for self, you feel me?
Scumbaby is a really bright project. How did you muster up positivity during such a tragic year?
I’ve been optimistic since a child. I see the bad and I know it’s there, but I try to look at it like, “This is a phase. You can take this time to learn something, or you can take this time to destroy.” I’ve been trying to learn shit about myself, learn new things, get better at things. You can look at things a certain way, and I try not to look at things in a bad way. You can’t bring happiness to nobody if you don’t got happiness within yourself.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself during COVID-19?
I’m more of an introvert than I thought, for real. I always felt like I had to be around people. I’ve been enjoying staying the fuck in the crib, doing my own thing, and not talking to anybody, learning at my own pace. I’ve been painting and drawing a lot more.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn since embarking on a music career?
You can’t do it alone. It takes a team. It takes a lot, for real. It takes time, a lot of fucking work. You gotta find people who are willing to help you and pull you up, tell you how to play the game.
Photos by Henry Ammann (main) and Jack McKain.