Southern Gentlemen: Nick Grant Remains Rooted In Bona Fide Realness
Rookie rapper, Nick Grant, is just as unruffled in person as he is on wax. No gimmicks. No trends. No large crew. No goons. No bravado— well, except when he’s on the mic.
Yet, Grant has managed to stay in the conversation of next up to hold the coveted hip hop crown.
The Walterboro, South Carolina native didn’t create his buzz by wiling out, ranting on Twitter or jumping on bandwagons. Grant is garnering respect from the mud— with clever and colorful wordplay.
“That’s something that you can’t fake,” Grant said on a recent visit to VIBE. “I think people know when you aren’t being sincere.”
It’s a few minutes after 2:30 p.m. here in Manhattan, NYC. Outside, the weather is warm, resulting in upbeat vibes of energy. Grant and his Epic Records team are on their Big Apple leg of their promo run. A humble Grant strolls through with his mentor, and veteran music executive, Jason Geter. As Geter talks and laughs with VIBE’s veteran writers, Nick quietly observes his surroundings. He eyes the clustered office space, the classic VIBE magazines that sit inside black crates, and the blown-up magazine covers that sit alongside the all glass offices.
As he observes, the young rhymeslinger seems to be in deep thought. He’s probably studying his elders or going over metaphors or song concepts about the current moment. With that, studying, and thinking doesn’t leave much room for talk. So he doesn’t say much.
However, he does open up—just a bit–once everyone is settled in, and new music from his upcoming, not-yet titled, mixtape begins to vibrate in our eighth floor conference room.
Hip-hop breathes life into the 28-year-old. Coming off Dave East’s Hate Me Now tour, Grant recognized the blessings of touring the world to share his music, but he was eager to leave the road so he could get back into the studio.
“Me personally, I was ready to get off the road, because I had so many extra experiences. For me, I have to be in there; I have to let that stuff out.”
Validating his sincere authenticity, NG still hasn’t abandoned his regular inner-city swag, despite the show money he’s recently seen. Or at least he doesn’t dress like it. The caramel-complexioned rapper is dipped like an average college kid–blue jeans, army fatigued t-shirt, and a fresh pair of Saucony’s. You’d think a freshman rapper from an average working-class family would fall victim to the many tempting material possessions like many of his hip-hop contemporaries.
“There’s no pressure because I’m always being me. There’s no pressure with being yourself, just being genuine. The moment you not genuine the real genuine people notice,” he said.
With Grant’s new music spinning, heads nodding, we notice how his fluid flow, beat selection, and confidence has greatly improved. Despite veteran hip-hop journalist like Rob Markman, and Brian “B.Dot” Miller telling Grant how nice he is, he still puts in work like he’s performing at open mics–another testament to his humblesnes.
“I just want to chime in to say that the secret about ’88, going into it, and why we hurried to get it out, is because all the records-except for “Window Seat,” “Royalty,” “Fire,” “Trouble,” were the newer records. The other records are records that were over a year old. So, definitely with this music you’ll notice a lot of growth because a lot of the music (on 88) was really old,” Geter said.
Heavily influenced by Nas and J. Cole, Grant’s songwriting is packed with themes of love, personal and cultural growth, and sad stories of women being disrespected as well as women disrespecting themselves. Like his aforementioned influencers, Grant’s wordplay is exciting. He lays out sharp-witted remarks about wack rappers, loving black folks, black history, and uninspired energy he gets from thirsty and hesitant woman. Basically, he’ll lyrical murder contenders, and that’s used metaphorically.
“I feel like it’s a natural progression for me. I used to try to write records like that all the time but they never came off like that. But most of the music is natural and just kind of finding ways to flip it, to make it cleverer.”
Grant started rapping around 2005 or 2006, he says. After a chance meeting with Geter back in 2011 and slipping the Grand Hustle head honcho a demo, it was still years later before the two would officially work together. In the meantime, NG continued to lay down his blueprint.
“I was just working. Staying in the studio, trying to be heard, going to open mics, releasing mixtapes—that I don’t like to talk about. So, I met Jason Geter in 2011, but we didn’t end up working together until 2014. I played him some records; he liked the music, I did the Sway show, came back from that, and eventually released the ‘88 tape.”
This culture is saturated with negative images, women being degraded, and a thug life mentality. One may wonder how and why Grant embraces and encourages women as opposed to scolding them.
“I was raised by my mom, so those are natural things to me. My mom told me the other day, ‘You don’t really have no excuse because you know what women want because of how you were brought up.’ It made me appreciate real women because I saw things that other women were doing that wasn’t real,” he said. “So, my mom is one of the biggest factors in my life, and my grandmother, my grandfather as well. Just the way he loved his wife, and the things that he would do for her are some of the things that I picked up from being around him, because I would be around him on the weekend. And be with my grandmother, and she telling me things of what to do and what not to do. Just simple things—Put bass in your voice when you talk, excuse a lady when you walk through the door. Just simple stuff like that.”
After the music is played, and his team is set to leave, Grant—more than once– thanks VIBE for supporting his craft. Then he talks of buying his mother a house one day, the reason he’s single–he’s focused on his music, plus Momma Grant has to approve–momma knows if potential Mrs. Grant’s are only out for the Benjamins.
Last month, we caught Nick Grant’s performance at the 2016 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. Not much has changed since we last met. He graced the stage solo. No Crew. No dancers. No hype man. No flamboyant outfit. Just a mic. A DJ. A crowd. And dope a** bars that caught everyone’s attention.
Afterwards, an innocent smile spread across his face. “How’d you like the show, ” he eagerly asked.
“Your stage presence is packed with confidence. But most importantly, you grab everyone’s attention with your rhymes.”
He slightly bows his head, “Thank you, man. Thanks.”
Spoken like a true southern gentleman.