One Sunday afternoon this spring I was talking to my man Eric over at When They Reminisce on the telly. The topic, as usual, was hip hop. Eric knows my tastes and listening habits fairly well and suggested that I listen to this artist called Grip Grand. I didn’t know who this Grip Grand cat was, but E suggested it was something I’d probably really like. No less than two hours later, another fellow blogger, Scholar over at Souled On had sent me an email, like he tends to do every couple weeks. Scholar and I swap names of artists we are listening to and suggest stuff the other might like. Again, the name Grip Grand was brought up. Two people that know and understand my quirky tastes pretty well had mentioned the same artist in a very short time. Sooooo I did what any self respecting blogger would do. I found his latest album and downloaded it. That night, I put Grip Grand’s Brokelore on my iPod and went through my nightly ritual of listening to music to unwind right before I got to bed. I think the iPod was on random and the track “But Anyway” came on. Immediately, the horns, a sample from the “Jump Around” intro, caught my attention. Then came on a rolling (as in steady drums) break and Grip started spitting. He wasn’t a awe inspiring MC, but there was something about his voice and style that just hooked me.
Since that night, I’ve bought both of Grips solo albums, Welcome To Brokeland and Broklore, with Brokelore easily being one of my favorite albums of the year. Coupled with a easy going demeanor and an easy to listen to rhyme style, Grip just grabbed my attention from the first track and didn’t let go until the final track, the ever so dope “Remember The Time” ended. As I have in the past, if I get hooked onto an album, I ended up contacting Grip via myspace. After some banter back and forth and three or four months of waiting on my part, then a few weeks while Grip was out on the road and working on a slew of upcoming projects, we finally got the interview done. As I said, if you have been into stuff I have endorsed in the past, I HIGHLY endorse Grip Grand, so be sure to check his music and pick up his projects.
I got people asking me about Grip and the album after declaring it my fourth favorite album of the first half of ’08. Of course, I don’t offer up retail albums, those can be found in other places (like stores), but Grip himself posted up this mixtape that has quite the humorous story behind it. It’s definitely worth the read and the music is from earlier in his career, but I think it gives a good starting point on what to expect from the album if you unfamiliar with his music. This won’t be the last you hear of Grip Grand on WYDU (I think you know what that means), but give this mixtape a listen and read one of the funnier stories I’ve heard in hip hop in awhile…..
WYDU: What’s good, Grip? Can we get a proper introduction for those few unlucky souls who are not hipped to as of yet?
Grip Grand: Grip Grand, That’s me. Nice to meet you all. Now we’re best friends! Do you like hip-hop? Me too! We have so much in common! This is great…
W: Wow, what a coincidence, we’ll get along just fine. So….what’s the story behind your name…..haha, nah, just kidding. I only bring that up because it seems I’ve seen that question on everything I’ve read from your past interviews.
GG: My name? Yeah, lots of speculation. I’d understand if I had a more colorful moniker, like, say, Diamond Shell or Frukwan or, uh, Shorty Shit Stain. But mine’s is pretty plain. Let’s just say a friend gave it to me, and we’ll both know that’s not the whole story. But it’s the most interesting part…which is pretty pathetic.
W: Names aside, you’ve lived from LA to Portland, Oregon, to the Bay Area in between. Which location would be your favorite? Which contains the bests scene productive to the fabled “underground hip hop” label?
GG: I’ve been all over the West Coast, but my heart is in Frisco because it’s my birthplace (and also in Oakland…because I hella love Oakland). Plus, I like the weather best in the Bay.
As far as which city has the best “scene” for underground hip-hop…if we had a good scene, maybe we wouldn’t be underground anymore. Sometimes I think underground just means no one shows up. No, actually, every town I’ve lived in has a pretty vibrant scene, but I wasn’t really part of any local movements (I wish I had been, maybe I’d be famous now). To quote Andre 3K, “I grew up to myself, not round no park bench”….
W: Some people might not be aware that you’ve been doing music since the late 90′s. How did you get your start in the game and what were some of early influences?
