Greg Grease: Minneapolis rapper on the rise

A&E cleans up with Greg Grease.

Local hip-hop artist Greg Grease preforms at First Avenue on Friday, June 14, 2013.

Jaak Jensen

Local hip-hop artist Greg Grease preforms at First Avenue on Friday, June 14, 2013.

Spencer Doar

 

Greg Grease stepped off the First Avenue stage, casually took the congratulations of his fellow performers and friends and, with a big grin on his face, lifted his shirt, stood over a fan and let the air buffet his sweat-soaked body.

Last Friday in the Main Room, Grease opened for Sims and Astronautalis, just another gig to bolster credentials already buoyed by the acclaim for his 2012 album, “Cornbread, Pearl & G,” and 2013 EP, “Black King Cole.”

Last month, Grease performed at Soundset. In early June, he was playing in New York — a week later, Grease and his DJ, Ken Thomas, were still buzzin’ about their joyride in a white ’64 Plymouth Valiant (with sea foam green interior) on their way to Rye Playland, just north of New York City. His manager, Jon Jon Scott, was also oozing energy, stoked to see the launch of MTV Other, for which Grease did an interview.

It seems hard to imagine that Grease will be cleaning houses during the day for much longer, though he admits the work is great for getting into his head and working on material, like one long brainstorm session.

Grease takes a similar sort of solace from golf, which he tries to play every Sunday. In a similar way, it has helped him get “better and better” with his Zen patience.

If there’s one thing to wonder about Grease, it’s his edge, his angle. Genuinely down-to-earth and musically versatile, sometimes there can appear to be an absence of one clear, defining characteristic.

Prof has his goofy, party-boy shtick, the Doomtree cats each have their niche, Atmosphere is ubiquitous, Brother Ali has his righteous anger, but what about Grease?

Looking out over the audience as his set took off at 9:15 p.m. that Friday, it seemed the audience didn’t know what to do with him.

“C.R.E.A.M. Dreams,” one of Grease’s compelling odes to making it, features a sparse drumbeat with a lilting flutter of synthy flute over the top — while the second and fourth beats are clearly emphasized, there isn’t the clearly delineated means for the audience to jump in.

He’s an unusual newcomer to the Twin Cities hip-hop scene, and audiences don’t quite know how to consume him — probably because Grease is an artist first and a rapper second. His vision is as acute as his means of implementation. His voice is distinct, but his flow is adaptable, perhaps another source of confusion.

“Cornbread, Pearl & G” features heady lyricism and rhythms clearly influenced by his drumming background. Laid-back while somehow conveying energy, the album succeeds by seemingly letting listeners in on a secret that only Grease knows.

“Black King Cole” continued what Grease started, backing up his goal to simply “get better, continue growing.”

Before the First Avenue show Friday, Grease sat in The Depot Tavern, waiting to inhale a medium-well Portobello-Bleu Burger as the conversation turned to local difficulties with booking black rappers versus white rappers. That’s when Grease interjected and his edge was laid bare.

“I’m not going to let any of that shit hold me back,” Grease said.

If one thing is for sure, Grease is the word, he’s got groove, he’s got meaning.

 

What: 10 Thousand Sounds

When: 4-10 p.m., Saturday

Where: 8th St. and Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis

Cost: $20-$45

Age: 21+