Grits eighth full-length album, Reiterate, marks the beginning of this new era for the best-selling crew. Not only is the tandem, made up of Teron “Bonafide” Carter and Stacy “Coffee” Jones, still actively recording, after more than a decade with boutique independent label Gotee Records, the emcees are stepping out in faith and launching Revolution Art, an indie label of their own that, they hope, will make more than just hits.
“I want to be like Clive Davis—I want to have lifetime artists,” Bonafide says with conviction. His partner, Coffee, adds, “It can be a scary and overwhelming thing, but you’re just kind of at that point when you know it’s time to step into that place. It’s a risky business, but when you’re gambling on something you’re passionate about, that takes a lot of the fear away.”
Grits decision, though, is far from a gamble. As the highest-grossing rap group in faith-fueled hip-hop, they have some clout. Already, Grits have secured national distribution for Reiterate and future Revolution Art projects through Provident-Integrity, a unit of Sony-BMG. And if that weren’t enough, Grits also has a number of power players supporting their new venture. To wit, the duo’s former benefactors are one-hundred percent behind them.
“My hope is Grits becomes part of the new wave of leadership in this industry,” says Joey Elwood, president of Gotee and longtime friend of the duo. “Nothing would make me happier for them than to see the future being developed by their thoughts and ideas. They’ve been shaping the future as artist for some time; now it’s time for them to take the next step, and I know they will do it.”
Elwood’s associate, Toby “tobyMac” McKeehan, has some praise of his own: “Grits has changed the face of positive and spiritual hip-hop. They are relevant and have a knack for discovering talent that stretches our industry to places I love seeing it go.”
Endorsements like that are enough for any new enterprise to hit the ground running, but Grits isn’t a group to fall back on others’ opinions to validate their work; they let their own art do the talking. “We want to make soundtracks for life and let it be what it is,” Bonafide says. “At the end of the day, it’s all art. We started a revolution but at the end of the day it is art. Let it speak for itself. I don’t have to give you my whole biography in life…I’m doing my art every single time.”
Upon that maxim—life as art—is that Reiterate and Revolution Art were created. The concept is nothing new for Grits. As early as their classic albums Mental Releases and Factors of the Seven, Grits was toiling autonomously, with a budding yet firm idea of who they were becoming—very little need for supervision or oversight. By the time Grits' career-defining Art of Translation and Dichotomy albums arrived, the music was simply an extension of years of self-discovery and life on the road.
Now that Grits' are all on their own, the stakes are high and the hours are longer. But they wouldn’t have it any other way. “Initially, there are always some reservations, but in the end we’re stepping out and doing it,” Bonafide says. “We’re finding that it’s definitely a lot more rewarding. You put a lot of work into it—a lot more calls to make, people to connect with, more time-consuming—but it pays off. In the end, we’re going to be glad for taking the time to step out on our own and not depend on somebody else.”
With faith, art, and people as their pillars, Grits set out to record Reiterate, the boldest representation of their craft to date. The title may lead some to believe that these street poets are repeating themselves—rehashing ideas that have been done-heard before. But not so fast: “What we’re reiterating is almost like, instead of going back and trying to re-lay a foundation, we’re continuing on what we’ve already laid out 10 years ago,” Bone says.
While Grits knows how to handle the thought-provoking stuff, it’s the party numbers, the bangers, that have defined a large portion of their legacy. In honor of their Southern heritage, the deep-fried “Let’s Get It” is as crunk as they come, while the ferocious, club-ready beat of “Livin’ Dreams” is bound to join “Here We Go,” “They All Fall Down,” and “Hittin’ Curves” in the pantheon of classic Grits.
In the end, Grits understands accessibility is key to leaving a mark, but they acknowledge is not the be-all-end-all of their methodology. If anything, Grits want all of their exploits—whether that be Reiterate, Revolution Art, or their lifestyles—to go much deeper.
“People are still going to hear the catchy hook,” Coffee says. “We understand at the end of the day that’s the business, that’s what people tend to latch on to. But we’re still going to be spitting that truth, man. Not to be cliché, but it’s coming from the heart. We’re sticking to the essence that we’re doing music because we love it, not because it’s a business.”
Listen To Grits Here
|Mental Releases||1995||Gotee Records|
|Factors of the Seven||1998||Gotee Records|
|Grammatical Revolution||1999||Gotee Records|
|The Art of Transformation||2002||Gotee Records|
|Dichotomy A||2004||Gotee Records|
|Dichotomy B||2004||Gotee Records|