Grandmilly & Shozae The Long Island hip-hop duo talks Stones Throw debut “Adventureland”

Things tend to take time. MC Grandmilly and producer Shozae, both from the Uniondale/Hemsptead area of Long Island, NY, have been working on music together since 2012 or 2013, but Adventureland, due August 24 on Stones Throw, will be their first physical album release. I first saw Grandmilly on stage in 2012, among SpaceGhostPurrp’s Raider Klan massive, but I didn’t see Grandmilly perform live until May 2018, with Shozae. Boiler Room co-founder and longtime Stones Throw fam Sofie Fatouretchi has known Grandmilly since at least 2013, as she deejayed for him during sets in both Los Angeles and New York that year. However, as you’ll read, it was a very recent email from her that helped put the Adventureland Ferris wheel in rotation, as it were. (And for at least two years, I’ve been bugging Shozae for the instrumental to “Exits,” a track off his 2013 album with New Jersey MC SageInfinite, Dark Minded — no luck yet, but maybe this feature will curry enough favor to seal the deal ;-) )

I spoke with Grandmilly and Shozae on July 25, just under a month shy of their Stones Throw debut. Our discussion covers the conjoining paths that led the two artists to this shared milestone, as well as the timeless process by which this album came together. Also: Gaia, The Warriors, and Toni Braxton.

When we last spoke, you guys mentioned that you linked up through Y2the3rd and Ace Who. When was that, and how long ago was it that you began working on music with each other?

Grandmilly: Maybe 2010, 2011 when I first encountered Shozae. When I first met him was like 2012. I knew he made music, but I hadn’t heard what he was working with until one day I had come over his house and we all migrated to his backyard because he had the garage with equipment, microphones and everything. He threw a beat on, and we all just attacked the beat, and I was like, ‘Yo, I’m rocking with this nigga, no matter what, all the way,’ because his sound is where I was trying to go at the time. He was making East Coast music, and that’s where I was leaning towards.

Was The Miseducation EP the first project you guys worked on together?

Shozae: Nah, at the time, we made “Extendos,” which was just a random single. After that, Milly was working on albums, so I had a couple joints on his albums here and there: Amerikkka the Beautiful and then Miseducation. At the time, we wasn’t making albums together, but we had a couple joints together so we was slowly gradually getting to that. I was making albums on my own also so that was something that was gonna happen anyway.

Milly, you’ve posted photos of you on stage with Spaceghostpurrp at SOBs in July 2012. I was in the crowd at that show, and I remember being amazed at the amount of people he brought up there with him. What impact did that night and the overall Raider Klan movement have on you?

G: It was cool. Purrp had fans. He wasn’t super famous, but it was a lot of people, and the energy backstage was undeniable. You felt like you was with a bunch of stars, people who was destined to be somebody. I tell my manager Kazeem all the time, I cherish those times going back and forth from the city to meet with Purrp and Denzel Curry and Matt Stoops, because it was fun. Purrp lived in Miami, so he’d only be in New York for a couple dates. His manager Randy Acker would set him up with NY dates. Me and Kazeem, Sho sometimes, we’d go up there and wind up being on stage or backstage with this nigga, smoking weed, enjoying being with Raider Klan.

It’s funny, I was looking at a video just recently of the show and saw you on stage in the back wilding out, and then I found myself in the audience also wilding out. It was a crazy show.

G: Yea, that shit was fun. That’s what I want to bring to hip-hop. Everybody, when they get into the spot, they all stone faced and want to make an issue out of everything, but I want to bring the level of fun where everybody knows the words to they favorite songs, the bitches come scantily clad, you know, that energy. You’ve got other artists that support each other. I’m feeling a ton of other rappers right now, like Tha God Fahim, Bubrock, Roc Marciano of course. It’s a lot of shit that should be done as far as rap goes, but I enjoy it.

For those who don’t know, tell the people a little bit about your respective crews, Zero Klique and Midnite Society.

