If you’re not familiar with the world of hip-hop, it can be a daunting genre to dive into. Grieves (a.k.a. Benjamin Laub) is the kind of guy that would welcome you with open arms. After signing to Rhymesayers back in 2010, he has quickly gained a strong following of fans across the globe. With Brother Ali, Aesop Rock and Atmosphere as label buddies, it’s easy to see why Rhymesayers is arguably one of the best hip-hop labels out there.
Grieves makes the kind of hip-hop that you’ve been missing; the kind that makes you want to dance, throw your hands in the air and forget about the crap your boss was giving you all day. But he also creates the kind of hip-hop that stops you in your tracks; the kind that surprises you and takes you back to a place you thought you’d forgotten.
2011 saw the release of ‘Together/Apart’, which saw Grieves battle with a fractured reality after an intense two year tour. It has moments of real clarity whilst still producing some brilliant singles such as ‘Lightspeed’, that you’ll find yourself listening to over and over again. Since then, he’s been kind of quiet. Here, we had the pleasure of finding out what he’s been up to…
Hey Ben! You’ve been a little too quiet for my liking recently. Where have you been hiding?
Ha! Yeah… I’ve been under a rock for a minute now. After I was done with all my touring for Together/Apart (last August) I decided that I was going to take some time off the road and get some things put back into place. Touring that much can really mix things up back home so I felt it was time to go home and get things right.
You toured over here with your label buddy Brother Ali last year. What’s it like being surrounded by artists like that? Do you get inspiration from each other or does it put the pressure on?
I would definitely say travelling with someone like Brother Ali (or anyone on the label for that matter) is inspiring. I came up listening to these dudes and watching them make their moves… sitting right there beside them in a foreign country playing rap songs couldn’t be anything less than inspirational for me.
How’s your pal Budo doing? Are you guys still working together?
Budo’s doing great! Right now we’ve decided to pursue certain musical paths that at this moment don’t really cross, which, both of us see as a good thing. It’s important that as an artist, you’re able to express yourself in the format and style that comes naturally to you, and after about 4 years of us matching really well on that front.. we’ve found ourselves wanting to cast that line a little farther to see what we can reel back in. We chalk this one up to growth, it’s a beautiful thing.
Is there anyone new that you’re working with at the moment? Or is there anyone that you’d love to work with in the future?
Right now I’m working with a very talented producer named B.Lewis who works with one of my favourite bands The Bad Rabbits. Dua, the lead singer for The Bad Rabbits introduced me to Brad back in 2011 and I just fell in love with the dude’s work.. He’s really helped me take my new tracks forward and I can’t wait to finish up this record.
As far as the future goes.. I’m always open. I’ve always wanted to do some work with Ratatat, so maybe they’ll read this and hit a brother up! I’d also like to play around with more traditional hip hop production like Black Milk or my dude 88 Keys. I got nothin’ but time.. so I hope I can spend it making as much music as possible in as many ways as possible.
Your last album Together/Apart was extremely personal. Do you decide what you’re going to write about or does it just come naturally?
A little bit of both really. Sometimes a composition will really ring the lyrics and content out of me like a wet rag… sometimes it’s the other way around. I just try to stay open and let whatever’s going to happen in the studio, happen.
You once told me that you’re journey to hip hop all began when you ‘got out’ of your punk phase. Even though you ‘got out’ of it, do you think it had an influence on what you’re doing today?
It’s hard to say. I wouldn’t feel right saying punk rock made me who I am today… I’d like to say music made me who I am today. I think my soul has a pallet and an eye for a certain sound – whether it be in hip hop, punk rock, blues, country, Peruvian pan flute quartets, classical or foreign radio signals from aliens on a distant planet… if something strikes me… something strikes me and that’s where I feel my inspiration is born.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
My plans for 2013 are as such:
- finish new record
- release new record
- tour the hell out of the new record
- catch a salmon and/or a halibut
- save to buy a house
- go indoor sky diving with ice cube
- learn to craft my own spear out of bone and wood
- use said spear to hunt wild boar in the hills of northern California’s wine country
- learn Portuguese
- make an appearance on the show “Hillbilly Hand Fishing”
- cook more
- conquer my addiction to Star Wars themed pornographic films
Words: Sammy Maine