Posted by: Necci – Dec 03, 2010
Most of us, around the age of 13 or 14, were told to trade our dreams of being a professional athlete or rock star in exchange for a significantly less appealing deal called reality (frankly, I think most of us got shafted). This, however, was not the case for Sam Adams and Jae Griff, two up-and-coming artists in the Hip-Hop industry.
I added Sam on Facebook after hearing his remix to Asher Roth’s biggest hit, “I Love College”--which transformed the track into “I Hate College.” A year later, Sam’s album, Boston’s Boy, debuted as the #1 rap album on iTunes, featuring his most successful track, the self-produced “Driving Me Crazy.” Although a relative unknown, Jae Griff holds the poise of a veteran to the game. His production features influences from J. Dilla to The Neptunes, and he has a classic lyrical flow with a new school edge. Victim of the stifling hip-hop scene of Charlottesville, Virginia, Griff is packing his bags and moving out to Los Angeles with his recently finished album, N.L.G.S.: Nerds Love Gangster Shit.
Recently, I sat down with the two to discuss how one can climb to the top and stay in a relevant position in a fiercely competitive industry.
Joseph: Sam, A year ago, I added you on Facebook because I liked “I Hate College,” and now you're playing at a coliseum a couple miles from my college, versus Griff, who is about to move out to California to build his foundation as an artist. How exactly have you gotten to the prominent location you are?
Sam Adams: I owe it a lot to everyone else’s hard work besides mine. There’s a lot of people that do shit behind the scenes that people don’t know, like my manager Mikey and my other manager Alex. They do so much. My day compared to their day is easy as hell. All I've got to do is my hour long set or whatever, which is the best part. But to get in a position where you can be a heavy hitter and you can influence people, you have to have a swag and you have to have it in your music. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the fact I can make hit records. And the live aspect too--like, I love doing live shit. But in terms of being in a prominent position, it takes both normal shit, like marketing and all that, but also, [taking] everything viral. If it wasn’t for the internet, obviously I wouldn’t be here. That was the thing about underground hip-hop in Boston; you can’t get your music out if you don’t have a label or someone that’s spreading your shit around. I know there were thousands of people that heard my shit but were never like, “Alright, this kids gonna blow and be the next big thing." And that’s just some basic shit, you just got to lay your foundation. If you lay the foundation strong and you have good music then what follows is your fan base.
Joseph: Griff, talk to me a little bit about your upcoming album, N.L.G.S.
Jae Griff: N.L.G.S. is Nerds Love Gangster Shit. The reason I named it that is because I’d like to break down the barrier of the typical artist. I don’t want to be stuck in one box. Sometimes I make gangster stuff, sometimes I want to make love stuff or nerd stuff. It’s all about putting yourself out there; you have people who aren’t from the streets but only listen to gangster music and some people who are gangsters who only listen to R and B. Why limit yourself to one market, you know?
Joseph: Definitely. What’s going on with this new independent label you’re signing to, and what are your future projects in moving to California and everything?
Jae Griff: The label I’m about to sign to is called Uncommonwealth, they’re based out of Roanoke. My man Wes hit me up on Skype and we’ve been talking ever since. [He told me] "I need to bring you over to the team, you’re a great producer, great rapper, and you’re bringing something a lot different to the table. You’ve been doing everything by yourself and I just want to have a backing behind you." With that, if I sign the deal and move out to California, I’m planning on making some new music out there. I have a couple artists I’m planning on working with out there already, so it’s all about building from now.
Joseph: Word. So what artists are you planning on working with?
Jae Griff: I’ve been working with Krazy Race (West Coast Artist). The guy is really talented; over the summer he put up this contest for remixes. I did three remixes for him and two of them made the album. From then on I’ve just been building with him. I just hit him up on Twitter and he told me as soon I touch down to give him a call because he’s got something for me, so I’m pretty excited for that.
Joseph: That’s cool man. So what music are you planning on doing out there?
Jae Griff: Mostly underground Hip-Hop, I’ve been producing that shit for over six years. So when I get out there, I just want a different vibe, so I’m planning on crossing over to club shit, dubstep, some west coast shit.
