Nick Grant made his own blueprint

Earlier this month, Ab Soul came to Toronto to perform at the Phoenix Concert Centre. Among his opening acts was South Carolina rapper Nick Grant. Before the show, I sat down with Nick Grant and talked about his early upbringing in South Carolina, his journey and life in Atlanta, his music career and the tour that he's on.

So I know you're from South Carolina, I know you grew up there, how was growing up there?

Very small city, not a lot of opportunities. The best thing about where I'm from though is the people, you know what I'm saying, you just get lessons from anybody on any given day. Just lessons that can carry you in your life or lessons in the moments that can save your life, so if you're listening, you can get a lot of stuff from the people in the city, which is very important.

And I know when you were growing up, you were an athlete, you played sports, at what point did you realize you were going into music?

I was kind of into music my whole life, so just stuff that was being played around my house and you know I loved Biggie, Tupac, you know it wasn't about until I was 12 years old where I tried my hand at it, so around 12, but up until then I was still playing basketball, even when I let the dream go of going to the NBA I was still playing basketball.

When you started becoming an artist and your career starting going, when did you notice the parallel between you and J. Cole with being around the same area, how he was an athlete and did music as well, did you notice that?

Ah man, he was a little deeper into the basketball thing and the athlete thing than me, but from my knowledge he took it very, very seriously. I let the athlete thing go a long time ago, I mean I'm like any young black boy, I'm going to play forever, it's fun, but I wasn't looking to get anything out of it. When I started rapping, my mind was just focused on rap.

Now as you got older and you moved to Atlanta to pursue music, did you move to Atlanta to solely pursue music or were there other extenuating circumstances that led you to going to Atlanta?

It was everything at one time, It was God, it was family decision, me not having a place to stay and my sister being established. You know, I was in Atlanta about to go back to South Carolina and she was like no and at the time I was 14 and there wasn't much I could do for myself and she called and said you can stay with me and I said yeah. It's the best decision I could have made in my life.

When you were in high school in Atlanta, you did a lot of battle rap with your friends and you were really good at it, take me back to those moments?

Oh man, I remember skipping first period, coming to school just to skip first period, go somewhere else and battle. Come back during lunch, leave again just to come back at the end of the day, like every day, sometimes skip to go to the studio, come back and that was just life at the time.

There's something interesting I read that your teacher even told you, music is your way through oppose to school, how did you feel when you heard that?

That was like okay, that wasn't the right thing to tell me at the time. It was at this time this teacher who didn’t really know me was only going to be honest with me, saying you should do this, it might still have been bad advice, but he was being honest. Like this is what I feel like you should do, go chase music, why are you here and I thought that was crazy because at that time, you had everyone else saying it wasn't going to work.

Now going through the transition from mixtape to the album that you put out, did you feel like there was a different sort of pressure than having an album compared to the mixtape?

Not even for me because I didn't even look at like, no respect to the labels, but I didn't even look at Return Of The Cool as my first album. That was just something I through together, but in my intent, in my heart and in my mind that was supposed to be a mixtape.

And I know you tour a lot, when did you start getting comfortable going on the stage or is there still a nervous feeling?

I never want to get comfortable being on stage until I get up there. I get nervous every night like right before, but it's amazing man. Being out here gave me a different energy to my shows, I remember coming and people would pull their phones up and watch me and be listening, now I want everyone to bounce. I want you to come out, I want you to have fun, you know I go to a J. Cole show everyone's bouncing, everyone's jumping, I want that too.

Now being on tour with Ab Soul, how's the journey been so far?

Ah man, you know, first off being on tour with him, just a down to earth genuine person, one of the realest. I don't consider this my first tour, but the way it went it's been dope.

And when people think of Nick Grant and people think about you as an artist, what's the impression or thinking ahead, the lasting impression you want to have on people's mind?

For me right now, you know bars and favorite punch lines, but for the person that really listens to me, they have like favorite songs, they have verses and lines that connect deeper, creative bars and I'm bigger than all of my songs and that's great. It's Nick Grant, it's not the hit record that I may have, it's not the girl I'm dating, it's not how many followers I have on Twitter, it's me. It's the name that I have so I feel like that's important.