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Grafh - conducted by Arthur Sapounas  


March 2004

These are the transcripts of an interview with the Grafh. The interview was conducted on March 2nd, 2004 by DJ ART (Arthur Sapounas). After a childhood most people only read about in books and watch through movies, Grafh has established himself as a mixtape artist and up and coming emcee. Signed to Black Hand Entertainment, a Sony affiliate, Grafh is set to release his solo debut later this year.

MVRemix: Tell me how your life intertwined with the streets.

Grafh: I could wrap that up and explain that all in one nutshell. The album is called "Autograph," and it's basically my introduction to the world. My introduction to you. My signature of this game, of what I do. I take you through a journey through my whole life as a youth growing up to being a grown ass man now. I take you all the way back to when I was growing up in a single-family crib; just me and my moms. My father wasn't around, like everybody else's in the hood. My first real role model, my first real influence was an O.G. nigga from my hood. He took me under his wing; showed me the ropes - what to do, what not to do. The codes of the streets and all that. He was the only father I knew. He got murdered right in front of me. They blew his brains all over the place. After that point, I was going to school trying to get my mind right. I didn't want no part of the street. I was trying to stay focused and "do me." My father came back in my life when I was about sixteen or seventeen. That was ill because I'd decided there wasn't supposed to be a father in my life because that was too late. I already felt like I was a grown ass man. I'd been working since I was thirteen years old, supporting my family and my crib. But I feel it was a step for him to try and do the father and son thing. As we got close, he got murdered right in front of me in the streets again. I was livin' that. As a result I didn't really give a fuck, I was doing whatever I had to do to survive. To sustain my own well-being. I didn't really give a fuck at all. My whole views on life changed. Whether you're a good person or a bad person, when you're finished you're ghost, it don't fuckin' matter. I didn't care. I was kind of wild, then another O.G., my man Chaz - he's the C.E.O. of Black Hand (Record Label), he took me under his wing. Now he was cool with my pops, and after my pops passed he kind of stepped in and said, "You're wildin' a little bit..." So, there we have it, Black Hand is what brought me into the game.

MVRemix: Tell me about "Autograph"

Grafh: Mainly just me. Just me focusing on getting myself into the game. It's me introducing myself to the public and so I didn't use a lot of guests. So, 1. I wanted to introduce me to the public and 2. I don't need nobody to sell my record. It's really mainly me. I've got a lot of new producers on there. Tryin' to bring a lot of new blood to this game. Cop some new life, so we can have some creative new shit. I'm trying to bring some creative minds to the table. Everybody's goin' with the same old producers, the same old artists. That shit really ain't cool. On this album I've got new producers such as Ronin, R-Levels, Developed. Also artist wise, I've got my fam who is the Black Hand Shank Hank. They're coming forth on the album. And, I've got my man Sarsh-Bacardi. I've got my man Kelown, he's crazy. And Don Palmer, coming straight out of Alabama. The album is mainly me. It's ill. I've got songs for everybody. Bun B's on the album, that's my dude from UGK, Bilal, Ginuwine and Carl Thomas. I'm also trying to do a record with Chester from Linkin' Park. I'm trying to make it as diverse as I can. But I've got songs with everyone, just not on my album. Me and Bun B have got two songs. Me and Scarface have a song together. Scarface might be on my album, that's my man. Me and Killer Mike got music. Me and Twista got a song on that new violins chick's album. We've Me and Kanye got a song in the streets right now. I've got a song with Shyne. A song with Jay-Z. Me and Lil' Flippa have got two songs on his album. So I've got a lot of things going due. Me and Juelz Santana got a song, me and D-Block got music together. Me and E-40. I do a lot of records man. That's all I do. For the album it's mostly me.

MVRemix: Who inspired you musically?

Grafh: When I was fourteen years old. Nas' first album. It made me want to pick up the pen and get busy. That first Nas album was really my inspiration to start doing my damn thing. When I first started writing I used music as a vehicle to express myself, but I wasn't really expressing emotion at that age. So much had happened in my life that I'd kept it all bottled up. I was really just expressing anger. The music was my vehicle to really get that expression out.

MVRemix: You said you worked with Kanye West. I saw him perform recently, and I, like everyone else, was intertwined in the "Kanye is the future!" buzz. But his performance was severely lackluster and disappointing...

Grafh: Wow...

MVRemix: Nothing like what I'd heard from the studio. What, in your opinion, is the most important aspect of a stage show?

Grafh: I mean the stage show has a direct correlation to you being successful. When people really get to see you, they're looking right at you and are trying to feel what you're doing. That's very important to me. Your energy, your connection with the people matters. They've got to feel you. You have to be tangible, even from a distance. You've got to really be able to hold their attention; you've got to be like a sphinx. Your show has to be so strong that they feel they're actually able to touch that shit. The energy is very important. You've got to make sure that you come across and they identify what you're doing. They have to feel the same way they do as when they hear your record. You don't want to disappoint anybody. Me, personally, my shows are kind of positive [the reaction to them]. I learned from watching veterans when I went on tour with Scarface last year, and Erick Sermon. Watching them dudes really influenced how I put it down myself. To make sure people feel me, who I am and my character. That shit is just important as your record.

MVRemix: What's your favourite movie?

Grafh: Shit, I'm not too big on movies. But, um, "Usual Suspects." I dig that joint.

MVRemix: A la "Fight Club," "If you could fight any celebrity, dead or alive, who would you fight?"

