The Genius, aka the GZA, is the most cerebral MC in the Wu-Tang Clan, as well as perhaps the most acclaimed. His cool, precise flow and intricate, literate rhymes weren’t as theatrical as Method Man or Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but among hip-hop aficionados, The Genius was revered for his flawless technique and lyrical dexterity, and was considered by many to be the best pure rapper in the entire Clan. The Genius was born Gary Grice in Staten Island, NY, and shuttled between several other New York boroughs with various relatives during his childhood. He started learning rhymes by the earliest hip-hop MCs while spending time in the Bronx, and returned to Staten Island to share them with his cousins, who later became Ol’ Dirty Bastard and the RZA. In fact, the three of them first teamed up in the early ’80s as part of an obscure group called All in Together Now.
Time passed, and The Genius landed a recording contract with Cold Chillin’, which, unfortunately, was nearing the end of its brilliant run. In 1991, he became the only future Wu-Tang member to release a solo album prior to the Clan’s formation, with Words From the Genius. Produced mostly by Easy Mo Bee, the album flopped badly and, creatively, did little to hint at The Genius’ future standing. Conflicts with the label sent The Genius packing, and he reteamed with a similarly disenchanted RZA (fresh off a failed stint with Tommy Boy) and Ol’ Dirty Bastard to co-found the Wu-Tang Clan. Adding six other friends and associates, the group became an underground sensation and took the rap world by storm with its 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Their innovative contract allowed each member to sign a solo deal with whatever label they chose, and The Genius wound up on Geffen. In 1994, his first post-Wu solo track, “I Gotcha Back,” appeared on the soundtrack of the film Fresh. His second solo album, Liquid Swords, followed in 1995 and was hailed as a hip-hop classic thanks to its coolly understated menace. While it didn’t make him a star on the level of Method Man, the album did sell well, reaching the pop Top Ten and falling one spot short of the top of the R&B charts. There were no big mainstream hits, but the title cut, “Cold World,” and “Shadowboxin'” all did well on the rap charts.
Following the Clan’s 1997 sophomore set, Wu-Tang Forever, The Genius returned to the solo arena with 1999’s Beneath the Surface. While critics didn’t praise it quite as lavishly as Liquid Swords, it was another well-received effort (especially compared to some of the lackluster follow-ups elsewhere in the Wu-Tang camp), and it topped the R&B album charts. After reconvening with the Wu for 2000’s The W and 2001’s Iron Flag, The Genius dropped his fourth solo effort, Legend of the Liquid Sword, in late 2002, consolidating his reputation as one of the most skillful rappers around. Grandmasters, a collaborative project between himself and Cypress Hill DJ Muggs was released in 2005, followed the next year by an instrumental version and then a remix version in 2007. A year later, GZA signed to Babygrande Records & released the solo album Pro Tools, featuring guest shots from Wu affiliates RZA, Masta Killa, and producer Mathematics. Dark Matter, GZA’s next solo album for Babygrande Records, is due out in 2015.
Just saying “Electronic” is not enough. The different aspects of the genre are endless, and for NYC based producer Lee Bannon, exploring new directions is exactly his mission. Not being tied to one genre is a trend of Bannon’s. Gaining his popularity initially in Hip-Hop by working with Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar, Curren$y and others, Lee then ventured off to pursue a solo project, bridging Drum & Bass with Ambient production. Lee’s movement into the electronic realm seemed too simple. His latest LP titled Alternate/Endings catapulted Lee’s career while making him a popular staple, not only to press and other musicians, but fans alike.
With positive reviews in major outlets like Pitchfork, Stereogum, Spin and other tastemakers, the name Lee Bannon became a household one for the lovers of Drum & Bass and other lanes of Electronic music. Coming off the tsunami of praise for his album Alternate/Ending Lee immediately hit the studio and began the creation of what is now known as Main/Flex.
