Grey Granite
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Grey Granite

Indianapolis, Indiana, United States | SELF

Indianapolis, Indiana, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Hip Hop

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Producer's Heavy Gun outfit becoming force in local hip-hop

The lanky 20-something-year-old J. Brookinz has enjoyed rising prominence in the Circle City’s hip-hop community as a beat-maker and producer. His remix of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” is getting notice on the web. His upcoming EP Revisionz features his remixes of work by local performers Mystikos Quintet, Com.Dot and Eisenhower Field Day. The Heavy Gun label he runs with the emcee Grey Granite (“my right-hand man on my left-hand side”) has put out a string of releases this year, promoted from an increasingly popular blog at HeavyGunBlog.com.

In short, Brookinz should be a happy-go-lucky guy. And up until a month ago, he was. But now?

“I’m a little more aware of what’s going on,” Brookinz says during a recent late night with his Heavy Gun consorts. “Before I just didn’t care. Everything was peaches and cream; it was all flowers and sausages. Now it’s like, damn, people be hurting. Life is bad.”

Only a broken heart could bring about such sentiment. His five-year relationship with the mother of his 2-year-old daughter ended just a few weeks ago and the pain is fresh. So much so that Brookinz has lately had Sade in heavy rotation.

“If people didn’t know, Sade is dope break-up music,” he says. “It sounds like she was breaking up with a dude every week.”

This doesn’t sit well with Granite.

“You don’t listen to Sade unless you’re fresh in love,” he advises his friend, sitting with him in the rear lounge of the Melody Inn.

Still, Brookinz is aware of the strides he and his cohorts have made in recent years.

“It seems like I’ve been getting better as far as moving up and doing things, getting noticed and making a fan base,” he says.

Brookinz has won some recent remix competitions, including one organized by XXL Magazine (for his take on Asher Roth) and the 2008 Scribble Jam Pre-Lim Producer Competition.

But as life’s juxtapositions so often cruelly reveal, his craft also contributed to the demise of his relationship.

“It’s bittersweet but the dream don’t stop,” Brookinz says. “It keeps going.”

It's a dream that began to take shape 10 years ago, when Brookinz bought some turntables off the Internet and began to teach himself to DJ. It’s something he’d like to do again, even though he confesses a lack of skills. From there Brookinz moved into producing, creating beats for artists in Indianapolis and Evansville, where he lived for a few years after college. Granite heard one of Brookinz’s flows before he actually met him.

“I was like, man this is crazy,” the rapper says. “This is exactly what I’m looking for.”

He convinced Brookinz to return to Indianapolis and help him run a recording studio on the southside with Bob G. Barker (from the local rap duo NightRiders) and DJ BTAM.

“I’ve always had this run-out-and-get-it type attitude,” Granite says of that venture. “Even if I don’t know how, I’ll learn.”

In those days before online social networking became ubiquitous, they would literally sell their music on the street. Now Brookinz and Granite run HeavyGunBlog.com, a site they’ve labeled “a salute to all kinds of BadAssery.” Aside from music, there are posts on art, music, videos, technology and more.

“It gives people an opportunity to interact with us on a daily basis and get to know our personalities,” Brookinz says. “I’ve found if people like you, it doesn’t even matter what you put out. They gonna ride with you regardless. There’s too many people out there. The thing that sets you apart now is your personality.”

Brookinz says that he's often felt lonely in the Naptown music scene, where, particularly in hip-hop, there’s only been room for one big name: The Mudkids. No disrespect. That collective helped break Brookinz into music. But when people ask where he’s from, the followup question tends to be: "Ever heard The Mudkids?"

“We have the most talented musicians, but I don’t think people know about them,” Brookinz says. “We have all these cool people doing all this cool stuff. But the scene here, especially the hip-hop scene, only a limited number of people know about it.”

Adding to the frustration is the lack of venues willing to embrace the genre. Some clubs around the city have either dropped such themed nights or closed altogether.

“People are so scared of it, like it’s some kind of monster,” Brookinz says. “They don’t want hip-hop in their clubs; they don’t want anything to do with it. It’s not as bad as what people think it is.”

