Grand Nationxl is a San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop and artist collective who intend to reshape the standards of the music industry around empathy.
“Wellness is kind,” said Grand Nationxl founder rapper-producer Kevin Allen in an interview with The Harvard Crimson. “Our collective is based on taking care of each other and building an ecosystem that comes before music and before art.”
Allen, formerly known as Erk tha Jerk, created Grand Nationxl in early 2020, bringing together more than 15 artists, including A&R manager and rapper Brookfield Duece and rapper Mani Draper.
The group first emerged from weekly recording sessions at Slapwagon Studios in Oakland, Calif., With Allen, Brookfield Duece and Draper.
“We just started doing sessions together and it became a routine Thursday night,” Allen said. “I thought I knew a lot of dope artists and they probably knew a lot of dope people, so it would be dope if we all made music.”
With each consecutive Thursday night session, the original group continued to add members, combining Allen’s network of Bay Area rap artists with Draper’s connections to local musicians.
Although Grand Nationxl is a newly formed entity, Draper said that individual members of the group, like Allen, have played a central role in shaping the modern Bay Area rap scene.
“We’ve always been a part of it and we’re anchored in it,” said Draper. “We just had to take a different path to do it together. “
During his tenure as Erk tha Jerk, Allen was a mentor to Bay Area producer P-Lo whose collaborations with artists like The HBK Gang, ALLBLACK and Offset Jim set the tone for Bay Area rap sound over the years. last years.
Allen, Brookfield Duece and Draper agreed that one of Grand Nationxl’s greatest strengths is the collective’s ability to build on each member’s past experiences.
After only a few weeks of recording at Slapwagon, Allen said the band had gone official, recognizing the quality of the music they were able to produce together.
“The album started to form,” Allen said. “From there, the collective genre took shape and was born. We realized we needed some merch and something to sell. We can’t just talk about beats all day.
The teamwork and the power of shared knowledge that helped unite the group immediately became one of its strongest selling points, according to Danielle Allen, marketing consultant for Grand Nationxl.
“Bringing everyone together in this project opened our eyes to the idea that a label is not enough,” she said. “You get in there, and it’s not necessarily what you expected.”
“Being together and leaning on each other keeps us from falling into traps and lets us know how to move forward,” Allen added.
After coming up with several dozen potential band names, the fledgling collective settled on the Grand Nationxl moniquer, a reference to the Buick Grand National sports car that was popular in the Bay Area in the late 1980s.
According to Brookfield Duece, the car was a cheaper alternative to luxury sports car brands like Corvette, but owning one was seen as a status symbol in the Bay Area.
“It’s supercharged with a lot of horsepower for a discontinued car,” Brookfield Duece said. “Everyone in the neighborhood bought one. It was a really fancy car for someone who lived at home with their mom or was always in the hood.
“The name chose us,” he says. “None of us are great on our own, but together we all feel like top-level sports cars. We all feel like we’re at a high level of performance.
In June 2020, the group released their debut album “Twice on Sunday Season 01”, debuting at No. 3 on the Apple Music Hip-Hop charts. During the second half of 2020, Grand Nationxal released six more projects, three of which entered the top 10 on the Apple Music chart.
Draper said the team player attitude among members of Grand Nationxl and the ability to check their egos at the gate has been key to their success.
“If you look at the most successful albums of the last 20 years and go read the sleeve notes, there are 40 people there,” Draper said.
“Brockhampton, Griselda, Dreamville – look who’s more successful,” he added. “They are crews like us.
– Editor Ryan S. Kim can be reached at [email protected]