With each tour, hip-hop artist Grieves zealously makes sure that he’s bringing something fresh and different; a new energy and vibe is constantly needed to keep the audiences from never leaving shows disappointed. For the upcoming tour in support of his fifth album Running Wild, Grieves mentions during our phone conversation that this tour setup will take a little more time to hone in on. “We are throwing new shit in the mix, and it’s not like songs that have been out and already have done,” he says. “It’s a little bit more this time. It’s foreign…but it’s good because it’s exciting. I wanna do something different. I want to makes things different and weirder.”
For the past month, Grieves (whose non-stage name is Benjamin Laub) has been meticulous about how this tour will unfold each night. The goal is to have a smooth blend of songs special to Grieves that will fall in line with some of the new ones. He has also been carefully putting together the lighting that will be present during each song by programming all of the computers that will used. Doing all this work solo, no one should start to point towards Grieves being an absolute horror to work with. Nor nobody should view him as a rabid control freak. Grieves simply has worked his way up with doing everything with the mentality of a DIY-er. From his swag to the music videos-Grieves is hustling like he was a young adult. “It keeps me closer to the work for sure,” he says. I’m more passionate about how things look and how things sound, opposed to saying we have a guy that does that.”
Growing up in Chicago, Illinois, Grieves found himself falling in line with being addicted to drugs and getting arrested for a slew of felonies. With the amount of trouble he found himself in, Grieves was left with two options: go to juvenile court and be locked up for two years or find work and eventually get back into school. Choosing to stray away from jail time and seeing other schools wouldn’t accept him, the angst-ridden Grieves landed in Fort Collins, Colorado where he attended Centennial High School. The establishment was a perfect landing spot for Grieves; the alternative school focuses primarily on helping students find success in a smaller and unique setting. To help determine whatever or not they felt you could go succeed, the interviewing process by handled by the students instead of the faculty. Grieves goes on to explain that the school put him what is called “Discovery”: a six-week program that determines if you can finally enroll in the school. The emotional toll that everyone goes through at the end is arduous yet uplifting. “When you come out of that class, you are siblings with the people you went in with…you know everything about them. Their dreams, fears, aspirations”, Grieves pointed out. Under the tutelage of the staff and those around him, Grieves thrived while attending Centennial. One of the biggest came when his Spanish classes allowed the students to prep for a trip to Guatemala for a month.
“I got rehearsals all damn day. I get to listen to myself for twelve hours,” Grieves declares. Seattle has been his mainstay since finishing up at Centennial. The original plan wasn’t to become a musician, but to become a teacher. While we talked about his experience in Fort Collins, Grieves the schooling he received was unlike anything he received and he wanted to give back. The idea would be rather short-lived; seeing how the process would entail, Grieves move towards his other passion when he arrived in Seattle – music. “I stumbled into the hip-hop scene here. I never seen anything like that…I was captivated,” Grieves tells me. As each week passed, Grieves found himself going through notebooks filled of lyrical content. Finding it hard to find someone that could help create the music that he needed to be made, Grieves took it upon himself to learn more about what he needed to know by attending school for audio engineering music business.
Since signing with Rhymesayers Entertainment back in 2008, Grieves has consistently released material that is edgy and leaned towards darker material – addiction, heartbreak, poverty just to name a few subjects. For Running Wild (which is arguably his strongest work to date), Grieves mentioned that he wanted to step out of his comfort zone. “I needed to do something different,” he says. “People come to these shows and get this experience…this energy, this charisma, and this attitude that they don’t really get on the records. It’s always something that I just kinda miss. There will be a song or two that I hit it on, but it’s right back to it. I really wanted to try to harsh that energy into a record.” Already have worked with each other on 2014’s Winter & The Wolves, Grieves enlisted Swedish producer Chords to help mold together the new album. Flying back and forth to Sweden a little over eight times with two week intervals, Grieves would lock himself up in the studio and work all day and night. He revealed that during those recording sessions, he went as far as to have international calling unavailable for fear that it would be take time away from thinking, sleeping, breathing music. “I was off the grid. That’s why there’s some weird stuff that came out, because I am a weird dude. If you leave me with my devices, weird shit is going to come out. Having just unplugging and getting thrown into Sweden was great for me and my mind.”
Some fun was had during the trips to Sweden. One night, Grieves tagged along with Chords for the country’s version of the Grammys. The evening in question provided an interesting time for Grieves, which also unveiled a story that he shared during our conversation. “I was not invited to the after party, I was a little too drunk (laughs).” Hearing this statement, I had to ask for Grieves to continue. “Everyone is talking to each other in Swedish and all of a sudden a lady in a French maid’s costume comes with a silver tray full of bottles of Grey Goose. I said, ‘Oh you just pour me that?’ and she said, ‘No, you just take this and share with your friends.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to share this with myself.’ Your boy got lit (laughs).”
There’s about a week left till Running Wild is released worldwide and its torture for Grieves. The musician has teased the album some via his YouTube series centering on the making of the album. Now that it’s a little a week away, the countdown is driving Grieves to the point of sheer craziness. “If you left me with a little red button that would have launched the record, I would have pushed it by now. I hate this in-between time. It’s too nerve-wrecking and it’s definitely not musical (laughs).” So in the meantime, its back to the grid of making sure all is ready to roll when the lights go on.
Running Wild is out now via Rhymesayers Entertainment.