Tomorrow night (April 28th), Kung Foo Grip – who is Greg Cypher and F is H, and who stands at the forefront of Seattle’s burgeoning new rap generation – is throwing its first headlining show at the Vera Project alongside Keyboard Kid, Key Nyata, and Tee Gee. I chopped it up with the group in downtown Bellevue about their work, their future, rap in 2012, and the “Eastside” stigma.
F is H arrived early, and we smoked a cigarette while waiting for Greg Cypher. Cypher arrived soon after, immediately asking F is H about a new batch of beats Giorgio Momurda had just sent. Their excitement is palpable. Genuine, youthful energy, sharp focus, and no bullshit.
Can we start with an introduction? Who is Kung Foo Grip and can you speak on who and what the Honor Roll Crew is?
F is H: So basically, shout out to We Out Here…this is Eddie Brock, F is H.
Greg Cypher: This is Greg Cypher, Kung Foo Grip. Kung Foo Grip is me and this guy F is H, basically, we do the music portion of the Honor Roll collective that we are repping. It’s basically a bunch of young cats looking to do something positive, trying to make an impact with just a young movement of people. This music – and videos and art – is the way we wanted to make that happen.
Fish: Everything we drop is under the Honor Roll imprint – basically any venture that we’re a part of in the near future – because that’s who supports us and helped get us here.
Who else is involved?
F: It started with my man Nitti – who’s been the big homey for hella long – and the other homey BBJ – who actually introduced me and Greg and got the group going together. Then me, Chris Milly, Greg Cypher, D-Mack, the homey Tyrese, Matic, Orange Slice, Kordell…I think that’s it man.
GC: You know, Matic does music around the town, D-Mack’s a local rapper…BBJ’s the heart and soul of Kung Foo Grip…most of the people we roll with just support us and keep us going with what we’re doing and play their part. These cats are into design and fashion and other artistic endeavors.
F: It’s just the family man..it’s my best friends, dude.
Let’s talk about the process of Indigo Children – your first project with sole producer – talk about how it was you hooked up with Giorgio Momurda and what that looked like.
GC: That’s an interesting question, you know. I went to high school with Giorgio, so we were working together before we started doing the tape. But he moved to Olympia, so it was hard. He would drop his beat tapes and send us some beats and we’d chop it up over Twitter, Facebook… but basically, we went out to Olympia, had a little meeting, got the track outs, came back, and just built the songs from there. We had the beats and sketches and we built the songs from there. Elan Wright was a big part of that.
F: We recorded half of it with Elan and half at 206 [Studios], but Elan mixed the whole project and really had a lot to do with bringing them together as whole songs…putting little things on the beat. The chemistry when we work between me, Greg, and Elan – to me – is unmatchable.
GC: …and the chemistry with Giorgio was already there.
F: It was a dope process. The more we work with him [Giorgio], the more I’m trying to expand on that process, just being in the studio with him…cause, I donno, it was our first time working with one producer but now that we know how to do it, we can look at it from a different angle and see what happens next.
So you’d get the sketch from Giorgio, record with Elan, would it then go back to Giorgio?
GF: Yeah yeah, we’d finish the tracks and send it to him and he’d let me know, “this is what we should change” or “this is what I really like” but I mean, we finished half of it like early last year, and finally just got em finished. Added the “FVCKA9V5” and “Esrever Ni” later. So there was a period in between where nothing was really happening between everybody, but we finally got the tracks laced and got the communication going really well with us and Giorgio – cause he’s a busy dude doing school.
So Capitalize dropped, and some shorter projects, and some of Indigo is older.
F: The two singles we dropped and videos we did, ironically, are the two newest joints; cause it was originally going to be 3 joints real quick that we just wanted to push out but we were feeling the chemistry with Giorgio and feeling the beats and wanted to make it more of a solid project than something on the side.
Can you talk about how you see your growth from those few songs to where you’re at now?
F: Every day man…it’s crazy dude.
GC: We listen to so much music and we’re influenced by so many different things. The difference between Capitalize and Indigo, the change as far as what we were listening to and where our minds were at…We just want everything to build on top of each other. If you listen to each project in consecutive order, you can hear the growth.
F: It’s kinda like…the more verses you write, the more songs you make, the better you are. Listening to music from different angles, the more we work with Elan, the more comfortable with the ideas we are.
Changing directions, Giorgio’s worked with Main Attrakionz and Lil B, thinking about that movement or whatever you want to call it, do you identify with it?