Not that local performers aren't somewhat responsible for their anonymity, according to Brookinz.

“People in Indianapolis are quick to jump on a New York rapper thing or a down South rapper thing, and that’s one of the reasons why somebody ain’t blown from here,” he says, trying to stay warm in the bar’s backroom with a thermal sweater. “That’s the problem. People think they’re artists, but they’re really fans. They’re not progressing music.”

That’s why the Heavy Gun crew thinks it’s on to something here with its slapdash take on club music.

“We’ve started something here,” Granite says. “This is the foundation.”

“We’re a fully functional machine,” adds DJ BTAM, who serves as Heavy Gun’s recording engineer. “From pre- to post-, it’s just us.”

Brookinz’s remix of “The Final Countdown” is but one example. The hair metal salute was already a histrionic anthem. In Brookinz’s hands, it becomes a B'More banger, complete with vocals by Granite and Philadelphia rapper Illy.

“Who’s not going to jam to ‘The Final Countdown’?” Brookinz asks. “It’s not even a white person thing. It’s a jam all the way across the board.”

Brookinz admits his listening tastes have become bipolar, even though his love remains hip-hop. It explains why he would interpret a range of genres by local artists on Re’Visionz (available Dec. 8 on iTunes) and remix a set of Killers songs (he’s a big fan of their debut Hot Fuzz). Earlier in the evening, he was in his bedroom turning Van Halen’s “Jump” into a stylishly staccato groove on his computer. Being an ’80s child, Brookinz has plans to do more club versions of hits from that era.

“People need to be dancing right now because everything else is fucked up,” he says. - Nuvo Newsweekly


Indie rock represents freedom to Grey Granite, who describes his style as hip-hop/electro/soul/rock — “or put it backwards, and it will work, too,” he says.

He says new acts rarely break through in the kingdom of Jay-Z, but it’s easier in the realm of Radiohead.

“One thing that’s great about indie rock is that you can be an unknown band and people enjoy your music,” Granite says. “If you’re an unknown hip-hop artist, everybody is like, ‘Why don’t I know who he is? He must not be that good.’.”

With Indianapolis-based producer J. Brookinz, Granite made worlds collide with 2008 mash-up album “Grey Granite Amplifies the Killers.”

While the iTunes Store sells tracks from the project, Granite and Brookins also collaborate on the Web site Heavy gunblog.com — a do-it-yourself aggregator of local art, film and music.

“I want to put a blueprint out in front so bands and artists can say, ‘Hey, if we do this, that and the third, we’ll have a way in. Somebody has opened the door so that eyes are actually on this city,’.” Granite says. - Indy.com


Friday, May 1, the same night that the Killers are at the Egyptian Room, local emcee Grey Granite — who released an album-length remix of songs by the Killers last year — will perform in the slightly more intimate environs of the Melody Inn. T. J. Reynolds caught up with Grey Granite in Oct. 2008 for his monthly Hip Hop Beat column.

One of the most original and energetic forces in local hip-hop is the emcee Grey Granite. Propelled by a constant online presence and a free series of interestingly themed mixtapes, Granite has been everywhere in the last year, culminating in a third place finish in the running for Best Hip-Hop Artist in this year’s NUVO’s Best of Indy.

I was first introduced to Granite when he was doing graphic design for companies such as Old Soul Entertainment. Granite’s interest in visual arts is an important part of his overall creative vision; he consciously puts his flavor into every aspect of his persona and art: fashion, flyer design, album covers, even an upcoming visual art exhibition at Fountain Square’s Gnosis gallery. The more I’ve spoken with Granite and seen him do his thing, the more impressed I’ve been with his range of talents.

When Granite works with his regular collaborator, producer J. Brookinz, the results hearken back to old school rapper-producer combos but with a much more cutting-edge sound. Their latest project, Grey Granite Amplifies the Killers, is an album of hip-hop anthems all built from samples of the contemporary rock group the Killers. While the Killers are a somewhat unusual source material for sample-based rap, Granite and Brookinz create a mostly seamless landscape, never sacrificing the boom-bap (that familiar bass drum and snare rhythm at the heart of classic hip-hop).

