Grynch has been to the Hurricane Cafe once while sober. It makes sense; the greasy 24-hour diner features a sickening prospect of all-you-can-eat hash browns that is appealing only for soaking up a night of heavy drinking. This afternoon he orders just a glass of O.J. because, although this is the one sober visit, it is at least accompanied by a hangover. Getting blitzed the prior night was arguably cathartic for Grynch (real name: John Overlie) given that he's spent the past two years heavily scrutinizing his work. While crafting his sophomore LP, My Second Wind, due next week, Grynch obsessed over each verse, hook, and ad-lib. With influences ranging from Atmosphere to Talib Kweli, the album features 18 tracks meticulously handpicked by Grynch. (He accumulated enough material to release it months ago but scrapped almost the entirety, fearing it wasn't good enough.) Seattle hip-hop heads recognize Grynch as a legitimate local artist with a savvy self-awareness more typical of veteran rappers. Yet Grynch is highly critical when it comes to his own work. When he tries to listen to his past albums, he ends up skipping tracks more times than not. They don't represent what he's capable of, he laments. Grynch's fastidiousness developed early on in life (relatively, given that he's still only 21). His initial exposure to hip-hop was in elementary school, when a friend lent him a copy—audio cassette, mind you—of Dr. Dre's masterpiece The Chronic. The impressionable 10-year-old set to work examining instrumental versions of the tracks. He taught himself to count bars, break down structure, and identify beats appropriate for hooks and verses. Then he started writing and recording rhymes on a blank cassette tape using a boom box. Sounds cute. But Grynch says not really. It just sucked. "I guess everyone's gotta start somewhere," he says. "But this was some stupid shit. You'd rewind and push play, and hear every background noise. The rhymes were pretty bad, too." By the time he reached his senior year at Ballard High School in 2004, Grynch released his debut album/senior project, The 7 Deadly Sins. He sold all 100 copies he'd created by the time the school day was out. Of course, the administration was pissed he conducted business on school grounds. Nevertheless, the ease with which he succeeded was an early indicator of his potential appeal as an artist. The following year Grynch released an LP, This is What I Do. It was a respectably solid album that deserved more attention than it got, but at the very least it introduced him as a local artist to reckon with. The first single off the album, "So Free," made it onto KUBE 93.3's rotation. But Grynch is reluctant to say even that song is up to standard. "I don't in any shape or form regret the work I've done," Grynch explains cautiously. "But there should be much more to an album than battle-rap material. At some point, you have to delve into more personal issues and develop a broader perspective. There are only so many times you can rap about how tight you are." My Second Wind does contain some of the bravado work characteristic of battle raps. "When the Beast Comes Out" stands out as a vociferous, boastful gem, fittingly recorded to some grandiose beats and instrumentation. In contrast, radio-friendly "Summertime," featuring Geologic from Blue Scholars, pays homage to the rarity of good weather in Seattle. That, along with a majority of the album, steers clear of the rut of nonstop boastfulness rappers fall so easily into. (Yes, I'm talking about you, MIMS). Grynch's sophisticated sophomore effort should further cement his reputation as a force in the local hip-hop circuit. Meanwhile, Grynch will likely be back in the recording studio shunning such feedback, determined to create something better the next time around. firstname.lastname@example.org
Grynch With GMK, Rubio, and DJ Swervewon; hosted by D. Black. Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8000, www.chopsuey.com. $8. All ages. 8 p.m. Sun., Jan. 27.
Listen to a sample of Grynch's "Home."
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