| interview : brolin
legendary lyricist from Manhattan, MF Grimm has been
dropping intense street narratives since the early 1990s.
Spitting show-stopping verses alongside Kurious, KMD,
and Kool G Rap, Grimm was on the verge of mass success
when he was shot ten times in 1993. Miraculously, he
rose again, stunning skeptical doctors and keeping his
name in the game, releasing several classic singles
on Bobbito's Fondle 'Em label. Last year, he and MF
Doom released a double 12" on Brick Records, and his
long-awaited debut full-length "The Downfall Of Iblis:
A Ghetto Opera" is finally hitting the streets. Currently
a guest of the state of New York, Grimm speaks out about
his early influences, the '93 World Supremacy Battle,
life inside the belly of the beast, and his new album.
Read and learn.
are your earliest memories of hip-hop?
Being a little kid
hanging out with an older person named 'Sundance'; he
was a friend of the family and also a member of Zulu
Nation. He used to bring me to street jams and introduced
me to Afrika Bambaataa. If it wasn't for him and a DJ
named Looie Loo from my block in Manhattan, I would
not be in music today.
was the first show that really got you open?
It was any show King
Sun was doing or Kool G Rap because I was right there
watching and learning.
you rhyming straight from the get-go? Did you ever get
into DJing or breaking or doing graffiti?
My mom bought me a
pair of turntables as a little kid. I love breaking
but I grew up around some of the best breakdancers in
the world, The Rock Steady Crew, and Looie Loo was the
best DJ around so he helped me find my mark, which was
lyrics. I represent Rock Steady Park in Manhattan.
you come up in a musical family? Were your folks supportive
of you rhyming?
My mother keeps me
updated on what's going on in hip-hop. It's funny because
she talks about hip-hop and knows more about hip-hop
than me. And I'm not joking; she talks to me about samples,
beats, lyrics, who's flows and rhyme styles are better,
who's original, who's not.
were your biggest influences? People who really inspired
Quincy Jones, Russell
Simmons, King Sun, Lord Finesse, Large Professor, Chuck
D, Freddie Foxxx, Slick Rick, Rakim, Kool G Rap, Kurious,
was your official debut?
Kurious "A Constipated
Monkey" was the first song I was on.
did you and Doom hook up? Were you guys always friends?
We met when we were
teenagers, he was hanging out with Kurious. It feels
like we've known each other forever.
Tick" got a really big response. How did that track
Doom came over with
the track and said "spit fire." Simple and plain, I
don't argue with Doom, he's the boss.
placed 2nd in the World Supremacy Battle in '93. What
was that like? Who did you take out in the earlier rounds?
Do you feel like you should've won?
Actually, Mad Skillz
placed 2nd in the World Supremacy Battle in '93. I lost
to Supernatural, who placed 1st. I lost to him in the
championship rounds so third is appropriate. Puff Daddy
was one of the judges, so you should ask him. I remember
I said "I would battle the judges" in one of my rhymes
and when I said that he had this real shocked look on
his face like "who me?" and I'm looking at him like
"yeah you!!" So I was expecting to lose the next round
against whoever I was going against because of the disrespect
I showed the judges. When I went against Supernatural
the rounds was changed from two 90-second rounds to
one 60-second round. So this means to me whoever rhymes
first loses. Clark Kent said I had to go first, knowing
that I chose to kick a rhyme to the crowd, I didn't
even look at Supernatural. I rhymed to the crowd to
"remember my name because I'm going to be successful
one day at this shit." Supernatural's rhyme attacked
me and he won. If it was two 90-second rounds instead
of one 60-second round I would've won…..
I'll never forget that day because earlier that day
I was in a shoot-out, my gun was still warm at my waist
while I was battling Supernatural. I came from the streets,
so I spoke with street anger. That was my only reason
of being there; to let it be known that the streets
had talent out there. All I wanted to do was get a better
life for the brothers who were in the street with me,
but I failed them. Because the ones I'm talking about
are all dead now, they were all killed, that's the story
of my life. The Battle of World Supremacy haunts me
because I feel if I would've won, I would've secured
a record deal and all the people I'm talking about would
be alive today. Everyone who knew me in there knew the
shit I was kicking was real and I meant the shit, I
wasn't there to 'entertain the crowd' like the other
emcees, I was there to spit fire with energy about a
life I pray many would never have to go through, but
would be appreciated once I transformed it into poetry.
I was wrong…Puff Daddy and the other judges didn't want
to hear that shit.
so many years in the game, you must be psyched to get
this record out. What can we expect from the new album?
And what does "Downfall Of Iblis" mean?
I think it's bad to
tell people what to expect. Everyone has a different
level of expectation. Some will like it, some will feel
my work is a piece of shit, but both forms of criticism
are appreciated. I accept both with open arms. There
are so many people who are in the graveyard who never
had the chance to display their talent. As for the name,
in the holy Qur'an, the angel Iblis (Satan) was expelled
from paradise because he wouldn't bow down to Adam when
Allah told him to. Because Iblis felt he was better
than man; and like Iblis I too felt I was better than
all men and I would feed off sin. So like Iblis I fell
from grace, so "The Downfall Of Iblis" is an abstract
way of saying "The Downfall of Percy Carey."
it true Kurious is gonna be on your new record?
Kurious is very busy
working on his album and he's touring with MF Doom;
so I hope so, but if not he'll be on a remix and my
about "The Lost Files"? When will that be coming out
and what's gonna be on it?
"The Lost Files" are
all the songs created that never was heard by the public
because the reels were stolen when I was shot and everyone
thought I was dead.
lot of your tracks seem pretty autobiographical, do
you prefer to write from your own perspective or ever
mess around with any made-up concept stories?
I prefer to write from
my own perspective.
you have a personal favorite track you've recorded?
Yes on "The Downfall
Of Iblis" my favorite is "Messing With Life And Death."
The name speaks for itself.
do you think about rappers who can't or don't freestyle?
Do you think that's a necessary part of being an emcee
or just extra skills?
I feel freestyle (off
the top) is a gift and a style in itself and I love
it, but I do get upset when I hear emcees talk about
people who 'write' rhymes like they are wack. Many of
our ancestors were murdered for trying to learn how
to read and write. I'm telling the young readers that
freestyle, that's great but write also, it will only
make you a stronger emcee.
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