Like flies...I be on new hot shit like flies young'un.
So with no agendas, I was welcoming music to my ears. Grafh was the first mixtape rapper I listened to who made me listen twice. No tiresome punchlines...no repetitive flow to duplicate the staple of mixtape glory. He had none of the above. Where Ali Vegas, Paul Cain and others lacked, 50, Joe Budden and young Grafh flourished. The real beasts wanna establish dominance at any cost and that trio was especially game to show it belonged among the elite cadre of game-changers. Not surprisingly, speaking with Grafh recently was confirmation of his unerring desire to be great.
I usually turn a deaf ear to any MC claiming he'll be the next Milton Bradley or Hasbro but I can't deny when one has a strong argument. I caught up with him on the heels of his radio smash "Myspace Jumpoff" and remembered why it's so nice to click and scroll through local hoodrats with American Idol pluck on the internet. (Myspace, aside from being a big social network, can double as my favorite kind of barely legal porn.)
TSS Presents Smoking Sessions With....
Words by Drew Ricketts
Editing by Paola
Editing by Paola
TSS> Yo, I just wanna say what an admirer of your work I am. I've been hearing your stuff for a while and following the progress of your career. Forgive me if I come from that perspective...I'll try to be objective. Congratulations on the support and seeing the fruits of your hard work.
Grafh> Thanks man.
TSS> Sounds like something in the background...you on the road right now?
Grafh> Yeah, I'm actually on my way to MTV Studios. Trying to work on something.
TSS> Aight I feel you. I don't like to waste time so I'll get to the questions from jump.
TSS> What does it feel like to be seeing the benefits of all your hard work? I know it's been a series of things to get you here from the Blackhand affiliation to your dealings with Dame (Dash).
Grafh> Yeah, it feels good. This is what you work for. The fans have been showing love and I can't ask for more than that. I want more than that though (laughs). I want them to remember me down the line.
TSS> You've always wanted to be a successful rapper. Now that you've gotten some recognition, what is it in comparison to how you imagined it would be? What things did you see coming and not?
Grafh> I think I always expected people would feel me and the music I do, otherwise why would I be doing it, namean? I was always confident that once people heard my shit they would be able to feel that. The thing I didn't expect was the music biz shit. All the corny shit that comes along with trying to get a record out and dealing with some of these people.
TSS> What do you mean? The labels?
Grafh> It's not just the labels and the A&Rs; it's also the radio staff. They tell you 'We're not here to break artists; we're here to break hit records.' You have to come to them with a hit for them to even hear you out. That seems kinda backwards to me. At the same time, it motivates me to do things that people like.
TSS> I feel you. It's like they don't want to spend the time helping an artist develop in the eyes of the public. You haven't really needed constant radio play to stay in the rotation though. What do you think it is about you that makes the streets embrace your work?
Grafh> I think the streets love my work ethic because it fits with the street mentality, the work ethic. There's no laws [on the block] so you get rewarded for being innovative, branding your name and your product. I do all those things. Even the lil things like saying 'My name Grafh y'all' at the beginning of songs and my signatures, that's really thought out. I put thought into because I know people will appreciate it. They can look at me and say 'he stands on his own two feet and he's about that.'
TSS> So how do you come up with those signatures? The first thing I noticed about you and your music is the way your flow is designed. You experiment with flow patterns and cadence. Was that a conscious choice as well?
Grafh> Yaknow, when people ask me those questions like, 'how do you come up with what you come up with?' I really don't know how to answer. I think it's honestly a God-given talent. I don't know how I get the creative energy. Sometimes I'm on the road listening to a beat CD and I come up with a song like that, other times I might have some things written down and then the right music comes along. It depends on the way I'm feeling at that particular time. I just want to make tangible music -- shit you could feel. I don't think a lot of artists are doing that and I have to stand alone.
TSS> I want to talk about the "Myspace Jumpoff" joint. It's entertaining and I couldn't help but wonder if you made that song with more than just the creative side as a consideration. Is this a time when you made the song to become popular?
Grafh> No. I wish I did (laughs). With the song, I really just did it for my Myspace fans. People have always showed me love since I got on there and I wanted to do something for them. I did the song and within a week it was going crazy. I called my manager and was like 'what's going on...this shit is an epidemic.' The radio DJ's have been calling me saying that my shit is getting sometimes 200 requests a day. It's phenomenal.
TSS> The kind of thing that you feel good about when it happens because you know how sincere it is.
Grafh> Yeah man. This shit blew up on its own. Clinton Sparks and I did a mixtape and it's crazy. It's the Official Myspace Mixtape and you can get it on
mixunit.com or grafh.com.
TSS> Okay bet. I'm guessing there are some perks to being a Myspace artist with good fan connection. Anymore jumpoffs happening lately?
Grafh> (Laughs) I guess so. The comments now...it's funny. I'll say that. They come on like 'can I be the next myspace jumpoff?' It's funny stuff. If they're of age, I give 'em a look at least. That's how the song came out anyway right (laughs)? It's a beautiful thing to [get bigger] due to your talent.
TSS> I can identify some up-and-comers who are in a similar position to what you were in pre-Roc-a-fella signing and in your buzz period, namely A-Pinks, Saigon, Pap...what advice would you have for these guys? Is it hard to be in that position?
Grafh> I don't think it's hard. I think it's what I aspired to do when I first started rapping. I'd say to make the best product you can if people are looking out for you. Be as creative as possible. If you come out just trying to be "the Next Rapper," you won't do shit. I am one of the people who says I want to be great and really mean it...since the beginning. I'm trying to have the same impact as Jay, Nas, Big, Pac...guys who changed it for everyone who did it after them. People are gonna say 'he's doing that? I wanna do that.' That takes dedication and it sets a high standard to say you want to be that flow of the future.
TSS> What can we expect from the long-awaited Autografh album? When is it coming out?
Grafh> I expect it to be coming out soon. We're working out the details and what we wanna do with it. I don't think it will be out later than 2006 but we'll see. I know who I am and I want the listeners to relate to that. I got a lotta moody music on there...made when I was in a fucked up state...but I want anyone to be able to follow that emotional trail. I think it's a good album for people who like to go through the range.
TSS> Are there any artists you would like to work with that you've either done recent songs with or always thought about doing a song with?
Grafh> I wanna work with Kanye West again. I respect his craft. He's a real musician and brings that with him to the recording process. I wanna work with ________ too. Actually, lemme take that shit back. You know how hip-hop niggas will jump all over shit (laughs).
TSS> You don't think they know of him huh?
Grafh> They might know about him but they won't work with him until they see another nigga say they will. Lemme say Pink -- I like that broad.
TSS> Are there any events you have coming up?
Grafh> Yeah. I got a few joints and I'm touring a bit now. Ha...I have a concert at a Tampa prison. If y'all wanna see that, go rob somebody.
TSS> Ha...bet. It was good talking to you. We're gon build on Grafh hitting off the TSS readers with some exclusive content.
Grafh> Yeah man. Just holla at me. I'm here. Whatever y'all need.
There you have it. The Autografh himself giving the graphic portrayal that we all seek. Holla at ya dude on myspace for the jumpoff application...Don't miss the limited-time offer. And don't forget to check back here for the upcoming collabo.
For more info, visit grafh.com and www.myspace.com/grafhblackhand
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