As followers of The Lost Tapes are well aware of I was totally blown away by the legendary MF Grimm's two recent projects with rising beat master Drasar Monumental - even crowning their "Golden Triangle" as the finest album of 2013 which really wasn't a hard choice at all as it still gets regular spins along with its predecessor. A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of getting both Grimm and Drasar on the line for an extensive and highly interesting interview. Not only did these guys turn out to be superior musicians but truly humble and open human beings.The 70 minutes we spent on the phone truly flew by, and I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I did doing it. Since it's a rather long conversation I decided to split it into two parts. Don't worry, you'll get the second half in a few days tops. Ok, enough talk on my part, let's dive right into the first ever published interview with this dynamic duo. A Lost Tapes exclusive!
c7: First off, I want to start by saying that you two got a crazy chemistry together, which clearly comes across in your music. That makes me curious how and when you two first met?
GRIMM: Actually we met through a mutual friend, that's how we got together and we've been friends for years now. So this isn't some overnight stuff, you know. We've been friends for years and been building and focused on everything we do now, you know, it was a plan... But yeah, we met through a mutual friend and it was the best thing to happen in my life, I met a brother. So I'm in a good place.
c7: That's great to hear, and it is reflected in the music too!
GRIMM: That's also where the bond is, because it's beautiful working with [Drasar]; I'm always learning. I'm growing you know, and it makes sense why. Everything I've been through makes sense now, to get to this point cuz I feel I'm at my strongest point, period so... And that's personal, you know, that's not going out to anyone or whatever, that's just internal so, and he played a great part in that because... Like music makes sense again, music is fun, but it's also the most important thing on our plates, so it's natural, it's the way it's supposed to be right now.
In regards to me and Drasar, everything that I've been through makes sense now for me to get to this point where I'm at, I feel that I'm at my strongest now, and I owe that to Drasar, working with Drasar, it's bringing me to another level that was needed from within... Internally, I feel I'm at my strongest at this particular point of my life, and so I'm thankful. So that's what I say, peace to Sonny Wong too.
c7: Again, this comes across very well in your music. I've been following your music for many years, and for me the "Good Morning Vietnam" series is your finest work yet.
GRIMM: Thank you! I am in agreement, and I owe that to Drasar, definitely!
c7: Was it always the plan for you to release several installments in the "Good Morning Vietnam" series, like was "The Golden Triangle" planned back when you first started on the first EP?
c7: Oh, it's three parts?!
GRIMM: Yes three.. There's a third, and actually we are in the process of doing it now, the third.
[Oh, that's great to hear] Yeah, we're really looking forward to it, it's easy with him, we build, it's a thinktank.
c7: Alright, how far along are you in the process of the third installment?
GRIMM: Uhm, it's hard to say. Like, as we're speaking, we only stopped [the recording process] so we could talk to you. So we're in the process of that now, yeah we're right there now, we're in the middle of it actually.
c7: Do you think it will be more of an EP (like "GMV Pt. 1") or more of a full-length (like "GMV Pt. Golden Triangle)"? In other words, are you planning to make this more of an EP or an LP?
GRIMM: I think at the end of it, it's something that Drasar and I will sit down and come to the conclusion of what the best format will be. We don't even acknowledge EP or album anymore, to a degree, we don't actually... I don't know If I'm speaking too much about it, but in regards to EP or album.. Yeah it's all the same thing so I don't know.
c7: As long as the music is dope!
GRIMM: Yeah, I think we're so concerned about that part. That other part is like really whatever way it comes, EP, album, be happy.
c7: Will the third installment introduce a new concept to the theme, like on "Golden Triangle" you introduced the heroin and Golden Triangle theme as well?
GRIMM: Well actually to a degree it's the same theme as the first, because it's about Vietnam so, but I understand what you mean, so yeah we wouldn't want to take the same approach or not serve any purpose. So yes, we're always striving to bring something new.
And Drasar and I we have several other albums that we're working on as well.. But this here is like the trilogy of "Good Morning Vietnam", which we take a lot of pride in right now and we believe that we're showing different stages of Vietnam you know, so it's like.. it's nice that you brought that up what we focused on for Volume 2 which was heroin, but we we're saying that music is a drug and that's ours. So it means.. We weren't trying to just sit and deliberately just glorify something without it being a double standard to it so. And music is the biggest drug there is.
c7: Definitely. I was also curious about what a typical MF GRIMM/Drasar Monumental recording session and your process is like?
GRIMM: Ah man, the process... Ok, well it's just natural so it's awkward to try to explain our, you know, what we do.. It doesn't stop, it doesn't matter if we're in the studio or not, we're doing the same thing. That's just building, and trying to attempt to bring something to hip-hop because hip-hop has always given to us, so we wanna give something back to it. So that's what we spend our time doing.
c7: Are there any specific musical influences in particular that you could say have influenced the music on the "GMV" projects?
GRIMM: It's kind of when we work together, we shut down, like, and just focus. We just focus on what we wanna do... I mean when you say influences, that go so far back that it's hard to just pinpoint. Like there's too many names I could name right now - as for hip-hop I have to go back to, I have to say ZULU of course, on the hip-hop side. I don't wanna just speak for DRASAR but being a rapper, we deal with so much different styles of music and appreciation of music, that I don't think we view what we're doing the way as someone we give it to and they receive it. We appreciate the feel you feel about what we're creating because we really believe it. So you know it's rewarding. Our reward is this conversation, our rewards are different from what other people trying to get from it, or do with it.
