If you live in Rhode Island, you know the name. The rest of the world will be catching on soon enough. Milez Grimez. The talented, hard-nosed emcee has been putting in work locally for a decade-plus, and lately he’s been starting to branch out by being noticed, co-signed, and featured by some of hip-hop’s most respected. I was able to sit down with Milez to ask him a few questions concerning his come-up, the music he’s making, and what he has planned for the future.
The full interview can be read after the cut. Enjoy…
Your father taught my senior seminar when I attended Rhode Island College. He’s also a published poet, so your passion for writing being hereditary goes without saying. Tell me about your parents and how/if they’ve played a role in your pursuit of music.
I’m from a family of artists, musicians, teachers and poets. With that said, I was born with the gift to paint pictures through music. I’m a full believer that my ability as a song writer was handed down to me from my parents, who both have been experts with words before I was brought into this world. They have always supported my craft; I can’t thank them enough for that. The first cassette tape they got me was Public Enemy Apocalypse 91: The Enemy Strikes Black. Once I heard that tape along with much more golden era hip-hop soon to strike my ears, I knew this was a culture I would cherish forever.
Was there a defining moment/experience that helped make your decision to start writing?
I remember getting a set of turntables (Numark TT-1700′s) along with a basic mixer (Blue Dog) in ’98. I actually was trying to pursue myself as a DJ at that time, but being that the tables were belt drive, it was almost impossible for me to execute scratching. I had a decent collection of classic vinyl (90′s Hip-Hop mostly) so I began blending a capellas over instrumentals from my personal favorites. After a couple of months of practicing these routines, I started losing interest DJ’ing with the tables I had. My focus drifted more towards rhyming over instrumentals on the records; nothing serious just simplistic freestyles.
When did you decide to make rhyming a full-time part of your life?
In late ’98 a close friend of mine (who had better tables) was already writing verses in bars, which I was amazed by. I will never forget the day that he pretty much forced me to write a rhyme for one of his homemade mix-tapes. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shook to rhyme alongside this dude, as this was my first time ever writing a verse. About a half hour later my verse was done and we recorded through a cheap mic plugged into his Aiwa stereo. That was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever felt. As amateur it may sound now, we felt like our lyrics were about to change the world.
Early 2000 there was a Talib Kweli show we attended, where I ended up approaching the stage for the first time. Once again, I found myself nervous and scared of rejection from the crowd. This was a huge audience so it was a must to give it my all. The amount of pressure had me looking at my feet while rhyming, but that feeling vanished instantly when I heard the crowd’s positive reaction about twenty-seconds into my rhyme. I rocked for a good four minutes and it was monumental. That night changed me, I was convinced my destiny was found.
In general, how do you believe hip-hop has changed since you’ve started? Feel free to state and elaborate on the positives and negatives.
At that particular time hip-hop was beginning to change dramatically, not for the better. Just like any other genre of music, it was becoming commercialized. I’m thankful of being born in ’85; any later I might have missed out on the peak of the culture. I was raised on rawness from the 90′s, and also studied a lot of ’80′s hip-hop searching for the roots of where it was created. In my opinion, this music made a drastic turn once the new millennium hit.
How does it feel to grow-up idolizing artists like Crooked I and Rock, then having the opportunity to work with them?
Developing as an artist has kept me sane through the best and worst points of my life. Having the opportunity to work with legends such as Kool G Rap, Rock (of Heltah Skeltah), Fredro Starr and Crooked I is incredible. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. As a youth I was obsessed with these specific artists, memorizing every word of their songs. I used to look in the mirror and spit their verses like I wrote them. So to go from that to later in life collaborating with them is an honor I can’t even fully express in words.
You’ve also established yourself amongst the names of heralded locals such as 8th, Romen Rok, Swann Notty, and DJ Mekalek.
