You know how it goes: A UKHH artist drops a release and Certified Banger does an interview. This time it's the turn of London MC Grit Grammar who recently dropped his free release Reflections In The Dark. Here he chats about that, the future and the state of UK Hip Hop:
Certified Banger: Grit Grammar, tell us 5 important facts about yourself:
Grit Grammar: Well I'm from London, I've been rapping for years, but only just released my first project called 'Reflections in The Dark'. I promote a successful Hip Hop night in London, and I've got my official debut album dropping this year, fully produced by Baron Samedi.
CB: ‘Reflections in the Dark’ is a free album. Give us some more info on that:
Grit Grammar: It's a collection of 13 original tracks written and recorded between 2004 –2008. In reality most of the tracks are from 2004-2006 but I got a couple of newer joints in there as well. I got production from some dope producers such as Baron Samedi, Complex, Creep, I.C, Soul Coke, Shrunken Bones and Guice. Baron Samedi is the only feature on the album. It’s basically a select choice of cuts from my earlier days of recording, that I put out as a free promo project to start getting my name out there before my official solo drops.
You can download it now for free @ http://www.sendspace.com/file/rxhsrx
DO IT NOW!
CB: What made you give all your hard work away for free? How will you benefit from that?
Grit Grammar: The main reason I gave it away for free is that as a relatively unknown artist in today's climate, it’s difficult to get people to actually buy your product. I put the project together for promotional purposes, so giving it away for free was obviously the best option for maximum exposure, and it’s worked so far. I'm proud of all the tracks on there, but they are still pretty old and weren't going to go on my official solo, so I was happy to get them out there for public consumption.
I mean giving your music away for free doesn't mean people are gonna even listen to it, but if you make sure the rest of your promotion game is on point, then a free album is an excellent way for a new artist to get recognized, and get your music heard. I also think it's a better promotional tool and reflection of my music, than if I just put out a mixtape. I mean obviously I would like to make money from rap, but essentially I make music because I love doing it, and the financial rewards are pretty low on my list of what I want to achieve from rap anyway.
CB: Where will you go next musically? Will your album be a physical release?
Grit Grammar: My main focus is completing my official debut album, set for release this year. It will definitely be pressed up as a physical product, and I got some nice features lined up for it. It’s gonna have a different feel from 'Reflections…', and will be more accessible in terms of the overall sound, but I'm still keeping things lyrical, and Baron has provided me with some sick beats to work with.
Nowadays I'm just trying to expand and develop my sound, and avoid limiting myself in terms of production style and content. I think we have carved out a dope and unique sound so far, and in comparison to 'Reflections…', it is a huge leap forward in terms of overall quality, and I'm really happy with what we have achieved. I've also had the opportunity to work with some international artists recently, which has pushed me to experiment more lyrically and stylistically, and I'm also gonna start releasing some of these collabs later in the year as well. I'm just tryna think big, think outside the box and take any opportunities I can musically.
CB: What has been the reaction to your music?
Grit Grammar: So far I've had a really good response from 'Reflections…'. Since I have released it, the interest in my music has increased a lot and considering that most of the tracks are old, I'm happy about how well its been received. Considering I wasn’t well known before I dropped 'Reflections…', since its release I've had a quite a lot of press, done shit loads of interviews, had a track featured in Hip Hop Connection (editors note: under the name ‘Grit’ if you can’t find it), featured on various mixtapes, and got my first bits of radio play. These things aren't major but they have definitely helped me build my name up a bit, which is what I wanted.
CB: What is your approach to making rap music?
Grit Grammar: The beat is the foundation of everything I do. I'm quite fussy about the beats I choose and I don't waste my time writing to a beat I don't really like, and I count myself lucky that I've had the opportunity to work with some dope producers. I have never written a single bar without having a beat first. Initially I had a very specific sound I wanted to achieve, but now days I'm really trying to mix things up in terms of my overall sound, and as soon as I stopped limiting myself in terms of style and content, I started improving a lot and taking my music to the next level.
CB: How would you describe your sound? Is there any one track that would best define your style?
Grit Grammar: I think my sound is constantly evolving, but I would consider myself a lyricist and take the art of rapping seriously so no matter what style or subject I approach, that will always be something constant in my music. On 'Reflections in the Dark', I think my style and sound is gully, dark and abstract for the most part with a lot of battle style raps. Nowadays I'm just trying to be more accessible, content with the listener more, and avoid being pigeonholed as only a dark, abstract MC. I think a track like 'Poison Pen' is a good reflection of my sound during the time of 'Reflections in The Dark'. But I got a track for my new album called 'Musical Life' which really defines the music I'm trying to make at the moment.
