Pettidee celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first album, Still Alive, a few days ago.
"My first and second album, I was still living in the hood.
It was still really real...
'Hey don't wait until I die to put me on a t-shirt.
Put me on one now while I'm still alive.'
The whole concept for the first album was:
When I became a Christian, nobody see me in the hood anymore...
I was always at the studio, always at church...there was a lot of rumors in my hood that I had got in a shootout, I had got killed, I went to prison...
I was like you know what, I'm still alive. That's why I called the album Still Alive."
Pettidee escaped the throes of his early environment to become a successful rapper focused on his faith in Christ.
When he was in high school, Pettidee's sister and best friend were both in prison...
The DJ in his rap group shot somebody.
"As a hood kid I just saw the rotation...this is not gonna stop until it get me, cause it's getting the people around me."
Pettidee eventually left the hood, but his trials and tribulations didn't stop.
Grief hit when family members passed away, including his mom.
The financial collapse of 2008 forced him to lay off folks at his label, Soldier Sound Records.
Pettidee was sad to release artists from their contracts.
He said he felt kind of like Job from the Bible.
In the Bible story, Job's faith in God is tested through all sorts of bad luck and misery.
The record label had just started to pick up some steam.
Pettidee had a lot of questions for God.
"We just got this stuff going, what's going on? What did I do wrong?"
Somehow through it all, Pettidee pressed on.
Now he's back with his first release in almost 10 years, the brief and to the point Alien.
The concept for Alien comes from his reflections on culture as well as his own trials and tribulations.
Between the economic struggles and Pettidee's personal grief, he reminded himself:
"This ain't where I'm from...I'm an alien here."
As a believer, you adopt the mindset that you are "in this world, but not of it" and shouldn't lose sight of your spiritual purpose.
All the bad events are distractions from our true purpose on Earth.
Pettidee says the fast fashion element of social media and the way we give our opinion is really knocking us off our true path.
"I'm not trying to be super over spiritual, but at the same time the world and the ways of this world are really trying to snatch that from the church...
It's ‘thus saith my opinion' or 'what my take is on it.'
Everybody has an opinion...they’re saying stuff and then they gotta go back and apologize for it...
Did you ask the Lord if it was alright for you to say that or not?
No, people just think it, and type it and send it."
Pettidee wants people to take personal responsibility for their words.
But the record isn't meant to preach on culture or criticize.
Alien is an album full of anthems for the working class to turn up.
"If you on your way to work, that's why I got the song 'Work.'
The average working person don't have a theme song."
"Work" is that anthem you get up and listen to in your morning shower or on the way to work.
This is the first Pettidee record with zero production from Pettidee.
Half of the records on Alien came from a producer named Mr. 808.
808 grew up listening to Pettidee.
He's now on a production team called Boom Squad.
They produced on Rick Ross' most recent album.
Mr. 808 built a relationship with Pettidee over the years.
When 808 sent a hot batch of new beats recently, Pettidee was ready to create Alien.
Pettidee knows what his lane is and he sticks to it.
He's not out here to impress everybody or get attention.
With song titles like "Work," "I'm On It," "No Pain No Gain" and "Be About It," he's here to get people up out of bed and moving in a positive direction.
He knows from personal experience that sometimes you need a break, a hiatus, a change of pace...
But you gotta get back on it if you have a passion and a calling.
This brought us to a really important question:
What advice does Pettidee have for artists who want longevity in their career?
He's been in the game for over 20 years with multiple awards and nominations, film and TV placements, his own record label, and several successful releases.
I couldn't let him get away without finding out some of the work ethic and mindset behind his success.
Pettidee says he wants to inspire other artists to do what he calls "working in the windows."
"I write everything down because it keeps it out of my mind and on paper and I can check it off.
Working on the windows is...
'You know what? I have all these emails written down and I need to make these return phone calls.'
So I'm at the bank or waiting somewhere and I'm gonna wait 15 or 20 minutes...that's a window.
So you take the windows and get something done...
Most people, in those moments that’s when they go to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter...
And they scroll over what everybody else is doing...you just waste some valuable time that you actually need...
On what everybody is doing and what the trend is..."
Pettidee says that one of two things can happen when you spend time looking at what everyone else is doing:
1. It can inspire you
2. It can fill you with doubt, anxiety, and overwhelm as you see people doing things you're not doing
When it comes to the latter reaction, Pettidee says:
"You can't do that.