G: Zero Klique Entertainment formed one time I was in my manager’s kitchen and told him I wanted to make an entertainment company. I had this ideology of completion, of a 360-degree cipher… beginnings and ends, but because they’re beginnings and ends, there are no beginnings or ends, you dig what I’m saying? Real brotherhood shit. I came up with Zero Klique, not Zero Gang, not Zero Squad, because Boot Camp Clik from back in the day and Screwed Up Click were the only real cliques. It could’ve been Zero Mob or whatever, but I chose Zero Klique because that stands out more to me. Sho already had Midnite Society rocking. He brought me in on what he was doing.

S: Midnite formed back in ‘04. My brother Ace, Petey Max, Super Vic, and QS formed that shit up, and I was just a young boy at the time doing dumb shit still, but I wanted to rap. Nobody gave me a chance to rap, nobody wanted me in they studio. I used to ask people all the time, but these guys was upstairs rapping in my mother’s house, so I’m like, you know, I’m gonna go upstairs and rap with these guys. I was freestyling, and they loved my energy, so they was like, “Yo, you with us.” After that, we just kept going and making music. We got a vision to stay true to hip-hop and be what we can be. It’s still like that, and as time went by, we met up with Milly and Zero Klique, and me and Milly [became] another duo in and of ourselves, another branch.

Horror is a common theme through both of your discographies. For Milly, it starts with the Bvndvnvz x Blvck Mvgic projects tied in with Raider Klan. For Sho, the name Midnite Society conjures it.

S: We naturally formed that way. I guess, a dark place is like a low place in life, and we’re all comfortable in that place, being that we all struggle in a way. That darkness is something we all related to, something we all have, and being that we all have it, we just naturally gravitate towards it even more with each other. Our chemistry is pure because of that, the same struggle, the darkness, the shit people don’t want to talk about.

At the same time, though, it’s interesting because you’ve really only done one project that’s explicitly horror-oriented, Mausoleum. Otherwise, it’s just something that’s in the cut. It’s not like anyone would say you guys make horrorcore or horror rap.

S: We don’t always stay there, in that dark place when we’re creating. Mausoleum was dark because it was released on Halloween—

G: Progressive rap is really what it is. I think anything trying to move music to the next level is progressive.

Let’s get to Adventureland: where and when did you guys record it?

G: We recorded it in Sho’s basement, but we mixed the tracks at 1Netouch studios.

S: I think it was early 2017.

There are a bunch of vocal samples throughout the album, which all sound like they’re from the same source. How’d you come across these?

S: Doing my research. Every time we do an album, we try and research something in particular and grab it, so [the songs] could be cohesive, connect and make sense with each other, so it’s not just a bunch of things slapped together. We came across a documentary about New York gangs in the 70s, which becomes the inspiration for The Warriors. It was so dope, because it’s talking about the same things we living in now. The documentary was like two hours long, so we had mad fun with it, you know what I mean? We chopped the shit out of it and made a whole album out of it.

Did you have some beats together already?

S: Nah, everything was all from scratch. None of those beats are pre-made or beats we had already stashed. To be honest, that’s how we make all of our music, on the spot: make the beats, make the raps.

Milly, do those samples drive the direction of your writing when you’re hearing them for the first time?

G: Yeah, but I leave most of my stuff to Gaia.

To what?

G: I call it Gaia. Gaia is God to me. I just write and try to go as hard as possible so I can entertain the people and give them that wow factor, but I always try to be abstract. Mayans were abstract [in] the way they spelled their names and the names of the gods. You couldn’t even really pronounce that shit. Their art was real abstract. It was clearly something you could see, but it was all jumbled up. I got a song on Adventureland called “Street Life.” It sounds like The Warriors. It sounds like meeting up with a bunch of niggas at midnight, you know what I mean? “When it’s nighttime, I activate the prana in my right mind/ Paradigms I alter with my rhyme catch up another time/ Lost and found wide awake sleep when I’m buried in the ground/ Rock this halo high like an angel from out the underground/ Black Cesar time pieces and Bathing Ape sneakers/ Pistol squeezes, say hi to Jesus in between the wheezing…

Sho, do you have a favorite verse or line from Milly on this project?

