In the wake of his upcoming fourth album, Grieves (Ben Laub) sat down with me for a little one on one. Grieves and producer, Budo teamed up once again for Together/Apart, which debuts June 21, 2011 on Rhymesayers Entertainment. The same week his new album drops he heads on the Vans Warped Tour. The tour hits Tinley Park, IL on July 7th. “Yeah but that’s not Chicago.” I whined “I’m doing my best, boo boo.” Grieves consoled. I can’t blame him, the 27 year old has been slightly busy. In between talking about our black cats, editing gun shots into tracks, #RapLife, tattoos and homemade snacks; we eventually found some time to talk about the album and his beginnings in the music industry.
Coming down from Soundset, I have to ask you what was your favorite memory?
Dancing my ass off and doing karaoke to West Side Connection’s “Bow Down“. What people don’t know about me is that I don’t dance. But holy shit, I was dancing that night. And getting to meet everyone involved with Soundset.
What was is about hip-hop that was so attractive to you?
When I was younger it didn’t start out as a really serious thing for me. When I first got into hip-hop I got into gangster rap. It wasn’t because I thought I was a gangster, it was because I thought it was hilarious as shit. Then Wu-Tang sunk its claws in me and I started thinking more about hip-hop and branching out. I found a Rhymesayers CD when I was 16 or 17 at the skate park. It was something that this kid made, this little mix CD. That is how I found out about Rhymesayers and I just dove so hard into that culture. At that point in time I started writing better, I started writing raps for me. Cause before I was writing funny, stupid raps. I think at that point I decided and found out that I could talk about some stuff that I probably needed to talk about. It was also about the time when I was more secure with myself as a man. I was writing raps like a boy, getting high with his friends and rapping about his little penis. I had to grow up a little bit and actually find myself in hip-hop. I can’t remember the day that is all struck me, but I would say that Rhymesayers ironically enough was a huge influence on that part of my life.
When you fell in love with the record label did you ever dream about being one of those guys?
I like to think of myself as a pretty realistic person. As I idolized them and love their music, I don’t think I ever saw myself as them. If you were to tell me that in six years I would be a Rhymeayer, I would’ve kicked you in the dick. I would’ve been like, “Don’t lie to me, don’t bullshit me.” As time went on I found myself running side by side with them. I got a great opportunity and I had to join them.
What was it like when they said they wanted to put your record out?
I freaked out! It’s not what I was expecting. I was talking to them because I didn’t really know what I was going to do with my life at that point. I had made the decision to take a different direction and by making that decision I took myself out of the loop. I took myself away from things that were keeping me working. I needed to do it to myself and I needed to know what that would do to me and do I have any other options. I was talking with SIDDIQ just about some guidance stuff. It turned out that after a while of talking that he offered me a different direction with Rhymesayers. I got the dream deal for me. He really got to know the things I really wanted in my life and career. What I’d been working so hard for but not really achieving. And all my different ideas and what I like to do that sometimes people will look at and call them crazy. But sometimes crazy works, I mean look at me.
On “Irreversible” from the album of the same name, you talk about your grandfather playing the piano. How much of an influence was his music on you?
I had to grow up before I could figure out what I wanted to say without sounding like an idiot. Some people probably still debate that I do sound like an idiot. I don’t think when I was growing up that I truly recognized what an influence he was on me. It took me to be in a place in my life where I didn’t have anything like that to inspire me. I grew up playing in bands and not even really listening to hip-hop. Now I’m working at a hip-hop studio, I’m a rapper, all my friends are rappers. Doing that brought me back to being under that piano and how that piano for that dude wasn’t just an instrument. It took him away from things and made him whole again when he was feeling empty. That was inspiring to me. I thought about all that time I spent under that piano listening to it, not knowing how much it was affecting me.
If I am correct, this album was recorded in Colorado, Seattle and New York City?
You are correct! Budo and I were living in NYC but we had the studio we recorded 88 keys at that we liked so much that we were working there. I had a vocal trainer there, in the studio. We were comfortable there, they had so many cool instruments that you can’ get anywhere else. Then we started working at Blast Off in NYC, which is an amazing city. Budo’s people kinda run that place and we got a good sound and mix out of that. As far as Seattle goes, when I got off the last Atmosphere tour, “On The Rocks”, I recorded that here in my basement. I ended up taking that to Undercaste Studios and recording it there. Then I sent it off to Blast Off where they mixed it. Then we had it mastered in Minneapolis.
Were Budo and yourself side by side in the making of this entire record?
No, we work in all sorts of different ways. We’ve done the side by side thing. We’ve done him sending me a beat, and me doing vocals over it. Or going to the studio and changing it. Me making beats and him adding to it. We’ve done all sorts. Variety is very important.
What is essential to have in the studio when you do lockdown?
It’s nice to have a runner that will go and get you food and stuff. It was nice to have a vocal coach to keep me from blowing my voice out. They had a dog there. A bouncy castle is required in all studios I go to. An aquatic petting zoo, I’d prefer it, but I’m not going to throw a big deal if it’s just a regular petting zoo. I don’t like goats though, all the other ones like mini ponies can stay.
What would you do for Budo?
I would jump in front of a school bus that was full of needles that were infested with AIDS.
What do you think he would say he would do for you?
Buy me an orange. I’m clearly the better friend.
Why the decision to do vocal singing on the album?
I like it, it makes me happy. I listen to sex music, I listen to D’Angelo. I could never sing like D’Angelo, but I like it. I wanted to incorporate what I like into this record. It doesn’t need to be all rap, rap, rap, rap all the time. Why can’t we have a little sex in there?
This album is much more vulnerable for you. Why did you choose to make it as personal as it is?
It was just how I was feeling when I was making that record. I’ve been struggling a little bit with the dynamic between my down time and my tour time. I don’t think I responsibly held a lot of that together. I think I was suffering the consequences of that. I think it’s important to talk about things like that in a platform that doesn’t pigeon-hole you. Not like I am the only one feeling this way and you can’t understand because I am an artist and you just can’t feel my pain. It’s not like that. It’s for anybody. It doesn’t have to be in a negative way. It has its uplifting thing to it. This too shall pass and everything gets better. Working through those problems like that is actually how you do it.
Our good friends at Baeble Music did some great interviews and studio performances with Grieves and Budo. Be sure to check out all of their videos and more as part of the Baeble Sessions. Here we present you with Grieves and Budo performing “On The Rocks” at the Atlantic Records Recording Studio.