One of the most original and energetic forces in local hip-hop is the emcee Grey Granite. Propelled by a constant online presence and a free series of interestingly themed mixtapes, Granite has been everywhere in the last year, culminating in a third place finish in the running for Best Hip-Hop Artist in this year’s NUVO’s Best of Indy.
I was first introduced to Granite when he was doing graphic design for companies such as Old Soul Entertainment. Granite’s interest in visual arts is an important part of his overall creative vision; he consciously puts his flavor into every aspect of his persona and art: fashion, flyer design, album covers, even an upcoming visual art exhibition at Fountain Square’s Gnosis gallery. The more I’ve spoken with Granite and seen him do his thing, the more impressed I’ve been with his range of talents.
When Granite works with his regular collaborator, producer J. Brookinz, the results hearken back to old school rapper-producer combos but with a much more cutting-edge sound. Their latest project, Grey Granite Amplifies the Killers, is an album of hip-hop anthems all built from samples of the contemporary rock group the Killers. While the Killers are a somewhat unusual source material for sample-based rap, Granite and Brookinz create a mostly seamless landscape, never sacrificing the boom-bap (that familiar bass drum and snare rhythm at the heart of classic hip-hop).
With the Internet allowing Granite’s work to be heard around the world, Killers has picked up cross-cultural and -genre steam; as Granite notes, listeners from as far away as Lebanon are taking the time to listen to Indianapolis musicians.
I sat down with Granite to pick his brain, and came up with a whole gob of off-the-wall thoughts ...
NUVO: Where’d you get the name Grey Granite?
Grey Granite: It’s a childhood nickname, due to the color of my eyes, but it evolved into the way I make my music. It’s in the grey area. Black and white, I go through the middle. I’m not such a one-sided artist. I see all points of view; I come from that angle.
NUVO: You have a wide range of influences.
Granite: It’s reflective of my style, the people I’m around. We don’t discriminate on who we can be friends with. We grew up in the ’80s — there wasn’t that “This is what you have to sound like just ’cause you’re black or white.” It was a free for all. We liked Guns ’n’ Roses and we liked LL Cool J.
NUVO: You also get called a lot to host events. Why do you think that is?
Granite: Well, if you want to get people to really listen to your stuff, you’ve got to be an entertainer. I’ve seen countless shows where the artist isn’t really into the music. Yeah, you’re rapping, but you’re not giving it your all. We coined that term; you’ve got to amplify your personality. You can’t get up there and just be that same dude. I probably amplify my personality 60 percent. One day I’ll go for 100, and I’ll probably be butt naked on stage with a cape on and cowboy boots. Something crazy like Kool Keith. I have to tap into that joy I have for this music to get the crowd hype. I want to put on the type of show where I would be entertained.
NUVO: What kind of role does the Internet play in your career?
Granite: When I started we recorded on DAT [digital audio tape]. The only people who would hear your music were the few hundred people in your area. It was expensive to make the music and to get the music out. So the Internet, God bless its heart, has brought me back in. We had a girl cuss us out from Lebanon [for sampling the Killers]. Not Lebanon the small town, Lebanon the country. That’s amazing. We’re getting lots of feedback, getting huge downloads. The Internet has changed the game.
NUVO: You’re also a very active blogger.
Granite: Yeah. It helps me create the Grey Granite universe. When you have a visual to go along with the music, it helps you get a better feel for an artist. I also like discovering and sharing new music, new art.
You can catch Grey Granite opening for Kool Keith Oct. 14 at the Vogue. Download Grey Granite v. the Killers as a free download at www.myspace.com/greygranite.