Peachcurls, born TJ Maclin, never had a choice whether or not he was going to be the artist he is today. That person always lived inside him, but finding the true creative inside often sends people on a wild and twisted journey. This is Maclin’s.
Maclin’s father owned and operated a small label in Cleveland called Red Eye Records. This was the time of No Limit and Cash Money, so independent record labels saw a chance to really change things. Red Eye didn’t see the heights of success other small labels achieved, but it directly influenced a young Maclin to learn how to rap and hang with the big boys.
“I thought rapping was for adults, until I heard that first Lil’ Bow Wow album. I was like ‘shit, I’m gonna be a thugged out Lil’ Bow Wow,’” Maclin laughs.
The growth didn’t end there. After forming a rap group with friends and recording a few songs, Maclin was pulled in a different direction by his then girlfriend.
“She was listening to Ratatat, Bon Iver, and Led Zeppelin,” Maclin says. “But when I heard and saw Jimi Hendrix, I was like, ‘Yo, that’s what I want to be.’”
Maclin bought a guitar and watched YouTube videos of Jimi Hendrix, pausing them and mimicking the shape of his hands. “It’s hard because he has big hands but if it sounded right I’d be like, ‘Okay that’s how you do that,’” he explains.
This newfound love of rock and roll led to the formation of Maclin’s band Thaddeus Anna Greene. The band signed to ReverbNation, toured the country, played SXSW, and released several successful singles. Even while living in Chicago and enjoying success in the indie scene, Maclin kept honing his skills as a hip hop producer.
Upon moving back to Cleveland, Maclin started producing beats for Kip Stone, who he claims is, “one of the best rappers in Cleveland.” Despite a falling out years later, Maclin still respects the fact that, “through him I became a better rapper and a real producer.”
In 2014, Thaddeus Anna Greene’s album Bleed was released and the band decided to move on soon after. At this point, Maclin found himself at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens at an event where kids planted bean sprouts. The kids gave their sprouts names and Maclin overheard one say “Peachcurls.” Maclin laughed and said “for real, I’m stealing that.” Peachcurls was born.
In 2018, Peachcurls released his debut EP Missing Piece to little press and critical friends.
“When I went from Thaddeus to Peachcurls, people were like, ‘I don’t like you rapping, it doesn’t feel like you,’” Maclin says. “That was crazy to take in because I had convinced everyone that the fake me was the real me, and when I was being myself they said they didn’t like it.”
He now regards the song as the stepping stone between his two EPs. In 2019, Peachcurls released his transformative EP Eastside, taking on a much more musical and melodic sound than its predecessor, an idea directly spoken about in the lyrics of the album.
“I wanted to show everyone that I was an Andre 3000 or Donald Glover-level artist – yeah, I can rap well but I can also write music and sing,” Maclin says. “I work really hard to make music that captures who I am, but is also relatable. It took a long time to get there.”
Eastside wasn’t doing phenomenal until the single “Perfume” was released. The single he was once afraid to release because he was “upset that I didn’t sound like D’Angelo” had now boosted Eastside and his career to the next level, but Peachcurls does not take his connection to the East Side of Cleveland lightly.
“I am the East Side of Cleveland – when I think of home, I think of the East Side,” Maclin says. “When I get famous, it’s all about bringing it back to Cleveland. All the most talented people I know are from Northeast Ohio, and I’ve been to a lot of places. Think about it – everyone either sounds like Bone or Cudi, they are both East Side. MGK is probably the most successful artist from the city right now. He’s from the East Side.”
As for new music, we can expect a full-length album this year titled Amarillo, which is Spanish for yellow. The title is a nod to Maclin’s Afro-Cuban roots, something he was able to explore through conversations with his 100-year-old great great grandmother who told him all about his family’s history of moving from Cuba to Georgia to Detroit and finally Cleveland so many years ago.
However you get your entertainment, it’s well worth your time to be ahead of the curve on your local hip hop and R&B master. That way when he’s accepting his first Grammy, you can say I’ve been down with that dude since “Missing Piece.”
Peachcurls’ new single “Going Home” is available now on all streaming services. You can also check out his extensive collection of music videos on YouTube.