GG: I’ve been rapping for a long time….My first inspiration—as far as making my own rap music—was my friend P-Way (then known as P-Champ…also, incidentally, the man who named me “Grip”). He and his crew started 3 Shades of Rhythm, which later became Bored Stiff. All their demo tapes were dope, it really made me wanna try harder. But I never recorded anything, I just kept writing and practicing, and also I started collecting records around that time. Then, many years later, I hooked up with my man Sep, a rapper/ producer I went to college with in Portland, and he had a sampler and a cassette four-track…. Sep taught me how to work the boards, then I bought my own sampler and four-track and started recording myself. And the songs that I made on those machines became my first album (Welcome to Broakland). I put out the single (Pro-Gress/Santa Ana Winds 12”) on my own in ’99, before the LP was complete. Once I finished the album, I basically sent out demos in the mail, and I got a deal with Bomb for a full release in 2002.
W: As you said, you hooked up with Bomb Hip Hop Records, which is somewhat made a name for itself through the DJ comps it used to do. Can you expand more on the Bomb deal?
GG: I sent out ten unsolicited demos to various labels, all wrapped in ho
memade envelopes that looked like they probably held a ransom note or something. Of the ten recipients, only two replied. One wrote a nice note saying “Thanks, but no thanks.” The other was Dave Paul at Bomb. My demo was maybe five songs, something like that. He asked if I had anything else, so I sent him the whole album. I think he had me take off like one song and a couple of instrumental interludes, but other than that…he mastered it and released it pretty much as is. So remember, even though people say you don’t get a deal sending out random demos…anything is possible.
W: That first album, Welcome to Broakland, came out in 2002, how would you describe yourself as an artist then and now? How is different to your latest album, Brokelore?
GG: Man, in some ways it seems like night and day, in other ways ain’t sh*t changed but the name. I’m more confident in my skill and ability now, I think my new songs are more polished, the production and lyrics are more wide-ranging stylistically. Welcome to Broakland has a more stripped-down production and vocal style than Brokelore, so it sounds more intimate, maybe, but rougher around the edges. Whereas Brokelore has some of the songs I’m most proud of to date as a musician and a songwriter. Also, it has Percee P and A.G., so…you can’t knock that. In terms of subject matter, though, whichever album you hear, it’s mostly punchlines and life, man, that’s what I do. Normalcore. Nothing really changed there. The challenge of rap is to say something dope and to say it in a dope way. Some people specialize in just thoughtful content, or just flow, or just punchlines. I seek the balance.
W: There was quite a bit of time between Welcome to Brokeland and Brokelore, to some of us (myself included) you came off as a “new” artist. What were you doing in the time between the two albums, and how do you view being seen as “new” by unassuming dumb asses, such as myself?
GG: Oh, I’m fine with being seen as a new artist, as long as I’m being seen. I definitely don’t take offense. I’m just happy if people hear my music. I work hard on it. And the time delay between albums is partly due to that, to taking my time, not rushing songs. I changed labels along the way, started working with new people, learning new equipment, new methods of production…I went back to school to get certified in audio engineering and recording. So I was delayed by life, but also I wanted to deliver quality work. I really like the album format. Nowadays we digest music much more quickly, one new song at a time, minute to minute…but with Brokelore, I wanted to deliver a total experience, a world you can get lost in for an hour or go back to later and find something new. Hopefully I achieved that, but it’s not for me to say.
W: Not only do you rhyme on your projects, but you also produce a lot of your tracks. How is the mind state different going from production to writing rhymes? Which do you prefer to do more?
GG: I’m mostly self-produced, and I feel it’s an advantage as an artist. Understanding how music production works definitely informs my writing and vice versa. Basically, I’m a songwriter—the piano and the pen are tools of the same trade. But in a funny way, they occupy different parts of my brain. If I’m making a beat, I stay in beat mode. If I’m writing, I do that. I don’t hop back and forth, work on a beat and write to it all at the same time. There’s also a qualitative difference, in that with the writing, often you’re telling someone something, but with the music you’re making them feel it. I enjoy both, I like the interplay of the two. It’s another balancing act.