S: My favorite verse is probably on “Chancellor.”

Are there any lines that Milly spit on this that you wanted to pick his brain about?

S: I think the only thing probably was “Pleasant Times,” because he was getting real dark with that one.

G: We could make a sick video for that shit. It’s only crazy, because it’s an uncomfortable time but it’s called “Pleasant Times.”

S: Going back to what we were saying, we’re comfortable in that uncomfortable element.

G: You kind of imposing your will at the time, your will be done. The Bible alludes to that: free will is the nature of God, you being God, and you being made in His image. People call it devilish shit, but it’s real.

That’s a dope theme for the project, which I hadn’t considered.

S: It’s also a way for us to express where we live. Adventureland: that’s an ill way to just [represent] Long Island, you know, smack in the middle.

Milly, do you have a favorite beat or sample from the album?

G: “Fool’s Gold.” It’s fire because right before the song comes on, the interlude has a guy talking about mobilizing, getting in formation, fucking organizing, and just being God or feeling like you a god. They was really talking that on the East Coast, in the Bronx, Harlem, Queens, and all these places. Right before the record, you hear that and the beat just cuts in and sounds amazing. It feels good, because it’s finally something that I can all the way be proud of. I enjoy a lot of my past work, but this one is really important to me. I think Sho outshined a lot of producers and did a lot of ill shit.

Funny you picked that beat, because I’d like to run down a few of my favorite lines and see if you could break them down, and the first is actually off that track. You say, “Bless my body, rap not a hobby, learned my rules from a native dude.”

G: I used to watch consciousness videos, real deep, thought-provoking videos. There was this one Yogi, and he would explain the nature of God and the temple and a lot about the cleanliness and the righteousness or the nature of being a man. That’s what that really means. “Rap not a hobby, learned my rules from a native dude,” the native of the land, somebody who knows everything.

What about on “Street Life,” when you say, “Morality ain’t reality, so I grab my pistol and swing it at your cabbage, g?”

G: That’s just more of the ills of the world, people doing whatever they got to do to get a dollar, you know what I mean? It reminds me of that Kool G Rap song, [singing] “It’s a damn shame what you gotta do just to make a dollar.” Anybody consciously destroying somebody or shooting someone is taking a backseat to morals.

But that’s the way of the world?

G: It’s not necessarily the way of the world. It’s reality at that time, but it ain’t reality, because who know what I’ve done, who knows what the man on the other side of the gun did? [That] is always the question. It’s destructive behavior, but morality ain’t reality.

It’s kind of high and low as well, because you start with something to dwell on and then go base from there.

G: Its prophetic, I guess.

Sho, tell us something about your production process that might not be evident to listeners.

S: I wake up in the morning real early sometimes, and I get going, like “Put that shit on, let’s go.” We dig, and then once I hear it, I know it, I’m real confident, and I just move forward and attack it, and then Milly’s right there, so as soon as that shit hit, boom, Millly’s writing. I guess that’s something you might not know unless you in the room with us. People probably think the beat’s already made; nah, that shit is right there, like boom boom boom boom.

What about in terms of actual resources and gear? What do you use?

S: I use the Maschine from time to time, but most of the time I get busy on Fruity Loops. As for the samples, we’ve got mad vinyls in the crib. Sometimes we might go to YouTube if we can’t get it to transfer right, but most of the time we try to keep it in-house as natural as it gets. Everything is on the spot for that reason. It’s like if you go to the store for a turkey sandwich, you want your turkey sandwich to be made then. You don’t want [the beat] made three weeks before you plan to listen to that shit. That’s not the move.

What about sourcing the records themselves? How do you come across stuff?

