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[rock the dub Interview]: Che Grand

Two years ago today, I posted my first conversation with Che Grand. It's odd how things change in two years. Back then, my blog was clockin' minor hits, and while I'm no eskay, my counter game has gone up. Back then, Che was on a pretty ill path with Loud Minority, prepping his Everything's Good Ugly album, and genuinely getting his name out there to the public. Fast forward two years, and while EGU isn't in anyone's hands right now, dude has made a pretty solid name for himself, and is rising in the ranks of URB's Next 1000. However, real life can be hard, and the struggle to make it in "this business of music" can only accentuate the trials and tribulations that real life sets upon us. In this 2nd of infinite conversations, Che and I rap about where he is today, and what he has planned. Really deep words spoken here, so listen up...

khal: Airtight, what have you been working on since we last spoke?

Che Grand: Just living… The first time I reached out the album was about 80% finished and I was in the process of switching out a few older joints for some newer ones, so it's actually been complete for awhile now. I’d say for the past year I’ve mostly been working on myself. Enjoying fatherhood and hustling to provide. After my daughter’s mother and I parted ways I got on a search for the best way to live my life in order to make better music. I’ve always made an effort to write a few inspiring songs, make something that will motivate me and my circle. For me, the glass is usually half full, y’know?! But it’s not an easy road to travel with so much negative shit happening daily. I started reading several books only to never finish them, because so many other things get in the way.

khal: What kind of things?

Che Grand: Life’s hurdles. Certain everyday questions I used to take for granted like “what am I going to eat today?” That shit is supposed to be easy but it seems all the simple questions suddenly become burdening ones when you’re in limbo. And I mean everything was in limbo, still is. The album release, my nine to fiver or lack of, my whole living situation, everything. Sometimes even my sanity (laughs)

khal: But you’re buzz has really grown since our last time speaking. With all these stressful things working against you what keeps you focused?

Che Grand: I told my mother when I was 8 years old growing up in England that by the time I turned 23 I’d be a Rapper living in New York and I also said I’d be a dad too!

khal: (laughs) Wow, what did she say?

Che Grand: She looked at me with a blank stare and said “you are going to school though, right?” (laughs)

khal: That’s an excellent comeback!

Che Grand: Now that I think back, it was some strange shit to say as a kid. I mean what 8 year old sits around saying “I’m gonna be a daddy when I turn 23…” wtf?! The rapper part was probably just as weird I’m sure. A few years after saying that we ended up moving to the states and I never stopped having that vision or talking about it, feels like I spoke it all into existence.

khal: That’s a dope way to look at it man. Did you have a plan B?

Che Grand: I thought about being a lawyer for a sec (laughs), then after that I wanted to start a business, which I still will one day. After high school, things got rough, I couldn’t get financial aid without my immigration papers so unfortunately I couldn’t go to college. I ended up starting a bunch of times getting on the dean’s list then running when a bill came in or when I couldn’t afford new books. In an alternate universe somewhere I went to Clark Atlanta University in ’99 then graduated and opened a restaurant or some shit.

khal: Restaurant?

Che Grand: Yessir. A few people out there know bout my kitchen game.

khal: What is a current day in the life of Che Grand?

Che Grand: Unorganized as hell. Random. One day I’m waking up to go to a temp gig that could have me doing anything from making Powerpoint presentations for some high exec at a major label to watching a movie 4 times in a row for some uppity movie sound douchebag guy, shit I even worked construction last summer, really random hustles. The next day I’m hanging out at industry parties drinking free liquor at 2 in the afternoon and playing connect 4 with modeling chics. The day after that I’m chasing my baby girl round the park in between worrying bout bills and talking to my manager bout finding a place in new york to record because PA is getting much harder to get to, gas prices suck. Other than that I watch way too much Netflix.

khal: I noticed. The viral videos you’ve had circulating for "Stew Fuzz Theme" and "Crash" definitely seem like the work of a movie fan.

Che Grand: Yeah I have to give a shout to my dudes Lyle and Dave @ Dreamchasers, we’re on the same page with a lot of movies and music so it’s always fun to get together and do random vids. I’ve been writing a lot of video treatments too. Also shout to the whole Lessondary crew, we’re all heavy on the movie shit, Netflix should sign me! (laughs)

khal: Netflix has a record label?!

Che Grand: I don’t know, Red Bull and Nike have labels so why not. Its becoming the norm.

khal: What is happening with your label situation? Weren’t you signed to Loud Minority Music with Tanya Morgan?

Che Grand: Loud Minority Music doesn’t exist. No one has ever been able to purchase a physical bar-coded CD of any Che Grand music recorded under that “label” since I aligned with them in 2004 therefore me being signed was all a figment of our imagination. The “label” was really just a blog-style website that would sometimes update viewers with some new shit from me when I had it to give and eventually when the time was right I probably wouldve got a few cool looking cd’s to give to my mom. I’m unsigned, but I always have been. I gave LMM love in the music I made because I thought everyone involved with the situation over there felt the same about my product, love changes. I appreciated what it was for me.

khal: You seemed very proud when shouting them out in the past. So being unsigned, does this mean Everything’s Good Ugly doesn’t have a home yet?

Che Grand: ZFTP is it’s home.

khal: Your blog?!

Che Grand: No my label. (laughs)

khal: (laughs) Fair enough…..What inspired that album cover? It’s a very vivid image.

Che Grand: Just my life at the time, and even now. I would say the toy gun represents the music and I use that to creatively expose everything I’m going thru or “blow my brains out.” When I told people my idea a lot of folk thought I’d lost it (laughs) I was privileged to have some dope folk help me make the imagery come together the way I wanted it.

khal: Interesting. You’ve been getting a lot of praise for your live shows, I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet. What do you do that may be different to other performers?

Che Grand: I really try to get into me out there. At the same time I leave it all on the stage, all the stress of that day week or month gets left on that stage. A lot of people get up there and want to tell 100 stories to the audience, that’s not my thing. People want to have a good time, so do I.

khal: I’m sure songs like "Swing" and "Girl’s Talk" help spark that good time. What do you do in prep for a set?

Che Grand: Not much before the set but after I’m done I use my drink tickets (laughs) I like to greet people so catch me at the bar I’ll probably get you a drink. I did that in DC at a joint with the Cool Kids, after my set I just started passing out free drinks to people in the crowd….. I’m still excited bout that shit a month later, the promoters/venue gave me free lasagna and a dressing room! I really felt valued as an artist which was a huge contrast to last year when I almost got arrested at my own show out there.

khal: Tell me bout that situation.

Che Grand: I don’t want to dwell on negative shit, I’d say that it’s a shame we still have venues discriminating against this music after all these years. The disrespect shown towards the artist (and their audience) from some of these club owners, bar managers and sound guys is really disgusting and a few of em are here in NYC! I’m going to give some of them another chance before I start blacklisting their names among my peers. Whether they like it or not, it’s obvious we’re not going anywhere, we’ll keep on throwing our events and pushing our art with or without them

khal: Name 1 place you want to do a show the most?

Che Grand: It’s a tie between London and Nigeria. Haven't been back to England since 1994 and I may be going to Nigeria for the first time in August, a life altering experience in the making.

khal: Are you ready?

Che Grand: I hope so!

khal: I know you have an extensive taste in music, what have you been listening to recently?

Che Grand: As usual, damn near everything, a bit of Bad Brains; I love how they could switch from hardcore punk shit to roots reggae in a split second. I rock a little post punk stuff too, still on the downtown 81 era stuff, some Kid Creole, a bit of early 80’s soul, that good ol jheri curl music, bunch of beats, also got back on my mid 90’s hip hop shit and occasionally I’ll rock some motherfuckin CeCe Peniston! Oh and I love that Santogold album, I’ve wanted to work with her since Stiffed. Let’s see, what else…. I can’t wait for the 2000Black album.

khal: Dope. So what’s next for you and will we be getting your album soon?

Che Grand: It’s hard to answer the album question when trying to figure out if i’ll have enough for rent this month, but I’m pressing on, there’s a lot more at stake now and bigger decisions to be made, I’m grateful for the position I’m in. Like I said, the album is done and I’m getting a ton of love for the few tracks that have been previewed so far. I want to keep up the energy, keep attracting genuine interest. In this current climate, things move so fast, there’s 100 new songs on 1000 different blogs everyday, but not too many songs stand out, you might know a certain artist's name because he or she is being branded with crazy co-signs, but at the same time you can't name 3 of his/her songs, and you don’t really know them as a person, what do they stand for? A lot of these cats were geeks in high school who built a new identity for themselves online. I’m not part of that crowd, I’ve always been about trying to make an impact thru my work, I want it to be quality and I want you to remember me. Without dodging the question too much I’ll say that you can expect me in your city really soon and if you don’t mind bringing an extra $5 I may have something special for you. Word.

So there you have it. Che Grizzly is still on his Grizzly, working what so many niggas on the radio proclaim to be about: the struggle. Strugglin' is not dealing with legal red tape while a Korean buffs your nails in the backseat of your stretch limo. Nor is it deciding which gaudy medallion goes with your diamond-studded belt buckle. To paraphrase Mos Def, struggle is "real life, happening, every day"... and some day, I have a feeling that Che will be coming out on top.

You want more info on Che? Hit up his MySpace page. Or check out his blog. If you're in the NYC area this weekend, check him out at SOB's on the 13th of July. And make sure you vote Che into URB's Next 1000 NOW!

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