After reviewing Gramm’s album ReDash I wanted to take the time to chop it up and talk with him about this project, about himself and his journey. I wanted to give my reader a more in-depth understanding of who Gramm is as both an artist and a person. I hope through this interview there’s a connection developed between Gramm and his fans both new and old.
Q: At what age did you start rapping and who were some of your influences?
A: At the age of 7 I was writing rhymes and I wanted to be a rapping, dancing duo like MC Hammer because he was one of my favorites. As for Christian artist, DC Talk was my influence as well as the first Christian rap group that captured my attention. I remember back in the day an Italian artist by the name of Carmen who started off as a singer and decided he wanted to try his hand at rapping. He killed it. I remember he held a concert in Philadelphia and it changed my life. He’s corny now (jokingly) but he changed my whole perspective on Christian rap. As I got older, Christian music became more and more prevalent in my life, listening to different artist such as Dynamic Twins, KC and Dubb, Gospel Gangsta and Grits. Then there was Kirk Franklin who came out and changed the game with Revolution which is one of my favorite CD till this day.
On the flip side, I listened to Diddy (Puff Daddy at the time), TuPac and Coolio. Gangsta’s Paradise was my song and was impressed by Coolio and went through a Coolio phase. The artist that really made me believe that I could rap and could make it was Diddy, well Puff Daddy at the time. He was running the airwaves and his music was playing everywhere. My family loved to play his music in the house so I was constantly surrounded by him that I knew that if this man could rap and make it then so could I. Jay-Z, of course, anyone who knows raps knows that he was a game changer. He cemented my influence in wanting to be a rapper and so at the age of 18 I officially picked up the mic and started to rap.
Follow up Question: First secular rap album that you bought?
A: I actually bought two albums and got one free. I’m ashamed to say this but my first two rap albums were Ja Rule – Pain is Love and Nelly – Country Grammy. I’m so ashamed to say that and that it wasn’t nothing harder like Nas or Jay-Z. Despite that they both were good for me in starting my rapping skills and helping me in my journey. I also got a free DJ Clue mixtape that went along the two CDs that I bought.
(We had a good laugh about these two albums)
Q: What is the meaning behind the name Grammar?
A: Ok so funny story. When I was younger and I rapped, I used to pronounce every ‘e’ and ‘r’. I was not following the proper “rap etiquette”, it was taboo to pronounce every letter and enunciate. So as a joke they use to make fun of me and called me Grammar and laugh at me. Then when I turned 18 and was doing my first performance they asked me for my stage name and at that moment the name just came to me. At that point I just embraced the name and let it be who I am. When I got to college everyone called me Gramm and that basically stuck with me ever since. Now I don’t really enunciate or pronounce every ‘e’ and ‘r’ like I use to do. (jokingly)
Q: What should we expect to hear on ReDash?
A: I would have to say Real life experiences. I’ve been through a lot during the period I was on a hiatus. I was going through everything from record label troubles to family troubles to my disdain of hip-hop to my reconnection of hip-hop, the ups and downs of spiritual life, as well the ups and downs of relationship with my now wife. Everything you can think of that I went through is displayed in this album. To simplify: Authentic Truth.
Q: How do you feel about where Christian rap is and do you think it has an achievable or viable place in the music industry?
A: I have a dual answer for this. The first half of my answer is that the barrier has been broken to get it to where it is now, I think that’s awesome and amazing that it has gotten this far. Most people were looking for hope in music and it was a nice change for Christian hip-hop to make a break in the way that it did. The second half of my answer to be blunt is that musically and sonically it sucks. I don’t think we push the music as far as we can. I can tell you 100% that artists want to be respected. No matter what, they want to be recognized on the same playing field with other artists. It’s about recognition and to gain accolades, to be considered a good artist and deliver a good message. I would have to say that most artist don’t press for that, they do what sounds popular. In secular hip-hop they achieve what they achieve because they are not afraid to be different, to be original. When are we going to be original? Because Christian artists are looking at secular hip-hop artist for some type of guidance. The ones who are original in Christian hip-hop aren’t getting the respect nor are they being pushed forward. I definitely admit the ones who are on the forefront and what they are doing is amazing but I don’t believe they are the best. I respect their hustle, their grind and the drive, I’m even grateful for the doors that have been broken but honesty all those before had something spectacular about them that somehow got lost.
