At first glance, the scarce, understated community of Walterboro, South Carolina doesn’t seem like much of a breeding ground for dreams of rap grandeur. But for a young Nick Grant, his modest Southern beginnings were the genesis of his love for hip-hop culture. Coupled with typical becomings of most Black boys in the hood––fights and witnessing the surrounding life of crime––Grant also etched his first rap memory onto his heart with Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa,” marking the moment he knew he wanted to lay his own tight verses. The next step? Recording in his friend’s makeshift studio in a neighboring building; a wise decision by the same kid who would go viral for his coveted freestyle on Sway In The Morning over a decade later.
“Everybody else was pretty much out here doing what 13 or 14, 15 year old kids do,” he remembers. “We was just in our house trying to make music and get out of what we was trapped in.”
Spending his days wowing friends and fellows rap hopefuls with his written and freestyle prowess, Nick’s skills were better than anyone expected, but he had his descendants to thank, namely Andre 3000 and Nas. And while Walterboro was where Nick got his start, his defining moment was a move to Atlanta at the age of 16. There, in one of the modern Meccas of rap talent, Nick’s rhymes became less of a hobby and more of a career. After a fateful departure from a job at Krispy Kreme and a failed attempt at selling drugs, Nick back zeroed in on his first love: hip-hop. Though his first attempt at sealing a deal would would not end the way he anticipated, the stars later aligned for him to become the premier artist on Culture Republic, a new imprint founded by music industry vets Jason Geter and Chaka Zulu.
“Jason, that guy created a genre in hip-hop, trap music, which is like the most the number one dominating thing in music right now,” he says. “Chaka inspired me because it was like he caught every line. I never sat in a meeting where a guy of his caliber just caught everything I was saying. I couldn’t get one line past this man.”
The trifecta of Nick and his business powerhouses were the forces behind the rapper’s first wave of widespread success with his heralded ‘88 mixtape. Featuring guest appearances from Young Dro, CyHi Tha Prince, Big K.R.I.T., and Killer Mike, Nick Grant’s layered proclamations of his past, present and future earned him a plethora of new ears in 2016. Continuing to watch the throne in 2017, Nick kicked things off with his debut album Return of the Cool, an 11-track project that further separates him from his peers with hard-hitting lines and an ode to soul classics.
“As far as the new generation of kings, I want to be in that conversation with the Kendricks and the J. Coles and the Wales and Big Seans and Drakes, I feel like that Top 5 hasn’t been picked yet. I want to be in that conversation.”