Lee Bannon’s Main/Flex is not simply a Drum & Bass EP; It combines Ambient aspects with hypnotizing melodies that capture the listener and cause them to think about more than just the music. Lee’s inspiration for most of his work comes not only from other musicians but from film, art, and worldly matters. It is very clear that Lee Bannon is on the rise as one of the industry’s top producers, and as Pitchfork justly said, “Bannon can call wherever he rests his head home, be it D&B, Hip-Hop, or elsewhere.”
Main/Flex features appearances by Hak of Ratking, Charlie Benante of Anthrax and Deejay Earl of TekLife, and was mastered by acclaimed producer and engineer Daddy Kev. Look for Main/Flex in stores worldwide on November 4th, 2014 via Babygrande Records.
For over a decade, Freeway has been Philadelphia’s mouthpiece in chronicling the city’s balance of blue-collar work ethics and vigilant street-corner credos within one of the world’s most diverse and storied backdrops. The local favorite was mentored under the careful and critical eye of Beanie Sigel, ultimately winning the praise and endorsement of Jay Z — and a record deal with Roc-A-Fella Records. After standout features on Beanie Sigel’s “Think It’s A Game” and Jay Z’s “1-900-HUSTLER” posse cut, Free was a critical role-player within State Property’s debut album, namely on Philadelphia classic “Roc Da Mic.” Freeway followed shortly after with the 2003 release of his now-classic debut album, Philadelphia Freeway, which featured involvement from Kanye West, Just Blaze, and Mariah Carey & yielded the timeless outcry, “What We Do” with Free’s mentors Jay and Beans.
After Free’s label home, Roc-A-Fella, split up, Free released his second solo album, Free At Last, and followed that album with Stimulus Package, released via Rhymesayers Entertainment in 2010, an album produced entirely by Jake One, created from a relationship forged during the making of Free At Last. After three years of being a dedicated father, working within his community, and touring, Freeway prepared his fourth studio album, Diamond In The Ruff, finding a new label to call his home, Babygrande Records. Reunited with the sounds of Just Blaze, Bink!, as well as a heavy hand from Jake One. Diamond In The Ruff was released on November 27, 2013 via Babygrande Records.
Early 2014 saw Freeway team up on five songs with acclaimed electronic “mash-up guru” producer/DJ Girl Talk for the Broken Ankles EP, which was released for free via DatPiff.com to much critical acclaim, & also features verses from Waka Flocka Flame, Jadakiss & Young Chris. Freeway is currently working on his next album, due out in 2015, with production from Girl Talk & others.
Skylab 3 is a 22 year-old British Electronic producer. Skylab 3 uses a sophisticated blend of classical hip-hop production and synthesized sounds to create atmospheric, ethereal soundscapes. With a musical upbringing heavily influenced by various electronic, psychedelic and trip-hop artists, Skylab 3 has established his unique sound and is all set to share these captivating, rich and compelling musical creations with the rest of the world. In late 2013, Skylab 3 signed to Babygrande Records. He is currently finishing up his debut album, which is set to drop in 2015.
Born in Brooklyn and raised by two Jamaican immigrant parents, Kasim Keto finds his influences in a wide range of places and experiences. Having moved from New York, to Alabama, to Florida and then back to New York within the span of two years as an adolescent, Kasim found sanctity in a diverse array of musical styles, which is today reflected in his eclectic blend of production. Kasim saw music as a method of escape and an outlet for creative expression. Kasim began writing music at the age of 8 and it would go onto become a life-altering experience. At 16 years-old, Kasim began cutting school and, unlike his peers, his days were not spent in relaxation but rather, working through the ranks of various studios to learn pro audio gear in an effort to hone his talent as a producer. As Kasim explains, “working on several local projects and trying to gain notoriety became a facilitator of my musical talents.” After releasing numerous online projects to critical acclaim, Kasim is ready to show the world why he is in a lane of his own. As popular local blog BrooklynBullshit states, “keep an eye out” for Kasim Keto.
