“I could easily go make a record with the hottest rap group on the internet and go do something like that, but that’s not who I am. It would make my life that much more difficult if I was out here doing that and people would see that it’s not authentic.”
Hip hop artist Nick Grant has spent the last year gaining traction via consistent releases, a big tour, and some advice from Jay-Z.
Nick Grant released his debut album Sunday Dinner last year and just put out a new mixtape titled ‘Dreamin’ Out Loud.’ His style blends modern hip hop sounds with 90s influences, making him a perfect contender to tour with legends Nas and Ms. Lauryn Hill last year.
Grant spoke with WRBB about his upbringing, why 90s hip hop culture was so great, and how to use lyrics to make a real impact in the world.
WRBB: Congratulations on the new mixtape, it’s great!
NG: Thank you so much, I appreciate that.
Let’s just jump right in and talk about the mixtape. So first off, I really liked your song “Black Woman”. I think it’s exactly the kind of thing we need right now, talking about strong women of color instead of objectifying them. Are there any specific influences in your life that contributed to you writing that song, and how have they influenced your life?
I was just raised by a village of strong black women, my mother, my sisters, my aunts, cousins. The main people in my life. I had one male figure, which was my grandfather. I would go to his house on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday. But Monday through Friday was my mom and all these women that raised me. I felt like it would be an injustice if I didn’t create a song for them. This is like my appreciation in a sense, you know, these infinite favors that they did did for me, this is my way of trying to pay them back, which I could never do.
Do you think growing up with a lot of strong female figures in your life gives you a different perspective in the scene?
Absolutely. My mother always tells me, “well you have no excuse for how to treat women because you had all the right examples in front of you. You have no excuse because you know how we want to be treated.” And that’s not just black women, that’s every woman in the world. That’s just my thought process. It’s different, definitely.
Your song “Father Figure” is also a very powerful song. It talks about the negative impacts of growing up without a father figure. Do you think that having a lot of stronger people of color in the media, with big movies like Black Panther, shows more people who look like them can sort of combat this?
Yeah, for sure. If I can see someone who resembles me, comes from where I come from, doing beautiful things in the world and showing productivity, of course. It doesn’t reach everybody immediately, but those examples and seeing those examples on a consistent basis can change somebody’s mindset and make them believe that they can do the same thing. That’s very important to have these different people that look like us just doing different things and setting examples. It’s very important, it starts there. It also starts with every day treating people differently in general. But that’s very important. Black Panther, things like that, things of that nature, those accomplishments are very much so needed.
Do you want to go a bit into the “everyday” stuff you briefly mentioned? About how you think that people can start making a change with little things everyday?
Just living in your truth. Little things, like my grandfather would always tell me “pull your pants up, look people in the eyes when you speak to them, smile,” and different things that take you and make your life that much better because you put in the effort on a day-to-day basis treating people better, being honest, being righteous, all these things. If you practice those on a day to day basis, nobody’s perfect and we’re all going to slip and fall, but the thing is to get up and keep pushing and pushing and pushing towards a direction of positivity.
I see you definitely talk about that kind of stuff with your lyrics. I love the importance you put on lyrics, with your website having a whole section just talking about [lyrics], and I know that you, according to some interviews, have called out some other rappers for not focusing enough on lyrics in their sound. In today’s hot political environment, do you think it’s important for a genre that’s so focused so much on lyrics, for everything to stay inherently political or is it okay to sometimes rap without a message?
It depends on what you value. Balance is very important in the culture, but I feel like it’s very one-sided. With the exception of J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, who are at the top of the chain as far as lyrical rappers. That’s how the genre started – us talking about things that went on in the neighborhood and those types of things. It’s definitely one-sided. The people that get to push their stuff and the stuff that’s constantly poured on us, there’s a lot of ignorance. And you know, I’m cool with it, I’m guilty of it. I won’t lie, I love it too, but I feel like it could be more intentional. Those people that actually put the effort into their lyricism, this is just my contribution every day. Like I could easily go make a record with the hottest rap group on the internet and go do something like that, but that’s not who I am. It would make my life that much more difficult if I was out here doing that and people would see that it’s not authentic. There are definitely more people and a bigger spotlight being put on people that actually put the time in and tell their stories and share their experiences with the world because that’s not an easy thing to do.
So if rapping without a message sends its own message of not really caring, do you think there’s an impact that people have seen?
