Why you should care
Because he could soon be the face of Southern hip-hop.
It’s a sunny October afternoon and Grip is on daddy duty. The 30-year-old father of two often picks up and cares for his elder daughter after school, and today is no different.
“I’m just stepping out for an interview, I’ll be back,” he reassures inside of his East Atlanta home.
Donning a triplet set of gold chains, white-T and a scruffy beard, Grip is your regular, everyday guy to the unexpecting eye. Even as a rapper, there’s something incredibly approachable about his demeanor. “I’m a cool guy,” he says. “I feel like I can be anybody’s friend.”
Yet there is nothing average about Grip. The rapper is a megastar in the making, poised to be the face of Atlanta’s next wave.
Whether it’s his song “100YD Dash” on Madden NFL 20 or “911 (Clap for Em)” on HBO’s Euphoria or him ripping the stage at A3C Festival in Atlanta, Grip bears a talent that has the industry buzzing.
“There’s a countless amount of people posting and talking about this,” says Premium Pete, a curator of hip-hop culture who once co-hosted the legendary Combat Jack Show. “They’re not paid to post. It’s like, it’s one of those natural things that is happening. And I think it’s because it’s talent.”
When Pete first caught wind of Grip and attended his listening party in Atlanta this past year, all he needed was to hear one song: “These Eyes.” He listened repeatedly and came away thinking, “Holy shit, this kid can rap his ass off.” Adds Pete: “I like the way he puts his wordplay together and I’m being honest, his flow is something people haven’t heard in a while. He’s a rising star out of Atlanta.”
Which has pretty much been the reaction of anyone who finds themselves listening to Grip’s
Many still don’t. Grip doesn’t have a video on YouTube over a million views, he’s not verified on Twitter and you still have to put “rapper” behind his name in the Google search bar. So how does someone with virtually no social footprint get the respect he does from the music community?
The answer lies in his authenticity.
Born Kyle Clow, Grip has been rapping since high school, far before his break-out mixtape Porch (2017). His rap-appropriate nickname growing up should have been foreshadowing enough. But it wasn’t until Grip asked his mom for an old computer her employer was throwing out that his life changed. That’s when he began recording on podcast software, giving the DeKalb Tech dropout the creative outlet he needed to hone his artistry.
“I was getting better and better because it was me rapping by myself. I knew what I wanted to rap and I knew which beats I liked. I was just a closet recorder,” Grip recalls. “Eventually I was like, all right, bet, I’m ready to have them released.” That was The Leftover Tape in 2015.
“He’s always been able to put together these conceptual projects. He had this whole EP about love — it’s called The Hopeless Romantic. Literally the whole thing is all in this one pocket about love and relationships,” says his manager, Tigg.
Don’t expect something like Migos, Young Thug, Gunna or any other leading Atlanta acts when you listen to Grip. There isn’t a melody you can mumble his raps to. Instead, he counters the trend head-on with a skillset that builds off of the seeds rappers like Cyhi The Prynce and J.I.D of Dreamville planted before him. There are no raps about “drip” or touting of street life, for Grip has already seen enough of it. Instead, he tells how it made him a man. His uncle, who’s now 36, was locked up for 20 years and just came home. He’s seen the “cool guy” in the neighborhood get shot and has nieces and nephews who he says listen to his music frequently. “I’ve gotten into trouble before,” Grip admits, though he declines to go into detail. “But you ain’t gotta do this shit to be cool, and that’s what I kind of want to show people.”
Grammy Award-winning producer Ayo (from the group Ayo N Keyz), who has worked with artists from Lil Wayne to Drake to Cardi B, felt the authenticity as well. “I’ve been in the industry since 2008; it’s rare with ones like Grip where it’s so believable,” Ayo says. “You can hear his music and know that he’s dealt with and is dealing with exactly what he’s talking about.”
Now the question is, will he remain an industry secret or will the masses embrace him too? Grip has a partnership with Paradigm Talent Agency and has a publishing deal with Pulse Recording. He’s booked for a 28-city tour next year opening for Grammy-nominated singer Brent Faiyaz.
Grip still has work to do. He admits he still has to whip himself into performing shape to optimize breathing on stage. He’s not active on social media. And going against the prevailing Atlanta sound is risky. “Some people will stop, some people will be open-minded,” says Premium Pete.
But if you ask Grip, he’ll say: “I’m the best rapper they ain’t ever heard.”