“I’m looking at life through a wider frame,” Corey “Passport P” Peyton says in the intro track of his new solo rap project, Global Ambition, out May 11. It’s a reflection of the broadened horizons resulting from a career largely built on the road. The 30-year-old New Orleans East native has crisscrossed most continents, first as a trombonist in Hot 8 Brass Band and now as one of the newest members of the Soul Rebels, whose current résumé boasts collaborations with hip-hop giants like Rakim, Nas, DMX and more.
“When I first started going overseas, it broadened my view a lot. And that’s what my new project is about—looking at things from a different perspective, because I understand how fortunate I am to have traveled to all these places.”
But even before informing that expanded perspective, his travels quite literally assigned him his identity. “The name ‘Passport P’ came from me losing my passport while on the road. I was with Hot 8 at the time. It was a joke at first, because I was just getting high and losing my passports. I lost it in London once. A bunch of times I had to get a new one expedited. I came back home one day and got on Facebook and changed my name to Passport P to remind myself about my passport issues. Then… it stuck, and people started calling me that in public. To this day, some people come to a Soul Rebels show and call me Passport P. And I haven’t lost my passport in a while [laughs].”
Drenched in panache and fueled by a ceaseless drive, Peyton and his sense of personal style inform the music he makes as Passport P, which may best be described as “swag-rap,” a term he admittedly hates to use. “I’d say my sound is stylish. I’m kind of a stylish person, not to toot my own horn. There’s a lot of nuances of that stylishness and the swagger thing. But because of me being a musician, there’s a lot of melodic shit, too.”
His musicianship is certainly a token of his New Orleans upbringing; as a member of one of the world’s dominant brass bands, he traffics in the export of the New Orleans “sound” around the world. But with his rap music, he’s eager to dismantle preconceived notions. “New Orleans is eclectic but you do have the people who think they know what New Orleans rap is supposed to sound like, and they’re doing that. Where I fit in is, it’s different,” he explains. “First of all, I just do what I feel. I don’t feel like I have to say ‘I gotta keep it New Orleans.’ I know what New Orleans sounds like.”
Peyton first picked up the trombone at 11 years old, and by 14, was producing hip-hop beats. “At the time, all my friends used to get together and rap and I wanted to be a part of that. I would record their stuff to instrumentals we downloaded off of LimeWire and Kazaa. We used old computer booths and blankets and a computer mic and we’d go to work right there, in the house. My mom had a computer and somebody told me about FruityLoops and I downloaded it for free,” he says.
“Since then, I’ve been interested in the [recording] process. I would hear songs and it would amaze me how good the song sounded and how they got to that point, from a production standpoint. I didn’t know what engineering was at the time, but I was always amazed by how a record would come together.”
During his tenure at Sarah T. Reed High School, he “dibble-dabbled with production” before eventually being bitten by the rapping bug. All the while playing his horn, his two passions began to dovetail.
“I was playing music at the same time and making a little money, so the rap stuff was more like a hobby. I never had any intention of making shit happen with it, but I knew that if I learned the process of recording, I could one day make it happen. When I wasn’t playing music, I was always making songs on the side or helping people put songs together.” He studied music production at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston and, in 2014, self-released his self-produced and self-mixed debut mixtape, Epic Vibez.
“I just was always self-sufficient,” he tells me about the innate nature of his aspirations. “I watched my parents work hard. I was fortunate in that situation, because a lot of my friends grew up in single-parent homes. I had both of my parents, and a lot of my friends didn’t. That had a big effect on me. I started Da Truth [Brass Band] way back in high school, with a couple of friends that’s still in the band. I was always the one that tried to make all my friends believe that the shit was possible, because I believe that if you put in the work, you can make things possible. I’m a testament to that. So I had to be inspiring for my friends.”
When I ask him if he ever thinks about his rap career overshadowing that of his horn-playing, he’s not reticent in his response. “It comes across my mind all the time. I love playing my horn and I’ve done a lot playing my horn. But I feel like there’s a lot more to be done. I want to try something new but, at the same time, I’m not going to abandon my [other career].”
Whether he’ll ever have to make that choice remains to be seen, but what is evident now is that Global Ambition is proof-positive that Passport P’s determination will continue to present him with options. “I guess all those years of dibble-dabbling paid off.”