August 4, 2010

MF Grimm

MF Grimm
Percy Carey a.k.a. “Mad Flows” Grimm is a man who has had to learn his lessons the hard way. He is the rapper featured on dozens of classic rap songs and lately he has been authoring graphic novels, most notably his autobiography Sentences: the life of MF Grimm (illustrated by Ronald Wimberly). He’s the entrepreneur behind the Day By Day record label and has released a new album form, the “audiographic” novel You Only Live Twice. The album boasts a rebirth, another perspective informed by the test of time – Grimm is “thankful to still be here,” learning from some very profound personal and economic mistakes. The original release date of January 12 was itself was symbolic for the release, marking the time in 1994 when Grimm was shot and paralyzed. However, even that was too “gloomy” for the rapper who opted to take time in the release of the album and not to be irrationally driven by a release date, “…this is the first album where the actual music I create is coming out the same year I release it. We got a 13-page comic book with it…you’re able to feel with your ears. I think it was worthwhile.”

In a way, Grimm is the embodiment of a culture that suffers from a fractured sense of identity – the split between the non-violent, ‘for the love of the art’ folk vs. those who relate hood-tales marked with materialism and bullet holes. At some point in the past 25 years, Grimm has fit somewhere between these two polemics, coming up at the birth of hip hop culture in the parks and street corners of New York.

Back in the day, Grimm was (and continues to be) an avid reader, while maintaining a healthy notoriety as a bruiser, physically fighting rival crews or anyone who stepped to him. Somewhere along the line he began dealing drugs and adopting all the vestiges the lifestyle brings. By his own admission, drug dealing was a solution motivated by “temptations and greed…it was the best way to acquire [money] in the moment of time I wanted to acquire it.” Grimm was immersed in a hip hop fairytale complete with: guns, cars, women, the street, a solid crew – apparently everything we’ve listened to in rap and on some level coveted. But such a life brings with it peril. Many of the people involved in the business are either “in jail for hundreds of years or they’re in graves,” Grimm is the last of “a dying breed of an era that most of us have [gained] from absolutely nothing.”

In 2010 Grimm has matured, but it took 9 bullets (2 separate shootings), paralysis and confinement to a wheel-chair for the message to be fully realized. For Grimm “drug dealing is not the solution to everything…I could never do that anymore…it’s easy to pick up the gun. It’s easy to talk about drugs. I don’t want to attract that kind of attention to myself anymore.” Lamentations aside and lessons learned, Grimm’s work are invaluable documents and cultural gems that bridge a gap between the rap and comic world (incidentally Grimm is an avid comic connoisseur). Both Sentences and You Only Live Twice serve as a kind of rehabilitation for the man, “everything I’ve done is wrong and I just needed to be a man and admit that,” with this in mind, Grimm hopes that others will learn from his mistakes, especially those fooled by the inflated contemporary rap culture.

From an industry standpoint, have you ever thought that there is a push for more, more, more, rather than focus on the quality of the work?

Entrepreneurship drives the country, it’s needed. Competition is good economic growth. It’s supposed to inspire you to be more creative, different incentives, strategies…it’s really about your desire and how bad you want to be in this. It’s good. It shows that if you put your mind to it, you can do it…there’s enough for everyone, as soon as greed sets in, that’s when the problem comes. I think that’s the biggest problem right now – just the fact everyone having respect for each other (business, personal, whatever). Sometimes it seems like we’re back to the bartering system, people charge a million dollars for something that’s not worth a million.

Do you think there’s anything wrong with rap? Are people needlessly tripping over spilled milk?

I don’t want to ever condemn other people or rap itself ‘cause being a rapper has been good to me. So the only thing I can say, rap is like water…it’s good for you, you can drink it. If you abuse it…it can drown you. It’s whatever you make out of it. It’s a medium, I don’t wanna ever put it as the root cause of things. It’s a tool. Rap is a beautiful thing.

Give us some background on Day By Day Entertainment, how did it start?

It’s me and 5 or 6 artists, soon it’ll be 8 people. The style of music is not one genre, it’s all styles of music. Not to pull away from rap, but it’s all genres of music that are focused on…because we all different types of people.

