Text: Dinesh Mattu
“IF YOU DON’T KNOW… NOW YOU KNOW” (The Notorious B.I.G., 1994)
LIKE: KENDRICK LAMAR, J.I.D., COZZ
SOUND: HIP-HOP, CONSCIOUS, STORYTELLING
FEELING: FRENZIED, HARD, VISCERAL IG: @grip
Hailing from the city which nurtured the likes of Outkast, Ludacris, Migos and Future you’d struggle to find a place with such a deeply rich Hip-Hop culture outside of New York or LA. Atlanta lives and breathes it, it is enshrined in the fabric of the streets and Grip is a true testament to the city’s effervescent Hip-Hop spirit. Whilst the majority of people would’ve heard of Playboi Carti, Lil Baby and Young Thug, this Atlanta rapper sits way outside of mainstream Trap and its derivatives, championing his own sound which places him at a junction between introspective storyteller and enigmatic hypeman.
"Grip is an impeccable storyteller"
Grip’s work has been bubbling on the ATL scene for a minute having released Porch back in 2017, but it was only with the release of Snubnose towards the end of 2019 did his name start making waves amongst the wider Rap community, being listed on Pigeons & Planes Weekly and getting a shoutout from Hot 97 host Ebro.
Snubnose is a concept album which explores a fictionalised version of one of his earliest experiences; finding his uncle’s revolver at six years old. Now rappers talking about their guns is nothing revolutionary, but Snubnose acts as a stark reality check which explores the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the fragility of young naïve curiosity. Touching on issues affecting marginalised inner-city communities such as poor money management, mental health, failed relationships and gang violence, Grip is an impeccable storyteller and it’s not much of a stretch to see similarities between this and Kendrick Lamar’s debut, good kid, M.A.A.D City.
The production on this album is outstanding, the tracks go in directions you don’t expect, ‘He Is ... I Am,’ is one of the most enthralling album openers I’ve heard, beginning with a chopped up gospel choir sample, Grip sets the scene as a young kid uncovering the weapon with witty references to digesting both his cereal and the idea of his mortality. “Randomly landed in the hands of a few loose cannons / Back when I was watching Goof Troops and eating Fruit Loops / You sprayed at your target, but the strays ricocheted and struck a kid that used to shoot hoops / And as a kid myself, that was hard to digest like, ‘Will I die next?’” Halfway through the song the sample drops out and is replaced by something way more aggressive, frenzied and sinister – distorted noises pulsate and pan each headphone and a new character is introduced. It’s clear we’re now viewing life from the gun’s perspective, a pitched-up, fuzzied inner voice sits as a devil on Grip’s shoulder, tempting him to go and fix his problems. Lil Snub then finishes by mentioning the fate of his previous owner, “Now my n-gga doing 25 to life 'cause he wet up a coward, At least he got respect and power, now let's go get ours.”
This dichotomy between these two characters plays out throughout the whole album and Grip narrates it vividly. Storytelling is at the heart of what he offers as an artist and throughout the album he makes reference to both the cyclical mechanism of the revolver and the cyclical nature of hood violence. Interestingly there are no third verses on any of the tracks, a calculated move for an artist in the playlist era; Grip knows how short the average listener’s attention span is, but he also knows how to pique it, and keep it. For those who still like to sit through a complete body of work, Snubnose is a welcome sight.
"Storytelling is at the heart of what he offers as an artist"
I had the pleasure of seeing him support J.I.D. at the tail end of last year and his live shows are already polished for someone who hasn’t toured extensively. From stage presence, to lighting choices, to song selection, he feels like an artist who is so much more than a warm up, it is clear that he has a vision and he is going to execute it. Grip is already garnering support from artists in The States, with Brent Faiyaz collaring him for support on his Fuck The World Tour, (which has now been postponed to later in the year) and we hope to welcome him back to the UK very soon.
As a first foray into his art, Snubnose is arguably the best introduction to Grip and if that isn’t enough he just released a quarantine pack of 6 songs, on a sample-heavy EP called Halo. The Atlanta native is onto something special, so get to Grips before everyone else does.