Much can be said about the emcee, Nick Grant. I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking to Nick right before his show with Nas and Wale in Cleveland this week. Ever since he's emerged on the scene, he has pushed the envelope and reminded all of us why we should still have hope in this thing called Hip-Hop. I mean, he's co-signed by some of the most elite in the industry; Andre 3000, Jay-Z, NaS, Talib Kweli. He also had Jeezy vibing hard during his Sway In the Morning freestyle. So check the interview as we discuss not only his upcoming projects - Dreamin Out Loud and Sunday Dinner, who he likes in battle rap and if he thinks Hip-Hop is still dead.
From the OH: I was revisiting Return of The Cool this week and it has such a classic, old school feel to it. Some songs, I could literally see a Harlem Nights type juke joint with the live band playing. Was that what you set out to do originally or did you just let the beats paint the picture for you?
Nick Grant: I let everything that I grew up on paint the picture. Movies like Harlem Nights. It was albums like Jay-Z's American Gangster, Miles Davis' Birth of The Cool -where I kinda didn’t know I was taking that title, I just said Return of The Cool and doing research I found out Miles Davis had an album called Birth of The Cool. Just John Coltrane, Joe Sample's Old Places, Old Faces; just all those great jazz musicians, all this great hip-hop music, these TV movies, these big Hollywood movies, these big black figures. Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, I just wanted something that kinda sticks to not even hip-hop principal but just black principal. That pride that we carry ourselves with, kinda wanted to put that inside of the music, that’s really what its about.
From the OH: Yeah, it has such a cool vibe to it hence the name. It’s like music you can just get in the car and drive to.
Nick Grant: It's kinda music that you play when you leave the club, it's not really music for the club. You know the other 23 hours or other 22 hours that you're at home, that’s the vibe that I wanted to bring to the table.
From the OH: I read that when you were younger, you used to battle rap.
Nick Grant: Absolutely!
From the OH: So do you still watch battle rap now? If so, would you like to be out there again and if you could who would you battle?
Nick Grant: Oh man, I wouldn’t be out there again but I like guys like Charlie Clips, Murda Mook. I been watching battle rap since like the beginning of time. Before it became main stream, I remember coming home from school and they would have the DVDs while I was walking through the campus. They’d be selling the DVDs on Clark Atlanta’s college campus, I would buy them, take them home and just be inspired. Yeah, like Smack. All those battles. John John Da Don and DNA … yeah!
From the OH: Battle rap is just culture.
Nick Grant: Yeah, it's needed. Absolutely. I feel like to be an elite MC in mainstream hip-hip you have to be cut from that cloth. Steel sharpens steel so…
From the OH: Nas once said “Hip Hop is Dead”. Do you believe that statement to still be true in this day in age?
Nick Grant: That’s a great question! [laughs] I don’t feel like it's dead with the presence of people like myself, Nas is still here and rapping better than .. EVERYBODY. Jay-Z is still here so I don’t believe hip-hop is dead in that sense but for the generation that follows guys like myself (I'm going to continue to put myself in cause I stand for what hip-hop really is; the 5 elements, the principle, all of those things I grew up on) the generation behind people like myself, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Big Sean, Wale, Cyhi the Prynce, Big K.R.I.T., all these people that I respect, love and have such an admiration for their music. I just feel like the generation behind us.. they're having fun but I just feel they can focus a little more on what it really is to extend the lifespan of this thing. I heard Jay-Z say something really important, like don’t mess it up for the people that come after us. That’s very important for us to keep it alive. This is one of the few thing that we really have. Black music, other than basketball dribbling a ball and throwing a football this is one of the few options that they gave us. This thing saved a lot of lives. For me and in my heart, I want it to continue to save a whole lot of lives. It's just a gateway to do other things but hip hop is very, very important to us. We have to keep it alive and strong.
From the OH: You worked with Usher on "Sunday Dinner". How did that come about?
Nick Grant: Man I made this record and I was like yo, I'm really inspired by Michael Jackson. I remember listening to Michael Jackson and I heard Baby Be Mine and I was like I want to make a record just like this. I don’t wanna limit myself to just rap. So I got in the studio and right after I said that and heard that record, I got this beat from the Justice League from my manager. My manager played it for me and I was like this is the beat. I wrote the hook and I had one of my good friends sing it, his name is B. Hess (he's featured on Return of The Cool). He sang it and I remember playing it for my manager Chaka Zulu and he was like, "Yo, we need to put Usher on this record." This is the beginning of me signing with these guys so I was thinking, we can’t get Usher on this record so I kinda waved it off in my mind. Even with knowing the history and them being so accomplished that kind of stuff doesn't happen to me overnight so I was like cool whatever. I sent him the record. I remember going to L.A. and I was getting ready for bed, like going to sleep and Chaka Zulu called me like, "Yo, you not at the studio? Usher’s waiting for you." I was like wow, alright cool. I still didn't believe it but I jumped up. I get to the studio it's this fly ass Rolls Royce outside. I'm looking like oh shit, cool. I get in there and we just vibed out, he did the hook and it came out flawless.
