The Days of Big Signings to Big Labels are Over, so Why is Grip's Signing to Shady so Exciting?
Evan Dale // July 17, 2021
Well, of course he’s from Atlanta. To no one’s surprise, hip-hop’s most consequential modern hub is to thank for producing yet another incalculable talent and quickly rising name. But to any listener, his sound is certainly a surprise, nonetheless. It’s not because he’s from Atlanta yet doesn’t adhere to any trap-centric take on the city’s formulaic pop sound. Instead, the unending ubiquity and uniqueness in Grip’s own auditory aesthetic is derived and reborn with every passing bar. Seemingly endless, his wordplay is enigmatic when compared to any other lyricist, and its effortless touch makes it him even more lethal. It’s no dig to any other rapper out there, only a steadfast compliment to Grip’s lyrical prowess that makes him such an explosive poet, so perfectly cut for the greater Shady Records cloth.
And such a statement doesn’t come lightly. In the current scene, big-name signings to bigger-name labels rarely feel form-fitting, or even the least bit exciting for that matter. Independent, small-market collaboratives are instead usually much more well-rounded and nuanced when it comes to delivering artists with a truly experimental sound. For the most part, the days of the biggest record companies aren’t necessarily over, though the glory surrounding them has certainly faded. In their place, OG-owned and operated labels are pushing the envelope with a well-balance take between the business and the culture that makes it all possible in the first place.
For Shady – in the same way that JID or EARTHGANG signing to J Cole’s Dreamville felt so well-curated and acutely designed – the lyrical ferocity of Grip merging with such an established and pervasive lyrical rap co-op is eye opening and exciting for any fan of the hard-hitting, lyrically-founded dynamism of the no-fucks-given pillar of rap’s history. Grip – along with his new friends and collaborators at Shady Records – may very well have a death grip on the future direction of that edge to the greater hip-hop spectrum.
The man behind it all has a lot to do with that. Eminem has proved himself in the mentorship role before, proving himself, too, in his ability to sign some of the most dynamic and necessarily raw rappers in recent years. There’s Boogie, whose tried-and-true West Coast anthems continue to mark the Compton rapper as one of the most understatedly unique and well-written in the modern scene. His Shady debut, 2019’s Everythings For Sale, still stands as a well-balanced composition between his love for bass-heavy anthems and his knack for eternally thought-provoking penmanship. There’s also Conway the Machine, whose vivid and vivacious recounts paint the most detail-oriented oral histories of the streets in the current cloth. The Griselda centerpiece orbits next to Westside Gunn, who – though now a free agent – existed as a timeless tether to an undeniably old-school aesthetic while signed to Shady, and now unsigned, continues to explore the rangy nature of his aesthetic.
With his own debut Shady Records album expected later this year – the tertiary project in his young canon behind 2017’s Porch and 2019’s Snubnose – Grip is also bound to be a household name in due time, for nothing if not his intrinsically forceful rhymes. And though Eminem’s influence on that sound – and that rise – will certainly be noteworthy, Grip’s imminent explosion has everything to do with his own established sound.
Bars, bars, bars. The man can rap, and he can do so ostensibly as well as anyone else. Just take a listen – and a watch – to his debut Shady single, Gutter. Overtop an experimentally synth ridden and bass heavy beat, Grip leads in with a muffled, distorted verse that doesn’t even pull into full focus just how crisp his tightly woven his pen really is. And yet, it’s enthralling and vivid in its still fun-loving nature. A good intro for sure, but there’s a lot more to unearth for new listeners. \
And for that, start with his BREGMA Freestyle from 2019. It’s a 2-minute clip that – like any great freestyle does – calls into question if such volatile bars could really be a freestyle in the first place. Yet, it is. And Grip is just really that good. But, he’s also wide-ranging and well-rounded. Tracks like his biggest hit to date, Chicken N Dumplins put in perspective his more popular commercial appeal, infusing his never-ending lyricism with a dynamic ability to merge soft samples with soft vocals that nonetheless hold up to his raw knack for expressing hip-hop’s most historically rap-leaning direction. And in the middle ground between the two tracks – which is also really what Gutter is ultimately an exploration of – there is no ceiling for the young Atlanta emcee who is bound to ring in a new era for the lyrically formidable and the exciting big signing.