With the Internet allowing Granite’s work to be heard around the world, Killers has picked up cross-cultural and -genre steam; as Granite notes, listeners from as far away as Lebanon are taking the time to listen to Indianapolis musicians.

I sat down with Granite to pick his brain, and came up with a whole gob of off-the-wall thoughts ...

NUVO: Where’d you get the name Grey Granite?

Grey Granite: It’s a childhood nickname, due to the color of my eyes, but it evolved into the way I make my music. It’s in the grey area. Black and white, I go through the middle. I’m not such a one-sided artist. I see all points of view; I come from that angle.

NUVO: You have a wide range of influences.

Granite: It’s reflective of my style, the people I’m around. We don’t discriminate on who we can be friends with. We grew up in the ’80s — there wasn’t that “This is what you have to sound like just ’cause you’re black or white.” It was a free for all. We liked Guns ’n’ Roses and we liked LL Cool J.

NUVO: You also get called a lot to host events. Why do you think that is?

Granite: Well, if you want to get people to really listen to your stuff, you’ve got to be an entertainer. I’ve seen countless shows where the artist isn’t really into the music. Yeah, you’re rapping, but you’re not giving it your all. We coined that term; you’ve got to amplify your personality. You can’t get up there and just be that same dude. I probably amplify my personality 60 percent. One day I’ll go for 100, and I’ll probably be butt naked on stage with a cape on and cowboy boots. Something crazy like Kool Keith. I have to tap into that joy I have for this music to get the crowd hype. I want to put on the type of show where I would be entertained.

NUVO: What kind of role does the Internet play in your career?

Granite: When I started we recorded on DAT [digital audio tape]. The only people who would hear your music were the few hundred people in your area. It was expensive to make the music and to get the music out. So the Internet, God bless its heart, has brought me back in. We had a girl cuss us out from Lebanon [for sampling the Killers]. Not Lebanon the small town, Lebanon the country. That’s amazing. We’re getting lots of feedback, getting huge downloads. The Internet has changed the game.

NUVO: You’re also a very active blogger.

Granite: Yeah. It helps me create the Grey Granite universe. When you have a visual to go along with the music, it helps you get a better feel for an artist. I also like discovering and sharing new music, new art.

You can catch Grey Granite opening for Kool Keith Oct. 14 at the Vogue. Download Grey Granite v. the Killers as a free download at www.myspace.com/greygranite. - Nuvo


Discography

Grey Granite Amplifies the Killers

Lay U Down (Single)

Off Safety (Single)

The Road (Single)

The Final Countdown to Bmore (Single)

The Bar (Single)

Got Soul (Single)

Photos

Bio

In a single word, Grey Granite is "badass". He�s that essential verse on a beat and the perfect spark at a show.
Grey Granite is an artist everyone needs to take notice of. Heavy Gun is the movement they shall join.

Grey Granite is a hard working musician, visual artist and blogger, and over the past year Grey�s music and his blog Heavy Gun have become the fastest growing artistic movement in Indianapolis. In that span of time, Grey has released 4 original singles including �Lay U Down�, �Off Safety�, �The Bar�, & �The Road�, and a mixtape featuring him remixing the Killers. Locally Grey can do no wrong, and on a broader level, his work has also garnered positive attention from the blogsphere. With a reputation for being on the edge of everything cool, Heavy Gun has a growing national visibility with strong footholds in California and New York. He�s one of the few names in Indy�s music scene that can consistently pack the house.

Because Grey Granite�s sound is forever evolving, it�s rather hard to pigeon-hole him into a genre; quite simply, he�s just a great musician. Grey started out a hip-hop emcee several years ago but has reemerged with a new sound that incorporates elements of electro, rock, pop, hip-hop, and whatever else he�s feeling that day.

With a strong local support base, growing national interest, and the creation of the Heavy Gun Entertainment music label, Grey Granite is ready to jump out of the Midwest and into every major market in the US and around the world.

The Heavy Gun movement is spreading rapidly.

ONLINE
twitter.com/greygranite
myspace.com/greygranite
heavygunblog.com

CONTACT
greygraniteinfo@yahoo.com
greygranitebookings@gamil.com