W: You mention in the liner notes for Brokelore about a hard drive crash that nearly wiped out all the work you had done up to that point on the album, how did that change the final project?
GG: Yeah, there was a catastrophic hard-drive event at the Look Records studios. Basically, all of the original files that made up my album were destroyed in the process. Luckily, every time we had completed recording a cut, we burned a disc of that song to listen to. In the end, those discs saved us, because we had working copies of each track. But they were the only survivors. So the main effect this meltdown had on the final project was a limiting one: we had no instrumentals, no acappellas, no clean versions…none of the extras that you would put on a single, or offer for remixing, or whatever. Nor could we go back and “fix” anything, change the mixes, the levels, etc. We just took what we had and rolled with it. I guess you could say God decided on the final mix for us. Or Steve Jobs. One of the two.
W: You have some quality guest appearances, and well placed I might add, on the album. How did you hook up with Percee P and AG, two of the more well known ones?
GG: A.G. was a label mate, recording his album for Look at the same time that I was starting work on mine. I guess he liked “Poppin’ Pockets”, so Design hit me up about doing a remix with A.G. on it. That’s an artist I really respect, and I was honored to do a second version with him. He put it down on that song.
Percee P was the same kind of thing, except he wasn’t on Look. But Design hooked up with him for something, and I had already done this track (Paper Cup) that was like a fast-rap beat and it was only one verse…so Design figured Perce was the perfect cat to be on it. And he murdered the beat, as always. Look up “pay dues” in the dictionary and you will see Percee P’s face, the man is a legend, on the mic and on the grind (check out an interview with the Rhyme Inspector himself on my crew’s website: http://www.routinefly.com/2008/10/percee-p-interview-in-santa-cruz-10308/). Again, working with him was an honor.
W: Possibly my favorite joint on the album is “Remember The Time”. A friend of mine explained who Darondo was and I thought it was a most interesting story. Is that just a straight up sample, or did you actually do work with him? If so, how did you hook up with him?
GG: Darondo does have an interesting story, and anyone who likes classic, gritty soul music should cop his records. Sadly (for me), I didn’t get to work with him on this one. It is, in fact, a sample…and by “a sample” I mean “me rapping over his whole song just as it appears on his album.” Now, I know some people are against this kind of thing (but don’t call it stealing…we paid him for it). However, those people are clearly not familiar with classics like Ghostface Killah’s Holla, where he raps over the Delfonic’s “La La Means I Love You” in its entirety.
Really, what happened is that I wrote this song—which was meaningful to me because of the subject matter (the dearly departed and so on)—and I recorded the original demo over that Darondo song…it was just the perfect tempo and vibe and all. I figured that later on I would make a beat with the same type of feeling, and then I would redo the song. But the more we listened to it, to the sound and the emotion of the demo, the more we said “Can we just clear the sample and use it as is?” And it turns out that Yes, we can. So we did. And now the demo version, which was a one-take thing I did at home, is what you hear on the album.
W: I got to ask about the one song that kinda seems out of place. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this, since I’ve seen you explain the existence of “Handle That”. My initial take on the song was it was more of a parody, can you deluge into it a little more?
GG: Yeah, “Handle That” is a parody of the “dumbed down” synth-hop style that has come to dominate the popular airwaves in years past. There’s so many grimy keyboard beats out there with cats spitting oversimplified couplets about cocaine and cars, I mean, you can’t escape that sh*t. And, I have to admit, some of it is really tight. But it’s ubiquitous, and I felt like commenting on it. So I made a song in that style. But I couldn’t just do some goofy Weird Al sh*t, and I couldn’t really allow myself to do a “bad” rap that was actually bad either. So “Handle That” has way more punchlines than your average trap-song. I basically just decided I’d do one of those songs, but a version for my taste—punchlines, humor, light social commentary—while making it sound as if I was rapping about the same sh*t that the coke-and-cars set spits. That’s why I have lines like: “It’s dangerous, to think you could hang with us/We sit on 50-inch rims ‘cuz we take the bus”….personally, I relate to that, more than I can relate to some rapper talking about his collection of Lamborghinis and handguns. I just tried to flip it. So it’s a parody, but I don’t feel it’s out of place on my album—after all, I wrote it and produced it, the subject matter and lyrics are similar to all my other songs…I feel like Brokelore, conceptually, is like a set of stories from this Broakland universe I’ve created over the years, and “Handle That” is one of those stories. I think it definitely fits in that context.