CB: Who have been your biggest musical influences and which Hip Hop artists have inspired you? Which are your favourite albums? What music were you brought up on?
Grit Grammar: Without a doubt my parents were my first major musical influences in my life. My dad used to own an independent record store so I was surrounded and encouraged to pursue music from an early age. My Dad listened to a lot of styles from Funk, Soul to Rock so I grew up appreciating many genres, which I still do now. However I have always been a major Hip Hop junkie and listened to all types of Hip Hop, from underground East coast and Southern Rap, to UK Rap. I mean your just as likely to catch me listening to Jedi Mind Tricks, Ill Bill or Big L as much as UGK, Devin the Dude or Scarface and I think they all have had influence on the music I make. UK Hip Hop has always inspired me, but more so than ever in the last couple of years. I think the quality of music from the big UK artists has reached a very high level, and artists like Kashmere, Wordsmith, Sir Smurf Lil, Jack Flash and Baron Samedi (to name a few) continually inspire me, and more importantly make me step my game up!
My favourite albums are hard to nail down, but a few off the top of my head are:
Big L – ‘Lifestyles of the Poor and Dangerous’
Jedi Mind Tricks – ‘Violent by Design’
Kashmere – ‘In the Hour of Chaos’
UGK – ‘Super Tight’
Scarface – ‘The Diary’
CB: What else inspires you to write?
Grit Grammar: Finding fresh concepts can be difficult at times, but London, and my life in general always inspire me to write. Collaborating with other artists has also always been a major inspiration. The pressure of working with more established acts has usually been the one of the main catalyst for me improving my skills, changing the way I approach concepts, and developing how I put a track together.
CB: What's the harsh reality of being an MC in the UK? What's your experience of real life and Hip Hop?
Grit Grammar: Damn, there are a lot of harsh realities of being an MC in the UK! I think the main reality to face is that at the moment it is very unlikely, if not impossible to make a good living just out of UK rap.
Even though the industry has started to embrace 'urban' music more than ever, they are just not signing traditional UK rap artists, and the lack of physical sales makes it hard to achieve much independently anymore.
It also feels sometimes that we have a lack of fans willing to financially support the scene. Even though the game is oversaturated, if the UK had a strong fan base willing to financially support (at least) the big artists, then the major labels and the press would have to take notice. I went to this show in London recently with a heavy line up of some of the top UK acts, and it was dead, like ¼ full max!! Where have the f**king fans gone?! Don't get me wrong, I know it’s not always like that, but I find it depressing that even when you have a sick line up of 4 or 5 of the top spitters in the UK at one event, your still not guaranteed to pull a crowd.
This is a personal issue for me at the moment because there are less showcases for UK rap than ever before, so for an up-and-coming artists like myself to get exposure on a live level it has become increasingly difficult.
The representation of UK rap in the general media is also appalling, and after all these years they still don't want to take it seriously, and treat it as if it’s some kind of parody of its US counterpart. F**K THAT!! The rap coming out of the UK at the moment stands up to anything on a worldwide level, and it needs to be supported properly. We also have a complete lack of an independent infrastructure, so whilst we have quality product, we generally do not have the means to distribute, market and support artists properly, so the ultimate level of achievement is limited. I mean last year some UK Hip Hop albums came out with real mainstream appeal, but no one is pushing these albums to the masses and it's fucked up. You also really have to be on your grind, pushing you product on the net, and in the real world all the time to get noticed, and often for little rewards, so it can be a struggle.
It's hard not to be negative about the scene at times, but as long as you're realistic and you're dedicated to really push your product, I still think there are opportunities for success. Just don't expect UK rap’s gonna buy you a mansion or a Bentley any time soon.
CB: Whoa! Thanks for taking the time to do this, have you got anything to add?
Grit Grammar: Firstly big up yourself for the interview and the blog cause you doing something real positive for the scene. So, props.
Download 'Reflections In the Dark' with full artwork for free @ http://www.sendspace.com/file/rxhsrx
Look out for my official solo dropping later this year, and check http://www.myspace.com/grituk for info and updates.