It being nearly 5 years since our brief encounter, I was surprised he remembered me. Maybe my shiny dome is hard to forget. More likely though, his memory is as sharp and lucid as his rhymes.
The first time I paid my respects to Grimm was during a CMJ showcase1 for his label. Invited to attend by Serengeti’s then manager, this was around the time that Gasoline Rainbows2 was being promoted for Day By Day’s Rock Division. I remember looking forward to it. There was the lineup, of course (in addition to the possibility of seeing MF rock, also slated that night were Monsta Island Czars and Broady Champ), but also, just having some down time to chill with friends and my girl. And being able to do it around that kind of musical environment and nice venue. Nicer than what indie rap typically afforded us anyways.
I wonder now what my wife thought about that night. I’m sure I asked her if she had a good time or if she enjoyed the show, but, I wonder what she really thought about it, ya know? Did she find the performances relatable, at all? The sweat pants with the Gators, ghetto fab or hard as f*ck? The rapping, inspired or incomprehensibly crude?
I think, or rather, I know, I drag her to these events and she’s cool with it but it’s mostly because she can see that they mean something to me. I love her for that. And sometimes it makes me wish I could make them more interesting for her. So I wonder, why haven’t I ever gone out of my way to explain my relatability?
Sharing music and other ish on this site, I wonder what heads must think. A few weeks ago I threw up something Yelawolf recorded for a Cypress Hill promotional mixtape. I am not a fan. Not ’cause I’ve signed him off but more-so because I haven’t heard anything from him to draw me in. Yeah, I know he gets the industry co-sign. Yes I heard what Jim Jonsin says Eminem says3. That’s one of the interesting things about sharing music and the “co-sign” though, especially when dealing with interpretive media. You can copy and paste a song but can you duplicate a perspective? In other words, we share music easily today, but the aesthetic that once was there, is that so easily conveyed?
I’d like to think that we’ve built some kind of predictable perspective or voice over the years. I shared that Yela mostly out of a sense of curiosity for the project. It was the first leak and I figured plenty of people were waiting to see what that mixtape was going to be about – Were the tracks going to be covers? Were the beats remixed? Was it just gonna be one-verse goof off freestyling? Disappointed as I was, I didn’t write one word describing my reaction. Looking back I can see how that might lead to some confusion, and that kinda bothers me. Kinda.
That night outside of Joe’s Pub, as I first caught glimpse of the Reaper, I turned to my girl and muttered in that fan’s whisper, “that’s MF Grimm”, thinking she would get what I was saying. When I realized she had no idea who he was, I got slightly tongue tied. All that came out was something like, “he’s a rapper, a good one”.
I could have explained his place in rap history. His coveted early 12 inches, coming up with Rock Steady, his aggressiveness + sincerity on the mic. I could have gone into his achievements with his independently run label, how he ended up in that wheelchair, his history with and influence over the perplexingly popular MF Doom. Would that night have made more sense to her? Been more fulfilling? Was it supposed to make sense to her? What if I had mentioned why I draw inspiration from his life story, preserved and relayed to me mostly through music?
I didn’t say any of that then much like I tend not to say much of anything here. Maybe I was too busy being me, or as the cool people say, doing me (enough with the no homo, seriously). I knew why Grimm was dope. I knew it then, I knew it the first time I heard Take ‘Em To War, I know it now. I didn’t need anyone to explain it to me. Maybe that means that my wife ain’t supposed to listen to Crumb Snatchas and get amped when the chorus drops? Maybe her life experience, different from mine, prevents her. Maybe I prefer it that way?
Yeah, sometimes I think it’d be cool if everyone looked to this rap shit the way I do and everyone gave daps to who I do. But then there are other times when I think, if you don’t get it, then muthafucka maybe you ain’t supposed to. Maybe we’re built different. And maybe there ain’t nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, maybe everything is right about that.
Duped into thinking we can own music and coerced into forming our identity as a function of our consumption, sometimes we rather not overshare. There is a desire to own things, even to own experiences. And these “things” become so personal that you doubt anyone can experience them in the same way you can. Part of you wants to keep it for yourself, to protect it. But then there is that other part of you, that seeks acknowledgment and your loved ones’ understanding. Social animals, right?
The incessant marketing we are pummeled with as children trains us to be persistent consumers and at the same time leads some of us to rebel and hate being sold to. We want to be understood through our conspicuous consumption yet we can’t stand the reinterpretations that observers might offer. We want to consume but not be told what to like.
This exaggerated sense of ownership and self-identification has a role in the way I relate to this ish. Maybe more-so when I was younger, but I feel like it’s still lingering inside of me, somewhere. It goes hand in hand with this sense that the experience is ruined when it is over-explained or over-analyzed. Anything can be intellectualized right? But does that mean anyone can “relate”? And then there’s that other funny little thing, discovery.