W: “Love/Drama” is another dope track. I’ve read that was based on a true story with a web/magazine critic, what was the story behind that track?
GG: “Love/Drama” is a response to a review of my first album, a review that was on a website which is now defunct (so you can’t go read it). It was one of the first reviews I ever got, which is why it was notable to me. So I wrote a song, wherein (to paraphrase) I basically agreed with all of the critiques that the reviewer made, admitting that I had sent him sub-par material; but I concluded that, given the astuteness with which he had dissected my album’s many flaws, I would look forward to hearing his own album—which, due to his penetrating insight into what constitutes good hip-hop, would surely be a classic of the genre. I have yet to hear back.
W: Which is worse, a magazine critic or a web site critic? Or are they equal scum?
GG: Man, I have no problem with critics, although what constitutes a critic nowadays? I mean, sharing your opinion in a public forum doesn’t make you a critic. Blogging about movies you hated doesn’t mean that your wisdom on the subject is weighted equally with Roger Ebert’s. For example, I write a blog about comics on my website. That doesn’t make me a critic, it makes me a fan. No one pays me for my insight, and no one is asking for my credentials. Basically, if you didn’t have to show someone your resume to get the job, you are probably not a critic. You are probably a hater.
W: You roll with a crew these days, correct? Who is the members of your crew, the Rec League All-Stars?
GG: Yessir, the mighty mighty Rec-League All-Stars, Cali’s finest. It’s a deep set, but the main musical members are (in alphabetical order) myself, Haji P., MF Shalem, Proe, Q’m, Richie Cunning, and Rob Rush. But we got a lot of batters, man…Bob Clean, Matty Eye, Vince the Bard, P-Soup, the roster goes on and on. If we ever did a full posse cut, we’d run out of tape. Believe it. Check for new albums from the crew (Rec-League Season 2), Richie Cunning (Night Train), and Q’m aka Cumulus (Happy Hour, which I did hella beats on) coming soon! Everyone else has albums in the stores and on iTunes, so check ‘em out. And go to www.routinefly.com for more info!
W: Let’s discuss the “mysterious” collection of Grip Grand material, Boner Jams. For those of us on the “slow bus”, can you tell us the story behind the collection?
GG: Boner Jams ‘03 is an unauthorized, high-quality collection of Grip Grand material, both released and unreleased, that surfaced in Japan earlier this year. I don’t know who put it together or how they did it, but I couldn’t have done it better myself, so I’m thankful in that regard. Plus, the cover is just un-f***ing-believable. Seriously. If you want 50-some Grip-filled minutes of lyrical fury, plus a picture of a grown man in a squirrel suit (it’s not me, sorry), this is the only place to get it. Read the whole story here:
Click on the “Boner Jams” links to get the mixtape.
W: Still no idea on who put the collection out? I hear they got Grip Grand posters hangin’ in the Japanese teenagers bedrooms these days…haha
GG: You know what’s weird? I just finished working on two new projects for a record label in Japan. I wonder how they got my name? Boner Jams? Probably not. I have a couple songs coming out soon over there on a compilation called The Light, both previously unreleased. Keep your eyes peeled for those (and more)!
W: You appear on DJ Design’s newest project, Jet Lag. You have quite the history with DJ Design, how did you hook up with him?