S: I came across mad vinyls from my man Dunny Cold-Facts. His pops used to DJ and when we was young we used go to his crib. I was mad young, this was probably in the 90s that we used to be around him deejaying in the garage. One day he was giving away mad vinyls, so I came across a lot. And then you got your friends sometimes; Zeem has given me vinyls on my birthday.

In the run-up to the album, you guys dropped a couple EPs: Motel Six and Mausoleum. How did you select songs and concepts for them?

G: Motel Six was kind of one of those brain farts. I just said “Motel Six” one day, and I was like, me and Sho should make a joint based around it, the actual motel. He had a bunch of beats that I had recorded to, and we just put them together like that. Mausoleum came because we was watching the movie. We found it on the internet on some wicked-ass website.

S: Yeah, it was trash.

G: The movie was terrible, a real fucking b-movie, but we [wanted] to do something entertaining, so we took the movie and did the EP.

Does working on shorter projects like that help set you up for a larger project?

G: Yeah, pretty much. I got another project called Usual Suspects that I want to put out before Adventureland actually drops, but I might just sit on it.

S: It do kind of set up the album, because in between you got something to listen to and keep you occupied.

Does the same apply for you as creators?

S: Hell yeah, for sure, most definitely. That’s how it usually was done: you make an EP and then the LP.

Milly, you mentioned that when you were coming up you used to listen to R&B more than rap. Who were some of the artists you most enjoyed back then?

G: I liked Case, Xscape, Mary J. Blige, Dru Hill, Jaheim, Stevie Wonder, all the old school shit, Lauryn Hill. I was a big Fugees fan, my brother, sister and mother too. I was a crazy big D’Angelo fan back in the day when he put out Voodoo, when he did the video ass-naked.

S: My fam played all that shit.

G: My moms used to have this wild crush on D’Angelo. She was obsessed.

Sho, do you share a soft spot for R&B as well?

S: Yeah, I fuck with the R&B.

G: Toni Braxton.

S: I got Toni on the wall in the basement.

G: R. Kelly.

S: Jagged Edge is wavy.

G: 112.

S: Sade, Soul II Soul…

This is your first project on Stones Throw. How’d you get up with the label?

S: One day I was chilling, and I got an email from Sofie, the DJ from Boiler Room. Zeem hooked us up to all of that, had Milly and all of us go up there. One day, she emailed me like, “Yo, [Peanut Butter] Wolf heard your shit, and he’s fucking with it.” And that’s how it all happened. Shouts out to Sofie.

The LP includes 10 of the 16 tracks on the digital version, and to my ears, it’s very different experience listening to it this way. The skits are obvious omissions, but how did you determine which songs to include on the wax? Was it just a matter of track length?

S: Yeah, when making vinyl with hip-hop tracks or tracks with a lot of bass, the grooves in the vinyl has to be cut slightly thicker, so technically having a lot of songs over a certain duration would take away from the quality of the music. It can still be done, but when playing it back, it’ll sound slightly lowered, and we wanted to avoid that.

Stones Throw boasts a very diverse roster that touches and mixes many different genres—

S: That’s why I like it over there, heavy, because of the diversity.

Has there been any talk of collaboration between you guys and other folks on the label?

S: I mean, as far as right now — we would love to do that in the future — but I think the main focus is trying to move this particular album, getting it to where it needs to be.

Milly mentioned Usual Suspects earlier. Do you two have any other projects planned for the future?

S: Yeah, we got Under Surveillance. You want to talk about that?

G: Yeah, Under Surveillance is gonna come out soon. I’m not sure when, but that shit’s fire. I don’t know if we’re going to make it an EP or a full-length album, but it’s wiretaps in between some of the hottest songs. It’s real rugged, like a mob movie.

S: After that, we got another tape.

G: The Long Island Sound.

S: That one is it. I don’t want to give it away, though.

Any final thoughts?

S: The album is coming August 24, so make sure everybody gets that. Buy the vinyl, support. Shouts out to everybody.

G: Word.

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