Mugga Man. Petty Boy. GrandeMarshall. However you call him, just come right with respect. The Philadelphia emcee had the ears at Fool’s Gold paying attention early on and they recently released his newest album My Brother’s Keeper. His consistent production selection (CC: Noah Breakfast and Ben Pramuk) and unpredictable flow patterns that reflect his ability to hustle under any circumstances were probably tell tale signs for Nick Catchdubs and A-Trak.
More personal than his previous projects, Grande’s latest album shares plenty of the local lexicon from Philly and first hand tips on finessing life’s toughest obstacles. You can peep our interview below as well as purchasing a copy of the album on iTunes.
It seems like this project captures a very particular part of your life. What made you pick this part of your life now for the project?
GrandeMarshall: Out of all the music made in the last two years I guess we just went with the songs that created the most cohesive sound, something strong and despite the time it took to make, it would still sound refreshing and new. As far as the subject matter, on a deeper level there’s a lot of things that weren’t touched on or, at least, on the music released […] but I guess because it’s been more of a cataclysmic time and a bit hectic in the same breath so I think therapeutically it was good to talk about certain things.
I mean that’s why I’ve always made music. That’s why I started making music to put these thoughts and experiences somewhere. I think the last year leading up to the release was the most stressful with personal matters and trying to set up a schedule to really go hard with MBK. Having to push back the date multiple times the weight was heavy on my mind but as soon as we had everything settled, we had everything good to go. It’s like I can breathe again. Just to be able to share the music is therapeutic. And I always gravitated to artists that showed themselves vulnerable on record–that really opened up themselves to the listener because I mean that’s the one shot you got, but a million times if you execute. So I think for the better of myself and in turn, my musical aspirations, I spoke on what I did.
Can you go into the title and artwork for the project?
The main photo is my brother T (a la Terre’s Theme) and my two nephews Xavier and Alex (both 7 at the time). Back in about 2007-08 I was on suspension and my Mizz [mom] sent me to my pops so I wouldn’t just be around the whole time so we all linked in Trenton [and] grabbed food. I think that was one of the first times I had the opportunity, in general, to tell my brother about my rapping and all that “GrandeMarshall.” And I wasn’t even on nothing serious.
I was just in high school in Maryland still trying to do the school thing but even then, knowing making music was something I just wanted to do. I guess in letters or whatever I could’ve been told him but that information wasn’t always ready and available to me for various reasons, but it is what it is. In the background it’s photos of my grandfather at a young age, uncles, etc. It’s wild you think all these photos are still around when we were trying to find them for the artwork. A lot of the time things would be packed away somewhere, and though just about anything would have worked, we had to work with what we had.
As far as the title, yeah at the moment that’s just what I thought. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve called this jawn if not that. It’s different from Mugga Man and 800, where there’s a wide array of music on there–a little something for everybody. However this is a more concentrated effort from me on MBK, to stick to a specific spectrum sonically so the title stuck.
You start the project with asking if you are your brother’s keeper. Why do you pose the question like that instead of stating it? Is it setting the stage for the project or reflect your early days when you would ask that question?
I guess based upon listening and digesting the project, you may decide if you will. Of course off experience, and I don’t have to tell you, I am, but for creative purposes I ask. But even on some songs like “Live For,” I may individualize things but still I think because of who I surround myself with it applies to the whole. “You ain’t living by your own rule/whatchu living for?/it’s more to life than breathing/it’s about survival bul.” That’s something anybody can hear whether you my mans or not, and relate to. So yeah I ask, but the answer is clear in the music.
One thing that’s set you apart from other emcees is not just your lyrical detail but the variety of flows. How much do you focus on the flow of a song compared to the other aspects?
I wouldn’t even say I try to focus on the flow. That’s just what I hear on the beats, that’s how I rap. I can’t be all over the jawn tripling, or trying to kick a million words a second. You gotta float. You gotta complement the beat just as much as it’s complementing your vocals. If I’m just making it happen and it sounds right, I’ll take that but I hear what I hear and write that.
It sounds like you still have one foot in the streets and the other in the studio. Do you ever feel like you’ll cross over completely into music and quit the street hustle?
It’s not even like that. I’m just getting money whichever way I’m comfortable getting because that’s the only way I know. I’ve just always wanted to work legal or illegal. The only thing I see wrong is being stagnant. As far as “one foot in, one foot out” I’m working towards better situations for me and my people.
“Big Homie” sounds like the inspiration for this tape and a very personal track in itself. Can you detail the writing and recording process for it, especially how difficult or the steps you took to make it come out the way you wanted? Also, what made you want to share the moment with another artist like Wara?
Unfortunately the system is designed to keep you in a cycle of sentences and probations, violations, being halfway in and halfway out, and for my brother, it’s a very real cycle he’s dealt with the majority of his life–for decisions he’s made but also things I feel. With the position I’m in, I could’ve affected the outcome or at least the direction he’d be going in. Albeit he being older he may see it his job to look out for me rather the other way around. Again, age at this point in my life, you got to do what you have to for your people. You gotta stand up whether called on or not. With my parents splitting, moving, him being down, it was a lot I learned not exactly without a big brother but without my brothers physically there-forever grateful regardless-but just explaining the situation.
I put Wara on the track because that’s my mans, plain and simple. One of the few people early on I met through music that I’ve built a bond beyond it with. In all honesty that’s the only kind of people you will see appear on MY music-folk I genuinely rock with and I know a bit about. Wara’s situation with his brother, it’s similar. I believe in my dog talent and I knew he would have a great contribution to it as we’ve displayed in the past on other joints so it was just a easy call to make.
You seem like a person who studies the greats that came before you as well as respect the advice of those older than you. Who instilled this respect for your predecessors in you?
Being hardheaded and typically the youngest in the bunch whether it was brothers or cousins, you learn a lot of lessons the hard way and I surely did. Things like swallowing your pride and listening to folk because they are only trying to tell you something you can benefit from took time for me to get a handle on. In time and through experience anything is possible. I respect those who commanded respect by their actions. It didn’t matter how old or young because folk have never treated me based upon how old I was because that’s just how I rocked. I can maneuver. Not only is that just the right way to move but if I was to be out here on some nut sh*t, and these n*ggas these days make it seem so easy to, that would get back to my peoples and they won’t have that, so I can’t have that. Nowadays folk confuse wealth with respect. The richest man going out of this world the same way as the poorest but who takes their respect with them? Who name is good here and after?
What was your favorite track off of this project?
Was there any track that was particularly hard to record because of how personal it was?
Don’t think any of those made the final product but there were.
Do you have an idea or theme for your next project?
We just gon keep it going.
Bryan Hahn ITSPULLUP. He’s on Twitter (@notupstate).