You heard his track "On the Rocks" last month, but how much do you know about Grieves? With his new album - the two-year journey he entitled Together/Apart - releasing today, chances are that you will get to know Grieves (real name: Benjamin Laub) VERY well. Buzznet got the chance to chat with the Seattle rapper, who dished about the new album, the upcoming Warped Tour, his love of what people call "children's food" and reveals who is he (or isn't!) beefing with.
Buzznet: How did you get your rap name Grieves?
Grieves: I was told I needed a rap name. I used to go and do these battles in Fort Collins and I was trying to sign up as Benjamin Laub or whatever, and I remember the lady – she works at the radio station, I forget her name. She told me “No, you need a moniker – a stage name.” I said, “What’s wrong with my real name?” so that got me thinking. I don't know; for some reason that word kind of sounded good to me. Because there’s no deep philosophical meaning behind it or anything like that. I kind of liked the letters and the way it rolled off the tongue. Sounded pretty.
BN: You and your producer Budo make some beautiful music together. How did you guys meet up and end up working on music?
Grieves: You ever heard of this dating site called JDate? Ok, we didn’t meet on that. (laughs) Budo and I were coming up in the same scene in the same era pretty much here in Seattle. He had produced a record for Makalmore called Language of my World and that was gaining a lot of momentum back in 2005 here in Seattle. Everyone knew who Budo was because he had the hot fi-yah and at that point in time I was still in that process of doing all this by myself. I mean all of it; I was making the beats, writing the songs and the hooks, recording them, mixing them, booking my own shows, promoting my own shows, running my own events. I was doing everything; I was full D.I.Y. I wasn’t really working with producers at that point or anything like that. I knew who Budo was and he knew who I was from what I was doing around vocally. We had crossed paths but we never took the time or had the time to get to know each other at that point.
In 2007 I went on tour with Atmosphere on the Everybody Loves a Clown tour – I was DJing for a group called Grayskul. They let me rap one verse on one of their songs and Mac Lethal let me rap on one of his songs and it was really my first break into a major market like that. And we rolled through Urbana, IL and it happened that Budo was actually living out there at that point in time. He had moved out there with his lady – they’re living out there. So I thought I’d reach out, because no matter where you are or who it is, sometimes it’s nice to see a little bit of home. And I thought it would be a great time to reach out and get to know them. So put them on the list and met him in Urbana and we talked about music and stuff. He gave me a beat CD and I really liked the stuff on there. By the time I had returned from tour, we had discussed making some music together and he ended up moving back that summer. So we got up and we made one song – he came in the house and we were gonna make a beat together and that beat turned out to be the song “One of These” for 88 Keys and Counting. That was the first song that we made together and then we just kept making more and then all of a sudden we had an album. We started out that we were going to make a song and collaborate together. And then it was like "Hey man, we should make an EP." I think we’re stuck with each other. Those wheels haven't stopped turning for us - he'll still come over and we'll make a bunch of music and it's great. I love how him and I work together. And bringing him on the road has definitely changed the live show and made everything so much more interesting to me.
BN: You signed to your label Rhymesayers last year. How did you get involved with them?
Grieves: I met all those dudes in 2007 when I went on that Atmosphere tour and I just kept in close touch with them. But the thing is, everyone there is a super hard worker… and I get that. I work well under that kind of environment, when there’s a lot to do with little time to do it. I work well under all that pressure. I think that the like-mindedness of a lot of that shined through and I kept in touch with a lot of those guys, met a lot of the other artists like P.O.S. and all those dudes who kind of introduced me to that whole crew. And I had gone through some stuff where I didn’t necessarily know what I was going to do with my career because I had made the decision to leave where I was at because I didn’t feel that it was the best for me and I needed to make a change. And I didn’t know what to do after that. So I started talking to the people that I know that had made that change.
I eventually linked up Siddiq from Rhymesayers and got to talking with him and he kind of calmed me down in my situation and I didn’t really think it was gonna get to that point where we were discussing a contract with Rhymesayers. I just thought it was going to be some friendly guidance. But it did go to talk about a contract a while later and it's hard for me to hold my composure on the phone when that came up because the talk had been so casual. That came up and I had to pull the phone away from my face. I freaked out and then had to bring it back and say, "Yeah that's fine." I was so excited because I grew up listening to those dudes. That label is basically what I base my work ethic after and it’s a dream come true to be a part of that now and to work side-by-side with those guys is really life changing.
