Chae Hawk, Grabbitz release mixtape today - INTERVIEW
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • October 30, 2012 @ 11:14am
They’re known for churning out tracks in one sitting and jumping at almost any opening gig offered to them. That’s the challenge for the Queen City’s aspiring hip-hop artists: plodding through hours of perfecting, embracing small crowds that usually support openers and grabbing hold of the positives while slogging through the negatives.
Even though you may still not be familiar with Hawk and Grabbitz, your excuses are beginning to run thin. The duo opened for LL Cool J (photos), Salt-N-Pepa (photos) and 3OH!3 (photos) this summer after a high-profile set before Talib Kweli. Now, to make sure the hype machine doesn’t stall, the duo is releasing a self-titled, 11-track mixtape this afternoon.
In regard to the mixtape, Hawk described the collaborative release as “radio-ready, commercially-accessible, and more charismatic and fun” than his full-length debut album, Dance Party for the Heavy-Hearted, due out in early December. The mood of the hype CD is proof that Hawk is willing to leave his comfort zone, which typically is more somber and grapples with heavier subjects.
To celebrate the release—and have an excuse to throw a party—Hawk and Grabbitz, the alias for rapper-producer Nick Chiari, have scheduled a release gathering at 9 p.m. Nov. 24 at Soundlab, 110 Pearl St., Buffalo. Tickets are $8 for females and $10 for guys and will be available at the door.
“It feels cool to be a kid again,” Hawk (below) said with a chuckle over the phone, referring to the age gap that separates him from 20-year-old Grabbitz. “[This collaboration] showcases what we are as a brand, features us as a unit.”
The production of new music marks the next step after a summer of opportunity, even though it admittedly had mixed results. Both artists credit opening for LL Cool J as the event that spawned the idea for a quick follow-up project.
“The crowd [at the harbor] really reacted to [our performance],” Grabbitz said. “That was the moment when we said, ‘Man, we really have to make an LP.”
“We really built an identity, raised our confidence and found some security in that show,” Hawk reflected.
The crowd at Salt-N-Pepa, however, wasn’t quite as accepting of the local openers. “There aren’t many perks for openers,” Grabbitz said about the reality of playing hours before a headlining band. “We didn’t have the best sound quality—we’re bass reliant, and the bass needs to go through your body to enjoy our live performance.”
“There wasn’t much participation from the crowd, either,” he added. “There were fractions of the Salt-N-Pepa crowd at our set before 3OH!3, but all 60 people were moving.”
Grabbitz (above), who produces all 11 tracks on “Chae Hawk and Grabbitz,” discussed how his engineering skills have evolved. Open-minded, eager to experiment and a bit of YouTube addict, Chiari can masterfully manipulate sound waves—check out “Cypher” at the 1:45 mark for a taste.
As for Hawk, the Buffalo rapper is closing in on the long-awaited release of Dance Party for the Heavy-Hearted. “I’m doing it independently and making sure it gets the attention it deserves,” he explained. “I’m getting the pieces just right. It’s about my struggle, a darker, more real project—the heartbeat of what it is to live in this city.”
(Body photos courtesy of Chuck Alaimo from the DPFTHH release at Ujima Theater— full gallery here).