Interview MF Grimm Takes to the Ink
New Book, New Concepts, and New Creativity for Prolific Artist
You may know him as MF Grimm, the limit-pushing MC who raps about gingerbread men and movie monsters, recorded a critically acclaimed album in 24 hours, released the first-ever triple-disc hip hop album, American Hunger, and feuds with former ally MF Doom. You may also know him as Percy Carey, a former Sesame Street star who later turned to drug dealing and was shot 10 times over the course of two murder attempts, overcame serious sensory damage but remains confined to a wheelchair, studied law to get himself out of a life imprisonment, and now works as the successful CEO behind his own company, Day By Day Entertainment.
Most recently, he used his life’s incredible twists and turns to pen a DC Comics graphic novel called Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm. The Grimm Reaper himself phoned in with The Tech to talk about his music, his writing, his plans for the future, and what he really wants to be known for: his creativity.
The Tech: You’ve done a lot of really fantastic and imaginative concept albums, such as Monster Island Czars and The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man. What childhood influences inspire you to create?
Percy Carey: I guess I have to say “Sesame Street” first and foremost. Aside from that, The Hulk, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, “Tom & Jerry,” “Gilligan’s Island” … the usual suspects.
For some reason, believe it or not, I always wanted to be a television programmer after “Sesame Street.” So Channel 7 (New York’s ABC) inspired me a lot. Watching the news, wondering how they clipped the stories together. I was obviously into television, but I was more interested in how they put the shows together than the shows themselves, like what made them put it on at a certain time, why they picked certain commercials to put between, I was always amazed by that. Outside of that, mostly reading.
TT: Especially in Gingerbread Man, you create exceptional fictional settings that allow for a discussion of real subjects. How do you balance fantasy with reality?
PC: It’s just about imagination. I’ve always had a vivid imagination. When I did that album, I was in the realm of DC Comics, around all those great writers, people who show you structure and how to capitalize off your ingenuity. I created that album when I first got with DC Comics in 2005. I wasn’t really able to put, as far as I’m concerned, my full potential into it. I’ve got some music I’m working on now, and I really want to reach my goals from last time with this.
TT: Do you have plans for that new material?
PC: I’m always working on stuff, I can’t stop. I’m not ever gonna stop working on stuff, that’s just how it is. I have a problem: I’m always working on at least two albums; I never just work on one at a time. I made The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man and American Hunger at the same time. So I’m working on two albums right now, and I have a side project that involves a children’s album.
I’m taking my time. People are like, “Oh, it shoulda been out already,” but you know, I don’t believe in that shit. Hip-hop didn’t start that way. Now, you create your material and you put it out there to try to make as much money as you can. I’m trying to get away from that and it’s hard. But I’m taking my time. I’m just finishing up one of the three albums I’m talking about, and it should be out by the first or second quarter of next year.
TT: How did your lyrical background contribute to writing Sentences, and how did the experience of writing a graphic novel compare to writing an album?
PC: The biggest difference to me is that for an album, you’re working on music you really, really love, writing lyrics to it, and if you have to tell about yourself, so be it, but you’re doing it in a real lyrical way, using different rhymes and putting different styles in it. Sitting down and writing a graphic novel seemed like it was the most boring thing in the world. I was like, “Oh God, I gotta sit here and write about myself?” I really wanna work on a story for Superman, use my imagination. But I had to bring a lot of things from my past and start writing it out.
As far as musical writing, the structure is just totally different, and I guess that’s what makes my book different. My wording and my bad grammar is what makes me, and it came out in my book. Right now I have a chance to work on both of those mediums. I can make an album that’s a comic book and a comic book that’s musical or music-related. I learned how to apply both of those and I think that the music I come out with will have more, entertainment-wise, than me just rhyming.
On The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man, certain people were upset about that album, they were like, “Oh, man, he ain’t kicked his old street stuff.” You know, I’m an old man now, I have family that relies on me, children that rely on me, and my mentality is just elevated. I think there’s more than just streets and guns and selling drugs. Not everybody likes The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man and they wanna see me get back to my old stuff. But you know, you’re living in the past, man, I don’t wanna do that no more. I want to show my creativity. The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man, that’s got a whole animation, that’s what I’m working on right now. And I just want the opportunity to go. I want my supporters to allow me to move out of a box where I’m just supposed to be tough and talking about violent situations.
TT: What will the new albums explore thematically? Will they handle the same sort of violence as The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man?
PC: They’ll be imaginative. As violent as that album was, or however much it talked about drugs, it’s also about sugar, it’s about cake, and it is what it is. But what I wanna talk about is that today you can walk to work and find somebody put a noose on your door. That’s real topics that I can pick up and a lot of people probably don’t wanna hear, but it affects me because I’m a black man in America, so I’m there for that.
And like I said, I would like to show my creativity. Creating characters, whether they’re violent characters or not… I’d rather do that than write about my personal life. Everybody wants to know about my personal life and sometimes that’s not for everybody to hear. The things that I would prefer to do are create. But people say, “Oh, no, we don’t wanna hear that. We wanna hear about you in this situation, or what you gonna do next.” Sometimes it’s not about that. Now I’m happy with what I’m doing. And I think that’s important. I’m a black man writing comics. And I’m a hip hop artist writing comics. That’s historical.
For more information about upcoming MF Grimm releases, check http://www.daybydayent.com.