BN: Your album Together/Apart comes out June 21st. What can fans expect from it?
Grieves: Real sexy stuff (laughs). No, it comes out June 21st. For me, it I’ve been living in this world where I’ve been on the road so much. Although with that comes great fulfillment, I have to sacrifice a lot in my personal life to do that. And if feels for me that I have to live my life with the people that I love (like my friends and family) in a together/apart situation. In the past 2 years I’ve been struggling with that dynamic a lot. And a lot of that came into this record. Another important part about this record is while I was out there touring, I remember watching all these people file into this room, watching people stand in line and stuff, and these are all complete strangers - they don't know each other for the most part. The fact that you can fill a room with people who have no clue who's standing next to them, but they stand next to them for hours is amazing to me. It shows we all have something in common in that room. Even though we might be strangers, we still all have something in common. That is really cool; that is another together/apart thing for me. The music kind embellishes on those two years. There's a lot of personal stuff and there's just a lot of my outlook on my situation and other peoples' situations and life in general.
BN: With all your touring, what’s the craziest thing that has happened to you while on tour?
Grieves: Recently on my way back from the Atmosphere tour, we crashed our f*cking van. We hit the median going 75 miles an hour while I was asleep in the back after drinking half a bottle of Nyquil. That was probably the sh*ttiest thing that’s happened to me on tour because it was scary and I got pretty discombobulated and tore the cartilage in my breast. It was the end of the tour. Thank God no one really got hurt and there were only three of us in the van. That could have killed me – that was an eye opener. And the fact that nobody got hurt was a friggin’ blessing because we hit hard as hell.
BN: On Warped, you’ll be touring with a ton of bands. Who are you most stoked to see?
Grieves: I am bummed out that NOFX is not on it this year because they’re on it every year. And I love NOFX so f*cking much. I feel like I owe them SO much. My infatuation with melody and harmony comes from listening to their records. I love them and I’ve never got to see them live and they're not gonna be there - that sucks for me. But there’s a group called the Bad Rabbits and I'm very excited to see them. They’ve got this new funk pop soul thing going on. I was checking them out when I saw they had been announced because they make me want to dance like a dumba** and it's f*cking sweet. I will be touring with in the bus MC Lars. He's a super funny dude and a really smart guy. To be honest, I’m not too familiar with the other kinds of music on the Warped tour, just as they’re not too familiar with me. I don't know much about that kind of music but I'm gonna learn about it. The 3OH!3 dudes will be out there - I'm excited. We have a sh*tload of mutual friends, but it'll be good to meet them.
BN: What would we find on your tour rider?
Grieves: I like to have a fun time – I like to party. And sometimes I party even when I shouldn’t be. I put things that I want on there like Dunkaroos, Koala Yummies, Gushers… followed just by a sh*tload of booze. I figured I’d eat before I get there and I don’t like to eat before I play, so I figured I’d ask for things I didn’t think were possible like Koala Yummies, Dunkaroos, and stuff like that. I didn’t know people were actually gonna try and find these. I get calls from promoters saying “Look man, the only place I can find Koala Yummies is on eBay, so if you could you change that or if you settle with animals crackers or something different like that, that would be swell.” They crossed everything out and put “Children’s Food” – but I did get the Gushers. I like Gushers, I don’t really like the cookies and all that.
BN: I have to ask: Is there any beef with you and Mac Lethal?
Grieves: No, there’s no beef with Mac Lethal and I. You can call him up right now and have a conference call with him – there is no beef between Mac and I. There was some misunderstandings and SOME heavy feelings about my parting with Black Clover, but Mac and I have mended our woes and whatnot. So no, there is no “beef”. All those diss songs were made when him and I were still working together, and it was literally because he wouldn’t pick up his phone, so I just wrote a diss song and that got his attention. I handled what I needed to get handled. It’s funny though because people look at those and go, “Oh sh*t Mac just dissed Grieves – are you gonna fire back?” And I was like “That was three years ago - are you kidding me right now? Check the date on the YouTube thing” But some people get so caught up with that sh*t. They want people to hate each other - it’s like watching the Jerry Springer show.
Together/Apart comes out today on Rhymesayers Entertainment. It's available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon. Grieves hits Warped Tour beginning June 24th.