So for you to even sit here and talk with you about Part 3 when now we're in the middle of [part] three, says something different. It's a different type of interview. So you know we're thankful, I'm thankful for this brother, here. I have no problem just talking about all this. This thing we're talking about; like I think what really messed up music and hip-hop was when they started recording people inside the booth [*laughter from Drasar*] and things of that nature, I think that kind of changed the way people perceive music. And it wasn't needed anymore to bring stories to life, it was more of the visual aspect, and I believe we are tuned in to that foundation, that core that'll keep us true to what we believe. That's it!
c7: Exactly! When you are creating your collaborations I understand that you are both instrumental in picking out the skits, drawing up song concepts, working out the sequence and so forth. You are both active in all those respects, right?
GRIMM: Yes, we are equally active before we even start any type of project, we have already mapped it out. Equally, as brothers.
c7: Alright. Also on "Golden Triangle" I noticed that you sampled a whole lot from the "American Gangster" film. What was it about that particular movie that made you choose it, considering there have been quite many other movies dealing wit similair themes?
GRIMM: Ok, would you mind if I asked you why do you think we used it? I mean with the utmost respect. I'm just curious about your perspective on it, since you brought it up.
c7: Yeah, of course! Obviously because of the heroin theme, but also because he takes matters in his own hands and heads of to that part of the world [The Golden Triangle] to get the merchandise.
GRIMM: Yessir! Yeah, we we're saying that music is a drug, and being as it's Vietnam during that particular time our music was heroin, period. He [Frank Lucas] was the force we are in music, to a degree. Also they show the connection between him and Vietnam. But it's appreciated that you pinpointed that; it's something that we used, and it was something that was used later than most people. I'm sure it's been used a lot, but we just wanted to put a spin on it.
c7: Continuing on samples that caught my attention, I really liked how you put in a little excerpt from Velvet Undergrond's '60s classic song "Heroin" which once again connected to the theme, but also sounded great in the context of the music.
DRASAR: Thank you, cool!
c7: One thing that I've noticed that sticks out is that you have choosen to stick strictly to the One MC/One DJ formula, using no guest producers or guest emcees whatsoever. Was there a reason behind that, or did it just work out that way without having decided on it beforehand?
GRIMM: Yeah, it happened that way, because that was the best way for us to work. That was the best way for us to do the things we wanted to do. We are a group, we are not individuals, like yeah MF Grimm, Drasar Monumental - but we are a group. And that will be revealed as well, but we are a group, and that's exactly what we set out to do is to bring that element back. Not saying that there won't be other things with other people on it. But for what we're doing no, and for what we need to attempt to do it's us, but we have a lot of brothers that are nice with beats and MC - we have a whole army. We got a job to do, and so me and Drasar we are on a job.
c7: Another thing that I really appreciated about the two "Good Morning Vietnam" albums was the way in which it took a lot of things back which I have been missing from many other modern hip hop albums. The One MC/One DJ formula which I mentioned is one; it's a cohessive listen as an album, rather than a collection of singles or dope tracks - you sit down and listen to the whole project, or at least that what I do. And that for me, as a long-time hip-hop fan, is fantastic.
GRIMM: Thank you! I mean we appreciate it and it's the reason why we do it. It's the reason why we look forward to the feedback, and especially positive feedback like this, to let us know what we should do and what we should continue to do and not do. Your feedback is exactly what we were radiating to, so thank you very much!
c7: My next question is something that I have discussed slightly with Drasar before, but I think it's an important topic. I have noticed a lot of the so called larger "hip-hop" sites have completely overlooked your new records which I really find appalling. How do you feel about that?
DRASAR: To answer your question, there has been a lot of support for the record. Everything we put out sold out within months, even the first record we didn't have a sampler out for it and it sold out within a month and a half. So there is people who support it, and then there's other people like you say that haven't given us much burn, but every review I read about has been positive, a lot of different sites have checked for it and have developed some sort of correspondence with us. But there's bigger sites that don't really check for it, but we're not really concerned with those type of people, it's like unfortunately the hip-hop art form is fragmented, as you very well know. I'm not even gonna go in to the division and name them, there's different sectors and different lanes for hip-hop. What we do, it's foundation, you know, foundation hip-hop where you got your breaks and stuff and fly rhymes and all that good stuff, but we build on that foundation into the 21st century; one foot in the past, and one in the future. I'm speaking for myself though I'm pretty sure Grimm agrees. That's pretty much how we look at it. And a lot of those sites they don't look at it among those lines, they are just more into commercialism and one-hit wonders and things like that. We're not concerned with that, we're concerned with leaving a legacy and adding on to the greatness that is hip-hop. I shouldn't even say names because everybody knows who I am talking about; they do what they do, we do what we do, they're more concerned with temporary things, like the flavor of the month, what's hot right now, they not thinking about people seeing meaning in certain things of the music, in my opinion.
With these words I am concluding Part One of this conversation but stay tuned for the second which will be up in just a few days. In Part Two Drasar's beginnings as a DJ and producer, Vendetta Vinyl, our favorite Grimm albums, hip-hop in 2014 and much more, in other words a must read so stay tuned! While you wait visit Vendetta Vinyl Vietnam.com and order the "Good Morning" series in your choice of CD or LP. Also be sure to peep the official "Pre-Emptive Strike" mix which I emeded a bit above. Part 2 is now available....