Grafh: If I could fight any celebrity? Haha. I ain't gonna fight anybody. This is Black Hand, we keep that shit. If we've got drama, that shit is really serious, so I ain't fightin' nobody. Black Hand was really founded in the prison systems. It's not just a regular record label, it was founded in Federal prison systems. In prison systems, by O.G. niggas. It's like what 50 [Cent] was talking about. As these dudes came home, they went to different regions of the country and spread the Black Hand. They formed different sections of Black Hand in different places in the country, making the five fingers of the Black Hand rep the streets in the North, South, East, West and Mid-West. We're very strong across the country. It's like Black Hand America, we're the closest you'll see to the Black Mafia. We roll deeper than music so I ain't fightin' no celebrities. Niggas that really want it don't want no part of me. We ain't gonna get into that shit though...

MVRemix: What are your thoughts on the "Cease and desist" order imposed on Dangermouse with his Beatles remix of "The Black Album"?

Grafh: I didn't even hear about that. If they're shutting it down it's only gonna make it bigger. They shut it down, now I wanna hear it! They're promoting it by doing that. So if that's their goal, radio's not the only vehicle where people can hear music, so they've fucked up. If they feel they don't want to release the publishing of their records, then that's that. It shows that there's great artistic expression that niggas are talking about this shit, but I ain't hear it. I ain't get no sample clearance for my fuckin' album, so shit, I'm mad. Every sample I fuckin' picked got shot down. It's just part of the game.

MVRemix: Do you feel that 50 Cent has a right to protest his not receiving the "Best New Artist" Grammy?

Grafh: Evanessence won it. I mean, I like that group. I think they're hot. But a lot of people feel he made the biggest buzz of that year so if he feels he has to protest it. I don't disagree with that either. He has the right to do whatever the fuck he wants. I have the right to do whatever I want. When Grafh hits that medium to be heard nationally and everybody knows who the fuck I am and I'm on that big screen "doing the damn thing." I'ma be doing all kinds of shit, this country. When I get there, I'm definitely doing what the fuck I want. That's why my first single is called "I Don't Care" because I don't really give a fuck!

MVRemix: With your album title being "Autograph," have you ever eagerly sought after someone else's autograph?

Grafh: Nah, I never had nobody's autograph.

MVRemix: Not even as a child?

Grafh: I never met anybody as a child. Everybody I met, I met as me being professionally in this game. So now these guys are like colleagues. It's a big ass high school, we all work together. If as a child I met Michael Jackson or some shit, then I'd get his autograph. That's someone I admire. Matter of fact, I was on his first single. So when I did meet him, I met Mike, I ain't ask for his autograph. But shit, I should have! Michael Jackson I would have for sure.

MVRemix: Do you think a freestyle is a "freestyle," if it's written?

Grafh: Yeah it is. It ain't gotta be off the dome. If you're gonna do a freestyle. I mean I "freestyle" too off the dome, but I'll let you know when I do. But when I kick a real rhyme, ain't nothin' else to call it. It's not a song, so a freestyle is a rhyme. I definitely go off the dome, but if I kick a written rhyme I still call it a freestyle. I think a "freestyle" is just a rap. I think "freestyling" is off the dome. That's how I define it.

MVRemix: If you were to state your biggest creative influences; either emotion, imagination or substance, what would it be?

Grafh: Emotion for sure. Emotion drives me, and my imagination for creating. Really emotion though. It's very emotionally driven. I make mood music. It influences what I do; if I feel good, I'll make a record that feels good. If I like shit, which I do very often. I might make a mood that will make you feel like shit. Sometimes I make mood songs that make you wanna punch niggas in the face. Sometimes I make songs that make you wanna go grab a chick and smash. Make songs that make you wanna get high. I make songs that make you reflect on your past. Think about your family, think about your mom. Think about what's close to you. Be introspective. I make music for every mood you have. If you listen to the "Autograph" album, it's gonna be like an emotional roller coaster. I make sure to touch every emotion you could possibly have.

MVRemix: What are you listening to these days?

Grafh: Right now in my CD player I've got Eminem's first album, Nas' first. Linkin' Park's first and second album. Audioslave's album. Coldplay and Sean Paul.

MVRemix: So all over the map then...

Grafh: Yeah man, I like music in general.

MVRemix: Chaz Williams [Grafh's label CEO] questions the longevity of rap careers... what do you think will be your reason for lasting?

Grafh: Number one because I make good music. It ain't just beats and rap carefully stuck together, bring in an R&B singer and call it a hit. I make real music with real concepts and I want to touch people, to make sure that when you listen you can feel where I'm coming from. There are times when people separate Hip Hop from music, like the shit lives on its own. This shit is another form of music. I make sure I fuse whatever types of music I listen to. Like I like Rock. I like Alternative. I like Reggae. I fuse all that shit with Hip Hop. My album is really Rock influenced, and there's a little Reggae vibe on there. It's really getting Rock influenced right now because that's what I'm listening to. I just try and do something innovative and always be one step ahead of the game. And always have some music that they can't compare nothin' to. Right now, only comparison I get is Eminem and Tupac. It's like you sound like both of them equipped. I'm trying to do something new and creative.

MVRemix: Predict your next year.

Grafh: Puttin' out the "Autograph" album and Grafh is probably gonna be one of the hottest niggas in this country in terms of that. There is no losin' for me. As soon as people get a listen to what I have to offer and appreciate the music, they'll enjoy the shit.

MVRemix: Do you have any last words to put to your fans or potential fans?

Grafh: My name is Grafh y'all. Get used to me.

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"Emotion drives me, and my imagination for creating. Really emotion though. It's very emotionally driven. I make mood music. It influences what I do; if I feel good, I'll make a record that feels good. If I like shit, which I do very often. I might make a mood that will make you feel like shit."