I was recently a guest on Impose Mag’s Audio Imposition show, where the host Eric Phipps and I talked a bit about what’s next with Old Money, Shamans in Peru, and more. I got pretty hype in particular when the question of early influences came up, because it made me think back to old Kayslay CDs with freestyles by an up and coming rapper named Grafh – a cat who reminded you at every turn that it’s spelled with an “f” and not a “p” – perhaps correctly anticipating the importance of a Googleable name.
In brief – Grafh’s one of the dopest, most underrated and completely original emcees that has ever come out of New York. Seriously, nobody, then or now, sounds like this guy. He managed to have complex internal rhymes, stacks upon stacks of them actually, while also being an asshole – and I mean that in the absolute best way possible. To clarify, pulling off crazy rhyme patterns, while also packing in ill sarcastic wit at every turn is no easy task, and yet, that’s what homeboy did regularly.
Case in point: “’cause a lotta y’all are fakin, once minute it’s ‘as-salamu alaykum’ / two minutes later, it’s ‘where’s my salami bacon??!!'” – Grafh on DJ Kayslay’s New Jack City
To give some perspective re: timeline, Grafh probably started buzzing on the mixtape scene in the early aughts – a little bit after Fabolous and a bit before 50 Cent. I haven’t kept up with his more recent output as much as I’d like, and admittedly – some of the old material isn’t completely evergreen. Like Eddie Murphy’s Delirious, you kinda have to put on some blinders w/r/t some of the word choice and subject matter, but also like Murphy, the raw talent remains undeniable. Here’s a few cuts from “G-R-A-F-H – next time you can spell it yaself! Prick!”
Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See Freestyle
He really shined on beats like this with lots of space. The multis. The flow. He has others where he spazzes in equal measure, but this is probably my favorite.
Feel The Girl Freestyle
Firstly – remember Ms. Jade? Secondly – this is the first thing I heard from Grafh, and I lost my mind. My school at the time just built some new fancy top floor science lab with the ill soundsystem that you weren’t supposed to fuck with (yea right). I think it was afterschool and I was chillin, playing the Kayslay on my CD player, and all I can remember is going crazy, thinking the entire world needs to hear this (twitter – where were you?) and pulling my boy upstairs to hear that shit on surround sound. It was like the flow was simultaneously inside and on the side of the beat. Only took a few bars to see dude was on some next shit.
Even if you’re not cut from the “borrowed” cloth of the stick-up-kid, I think in certain pockets of the city, you’re indoctrinated early in the ways of quickly sizing people up, and knowing when someone is looking at you and doing the same. I recently saw someone, at night, on a bus in Brooklyn Brooklyn (not a typo), flossing waaaay too haphazardly (he was carrying a mac laptop not in bag but openly IN HAND – in addition to crispy white Js and an iphone) and all I could think? “You look like fooooooooooood….”
If you like what you hear, get into the aptly titled Grafh Classics mixtape by DJ White Owl.