Let me take a step back, back, back to reality, before I get lost in this spiral. Similar to the way shared experiences in our youth draw us together, I sometimes think grndgd is about grabbing at things trying to regain our past and reconnect. And sometimes we’re good at it. The Grand Facilitator has made more music available to us now than ever before. And at impressive speeds. It almost becomes non-stop consumption. Hand over fist we listen. Or at least we try to listen, sometimes we just skip through or acknowledge. Sometimes I have, dare I say it, not listened, so eager to share.
I get scared sometimes that I am becoming alienated. But then every now and again I get reminded, refreshed.
A few weekends ago we had plans to stop by The Block Radio Show, part of EVR.com’s excellent Friday night lineup. On our way there we learned that Grimm was visiting from the West Coast, where he stays nowadays (maybe to be closer to his Hollywood ties since he’s been trying his hand at screenplays recently), and that he might show up. When we got there he was in the broadcast room. If you’ve never been, EVR has this great set up where they’ve transformed part of a first floor commercial space into a broadcast studio with a large window facing the street. And if you’re familiar with 1st Ave and the LES, you can try to imagine the sort of energy there. Inhibition-less, identity-starved college kids aside, it’s pretty chill. And the food from the restaurant it’s attached to gets good reviews from a respectably intense foodie, my wife, and even The Custodian Of Records, who is rumored to have spent a few years in Paris and Mesopotamia apprenticing with master chefs. You should taste his mushrooms. Shit, spiraling again.
So yeah, it was a Friday night. I remember it was the first weekend after Guru’s passing. All that f*ckery was on our minds. One thing that stuck with me about that whole mess was the way he was being portrayed as a victim. His illness excluded, for me to accept that Guru was physically and/or psychologically abused by some obvious fame-clinger, that ish effed me up. Why? ‘Cause man, his music was all about overcoming things like that. Where was the self-empowerment? The critical analysis? The triumph? And yo, what does all that mean when I go over his catalog?
Then I saw Grimm, sitting there. He has this way about him. Without overcompensating, his posture exudes a sense of self-awareness and confidence. He doesn’t speak loudly but you can always clearly hear what he says. After saying peace I was surprised he remembered me from all those years ago. He mentioned his new multimedia project and asked if we would be interested in reviewing it. Concentrating on the opportunity to just be able to listen to it, and forgetting that we generally don’t, and rather not, write reviews, I jumped.
I’ve been listening to MF Grimm’s new record consistently for the past few weeks. And I’ve been dreading writing about it. I have all these things that I would like to articulate but at the same time it’s difficult to discuss them without providing some background. What do I mean by background? No, not Grimm’s biography. No, not a description of his catalog. Anyone with a minor interest can google-wiki those things in minutes. Ideally what I would be able to do is describe what it was like the first time I heard a Grimm record. What it was like to subscribe to the things he said. Somehow share what it was like growing up in Queens Vill in the 80s/90s. And this is where things got twisted. Not only do I think it’s difficult to successfully contextualize Grimm’s past work and his current place, I’m not sure that I want to try. It makes me uncomfortable.
So I kept putting it off. Some time passed and then the cover art was posted online and I tried again. No go. The tracklist made its way on to one or two sites I frequent. Nothing. Finally the single leaked. Not only did it barely get coverage, but it was dismissed by someone who I know tends to have taste that is agreeable with mine. I know this ’cause they tend to repost everything we post within minutes. That dismissiveness kind of bothered me.
So…what the ef does all this have to do with the price of an ounce? Hard to say actually. I initially started writing something about Grimm’s new album that’s out today. I guess I was upset about the lack of coverage on the networked magnets. I was ready to go off about why people should recognize and realize. Before that got out of hand though I started to consider my insularity. Then I started to resent it. And then I embraced it. And thanks to my toddler son’s iPhone prowess, which I took as a sign, those words are gone now anyway, dissolved into the ether with the swipe of pudgy finger.
So what am I doing here? I think I’m trying to remind some of you, and more importantly, myself, that this rap shit goes far beyond the music we post or the albums we steal. This isn’t just a form of entertainment for everyone. This has roots. Roots that run through us. And although this culture gets further torn apart and resewn as something different everyday, I hope we don’t forget the experience it once was. And I hope we somehow are contributing to its memorialization.
The second track from the new album is called “Return To Eden“. It features a short sighted Daffy Duck, an angry Genie of the Lamp and a contemplative, retrospective MF GRIMM.
…The money made you crazy, manipulating babies
Talking all that shit you need to stop
The money made you crazy, manipulating babies
Talking all that shit you need to stop
But you’re a rich man
I’m just a poor man
You’re a rich man
I’m just a poor man
You’re a rich man
I’m just a poor man
You’re a rich man
Don’t forget where you come from…
RIP Roc Raida and Frosty Freeze.
You Only Live Twice: The Audio Graphic Novel is available today, June 8, 2010