My experience being an emcee from Rhode Island has also been amazing. Many people outside of “the smallest state” don’t realize the amount of talent RI has to offer. I became familiar with local legends 8th, Swann Notty, Romen Rok, Mekalek, Izma, Chachi and way too many more to think of off the top. In the beginning of my recording days (in official studios), I was still very young and couldn’t believe how much skilled work I was witnessing. I became a fan of many artists out here, instantly. My relationship with most names listed above has become much deeper than music. Everyone was about keeping hip-hop alive and active. I think that brought all of us much closer on personal levels.
From open mics/Unity to battles to Swat Team to Wundahground — tell me about your journey and how it has helped shape you as an artist.
Back in 2000-’01 I heard about a local open mic night called Unity. This is where I met most of my fellow RI artists, including 8th, Swann, and Izma, who have impacted me to stay focused on music ever since. Unity is also where I met Swat-Team, a crew full of vicious emcees which I ended up joining from ’02 up until ’05. I learned a lot about recording during that time; it was still fairly new to me. When Swat split-up I was back to looking for studio time. I consistently kept in touch with 8th, as he always impressed me with his production as well as his rhymes. If I ever purchased a beat, 99-percent of the time it was from 8th. It was in ’07 when he offered me to become a part of Wundahground and I of course agreed with the quickness. This has all inspired me to take my lyricism to the next level.
You recently won RA’s “Most Murderous Lyricist” competition over hundreds of contestants. So far, what has come of your victory? Has it helped form any new relationships? Open any new doors?
Last year I entered R.A. the Rugged Man’s “Murderous Lyricist Competition” for a chance to be on his upcoming Bad Biology soundtrack. There were hundreds of entries and I was crowned the winner, and the outcome so far has been unbelievable. Right before my victory I got a phone call from Ruste Juxx of Duck Down Records, asking me to get on his new album titled Hardbodie Hip-Hop. Before this phone call, I haven’t been hit up to be on a project by an established emcee. At that same time I was going through financial problems, so Juxx was a big wake up call to me. I also just recorded for R.A.’s Bad Biology project. I have been a big fan of R.A. and Ruste for quite some time now, and I’m blessed to be involved with their new releases.
“That’s Not Your Boy,” your song with 8th, has received some positive attention. Care to share and details?
I’m currently finishing up a project with 8th titled 8th & Milez Grimez present… When Sleeping Giants Awake. We put in a lot of time in on this for the past year, and it’s shaping up to be a classic. A little while back we were approached by a record label based out of LA about a single deal for our new song “Not Ya Boy” that’s produced by Apathy.
Basically, this is an opportunity that doesn’t come to you every day, so we will not let it pass us by. I have faith this label will help spread our music, and that’s what matters.
Concepts are something you seem to excel with — “Standing in Line,” “Ray’s Life,” “Leave Me Alone,” “What Used 2 Be.” Ever consider making an album like Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves or Black Trash from Sticky Fingaz?
Lately I have been cheffing up a lot of concept tracks. I feel like it brings out a different side of me on the mic, even though I’m known to prefer the punchline, in your face type of style. Concepts are mandatory if you are serious and want to be successful. They catch the listener’s ear much more than just going in with battle rhymes. I wouldn’t say I’m planning a concept album such as Prince Paul’s or Sticky’s, but there will be a great deal of topics on every project I am involved with.
What’s to be expected from Milez Grimez?
I have many plans in store for the near future. Aside from the highly anticipated 8th and Milez album, I have a solo project on the way that features an untouchable line up of guest appearances. There is no release date at the moment; I’m hoping to get it out by next year. It is done for the most part, but I have to make sure everything is solid front to back and more importantly the timing has to be right. I’ve come a long way and have no thoughts of slowing down, music is my life and always will be as long as my heart beats.
Now that the story is known and the music has been heard, keep it locked into TECB for all things Milez Grimez. We’re constantly updating the site with dates to his shows (check the sidebar to the right) and with all of his newest music.