GG: I remember the day I met Design, because it was the same day I signed my contract with Bomb for Welcome to Broakland. I had gone to Frisco to meet with [Bomb founder] Dave Paul at his office. While I was there, Dave’s old friend DJ Design dropped by. So I met him then, but I didn’t know that he was starting his own label. After Bomb put out my first CD, Design hit me up in 2003 about getting together and making some music, just for fun. So we did that, it was a good vibe, and then he and his new label, Look Records, approached me about doing an album. We started work on Brokelore, and during that time I also did a few songs over Design’s beats (he’s a dope producer, and I learned a lot just watching him work)…some of those songs appear on Jet Lag—namely, “B-Side Too“, “Wave of the Future”, and “Wild Ones” featuring Phat Kat (shout out to Kat, he’s the man).
W: What does Grip Grand have planned for the future? Money, fame, a harem of women? What about projects?
Yes, with all the money my newfound fame brings me, I will take my harem of women and move into the projects. Oh, not that kind of projects…I see. Upcoming projects: mixtape (a collection of the weekly Billboard Number One remixes I’ve been doing); Chart Toppers. Scoviet Union mixtape and album (Scoviet Union = Me and Richie Cunning); new songs on The Light (Japanese compilation, see above); another release with my man DJ Flip out in Ireland called Crossroads (featuring me, One Be Lo, and Zumbi from Zion I). And, if anyone’s looking for verses or beats, they can hit me on MySpace. I got it for cheap.
W: Any last words the naysayers need to hear?
GG: Yeah. “Duck.”
W: Thanks again, much love
GG: My pleasure. And now a word from my sponsor.
Go buy Brokelore! Go buy Welcome to Broakland! Watch my videos on YouTube! Tell a friend how much you love/loathe/are totally indifferent to me! And if you haven’t had your fill yet, go to:
and check out my regular blog/waste of time at
Rec-League All-Stars presents Chart Toppers Week 8!!!
Womanizer Remix: Britney Spears vs. Grip Grand
Rec-League All-Stars presents Chart Toppers Week 7!!!
Live Your Life Remix: T.I. & Rihanna feat. Grip Grand
(Or, because the zshare site was having technical difficulties today…)
The Day That Never Comes Remix: Metallica & Grip Grand (Prod. by Grip Grand)
http://www.zshare.net/audio/19018292eee3b74f/ (Jazmine Sullivan Need U Bad Remix)
http://www.zshare.net/audio/178517712b1a09a8/ (T.I. Whatever You Like Remix)
http://www.zshare.net/audio/1854370469481670/ (Chris Brown Forever Remix)
http://www.zshare.net/audio/1753698334be0457/ (Rihanna Disturbia Remix)
http://www.zshare.net/audio/17206282db1211c3/ (Katy Perry I Kissed A Girl Remix)
Charmed I’m Sure is an unreleased demo (produced by Madlib) recorded for the Grip Grand album Brokelore (Look Records 2008). Besides having a beat laced by one of the game’s best and brightest, this song is also notable because it was sampled by Madlib for the chorus of the so
ng 2 Brothers From The Gutter Remix featuring Diamond D off the Percee P Perseverance (Stones Throw 2008). Don’t believe me? You can hear both songs back to back (and catch the whole story) at:
“Boner Jams ‘03 Mixtape” CD (Unknown Manufacturer 2008) Japanese Import
Featuring Richie Cunning, Aditional vocals by Rob Rush & Q’m
“Brokelore” CD & LP (Look Records, 2008)
Featuring A.G., Percee P, Darondo, and Richie Cunning.