I realized that there were other people going through what I was going through. Unfortunately, I was shot and I was paralysed…I had deals on the table for like half a million dollars and stuff like that. When I got shot, nobody wanted to take the risk and sign me anymore because they didn’t know how to market someone in a wheelchair. This was 1994, before everyone was getting shot and things of that nature. I guess it wasn’t in style. All these years later, artists like 50 cent, Fabulous…they went through something that put them in a different light. To me, it’s ain’t cool getting shot – but whatever… it was a different time then.

After your injury, how long did it take for you to get back into rapping?

To be honest man…from the moment I got shot, when I fell…that’s the reason why I wrote Bloody Love Letter/Scarlet Memories I wrote that while I was laying there in my head. All those songs were from the time of me getting shot, laying in the snow, in the ambulance, waking up from my coma, surgeries…the only thing that made me want to stop being an emcee was when I was incarcerated. I just didn’t want to do it. I had a little drum machine, so I made beats…I just didn’t want to do it while I was incarcerated. When I was injured, I never stopped. When I got my hearing back, I started writing right away.

With such a major physical injury, did you notice whether it influenced your style or delivery?

Yes. Getting shot totally altered my way of emceeing. It was supposed to stop it to be honest…I got shot in the neck twice, two collapsed lungs, I had a bullet in my stomach – think about it, those are the 3 tools you need to be an emcee (to a degree). I couldn’t talk, I had to rebuild my lungs, my stomach and my throat. To top it off – sitting. I’m sure certain emcees understand that sitting and emceeing is much harder than standing up and emceeing ‘cause your lungs aren’t fully expanded, your diaphragm, stomach…gravity pulling. It’s more difficult to sit down and rhyme. It’s kind of like being a boxer; you break your hand, hurt your shoulder…you still have love for boxing, you got to make the adjustments appropriately and continue. I developed styles from it, although my cadence is always kind of the same, my tone is the same – there’s little undertones, every song sounds different from each other. It’s the way I attack the beat or merge with the beat – I never submit to a beat.

How long after your injury did it take you to recover enough to do a show?

I’d say months…maybe 6 months. But I haven’t. I haven’t [really] done a show in like 16 years…I’ve just been chillin’. I’m thinking about doing shows, maybe…

Do you feel accountable in trying to portray rap in a more positive light?

I feel obligated yes, to an extent. I’ve shown a lot of negativity toward it…so if I don’t show any positivity, then I’ve learned absolutely nothing in all my years on this planet. I feel obligated, I’m not putting that obligation on others…there’s young children that listen to older stuff – yeah, you know most of that stuff, I felt it ‘cause I only speak from my heart. I’m not above anyone, I make mistakes too and I learn from my mistakes – that’s the beauty of life. There are two sides to a coin, it’s good to show both sides if you’re able to. There’s a lot of children in prison for the rest of their life ‘cause they’re trying to live up to an image and now they don’t even have a second chance, ‘cause there was no one – as far as I’m concerned – who made mistakes, who was willing to come forward, be humble [and say]: ‘Look, I messed up. I wasn’t right, I was wrong.’ A lot of people are afraid to be humiliated or embarrassed…or to have to admit that there are other perspectives you have to take into account. Hopefully, I can rhyme ‘til I’m 60 – if I live that long.

In the last interview, we asked you “If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, from any genre, who would it be?” – you said Ghostface. Has that changed?

I think I’ll go with Madlib, I like what he did with Doom. There’s so many, I feel bad saying one name…

Last words/shouts

I would like people to please check out Day By Day and D.B.D. artists. I really feel strong about the artists that I represent and they represent me and I want to make sure and make clear…that this is a partnership. Every artist that I’m working with is an entrepreneur. They own 100% of their product. I think that’s what separates us from everyone else.

You Only Live Twice as well as the MF Grimm back catalog is available through, Sentences is published by Vertigo comics.

3 Responses

  1. MF Grimm is the truth. Been bumping his whole discog lately, and finally ordered sentences just now because ya’ll just reminded me! 🙂

  2. good read. interesting about the touring, I would imagine accessibility would be brutal at most venues.