Southern MC Nick Grant's name may be new to hip-hop lovers around the world, but after the recent release of his soulful mixtape 88 that will change very soon. With a lyrically, versatile flow and collaborations with seasoned veterans like Killer Mike, Big K.R.I.T. and Young Dro already under his belt, Nick is ready to show the world what they've been missing.
What was the primary inspiration behind your new project “88?” I cannot think of a recent mixtape where an MC is effortlessly flowing over instrumentals from OutKast’s ATLiens and hazy A$AP Mob style beats on the same project.
Nick: I think it was based on all of my experiences based on the state of music. I wanted to say stuff that would have me saying things that require excellence. For me to even sample OutKast, I had to come close to them or outdo them. These guys are legends and I wanted to make sure if they heard this that they would be impressed.
Coming from South Carolina, who have been your biggest musical influences growing up? Most people don’t think elite MC’s when the Carolinas come to mind.
Nick: You’d be surprised. Growing up, I’d visit my aunt in New York during the summers, so I would be influenced by the same city vibes and East Coast hip-hop that influenced my peers from up North. Records from classic artists like Marvin Gaye and newer artists like Snoop and Biggie had a big impact on me. I was fortunate enough to gravitate to all of this as a child. Biggie’s “Big Poppa” was the first video I ever saw. Nas was the most influential, though. He was a technically sound MC. So in ’94, I was around six or seven grabbing things from my favorite MCs that I aspired to be like. I identified the music’s energy that moved me.
Given your talent for sharp lyrics and well-researched punchlines, do you ever worry that listeners will label you as a “backpack rapper?
Nick: At the end of the day I feel I can do me. If you consider me just a “backpack rapper,” you’re not listening to my body of work. I have seen a lot of harsh things but I was still raised by my grandparents on the weekends. You can hear that kind of balance in the music. I love how Kanye calls this “Sophisticated ignorance” and said “I write my curses in cursive.” It’s not me pointing the finger at either side, it’s a mixture of both to make the best plate possible. It’s a mixture of seeing things in the hood and projects while seeing a perfect balance. I grew up in a home where I saw home-cooked meals and next door I had neighbors who didn’t have anything in their houses, but when we went outside we were all one. I was fortunate to have older people from the block that saw my potential and tell me not to do certain things that were going on around me. That idea of people experiencing both sides of life is genius to me, because you need different perspectives in order to tell a story.
How has the recent commercial success of more conscious and lyrical MC’s like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole influenced your creative process?
Nick: I love what they’re doing, but they were out first and we were all cut from the same cloth. We were all influenced by the same people, I think it's dope what they’re doing and we need more of it. Their music gets even more attention right now because there are people who can’t make those kinds of records. That’s a beautiful thing. You can change more with music if you stay consistent with the message. I love what they’re doing. There will eventually be listeners who don’t know who Jay Z or Nas is, and for them, they will look up to Drake, Kendrick and J. Cole. I hope to also be in the conversation.
As an MC who’s fond of references to pro athletes, who are you most excited to see play in this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game in Toronto?
Nick: I’m excited about Kobe’s last All-Star Game, but it’s Iverson that I relate to the most. I was a big Iverson fan. When I got older I wanted to be just like AI. I practically thought I was Iverson. I like how he carried himself. He was from the hood and didn’t care what anyone thought of him. If he would’ve kept going on I felt like he would’ve been the best basketball player ever.
As someone who warns of false prophets and the destructive opulence that comes with the drug dealer lifestyle, what positive message do you want to leave with younger people listening to your music?
Nick: First of all, I don’t have to rap. I love saying stuff that will make people think, because you can basically change somebody’s life with music. No matter what situation you’re in, with God and prayer, you can always figure it out. I’ve been in the worst situations and gotten out of them. I’m not in a space that I can do anything I want to do anymore, but these younger people still got time. You got a guy that’s not too old telling you this stuff. Never let anyone tell you what you can’t do.
It’s not just about rap either, but creating something positive. I don’t listen to the BS. If I don’t like something I’ll express that. It’s all meant to be like hiding the medicine in the food, especially with cops killing Black people by record numbers, we have to address these issues. It’s all about continuing the work of those that influenced us, because at the end of the day, we are all cut from same cloth.
Veteran executive Jason Geter has spoken highly of your partnership with him and noted that he is fond of working with artists that can excel beyond music. What other non-musical projects do you have up your sleeve?
Nick: Jason and I have a great relationship. I can’t work with anyone else regardless of any amount of money. Our chemistry is priceless. We have the same tastes in different things. For him to have such a track record and see something in me is amazing. Even with 88, he gave me honest feedback in making it the best project I possibly could.
I got to get people’s attention first. To be great as an MC, my attention cannot be elsewhere. Eventually I want to do some acting and modeling if they think I look good enough [laughs], everything except a clothing line because I feel like everyone tries to do those. Anything that makes sense. I’m all about progression in health, wealth and even spirituality.