In 2017, Seattle-based rapper Grieves finds his career at a crossroads.

Having reached his peak popularity six years ago off of mega-hits like “On the Rocks” and “Light Speed,” the Rhymesayers signee has become more introspective with his lyrics. His new album Running Wild sees him reflecting on his 10-year music career and his personal life — in great contrast to the quirky young man he used to be.

I was interested to see this newfound maturity on full display at his performance at the Launchpad in downtown Albuquerque. Up until this show, I had only ever been to big hip-hop concerts with at least a few hundred people. I was curious to see how the atmosphere would differ with only a few dozen in attendance. As it turns out, this intimate venue would work to Grieves’ advantage.



The show began with a couple of local acts, Kemist and Solar One. The former was a pretty decent opening act, utilizing lots of ‘50s samples for his instrumentals. The result was relaxing and pretty entertaining music, a nice way of warming up the small crowd.

The second act, Solar One, proved to be the biggest surprise of the night. Rapping to beats that came straight from his iPhone (which he referred to as “DJ 7”), he channeled influences from MCs like Eminem into a flow that was genuinely captivating. He was as charismatic an MC as I have ever seen.

I actually felt let down when, near the end of his set, he said that he was no longer pursuing a career in music. The music industry can be a cruel and unforgiving place, and it really is sad when a talented artist is unable to excel in it. That being said, I would highly recommend checking out his Bandcamp page.

After Solar One came another Rhymesayer rapper named Dem Atlas. I think what makes for a successful rapper is being able to carve out a niche for yourself, to do what no one else is doing. Dem Atlas accomplishes this with ease, fusing elements of grunge and punk rarely heard in the genre. At one point, I thought, “It’s like if Kurt Cobain rapped,” and that is not a bad thing at all. His performance was electrifying, quirky and sometimes terrifying, as he would often unleash a menacing scream during his performance.

The best part of the performance was when he said to the crowd, with a powerfully angry look on his face, “Who here likes MF Doom?” The crowd returned a thunderous approval as he performed “World Laughs,” an original track with beats composed and produced by Daniel Dumile himself. The audience was at their craziest, and it was amazing to see an opening act with the ability to electrify a crowd in such a way.

Finally, after two-and-a-half hours of anticipation, the ever-quirky Grieves graced the stage. I listened to his new album a few times before the show, and I will admit it is not his best stuff. It’s relaxing, chill, and can even be quite fun on certain tracks. However, it is one of the most inoffensive hip-hop records I have heard in a while, failing to challenge the listener in any significant way. Going into the show, I expected to see a good performance but never thought Grieves would blow me away at any point.

In the end, Grieves’ performance ended up being exactly what I expected. Considering the man has been rapping for ten years now, he knows how to put on a good performance.

Within the first five songs, he must have covered every inch of the stage; he was moving so much. I don’t think it would have mattered if there were one person or 1,000 people in the audience. He would have still put on the same performance, with the same amount of energy. He also peppered his set list with anecdotes about some house shows he did in Albuquerque during the late 2000s. It was a very nice shoutout to the city.

Again, there was very little about his performance that surprised me. It made for good atmosphere but definitely failed to get my adrenaline pumping. I looked back at the bar and envied the people at the counter — it seemed like a more enjoyable place to take in the show.

This late in his career, Grieves is not breaking any new ground.

However, that does not mean the man can’t entertain. Grieves is anything but boring. The biggest thing I took away from the show was that it really was nice to see an artist perform with such passion, even if it may feel like they have nothing left to prove — performing just for the sake of doing so.

Kyle Land is a writer for Daily Lobo Music. He can be contacted at music@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.