Atlanta Rapper Grip Can’t Slow Down

“I was supposed to make some good bread on that tour, and all of a sudden, that disappears; it’s like, that’s my livelihood.”
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Budding R&B star Brent Faiyaz announced the 2020 dates for his Fuck The World North American tour on October 15, 2019. Four days earlier, on the 11th, independent Atlanta rapper Grip released Snubnose, his long-awaited sophomore album that Rolling Stone ranked No. 19 on their 20 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2019.

Grip, born Kyle Clow, was slated to open for Faiyaz on all 28 dates of the Fuck The World tour, but on March 18, the date of their first show, the tour was postponed until August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Grip received news of the tour being delay, he took it hard. 

“I didn’t want to cast that negative energy off on anybody else,” he says from his East Atlanta home on Easter Sunday. “I just needed time to collect my thoughts and figure out my next move.”

That next move is Halo, a six-track EP made in two weeks. Grip calls the project a “Quarantine Pack,” akin to J. Cole’s Truly Yours EPs. “You don’t count it as a part of [Cole’s] discography,” Grip says, making clear that Halo isn’t the follow up to Snubnose. Grip is still working on that body of work, titled I Died for This.

Unlike his past full-lengths, Porch and Snubnose, Halo is a break from Grip’s heavier, more conceptual songwriting. Consider it a rap exercise over exquisite, soulful production by his producer Tu, nothing more. As a rapper emerging in the middle tier between well-known and unknown, Grip created Halo because he believes he had no other choice. “I’m in the position where I gotta drop,” he says. “I’m not big at all, and I can’t shoot videos for Snubnose right now, so I got to do this. I can’t chill.”

Grip doesn’t plan on slowing down—he can’t. He’s in the house, perfecting his craft, getting ready for what comes next. Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.

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DJBooth: What were you doing before quarantine? What was your life like?

Grip: I was being normal, getting ready to go on tour. The tour was supposed to start the following week, but I had a feeling they were going to cancel or postpone it, and then boom, that shit happened.

Before your North American tour with Brent Faiyaz, you were opening for J.I.D on the European leg of the Catch Me If You Can Tour. You had momentum—literally a man in motion.

I know, bro. That shit was crazy. At first, I took it a little bit harder than I normally would have. It’s like, fuck, it’s always something with me. The last time I was on a tour and was supposed to perform in Atlanta, it was canceled because a tornado hit. That was when I opened up for Sylvan LaCue a few years back. It’s like damn bro; my route just always seems harder. So I took it hard. I stopped talking with everybody, period. I just needed time to collect my thoughts and figure out my next move.

Honest bro, I didn’t want to cast that negative energy off on anybody else. Not only was it fucked up career-wise, as far as my ascension, but also, the bread, bro. I was supposed to make some good bread on that tour, and all of a sudden, that disappears; it’s like, that’s my livelihood. But fuck it, man, I’m going to work on my shit; perfect my craft and try to perfect myself. That’s what I been doing.

When did you start working on Halo?

About two weeks ago. I did it in two weeks. I just told Tu, “Yo, send me everything with samples on it.” I told him, “This is for the situation; this is for the art.” I just wanted to rap, bro. Kevin Durant at The Rucker Park giving you 60 points.

So Tu sent me a bunch of beats. The first one I recorded was the intro. That’s when I knew it was something. I recorded it and got it mixed and mastered. That’s Halo.

“Cassius” is crazy.

I appreciate that, bro.

Halo feels like a pickup game on the blacktop, not in the NBA, but you’re playing to win. I noticed you got a little more personal here than you have on your more conceptual projects.

With albums, I try to paint this picture of the way I see the world, and hopefully, people can take my views from that. Concepts kind of confine you, though. With Halo, it was no concept. I wanted to break the stigma that I’m just a great storyteller. That’s cool and all, but nigga, I rap. So from song to song, sample to sample, I drew from what the beat was telling me.

As far as personal rap, it’s my favorite. “Open Arms” is one of my favorite tracks on Snubnose. I’ve always been vulnerable with my music. This is, I guess, the first time a lot of people have heard the [more personal] songs cause my homies when they heard it, said, “Oh boy, this vintage Grip, classic Grip.”

When you go to the NBA, you can’t just chuck shots up whenever you want to. It’s the same when you make an album. You can’t just throw in any random tracks. What does this have to do with the album? Halo isn’t an album; it’s a quarantine pack, no-holds-barred mixtape type shit.

Tell me about “Times is Hard.” When did you write that?

That might’ve been the third song I wrote. It didn’t take long to write; I was just so inspired when I heard the beat. Felt like something JAY-Z would’ve rapped over on The Blueprint. That’s why I gave him the nod. “Heart Of The City (Ain’t No Love)” but my version. I wanted to touch on current events. The Rona got us fucked up, the economy crashing, Kobe dying, Pop Smoke being killed, it’s kind of like a time capsule of when times were hard. I just wanted to speak on it from that perspective.

Listen to Grip’s new EP HALO on Audiomack

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