From the OH: When can we expect "Sunday Dinner"?
Nick Grant: Aw man, very soon. I'm coming out with another project, Dreamin Out Loud so it's kind of gearing up for Sunday Dinner. Dreamin Out Loud is just something I wanted to get out. I got other things to say before I get to Sunday Dinner, I want this to be real personal. There’s a lot of things going on in the world, there’s a lot of things going on in hip hop that I just wanna get off my chest that won't fit the mold of this album, so let me get this out first. I wanted it to be a mixtape but every time I go to the studio and I have this idea of just making a mixtape I’ll play the music for the higher ups and they're like, "Naw, we not giving this away for free. This is too dope. You gotta sell it."So we gotta go through that process of putting out another album before I get into Sunday Dinner. It's very stressful.
From the OH: I bet, well you’re the artist. You just wanna put the product out.
Nick Grant: Absolutely. I want people to just love and feel. I don’t wanna always charge people for what I do but at the end of the day it is a business.
From the OH: Yeah, you gotta eat too and if they are fans they wont have a problem with paying for it.
Nick Grant: Exactly, with that I'm just learning that the people I'm around are just looking out for me. You know, you love to make music but like you said you gotta eat, you gotta survive you got family that you gotta take care of so once again its frustrating but I get it. So before Sunday Dinner I'mma put out this Dreamin Out Loud project with possibly DJ Khaled, Lil Yachty’s on it, I wanted to put the Usher record on this one but everyone's like, nah you trippin'! Stacy Barthe, hopefully is on this album, I've been communicating with her. Shes a dope, genius writer our Sade, can’t no one tell me she’s not Sade. Sonyae Elise, she did a lot of work on Anderson.Paak’s debut. I'm trying to put out a classic album before a classic album.
From the OH: There are a lot of lyricists complaining about mumble rappers ruining hip hop. Do you have a stance on this endless debate?
Nick Grant: I think people pay too much attention to what they don't like instead of saying there’s guys like NICK GRANT [laughs] whose really rapping. All that energy that you’re putting into something you don’t like you could be celebrating this person over here that’s doing it right. That’s just my personal take on it. Let the kids have fun, you know? I remember coming up and my brother would play certain stuff and my grandfather would be like that’s not music, that’s noise. We thought it was the illest shit ever. You know, let them live.
From the OH: Every era has that though.
Nick Grant: Exactly and more importantly, how could you be mad at somebody that’s making money and changing their families lives? You’re supposed to celebrate that more then saying “he's not doing the job right”. Well obviously he might be doing the job right because he’s changing a whole lot of peoples lives. It might not be for me and I might not love the music but I can’t hate that part of it.
From the OH: I love that mindset.
From the OH: If you didn’t go into this career, what would you have done?
Nick Grant: MAN! [laughs] I kinda knew I wanted to be this forever but it was a time I was like, I probably wanna be a brain surgeon. Not even because I was intrigued by it but I used to watch TV and be intrigued by the lifestyle. I would see doctors on TV shows pull up in Porsche's and I was like, oh yeah that’s what I want. It was cause of the lifestyle and you don’t have to necessarily be famous to live that lifestyle.
From the OH: Dead or Alive. What artists, any genre would you choose to work with?
Nick Grant: Aw man!
From the OH: .. and since I know you love music this is probably a hard one for you.
Nick Grant: Yeah this is really hard. Joe Sample, Rest in Peace. I would love to work with Joe Sample. Number 1 on that list, I'm sorry and excuse me for this, Stevie Wonder. Number 2, Joe Sample. Can I give you 5?
From the OH: Oh yeah.
Nick Grant: I'm going to exclude Tupac and Biggie cause that’s a given. I would definitely work with them. Aw man, Nas (who I’m performing with tonight)
From the OH: Of course, that’s a dream come true huh?
Nick Grant: Absolutely, I worked so hard for that but not to get off track, scratch Usher off that list. [laughs] Jay-Z for sure. I was trying to stay away from him cause everybody’s going to say Jay-Z but that’s 4 ummm .. Dr. Dre, Missy Elliot. That’s 6. I’ve got so many though.
From the OH: Yes, I’m so glad someone put Missy on their list. She’s so underrated.
Nick Grant: Oh no, Missy is larger than life to me. Missy meant a lot. Aaliyah meant a lot. They still mean a lot to me and I still play their stuff more than I play the modern day music hip-hop/r&b stuff. They were like my superheros.
Social Media - @NickGrantMusic
NOTE: Nick Grant is dropping not 1 but 2 projects soon. The first project will be Dreamin Out Loud and the second is entitled Sunday Dinner. He is currently on tour with NaS and Wale as well performing on select dates for a simultaneous tour "PowerNomics" with NaS, Lauryn Hill, Hannibal Buress and Dave Chappelle.