It’s the night of the 57th Grammy’s and I’m tuned in because it’s turned into a free televised concert (read: Herbie Hancock was on stage with Questlove) rather than an actual presentation of awards (only nine out of the 83 awards were televised). But for GrandeMarshall and his closest producers, Ben Pramuk and SamGreenS, who along with Noah Breakfast have been the go-to-guys for moulding Grande’s sound through his two projects, ‘800’ and ‘Mugga Man’, the award show is just background studio noise.

GrandeMarshall has more to him than just swag rap, bitches, 40oz’s, weed and fly clothes. The Billboard charts aren’t what he’s aiming for. Instead, his mind is stuck on thoughts of close friends in jail and family members lost to addiction. When asked about his feelings towards Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Control’ verse he replies indifferently, “I can’t give a fuck about a motherfucker going on a verse and saying name for name, ‘I’m better than this person, that person’. My situation is realer than that. I made promises to my folk that I would hold it down. Anybody can say that [they’re] good. I’m trying to do good.” It’s this mantra, paired with his competitive nature to succeed despite the odds, that came through on ‘800’, a CD that Fool’s Gold co-founder Nick Catchdubs listened to while driving to his parents’ house in New Jersey prior to signing the Philadelphia rapper. Now, GrandeMarshall is preparing to release his debut album, ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ through Fool’s Gold. Following the release, Grande’s goal is to cop his dream whip – a 1995 Chevrolet Caprice Super Sport in Eagle Green with tan cloth interior, which he describes as, “something simple that won’t get hot in the summer but stays warm in the winter.”

Real name Xavier Marshall, GrandeMarshall, was never the quiet kid in class. In his younger years, everyone knew him. Eventually everyone knew his mother too, since she would frequently visit the school for disciplinary talks with teachers. Handling his parents’ divorce, friends being shot in elementary school and moving around several times; life wasn’t easy. But in high school, classmates started to recognise him for another reason as he began battle rapping kids inside and outside of his school. A wild, packed out show at a Columbia Mariott gave Grande’s name a boost in local popularity, “That was my first taste of fame… I wasn’t even rapping on no turnt shit. I rapped over Saigon’s ‘Come On Baby’ beat. I wish I had a situation like that now.” As Grande continues to go into detail of his hectic life, I can’t help but think of his life in terms of his own words: “Got that 14th Century flair / Stained glass swag / Renaissance man…” At 14, he was finessing work as an assistant to the County Executive for the Housing Department and acting President of his school’s Black Student Union, all while selling weed on the side.


This is an extract from the Spring Summer 15 Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.

Photo by Lorenzo Sanchez
Words by Bryan Hahn

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