Produced by Grip Grand. Additional Production by DJ Design, DJ Flip & Freezemaster Slick, Richie Cunning, and MF Shalem
“A Penny” (DJ Flip’s Mix) 12” Single (All City Records, 2007)
*Released as O’Liffey Family feat. Grip Grand & Richie Cunning
B/W Rock the Spot—O’Liffey Cousins feat. Craig G., Mondo, Punch, & Words
Produced by DJ Flip & Freezemaster Slick
“Poppin’ Pockets” 12” Single (Look Records, 2005)
Featuring A.G., Produced by Grip Grand & DJ Design
“Welcome to Broakland” CD (Bomb Hip-Hop Records, 2002)
Produced by Grip Grand
“Pro-Gress” Vinyl EP (Self-Pressed, 1999)
Produced by Grip Grand, Additional Production by DJ Abstract
DJ Flip & Freezemaster Slick—“Crossroads” 12” Single (Upcoming)
- Zion, Grip Grand, & One Be Lo—Crossroads/Produced by DJ Flip & Freezemaster Slick
DJ Design—“Jetlag“CD & LP (Look Records 2008)
- Grip Grand & Phat Kat—Wild Ones
- Grip Grand—Wave of the Future
- Grip Grand—B-Side Too/All Produced by DJ Design
Various Artists—“Look Records Sampler” 2008 CD (Look Records 2008) Promo Only
- Grip Grand—Hip-Hop Classic/Produced by Grip Grand
- Grip Grand—96 Tears (MF Shalem’s Talk About It Mix)/Produced by MF Shalem
- DJ Design—Wild Ones feat. Grip Grand & Phat Kat/Produced by DJ Design
Rob Rush—”Childhood Hero” CD (Rec-League Records, 2006)
- This N’ That feat. Grip Grand, Cumulus, & Proe/Produced by Proe
Various Artists/DJ Ransom—“Behind the Beat” Mix CD (Gingko Press, 2006) Promo Only
*with the book Behind the Beat: Hip Hop Home Studios
- Grip Grand—Poppin’ Pockets Remix feat. A.G./Produced by Grip Grand & DJ Design
Richie Cunning—“Grizzly Man Mixtape” CD (Grad School Music, 2006)
- Richie Cunning & Grip Grand—The Recwilder
- Grip Grand—A Penny feat. Richie Cunning/Produced by DJ Flip & Freezemaster Slick
Cumulus—“Dreamswork Mixtape” CD (Rec-League Records, 2006)
- Get Retarded feat. Grip Grand
Various Artists—“Look Records Sampler” 2005 CD (Look Records, 2005) Promo Only
- Grip Grand—Paper Cups (edit)/Produced by Grip Grand
- Grip Grand—But Anyway/Produced by Grip Grand
Various Artists—“Preemptive Hype 5.5″ CD (Hiphopsite.com Records, 2005) Promo Only
- Grip Grand—Poppin’ Pockets Remix feat. A.G./Produced by Grip Grand & DJ Design
Rec-League All-Stars—“Rec-League Mixtape Vol. 2″ CD (Rec-League Records, 2005)
- Rob Rush, Proe, Richie Cunning, & Grip Grand—You’re Gonna Rec Me
- Grip Grand—Don’t Say Shit To Grip
- Grip Grand & Richie Cunning—The Recwilder
- Grip Grand—You Don’t Know My Grip
- Grip Grand & Richie Cunning—Rec It Like It’s Hot
- Rec-League All-Stars—The Symphony
Various Artists—“Rec-League Records Season One” CD (Rec-League Records, 2005)
- Division 3 (Cumulus, Matty Eye, Grip Grand)—Maybe I’m Too Young/Produced by Grip Grand
Various Artists—“Season’s Cretins” 2004 CD (Scotty the K Records, 2004) Promo Only
- Grip Grand—St. Nick’s Conversion/Produced by Grip Grand
Rec-League All-Stars—“Rec-League Records Mix Tape Vol. 1″ CD (Rec-League Records, 2003)
- Rob Rush & Grip Grand—The Makeover/Like Whoa
- Grip Grand—50 Grand
- Grip Grand—Horror, Baby
- Division 3 (Cumulus, Matty Eye, Grip Grand)—D3 Arena
Cumulus & Rob Rush—“Please Go Back: Operation Free Flow” CD & Vinyl EP (Rec-League Records, 2003)
- Diggin’ In Your Head feat. Grip Grand/Produced by P-Soup