Sam Adams: And you’ve got to. I was talking to J.Dilla’s old manager and he was like, “where do you see yourself in a year or two?” And I was like, I want to be hip-hop. Because I mean, even if it is a pop record, it still has a hip-hop element to it. But it goes both ways, like, who were the Black Eyed Peas before Justin Timberlake? They were definitely respected, but they weren’t selling out arenas and starting new trends with new house tunes. Pop….Drake! Pop….Weezy! What’s the first song that really blew from Weezy’s album? Lolli…pop! As dreaded as people [label it] “Oh, I don’t want to be a pop star.” Yo, I’ll be a full-fledged pop star, because there’s so many lanes, so many things you can do. It’s like “Ok. I have a big ass pop up, aka: every song on the radio has a big pop up." Eminem’s whole record has big pop ups. So it’s like, where do you draw the line? When you break it down, pop is making the most money, with Lady GaGa and all that other shit going on. I feel like people shoot it down like pop is almost a precursor from autotune. You don’t need autotune to make a pop record. Like that DeadMau5 song, that’s an electronic bang, that “Some Chords” shit. We went in on it, made it a hip hop track. It doesn’t sound like some original boom-bap shit, but that’s that underground. And eventually, when you’re producing and shit it’s like [To Griff] You probably produce every day, right?
Jae Griff: Yeah, I try to do some producing every day, I do club shit. I do a lot of sampling. And when I’m not sampling, I play around with synths and play around with heavy bass shit. And that all sounds good, but I’m like “Why don’t I go back to my foundation and start from scratch?”
Sam Adams: For sure, that’s the thing. And there are so many ways you can go sometimes it can confuse yourself. For me, doing this last mixtape [Party Records Mixtape] was like “Alright, I need to stay centered because it can go anywhere creatively.” You’ve got to have a foundation, but always be ready to venture off.
Joseph: So this ability to expand is the key to staying relevant?
Sam Adams: Well, I haven’t done much production since Boston's Boy, but in terms of staying relevant, its dependent on your lyrics and what your material is. You’ve got to have beats that are ill, that people can play in cars and clubs. For me, it’s all about the beat that everyone can listen to. That’s how I write. I don’t write verses and then match them up. Staying relevant--if you can answer that, then it’s like the sports almanac in Back to the Future. Everyone wants that. It depends; there are people that everyone thinks are going to be relevant for years that fall off. I am learning my lesson about how to stay relevant while doing my own thing now.
Joseph: Cool. And finally, what are your future plans, are you planning on collaborating with any dubstep DJ’s or anything?
Sam Adams: Yeah, I’m planning on inking a deal sometime soon, which will change a lot because I will have a catalog of people I want to work with. Plus, when you’re signed everything becomes easier. They’re paying everyone else. But in terms of future shit, I want to work with Rusko, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, all of the above, really. I want to start producing some dubstep. Also, I want to get some beautiful voices on the next album. In terms of other artists, I got millions I’m trying to collab with. It just depends on if it’s going to work. The next record probably won’t come out for another year. We’ll probably come out with some shit here and there, but there’s enough stuff out now. But that’s what’s on the agenda.
In speaking with Griff and Sam, it seems as though one element defines their drive as artists. Passion is the underlying factor that leads them to push past those crushing talks of “reality” and make music their day to day. Whether it be Sam, with a number one Hip-hop album on iTunes, or Griff, a scholar and voice in the underground Hip-Hop scene, their drive is what causes them to address and understand the practical business elements of making their voices heard. No musician stays relevant by only making music for the benefit of money and girls (although it is a nice perk). They stay relevant because they have something people still want to hear. Sam is a prominent example of this--although he makes what some may consider “pop” music, it is relevant to his listeners and true to himself, which is all anyone can really ask. Eventually, as the musician grows, so do the listeners, and the relationship between the two grows stronger. The reason we admire these musicians, and stay close to their words through time, is not because of their lavish lifestyles and benefits they express, but rather their passion as to their purpose in life, a position they’ve held strong despite societies opposition to what is considered “reality”. Griff and Sam show that no matter what stage of stardom they’re in, what content they display, or what message they convey, their dreams are only one small step from reality.
By Joseph Genest