With an unmatched drive, Kasim blends hip-hop and electro into a cohesive musical journey on his debut album Long Car Rides. Upon it’s release, fans were then able to hear the album that LeftOverCake described as “a stunning debut” in its entirety. As the co-founder of 2dopeboyz Shake states, “…this is perfect for those late night car rides through town…or even when you’re chilling in the crib dolo…I’m on my third listen and I don’t plan on putting it away any time soon. This is fantastic stuff.” CJ from WeTheOpinionated.com raves, “I encourage everyone to listen.” Additionally, Joe Rivers of Clash Magazine exclaims, “Long Car Rides sets the mood well enough to be considered as a great album in its own right. The soundscapes that Keto creates transport you to a more relaxing, far less hectic place.”
Kasim Keto is currently wrapping up production on his sophomore album, coming soon on Babygrande.
Called the “Trap Lord”, “Moombahton King” & “Twerk Ambassador”, Ricky Vaughn is bridging the gap between Hip Hop & Electronic production. Starting out as Mr. Vega, the Brooklyn native served as the producer of the Moombahton 3-piece Sazon Booya, whose debut EP “La Bomba” (Jul. ’11) quickly became a seminal release in the then-blossoming Moombahton scene, earning them a coveted slot on Skrillex’s 2011 Mothership Tour. After sharing stages with Zedd, Munchi, Laidback Luke & many others. Soon after, Sazon Booya disbanded, & Vega quickly re-emerged as the Trap, Moombahton & Twerk “triple threat” Ricky Vaughn.
In 2013, Ricky Vaughn released four EP’s to much critical acclaim from the blogosphere, and five singles from those EP’s reached Beatport’s Top 20 Singles chart. He’s received huge praise from Vibe Magazine, DJ Mag, White Raver Rafting, TrapMusic.net, Moombahton.Net, and YourEDM, all labeling him as an artist to watch. His tracks are supported by artists like Diplo, Bassnectar, Skream & Benga, Bro Safari, Munchi, DJ Craze, Nadastrom, ETC!ETC!, 12th Planet, Nick Thayer, Skism, Doctor P, and Reid Speed to name a few. His unique sounds and standout drum patterns are what makes him a leader in the wave of fresh producers in the new century.
Honing in on the modern man’s struggle, Journalist 103 uses his words to paint vivid pictures of peril, inspiration and overcoming hardship. As the lyricist behind The Left’s critically acclaimed 2010 opus, “Gas Mask,” Journalist maneuvered through obscurity and rose to infamy as one of Detroit’s most celebrated narrators. Throughout the years, he has shared the mic with legends such as Kool G Rap and even lent his voice to the opening track on Proof’s out-of-print Detroit classic and now collector’s item, “Electric Coolaid Acid Testing.”
As his name suggests, Journalist 103 is able to articulate his point of view like a true professional, never relying on cheap frills to captivate listeners. “Journalist is a perfectly-titled MC because his raps have no gimmicks….but keep the listener coming back for more because they’re expertly-arranged, compellingly delivered, and contain real substance,” declares RapReviews.com. 2010 was an incredible year for Journalist, as his album alongside producer Apollo Brown and DJ Soko, collectively known as The Left, garnered a 92 (out of 100) from OkayPlayer.com, reached the number one position on KevinNottingham.com’s staff picks for the Top 10 Albums of the Year, and has earned select spots in both DJ Premier and HipHopDX’s rankings for top albums that year.
Journalist 103 continued his investigative report on the human psyche and chartered new territory on his solo debut album, Reporting Live, released on October 30, 2012 via Babygrande Records.
“It is definitely a privilege and an honor to [put] this album out on Babygrande Records” remarks Journalist. “Sharing the Roster with the likes of Freeway and the legendary GZA makes everything up to this point all worth the while” he adds. “Reporting Live” featured guest appearances from Freeway, Saigon & Fashawn, and production from Snowgoons, Apollo Brown, Oddisee, and The Audible Doctor, among others.
Journalist 103 plans to drop his sophomore solo album on Babygrande Records in 2015.