Those time you spend swiping and liking, and I do it too, but I make sure that I'm not wasting time when I could be working in the window."
I asked Pettidee highlights from his career.
His achievements are impressive.
He produced on 5 GRITS albums, which included a Grammy nomination.
A lot of my friends know GRITS from the song "Ooh Ahh" which was the theme song for a popular MTV show called The Buried Life.
I mentioned one of my favorite GRITS tracks, "I Be," which Pettidee produced and rapped on.
He told me the story behind it.
"We were all on tour together. I produced that beat in the back of the tour bus.
They was like, 'We love this track! You gotta be on it!'
I was like, 'What?!'
Even though they my homeboys, I'm still a fan.
So I was cool with just producing for them and they was like, 'Yo, you gotta be on the record.'
I'm like, 'Bro I'm gonna be on a GRITS album! I'm producing and I'm gonna be featured on it!'"
Other achievements throughout the decades include production for the artist iROCC. The album won a Stellar Award.
One of Pettidee's albums, Resurrections: Past, Present and Future, was nominated for a Stellar Award.
He said he's been nominated for Dove Awards as well.
He also notes how much he's enjoyed spending quality time with his kids and staff...celebrating wins with them along the way.
Pettidee worked at a record store as a kid before he became a Christian.
He met a lot of major artists and learned the music industry.
The top artists would come to the top mom and pop record stores to sign autographs.
It was during this time that he learned how important the hook is to a song.
"When I would sell music...back then you didn't have Google...[people] would hear something on the radio or see a music video...they wouldn't know the artist, they would just come in with the hook in their mind."
Folks would come into the store and say, 'Hey I want them boys that say, 'Heeeyyy, hoooo [the hook to 'Hip Hop Hooray' by Naughty By Nature].'
And I would answer 'Oh ok that's the new Naughty By Nature.' And then I would grab them the record.
And as an artist I was like oh ok, elementary hooks...
These guys are lyricists but people are coming in...they don't know the artist but they know a piece of the hook.
Even to now if you look at Missy Elliott, Jay Z...[hums melody to 'Dirt Off Your Shoulder' and recites hook to 'Get Ur Freak On']
It's like the elementary hook [is important].
Even if the lyrics are compact...I learned that...
But I couldn't stay at the store forever...
It was the peak of the crack epidemic and a lot of the music industry was funded by drugs...
You had a lot of drug dealers and kingpins that want to hang around the music...and the record store...
They want to be there when the artist get there and they want to show the artist a good time...
Just kinda started being involved with what was going on in my neighborhood with the drugs...homeboys selling dope...another homeboy that was robbing people...getting involved in that but at the same time, deep in my heart knowing this ain't right, having a conscience."
One of his neighbors invited him to church.
He went just to appease her, but ended up dedicating his life and rapping career to Christ.
Pettidee's formula of dirty south beats and street music to glorify his faith has worked well.
Pettidee had me tell the story of how I found his music.
(Not captured on the recording due to a bad connection at the end.)
I was active in church as a kid and my youth group had some rap CD's laying around.
They included some popular Christian artists at the time such as T-Bone, John Reuben...and there was Pettidee's Thug Love album.
He mentioned in our conversation that Thug Love was a high career point for him.
It was a smash hit in the Christian market.
Some of the music received placement on shows such as the #1 FX show, Sons of Anarchy.
I borrowed the CD from my youth group in high school and somehow never returned it.
I still have that copy.
I'd call it an accident that I didn't return it, but maybe I just knew no one else at that church would love the CD's as much as I would...
This is so long ago that maybe I'm making this up in my head, but...
I recall the pastor at that time giving a sermon.
He said he listened to Pettidee while writing the sermon.
He scored huge points in my world.
Just imagining the door open and seeing the pastor bobbing his head while Pettidee growls, "YYeahh!"
So funny and dope.
I'll never forget hanging out in my room with a Walkman, constantly changing the batteries because I played the T-Bone and Pettidee albums so much.
Pettidee is always writing and recording.
He currently has no plans to stop.
Listen to the full interview for more valuable insights and wisdom from Pettidee...there were too many to count!
Cover photos used courtesy of Pettidee/Soldier Sound.
Buy the new album Alien here (currently on sale for $5.99) and snag the Pettidee shirt he was wearing in our conversation.