While most of hip hop history has ultimately been defined by the battle between the coasts, Atlanta has emerged as the premier epicenter for budding artists. From J.I.D to EarthGang to 6LACK, Atlanta has no shortage of stars on the rise, but none of them fully embody the harsh truths of the streets quite like GRIP. The gifted wordsmith is somewhat of a hood narrator, able to weave personal stories and gritty experiences with the booming bass and soulful loops that make Southern hip hop special. No half-truths. No gimmicks. Just a raw, honest appeal that transports you into the shoes of a man attempting to rise above the swirling chaos surrounding him.
My first introduction to GRIP came in 2017, thanks to his captivating debut album, “Porch“. The project unravels like a collection of stories from the perspective of GRIP at three different stages in his life; an innocent child, an impressionable teenager and a reflecting adult. All three time periods are showcased straight through the eyes and mind of GRIP, with the sound of the project mimicking the same feelings he felt at the time. He kicks off the track “These Eyes” in a frenzied state, exposing the bleak environment he resides in by listing off the branches of his troubled family tree.
“Cuzzo, he a dealer / Uncle was a user / Other uncle was a shooter / My Pops was a loser.”
The most compelling quality of GRIP’s music is the honesty and passion that oozes out of each and every word he spits.
You realize immediately how tough it is to resist becoming a product of your environment when all of the odds are stacked against you.
“With these optics it’s hard to be an optimist / I can’t act like my problems do not exist.”
“Liq & Licks” was the song that immediately convinced me that GRIP would be a force to be reckoned with down the road. The bone-curdling synths, reminiscent of a distorted police siren, and trunk-ratting drums is the perfect backdrop for the crime spree GRIP and his friends embark on. The chilling chronicle of events show flashes of Kendrick Lamar’s home invasion story on “The Art of Peer Pressure,” but with a more menacing undertone. You can cut the tension with a knife.
It’s rare that you encounter a rapper in the infant stages of his or her career with the polished confidence and lyrical prowess that GRIP possesses, especially on tracks like “Jail Pose.” Every bar is quotable. Every line is memorable. Every rhyme is methodically told to describe the desperate nature of his situation.
“Poverty-stricken like what’s the odds of me getting a winning lottery ticket? / Better off robbing and licking / Done seen s*** that make a model Christian question God and religion.”
While “Porch” was an introduction into who GRIP was, his latest album “Snubnose” detailed the kind of jaw-dropping artist he can become. The Atlanta rapper was nearly silent during the two years between releases, using that time to experiment with his sound and craft something that took artistic risks while still maintaining the storytelling aspects that define his repertoire.
The sonic shift starts immediately on the opening track, “He Is … I Am”, where GRIP teases us with a light-hearted soul sample lifted straight out of Sunday service before exploding into dark synths that sound like a hornets’ nest trapped in an echo chamber.
“It’s been like that for a while now, wear and tear show you I got high miles / Grip shoot ‘em right between the eyebrows,” he sneers.
It’s evident right off the bat that the growth and confidence propelled by his debut album allowed him to tackle something new and riveting. While Porch felt cut from the cloth of Kendrick’s “Good Kid M.A.A.D City” and Vince Staples’ “Summertime ‘06,” Snubnose feels like an entirely new fabric tailored only for GRIP himself.
GRIP even spits from the point of view of his gun, dubbed as Lil Snub, whom he unleashes at various times on the album, sounding like a hood version of Mac Miller’s alter ego Delusional Thomas. The experimentation with voices and viewpoints demonstrates a versatility that is rarely put on display in hip hop, and it suits GRIP’s aesthetic flawlessly. Mick Jenkins makes a fiery appearance on “Finessin’.” Big Rube delivers a violent sermon right out of a nightmare on “226” before GRIP erupts with a volcano of rhymes without even taking a breath. The features are strong and placed beautifully on Snubnose, but the energy that GRIP brings on every track makes it difficult to pay attention to anybody else.
“Pressed” is the standout track that exhibits the kind of song construction, story-telling, and attention to detail that showcases GRIP’s star quality. Flanked by an infectious soul bounce, GRIP laments about his struggles with depression, poverty and resisting the urge to gangbang — well — because “pressure bursts pipes.” The track is gripping, transparent and an accurate depiction of starving artists that have bills to pay but still want to chase their dreams.
GRIP isn’t afraid to bring the bass on this project, from the earth-shaking beat switch on “Tek” to the industrial static-filled “No Info,” and the result is an explosive sophomore offering that somehow exceeds the bar set astronomically high by “Porch”. He might be relatively unknown to most music fans, but with co-signs from hip hop influencers Ebro and Brandon ‘Jinx’ Jenkins, it’s only a matter of time before his talent becomes nearly impossible to deny. After just two albums, GRIP has catapulted his way into the forefront of Atlanta’s emerging hip-hop scene and become an artist you NEED to watch out for.