Every so often, an artist lands on your radar that proves to be undeniably captivating in nearly every regard. Lyrically dynamic, with a voluminous vocabulary and a focused mind for storytelling. Enough technical mastery to approach each beat with an innovative and unpredictable flow. The dangerous blend of charismatic swagger and intellectual insight.
It’s rare that an artist possesses such a well-honed balance of such important qualities. Yet GRIP, an Atlanta lyricist who recently linked a deal with Eminem’s Shady Records, strikes that exact balance with alchemical precision. For many — myself included, admittedly — his debut album I Died For This?! was an introduction to GRIP’s artistry. An introduction bolstered by a co-sign from Eminem, who also appeared on the album’s “Walkthrough,” and one-much needed. As GRIP himself explains on “A Soldier’s Story?” he was close to calling it quits prior to inking the Shady deal.
Is this really what I want? Am I still in love with this game?
Tigg called like, “Ni**a, Eminem just said your shit was flames”
Then me and Em hopped on a call, and it all seemed fittin’
Just a couple days from quittin’ and the rest is unwritten
Image via Artist; Photo Credit – Ari Skin
Though the game is only beginning to familiarize itself with GRIP — at this time, the rapper has only recently hit ten thousand twitter followers — he’s actually been active for quite some time. A few years removed from thirty, GRIP originally began taking the stage in his late teens. “Learning stage presence, all that good stuff,” he notes, when we spoke for our Rise & Grind series. Since those early days, GRIP has released three full-length albums and two EPs, among various singles. Throughout his catalog, he strove to prioritize penmanship, approaching each of his long-form releases with a conceptual throughline at the center.
With influences ranging from legendary hip-hop lyricists like Andre 3000, JAY-Z, Nas, Pac, and Biggie to boundary-pushing rock pioneers like The Beatles and Pet Sounds, GRIP’s eclectic musical background translates effectively into his music.
Production largely handled by his longtime right-hand man TU!, and GRIP often employs adventurous instrumental choices — sometimes several times in the same track. On IDFT, the practice is highly effective on standout cut “The LOX!,” which features fellow Atlanta up-and-comer Tate228. While the first part features GRIP spitting some razor-focused bars over a minimalist boom-bap beat, the second part explodes into a hard-hitting banger; it should be noted that GRIP snaps on both sections, showcasing his versatility in one fell swoop. And that’s not even covering his verse-of-the-year contender in the emotionally powerful “Patterns?”
Image via Artist; Photo Credit – Ari Skin
It’s also telling that not only does GRIP hold his own alongside both Bad and Evil on “Placebo” and “Walkthrough” respectively, but he arguably outshines two of the game’s noted rap deities. It’s also telling that Eminem respected GRIP’s artistry enough to take a backseat, using his name and near-unparalleled fame to promote the Atlanta lyricist on social media. Upon inking the Shady deal, GRIP spoke of how it was his Snub album that ultimately captivated Em’s attention. And while I Died For This?! may be the album that captures audiences on a widespread level, what with the Shady affiliation and all, Snub remains the essential companion piece to revisit. As GRIP himself is a noted film buff, think of it in these terms: I Died For This?! is his Pulp Fiction, while Snub plays out like Reservoir Dogs.
While much could be said about both projects — which may very well be two of the most conceptually dense projects hip-hop has seen in some time — it’s far more effective to simply experience them for yourself. As GRIP is currently on the rise at a rapid pace, it feels like an appropriate time to show some appreciation for his craft. He’s clearly experienced countless hours honing his considerable talent, and that long and arduous journey was not without toil and sacrifice. Now, with plenty of ground to cover — he confirmed to us that he was already working on a new album — it’s time for the game to take notice of GRIP.
For the fans who have been around from the beginning, be sure to hit the comment section with your favorite tracks.