SXSW Official: Grieves
In the physical rag this month we feature Colorado artists that are officially going down to the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, TX this year. It also includes hip hop come-up Grieves - because even though he doesn’t call Colorado home now (his parents still do), we just couldn’t resist the nagging urge to selfishly call him our own. Not yours.
We feel like we birthed this man with his many talents, so who really cares where he pays rent now? He’s a Colorado artist, say we. Here’s the long version of our back and forth before he officially showcases for SXSW again this year.
You hit underground gold when you signed with Rhymesayers a few years back. How is it being on such a revered label?
Well, it’s great because, you know, it started from the ground up. Everyone there knows what they’re doing. It’s the grassroots thing that I came up on. I always looked up to them for that and I always tried to pave my own way in that lane. When the deal ended up coming through it was an exciting thing for us, not only was it a childhood dream come true, but it was also seeing the fruits of your labor. It was seeing all the work that you’ve done leading to the same spot of someone who you based your business off of.
Is it still like that, where everyone is involved and everyone pitches in when they can?
Exactly. There’s a lot of artists on a small label. It’s not like I signed to a major and I have a handler. It’s very open source, almost. I’m still doing a lot of my own business and am hands on however much I want to be, which is great because I don’t feel like I’m in control of the ship when other people take over that work. It still allows the team I had with me to still have jobs and a voice in this. Before I signed I had the team that I built this with. When signing I didn’t have to lose my team, I still got to keep my agent, manager, operations manager…all that stuff.
There’s wise input too. We’ll all sit down or have a conference call and throw around ideas. It’s still learning and it’s great to have somebody with so much experience sit down and contribute to it. It doesn’t feel like a label most of the time, unless I’m asking for money.
Was signing to them what made you do music full time? When was it when you dropped the part time job to really go for it?
I got pushed out of the nest in probably 2007. My boss at the time was a mentor to me, and was also a big music guy. He worked at studios. I met him when I was an intern at a studio. He ended up buying a restaurant, and I ended up working for him for years. He would always let me tour, and stuff like that.
When I got back once, both him and my manager were like, “Dude, you’re done. You’re using this as a crutch and as much as you think it’s helping you out it’s holding you back.” So they both pushed me out, and in 2007, it was time to fly. I’ve been going strong ever since that. Shit, is that seven years?
You’re reaching a decade man; you’re becoming an old player in the game…
I know! I turn 30 this month! I’ve got to get my life together!
At least you have South-by to look forward to. You were also picked officially in 2011 - amiright?
Yah, I’ve done South by Southwest several times. I have done it (officially) in 2011, but you only get one showcase from South by Southwest, then you kind of fill in the blanks with all the other stuff. Really what you should do is fill in the blanks first, and just hope that they choose you. The only way I’ve found South-by to be truly beneficial is if you stay busy the whole time. The first few times I stayed wasted…
It’s grown like crazy the past few years. Do you think there’s too much out there now and bands get lost in the oversaturation?
Well, I mean, it’s different. I really wasn’t a part of it when it was blossoming - that was long time ago. Things have changed, as far as hearing the older heads talk about it. I don’t have that first-hand experience, so I don’t know.
My experience is, the first time I went down there, I had just heard about it so many times and it was a party to me. I felt like I had accomplished something in my career. But I didn’t really do South by Southwest, you know – I went down there; I played a showcase and got wasted. I met some people and then was like ‘’woo I can’t wait to do that again,’ but the older I get and the more serious I get about my business and progression and whether something is worth my time or not, really boils down to: Can I spend my whole time in front of the press that most of the time I can’t normally get in front of? Can I go out with my agent and end up running into some of the other acts and build relationships? Can I crossbreed? Who am I going to meet? That’s kind of my South-by thing now.
It’s pretty much a musical shit-show either way anyone looks at it…
Ya, there are ten thousand musical acts, and then there’s all their managers and merch people and investors and labels, PR - there’s marketing...everything is down there. Everything that you could possibly want is there; but if you just want to walk around and get wasted then it’s cool, too. A lot of times an artist’s first experience is overwhelming.
I was sitting around drinking free beer and eating BBQ (one year) and somebody comes in and screams, ‘Sting is playing a free show down the street,’ and we all ran down, got wasted and watched Sting. After a while it’s like, A: my kidneys can’t handle that anymore and B: I want to stay home as much as I can because of how much touring I’m doing.
It’s great though; all the publications are down there and trapped in that little downtown area. They can’t avoid you. You can definitely get some of the things you want while you’re there.
Some critics maintain that since hip hop is getting to be almost forty years old that it’s dying and the younger generation just doesn’t care anymore. Do you think hip hop is nearing the end of its reign? Do you see the younger generation at your shows?
This happens to everything. Maybe people thought rock’n’roll was gonna die in the 80s when everyone started dressing like women and pushing their hair up, but that didn’t happen. Look at hip hop from the early to mid 2000s - that’s when the club stuff started coming around, and everyone was like, ‘hip hop is dead - hip hop is dead!’ There’s these Nellys’ and 50 Cents’ and all that stuff everyone got so mad at, and that main stream versus underground thing. Now hip hop isn’t really that way. There’s still that culture - the radio and club culture – but look at the hip hop that’s coming out now. It’s weird. Kendrick Lamar reminds me of something that would have come out in the late 90s than something that would have been acceptable 7 or 8 years ago. That wouldn’t have really worked.
It’s getting put back in the hands of younger kids. Look at Odd Future, that’s a bunch of kids. Young kids putting this out, and kids following it. If kids aren’t taking to it then I don’t know who is; because I’ve been off for two years and I had my most successful year this year, fiscally. I’ve never done this well and I wasn’t even touring.
I disagree with that strongly. I think things are changing, and artists are probably going to have to adapt to that – not saying they have to sacrifice their artistry or anything – but things are changing.
Exactly, we think that a lot of lyrical content is changing because kids are pissed. We didn’t have the Internet to hear about things like Syria and Venezuela growing up. It’s not that there’s more shitty things happening now, it’s just easier to see given our current technology.
Yah, and also, back in the 90s and late 80s hip hop wasn’t as oversaturated as it is now. It wasn’t as accessible to make. You really had to want to be a producer and then go out and get all the records, and dig through, and practice your craft, and focus on that stuff. Or you were rapping over the B-side single that had the instrumental - if you’re lucky.
Now, it’s like you can download Fruity Loops or a computer program that makes beats for you; and you can rap on it through a USB microphone in your bedroom, and run around telling everybody that you’re the shit. It’s become oversaturated with low quality product, but that’s gonna happen. It’s the internet. It’s a technological advance, it happens, but that doesn’t mean that people are gonna take to that stuff.
It’s like Idiocracy, it doesn’t mean everything is gonna become dumbed down and cheap. It doesn’t mean that true talent and true hip hop doesn’t flourish in society. I see it doing really well with younger and younger kids, and that excites me.
I’m not seeing the pulse weaken from my side; I’m actually seeing it grow.