No sadness in this rapper’s show

BY KELLY DIGGINS | MAY 13, 2009 7:26 AM

Grieves brings his fresh new sound to the Midwest rap scene while connecting with fans old and new.

The word “grieves” may initially have a depressing connotation. But when used in reference to the up-and-coming rapper, “grieves” can be defined as edgy, innovative, and ready to relate to fans.

When hip-hop artist Grieves performs tonight at the Picador, it won’t be his first appearance in Iowa City or at the popular concert venue.

“I really like playing [the Picador],” he said. “I have groupies [in Iowa City], and it’s a great atmosphere.”

The concert will begin at 7 p.m., and all it takes is $7 to gain entry.

Grieves, who chose his distinct stage name because of how it “rolled off the tongue,” has been performing for five years with two albums to his credit, 88 Keys and Counting and Irreversible. In the beginning, the songwriter experienced frequent panic attacks, so he was much more interested in staying behind the scenes rather than stepping out on stage.

“Performing was not something I thought I’d do,” he said. “I thought I’d do more on the production side. It’s kind of just how the cards fell.”

He grew up among a musical family and learned to play the piano, but it wasn’t until junior high when he became serious about music and making his own. As far as artistic influences go, Grieves looks to a mixture of musicians, including Bob Dylan, Carole King, and Naughty by Nature.

When he begins working on a new song, he experiments with different melodies before he starts to write lyrics.

“The creative process of writing comes from the music,” he said. “I try to be as human as possible when writing. I want people to get something out of it. It’s like looking at a painting; it can be whatever you want.”

And no topic is off limits, including God, love, and addiction. Grieves tackles all kinds of subjects head-on with no regrets or excuses.

As far as his live performances go, he wants to make the environment fun and laid-back by interacting with the audience as much as he can before, during, and after the show.

“The performance is like an up-close-and-personal joke, but not in a bad way,” he said. “There’s definitely some comedy. You can’t take things seriously all the time.”

For Grieves, the upcoming months contain several more performances scattered all over the United States. But the rapper formerly known as Ben has even further destinations in his sights.

“I’d like to see [my music] go overseas and broadcast more, but I couldn’t ask for anything more than what I’ve done,” he said.

No matter how his career progresses from here, Grieves is always ready to perform, meet new people, and give the crowd a personal concert experience.

“I want it to be as interactive as possible,” he said. “I want to talk to people. I like to socialize. [The music is] for the crowd more than it is for me.”

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