Almost two decades in, The Grouch and Eligh remain among the most respected names in underground hip-hop. The staccato-flowing Eligh, who hails from Echo Park, and the deep voiced The Grouch, who is originally from Oakland but now resides in Maui, are known both for their solo work and as part of LA's Living Legends collective. Their uplifting work as a duo remains among the best in the 2000s indie-rap explosion.
They are concluding their cross-country tour this weekend in the same place it started: home. Tonight at The Roxy and tomorrow at Ponoma's Glass House, the pair will be celebrating the release of their new triple album The Tortoise and The Crow, which features a collab CD as well as a solo from each. The Kickstarter-funded project, which raised more than $90k, almost twice their goal, also boasts features from Slightly Stoopid, Kreayshawn and tour-mate Pigeon John.
We spoke to The Grouch and Eligh about this unconventional release and their longevity in hip-hop.
For your triple album, did you work on all three discs simultaneously, or was it a project-by-project approach?
Eligh: I think it was a little bit of everything. When we started putting the group album together, I had a bunch of songs done and Grouch had a bunch of stuff done as well. My album was almost already done. Our solos were kind of fragmented, but our duo album was done in one swoop while I was visiting him in Maui for a month.
Was it ever a challenge deciding which tracks were for the solo record and which were for the group project?
The Grouch: Definitely, but initially when we sat down, we had a bunch of beats and decided "This has G&E all over it." We both know what kind of sound we want for G&E and that's a different sound than what we want for our solo records. We picked the main body of beats for G&E and then went through the process of gathering things for our solo stuff. You fill in the gaps for the type of sound you want for your solo record and your duo record.
At what point did Kickstarter come into the equation?
The Grouch: The triple album idea came before the Kickstarter idea. Kickstarter is something that's been in the back of our heads for a couple years now, so we figured we could do it any anytime. This time, it just felt right.
Eligh: I don't think we thought about that before we started recording. That idea came afterwards, a different version of what we've been doing our whole career. We've always been independent artists funded straight from our fans, that's what keeps us going. This was a new platform to represent something that's never been done before.
The Tortoise and the Crow discusses centuries of mankind using animals to tell stories in fables. Why do you think animal imagery has become such a constant in human storytelling?
Eligh: You know, I think that people just connect with nature as human beings. Everyone has a spirit animal, so to speak. It's in so many different cultures, from Native American to Egyptian to every culture having animal representation of themselves and spirits outside themselves. If you had everyone pick an animal, I think they would be able to pull it out of the sky and know what it is. We're all connected in nature, so writing these fables and metaphors is just an easy way to come across some harsh truth or explain things people can't accept as much as [if it were from] humans.
The Grouch: I think they speak to people, they're basic concepts and add another dimension of visualization to get the point across without just saying "Grouch and Eligh." We already say "Grouch and Eligh," "G&E," "Good Elevation," let's add animals to it and hit it from all angles. There's so many things that can apply to who we are and what we're talking about. I feel a strong connection to nature, animals and Earth, and these are the kinds of stuff we want to represent us.
How did you guys link up for a song with Kreayshawn?
Eligh: I think we started talking, all three of us, over Twitter a long time ago. She was a fan of ours, and Living Legends stuff. Grouch and I like to do things that are different and if we have the opportunity to work with somebody's who's different, we jump on it. She's different and an independent artist herself, we appreciated that about her, so it was cool to work with her.
The Grouch: We had that beat, it sounded like an Oakland-ish beat to us. We came up with the concept "Hella Fresh" and we wanted another Oakland artist on it. We could hear a female voice on the track, and we thought Bay Area female rappers. Boom: Kreayshawn. She's does something people think is so far from what we do, but really it's not. We come from the same place and are doing the same thing. We're speaking our truths. I support anyone who's doing that.
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Are you happy with how the triple-album has come out, and would you consider releasing something in this format again?
Eligh: Yeah, I'm happy with it. We always want our music to get to the widest audience as possible. The way we put it out this round was cool and it's still organic for us, and the fact that we got to connect over the Kickstarter made it a love fest. It let us know we're still moving in the right direction and just what we needed. I feel, honestly, that I'm just getting good at this. I want to keep moving up and I hope people keep moving with us.
The Grouch: I'm so happy with it. The response has been phenomenal. People are so happy to get three CDs at one time and hear the different sounds. To give people everything all at once was just a no-brainer. We kept it quiet for a long time, we had the concept and the music done and just couldn't wait to announce it. It brought some fun back to the creative process. I wouldn't do the exact same thing, but I would consider doing something similar and I already have new ideas for projects to come.