Absolutely. If that’s your life and your life is just having fun and partying, I can agree with it and I can respect it because that’s your truth. But if you’re out here just doing it for the dollar and you’re not really pushing the culture forward, you’re just doing it as a means to be popular and be famous, then I can’t accept that. I know how I came up and I know what I studied and I know all the people that I admired, like really cared about the craft, and made me care for the craft a little more. Definitely, I wouldn’t be here without those people.
Do you think that the genre’s changed a lot since people like your old influences have made music? I’ve noticed a lot of ’90s influence in your music, so how has it changed?
It’s the message. Just the messaging, and the feeling has changed a lot. My mom used to say “how do you listen to that all day?” and looking at [rap music] now, I can listen a little while but after a while I’m like, what am I really getting from this? What am I really taking from this? How is this gonna help me? How can I apply this to my life? That’s what the culture’s about. It’s about having fun as well. It [is] 90 percent fun and 10 percent knowledge. I feel like it should be balanced, be fifty-fifty. But a lot of the music that comes out, I’m 29 years old so a lot of it isn’t for me. I’m at a different space in my life, thinking differently, moving around differently. I speak to people differently. I’m everywhere, so as I’m moving throughout the world, I would like something that I can use and apply to different places.
Do you ever feel a little bit out of place, with you being a bit older than some of these young “Soundcloud rappers” who are around 17 years old coming out with these giant songs that aren’t really saying much?
[laughs] That’s a great question. At the end of the day my lifespan and music could be 20 years if I continue to do what I’m doing, God willing. You come out at 17 years old, you have these big records, it’s a quick burn. I definitely feel out of place because that’s what all the eyes are on, this type of music. It makes me look better, you know? I can have a conversation with Jay-Z, go on tour with Ms. Lauryn Hill and Nas or sit down and talk with Roc Nation because of my respect for these people that came before me and my love for the culture. So when you come out with these records, it’s cool, they love you for the moment, but how long are you going to be here? That’s why “1985” by J. Cole was a great record. One of the best hip hop records of all time, in my opinion, because it’s not talking down on the younger generation, but it’s kind of schooling them. If you really care about [the culture], this is how you be here, this is how you maintain. It’s all about what you care about, it’s all about your perspective.
I’ve heard that you kind of got your start with rap battles and made it big with freestyling. Do you think it’s important for rappers to be able to think on their feet like that, or is it okay to step back and think a lot more and take a lot more time, or are they both about equal for you?
At this time and where the game is at now, no. You can make songs, you can make hit records, you can also tell your story. I know people that are great MCs but can’t freestyle. It’s just something extra to have that’s good to have, but if you don’t have it, it doesn’t really make or break you.
Do you think your ability to freestyle influences your songwriting process?
Absolutely. It helps me a lot because I have to sit down and write but I also have to get around and freestyle before I can put a pen to the paper. That’s very important for me, being able to move around and just come up with stuff.
Do you like to bring that into your live shows as well? Mess around and freestyle, since you have the ability to?
Yeah, absolutely. You can definitely apply it to live shows. It can definitely go a long way and make the show entertaining.
Do you think there’s any sort of a different feel you can bring to a live show versus just having it on the record? The music has a powerful message and there’s a lot more to the story than just what you’re putting out [on the record]. Do you think there’s any way to incorporate that into the show?
That’s a great point, yeah. Brilliant. That’s a brilliant point. Freestyling and coming up with something on the spot that can also help tell your story and give a different experience than your album or your video. Yeah for sure, I never looked at it like that, but thank you for that.
Yeah, no problem! I know we’re sort of running short on time here, but ultimately what do think you want your legacy in the scene to be?
I just want to [be part of] the long history. I know the great people, the Jay-Zs, the Nas, the Biggies, they’re long standing and forever embedded in their position in hip hop. I just want this thing to live forever and make way for other people who love it and want to get into it. I could never be heard from again – as long as the culture’s prospering, I’m good. I could listen to people and go to work and still appreciate music and I’m set. Other than that, that’s just my legacy. I just want to contribute and help people along the way. That’s very important. Helping people as you move throughout the business and throughout life, just applying everyday life and morals to music again. That’s just what I want my legacy to be. Nothing too much. I don’t take myself that seriously [laughs]. I want to change the world, change lives, but I just want the culture to prosper.
Listen to Dreamin’ Out Loud, here: