Pete Rock. Lord Finesse. Camp Lo. Oh No. Illmind. Kev Brown. J Rawls. DJ Revolution. Grand Agent has worked with all of them. The Philly emcee who hosted the first hip hop show I ever attended by myself (ahem, Reflection Eternal and Dilated Peoples at TLA in 2000) realized something very early on during his fair years in the indie hip hop game: the real diehards, the longterm audience, is overseas.
After dropping his debut LP By Design in 2001, an album that introduced his earnest b-boy bravado on the mic and behind the boards, Grand got busy with Pete Rock on the syrupy groove mission “This is What They Meant”, allowing him credibility to a career that would see some radical turns as the last decade wore on. By 2003, Grand saw the future of indie hip hop — it’s far reaching global appeal. But rather than just putting out Japan-only vinly releases, Grand packed his bags and left the Illadelph Halflife for Germany, linking up with producers in the land of the Hasselhoff for 2003’s Fish Outta Water LP. But a steady diet of captive indie hip hop heads, bratwersts, and three finger salutes can’t really compete with the weather, women, and the weed of California, USA. So, in 2005 Grand linked up with Oh No to put out Under the Circumstances , years before The Disrupt fully moved out of Otis’ shadow.
Now, Grand Agent can lay his head in three separate time zones comfortably. And he’s using artist driven sites like Bandcamp to boomerang all three fan bases with projects ranging from industry freestyles to classic violinists meet boom bap to maxi-singles with Camp Lo (you can check the full spectrum here) . Even though his visibility isn’t as dominant due to the death of HipHopSite.com, Sandbox Automatic, et. al Grand hasn’t cried foul to the chasms of Internet Hip Hop 2.0. He’s met it head on and stayed one step ahead as usual.
Now, it’s time for Grand Agent to learn you something.
1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
1986. Listening to records, the realization came over me.
2. How has Philly, Germany, and LA shaped your sound or molded you as an MC/producer?
Philly gave me the foundation, what the theme of my career would be about. Germany gave me the global perspective that helped me shape how to present what Philly taught me on a worldwide scale. LA gave me the business perspective of how to make all of that a viable product. As far as a sound, I keep that in flux, my theme is my sound. The music varies from project to project based on who I’m working with.
3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
My mom is a pretty ill character in terms of a tangible example of how good life can become no matter where you started out, or how far you might fall off or get caught up in the various mixes out here in the world. I probably learn the most from my son.
4. With everything you’ve learned thus far, what do you wish you could have told yourself at the beginning? Would you have done anything differently?
I would have just reminded myself more often to be more service oriented with the joints. Gotta lotta joints I don’t really get down with personally no more… but nah I wouldn’t have done anything differently other than what I just said. That would’ve have preempted a lotta life and career issues.
5. What’s hard for you? What do you struggle with?
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. That’s how I sum up the struggle.
6. Here’s a scenario: tomorrow you become the CEO of a major label. What are the first 3 things you would do as the boss?
7. What are some of your favorite albums?
Sly & The Family Stone Anthology
Main Source Breaking Atoms
8. What is inspiring your work right now?
Christ, the ghetto that all of America is, and young people not knowing where this Rap thing came from.
9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at this time?
10. Any words to live by?
Act like what you pray for.
GRAND AGENT PRIMER
Grand Agent & Pete Rock “This is What They Meant”
Grand Agent f/ Planet Asia “It’s Only Right”
Grand Agent & Oh No “Grand Right Now”
Grand Agent “What I Want”