F: I really enjoy the music that’s being made right now. I just got done seeing KRS-ONE speak and he was saying music changes every 10 years – Boom: 90’s rap; Boom – 80’s Rap; Boom — and now it’s 2010, 2012…It’s like the internet era, really. And i feel like a lot of that airy and kind of out-there music is really hot right now. I’ve been fucking with that since bumping some El-P or some Aesop Rock [GC: “Yeeaaah…some Cann Ox”], yeah, Cannibal Ox is probably one of the biggest influences, especially when the group first started. You know, it’s young cats, out here making music like everyone else. It comes to making original music and not biting styles, you know. I mean it’s definitely an influence, you can’t deny that. But what separates us, is, we’re from hip hop basics, I started with underground hip hop, the lyrics. So no matter what kind of beats we’re rapping on, the lyrics are gonna be there, the rhyme schemes are gonna be complex, the bars are gonna be hard no matter what. That’s what separates us from everything else Based.
Focus on the technical prowess, some sonic similarities…
GC: It’s all about being in the right now. It’s not even that we’re trying to move away from the classic shit, like that shit stays in the bars and that stays in the mindset, but I want to make stuff that’s present, that my peers and people that I’m around feel me, and honestly, I want to make music that all my people are messing with, my people could relate to that. You know, the Main Attrakionz, the Based God, the Spaceghostpurrps, the ASAPs, like all those dudes, I feel like I do identify and relate to what they’re saying, cause that’s what we’re living right now, that’s what we see every day. The internet…
Talking about the future, what is next? Will you continue working with Giorgio, who else are you gonna be working with…what’s on the plate?
GC: We did a couple EPs – Captilize, Make Moves, Indigo – those were all pretty short projects so, the next step is to build something a little bit bigger, give people more material they can soak in and see what we can really do. Indigo was really just testing the waters to see how people would react, and to see what we could do, and so now we’re building on that. As far as Giorgio, he’s a big part of that plan, an integral part of how we’re trying to build our sound. We’re also messing with Stuart Villain from Portland – crazy cat – man, so many producers man. Keyboard Kid is gonna be on some new stuff, I know he’s super hot right now. Yeah, Grimshine, and hopefully another one with Giorgio. We just want to build up a lot of stuff so people can get an idea of who Kung Foo Grip is, then we really wanna hit em with OK, this is Kung Foo Grip, this is our album. Cause a lot of people just put out long projects, and I don’t want to put out anything mediocre, anything that’s not like 100% me, I want to make sure that I got my base of people who know about me.
Everytime I read about you guys, the first thing is always, “These guys are from the Eastside…” – I mean I get why this happens – but I’m wondering how you feel about that and, how does being from the Eastside influence the way you go about your work?
F: It’s like, Eastside, 425, Kirkland, Kingsgate area, through downtown area, 3rd and Park, 83rd Street, Redmond, we’re in Bellevue right now, you know what i’m saying, I grew up here, it’s a part of me. It’s weird being ‘ethnic’ and being on the Eastside. There’s not a lot of color out here, really – at least not a lot of my color so it’s kinda like, the way I grew up, I’ve kept myself around that, I’ve always stuck together with that…I don’t know man. It influences the music in the way the people I see on the day to day. It’s a weird place because there’s a lot of money out here, but at the same time there’s a lot of drugs out here too. So it’s kinda a lot of kids on some bat shit with their parents money, like people doing dumb shit for no reason but like, I feel like that influences me in the same way the hood will influence somebody else. Because you could find yourself in a situation that you would never thought that you would be caught up in because of where you from, cause you made some dumb ass mistakes. I feel like everyone lives their life on a path for them, and my path is this music and every thing before that is secondary.
GC: And everyone feels – not feels the same but – but feelings and emotions and good music transcends all that shit. Even when they say, “Oh yeah, they’re from the Eastside” – and that would only be a Seattle thing, that’s only something somebody from Seattle would understand. If someone from outside this town was listening to that they would be like ‘OK whatever’. But I don’t let it bother me. I just want to make sure that they hear the music and that’s all I really care about. You could say whatever you want but, if at the end of the day, we’re filthy, our job is done. You know what I’m saying…Go download our shit [laughs]!
F: I feel like a lot of people from here will look past the music on that fact alone but I still feel like it’s to a point where people are saying we’re filthy and, you may not like us, or may not like us as people because of where we’re from or …anything like that…you can’t deny that the bars are tearing people to pieces, you can’t deny that the music is good, and could quite possibly be a lot better than yours, you know? [Laughs] It is what it is…people say a lot of things dude, and I used to be tripping on it but now it’s kinda like, you can’t trip on what people are saying, or you can’t trip on other things people are doing. If you really wanna make moves you gotta be like …I’m focusing on myself. Whatever you’re doing, I’m not caring because i have too much to focus on without you.
GC: Your only competition is yourself. I’m not out here trying to compete with nobody or do nothing like that. I’m trying to do me to the fullest.