Atlanta-based rapper Nick Grant discovered his love for lyricism early on. Having grown up with a brother who listened to hip-hop, he instantly took a liking to the styles of Jay Z, Nas, Snoop Dogg and Tupac. “I remember the cover. I took it to school and got in trouble for it,” he said, reflecting on Snoop’s first album, laughing.
Years later, this South Carolina native would find himself on a journey towards rap superstardom. “It was 2002 when I wrote my first real rhyme,” he recalled. “They had a setup in my neighborhood. They used to have these speakers and this microphone that we used to plug into the back of the hard drive and we used to sit the mic in between the two speakers and let the music from the speakers play into the mic and just rhyme. That was our studio.”
Nick and friends turned one session into a competition, challenging one another to write their best verse. “I went home, wrote something—because that was really all there was to do, write raps or play basketball—came back, spit the rap, and they were like ‘Who wrote that for you?’” From there, he continued to practice, and perfect his craft. His intricate wordplay caught the attention of Jason Geter, co-founder of Grand Hustle/AKOO/Hustle Gang and T.I.’s manager. And despite all the music they’ve developed over the years, Nick Grant’s introduction to the world is fairly recent.
“Royalty” finds him paired with Cyhi The Prynce, undoubtedly holding his own. Then there are the bars (“That last nigga slept, though, I need it up front / Quiet as kept though / I’m like Marshawn Lynch with strep throat) from his freestyle on Sway In The Morning that many are still impressed with today.
Read the STASHED exclusive for more on Nick Grant’s beginning and his forthcoming 88 mixtape, and see who he chooses for his dream cypher.
STASHED: You’re often described as a product of Nas, Jay Z, Biggie, Scarface and others. What is it about these artists that you see in yourself?
Nick Grant: The authenticity, the focus they put on the lyricism. I think that more than anything is why I love them so much. It takes time to make good records, and build.
STASHED: Is that the focus going into the 88 mixtape?
NG: I think it’s going to be dope. It has a lot of gems. I don’t know why anyone else does music but I’ve seen a lot.
I feel like those experiences make the music and if people appreciate it, that’s a blessing. You can never be afraid to say what you feel, and that’s how I felt at the time. It’s kind of like therapy for me.
STASHED: When you land features with an artist like Cyhi, what’s your mind-set going in? Does your competitive spirit kick in?
NG: Steel sharpens steel, and that makes you better. Obviously he’s one of those guys where we’re cut from the same cloth so I felt like going in with CyHi that definitely would have been a competitive thing.
STASHED: If you could piece together a dream cypher, who would be your five picks—dead or alive?
NG: Cyhi of course. He’s like the samurai of the punch lines. 100% slept on. I don’t know why, and I can’t explain it. Nas because he’s smooth, cool and says amazing stuff. He’s one of the ones who aren’t afraid to say what you feel. André 3000 for the diversity. Jay Z because he’s so cultured. He’s going to put you up on everything, and all the moves to make if you reach to a certain level. Biggie because he’s a combination of everybody—commercial flows, underground feels—he can give you whatever. From 94 to 97, he only dropped two albums and these albums are the greatest albums ever to me.
STASHED: Who else do you listen to? Any guilty pleasures?
NG: I listen to a lot of R&B. D’Angelo, Maxwell, Erykah Badu. As far as rappers, it’s Jay Z. I listen to J. Cole. I like what he does. Kendrick is dope. Cyhi. Outkast, André 3000. Scarface and Raekwon. Scarface is one of the greatest storytellers ever. It was a song with Nas, “In Between Us,” from The Fix album, “Never Seen a Man Cry” and also his verse on “Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me.”
STASHED: You’re on the same path, definitely standing out from the majority of what’s coming out of your city.
NG: I like some of it but I chose not to indulge because that’s not who I am as an artist. I think you can blame my brother for that. It’s the stuff that he used to play, and the stuff that I love.
I feel like if I’m going to do something, I’m going to be the best at it.
And those guys—Jay Z, Nas…etc— are considered the best and legends and iconic. I want to be up there when it’s all said and done. I don’t want to play with it. No knock to anybody else, but I don’t want the catchy nursery rhymes. I want to do it the right way.
Nick Grant’s 88 is due out on February 2, 2016.
Photo Credit: Nick Grant Music