Follow up Question: What was the defining moment that you felt that christian hip-hop finally broke through the barrier?
A: I would have to say when Lecrae was a part of the BET hip-hop cypha. My thought was “Oh, they let us do that now?!” Also when Lecrae was featured on both 106 and Park and the Jimmy Fallon show.
Q: What type of production was used on this project?
A: There’s an assortment of production on this album. I used a lot of jazz, northern sounding beats, hint of southern twist. There’s a more raw, northern hip-hop feel to the album, even though there are no more regional boundaries. I would have to say the music is classified as more northern hip-hop style like an old school Common in sound, but Nas type of feel.
Q: What’s your favorite track and what’s the story behind it?
A: My favorite track is ‘The Breakup.’ The story is more important than the song. I was given the beat by the producer C-ball. It was a sample and as an up north rapper, I love samples. I heard the sample but I just couldn’t figure out what the sample was or where it came from. I was in Atlanta and sat with the beat for three hours. The beat was titled Valentine. I decided to take a break and started watching the RatPack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, etc.). They have been inspiring me in my musical journey. I decided to listen to them individually. I started listening to Frank Sinatra on YouTube and it recommended My Funny Valentine. I had always been under the impression that a woman sang the song. I started looking up different renditions of the song My Funny Valentine until I came across Anita Baker. I realized that it was Anita Baker who was in the sample. I then played both Anita Baker song and the sample side by side because I wanted to figure out what part of the song was sampled. I finally figured out that the sample came from an ad-lib from the very end part of the song. It felt like I completed a rubric cube, like the pieces snapped together and I knew I was supposed to do the song. I wanted to pay homage to Anita Baker, I wanted to make a song about relationships. I thought the song was too epic to write about a girl, so I thought about doing a break up song but of course break ups usually have to deal with a girl. Now during this time I was experiencing disgust for hip-hop, I wanted to write a break up song that express my disgust and frustration with it along with sin and the game. I want to lump everything as one and wrote the song about breaking up with those things, and to still pay homage to Anita Baker, the entire first verse structure consists of her song titles. I can say I was proud of myself as an artist and writer from that experience.
Q: If someone picks up this album what kind of message do you want them to receive?
A: If you pay attention to the album, even in the way that it’s structured there’s a specific intro. You come in to the feeling of being inspired with the questions of how bad do you want to succeed, how bad do you want to make it. The very last song, This is Your World, your exit to this album leave you feeling inspired. The idea is that you come in with inspiration and you leave inspired in grasping that this is your world. It’s about talking to your inner self and finding out how bad do you want to make it, to achieve your dreams. I realize that everything that I did, my highs and my lows, there was a bigger picture to it all. The inspiration in the intro track and ‘This Is Your World’ is that you can do anything you put your mind to and not let the dictation of this world hold you back. Only you can make it if you play your part. I want you to start inspired and leave inspired.
Q: Anything else you would like to add or say:
A: I hope this interview gives an insider and inspiration on what the project is about. I hope that you can listen to this project now with the intended ear that it was made for. I want to thank everyone that has shown their support, who’s been listening and even the websites that helped in pushing and promoting this project. I want to thank everyone to whatever capacity that they helped. It was a slow start but we got there. I’ve learned that numbers and God don’t lie. My eyes have been opened to those who are in my corner and those who I thought were in my corner and that ended up not being the case. I realized that some people expected the Gramm they got before and that some were hatin’ because they thought they were going to get the same Gramm as before. They were thinking I wasn’t impressive before and didn’t think I would be this go round, but for those people, they missed it because they were stuck in their preconceived notion. Every song is a real song for me and for those who receive it. Authentic Truth.
If you haven’t yet, check out Gramm’s latest album ReDash available now on http://www.space2say.com