On October 5th 2012, I went to see Brother Ali perform his first show at First Avenue in a few years. After Homeboy Sandman performed and before the headlining act came up, the big projector screen came up, as it always does before its A-List acts, to advertise some of its bigger shows coming up. As it scrolled through events here and there, an ad came up: "Grieves and Budo Live at First Ave. Get your tickets today!" and almost as quickly as the advertisement came up, the audience started roaring with excitement. Tears of excitement shared between both the sober and the inebriated raised higher and higher at each passing of the ad, creating an unexpected buildup even before Brother Ali took the stage.
In a matter of little over a year, Grieves has become one of the most recognizable and beloved emcees of the Minneapolis hip-hop scene. Take his success from 2011's "Together/Apart", a new album dropping within the next year or two, and a successful benefit for P.O.S. at the iconic "Crocodile" venue in Seattle give Rhymesayers more than enough reason to be proud.
The emcee recently released an acoustic cover of his own "Bloody Poetry" (with Johnathan Olivares of Shut Up and Deal taking care of the guitar work): "I just wanted to take it back to the storyteller thing, just to strip it down to a guitar and really tell a story... [John] and I didn't really practice or anything; I just wanted to be as raw as possible." Its acoustic rawness creates distinction from its original release, going from, as Grieves describes it, "a spooky cocktail jazz lounge feel" to this somber, neo-western feel.
With a release of a re-imagined song, one of his definitive on "Together/Apart," the question needs to be asked: what about a new album? Well, sit tight. It's in the works, and he hopes to be announcing an official release "by the end of the winter," and noting its difference from its predecessor:
"I'm putting more energy into it. The last album was pretty melodramatic, but the person on stage has a lot of humor vs. the person on record... I'm hoping to put a lot of the humor and charm [of his live performance and personality] into this record while still keeping the honesty. I'm definitely in a better head space, and have learned a lot. I've just been catching up with my life a bit, putting wood back into the furnace."
It's within this period of transition he takes time off from his busy line of work. With the announcement of local emcee and Doomtree clan-member P.O.S.' need for a kidney transplant, Grieves, of whom is friends with the fellow label mate, wanted to help by raising money--and more importantly, awareness--at "The Crocodile" venue in Seattle on the 5th of January for a benefit concert:
"I wanted to help him out... the thing with Stef [P.O.S.] is that I--before I signed with Rhymesayers--was going through some pretty heavy shit, a lot of people turned around and left me to face the buzzards. Stef was the only one to actively help get me where I am today. So, there's no reason for me not to chip in when this dude needs my help."
Fans have a reason to be proud, to be excited for this new chapter in Grieves' career. Upon facing new found popularity and critical favor, he still remains intact. He has learned a lot from the last two years. It's all the more exciting considering a new album is on the horizon. But, with such excitement it should be acknowledged a foundation of character. When I talked to him about his success, he never doubted for a second that it was cool people listened to his music, but he took this as a lesson to improve, a lesson to grow. "I don't really pay attention to the stats. I just listen to the music... there is no box around what I'm doing. It is my art."