Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “On the Rocks” by Grieves from the 2011 album Together/Apart on Rhymesayers.
Born in Chicago, raised in northern Colorado, and hailing from Seattle, Grieves has beginnings ranging from across the nation. Maybe it’s these worldly locales that lend themselves to his wizened lyrics, taking the hip hop community by storm. Touring constantly since 2003 hasn’t calmed the waters. He’s also been charting constantly on CMJ since his debut Irreversible hit in 2007 (his latest, Together/Apart, currently holds #13). Following Irreversible,, Grieves began a collaboration with local producer Budo, the talent that helped complete Grieves’ organic sound. Their follow-up LP 88 Keys and Counting was, astonishingly, sample-free, reliant on Budo’s mastery of multi-instrumentation and structure.
Of course, none of this is meant to undermine the efforts of the main attraction: Grieves’ emotionally moving rhymes that liquify even the most stone-cold hearts. His flow is masterful and skilled beyond his years, the proof that he’s spent more time than not on his rhythm and groove, helped along by poignant wit and instrumentation that ranges from keyboard and guitar to brass. This is particularly evident on today’s Song of the Day, “On the Rocks,” a melancholy but head-bobbing tune anchored by keyboard squelches and Grieves’ unmistakable vocals. The song touches on issues of alcoholism, and moving past the mistakes of the past — heavy stuff for the young MC, but nothing new for longtime fans. While the subject matter may hint at cliché, the beauty isn’t of the originality or genre-bending variety: it’s the simple glory of an ace rapper on the top of his game.
Grieves is currently touring over on the East Coast as part of the Warped Tour, which will be coming west next month and at The Gorge on August 13. After that, Grieves will perform one show closer to home, at Tacoma’s Hell’s Kitchen for GritCity Fest, before heading off to Europe. Catch him while you can. To find out where he’ll be, and to listen to more songs by Grieves, go to his label webpage. For now, here’s the official video for “On the Rocks”: