Grits know that they've got to speak the language of the people if they want to reach them. Since the veteran Nashville-based hip-hop duo of Coffee and Bonafide speak through their uplifting, God-inspired raps, they had to make some strategic changes while recording their fourth album, The Art Of Translation.
Due August 27, the follow-up to 1999's Grammatical Revolution found the pair focusing more on one aspect of their songs than they ever had before: hooks.
"People want something they can sing along to," Coffee said. "They want a song that makes them feel good about themselves or what they're dealing with."
To this end, Grits — an acronym for Grammatical Revolution in the Spirit — have recorded their most accessible album to date. They hit the mark on the Latin-flavored lead single "Here We Go" and "Tennessee Bwoys," a hyper homage to their home state better known for the hard-core raps of Three 6 Mafia, Project Pat and 8Ball & MJG. Then, on "Runnin'," the two create a moving song about people's internal search for strength. "We're just trying to, in our own way, keep life in hip-hop by continuing to bring different concepts to albums and different flows," Bonafide said.
Indeed, Grits are tired of the predictability of modern rap videos, which typically feature throngs of women gyrating in less clothing than Lil' Kim at an awards show. Bonafide, who has a 10-year-old daughter, hopes that The Art of Translation track "Video Girls" will inspire her and other young girls to be comfortable and confident in choosing to carry themselves as something more respectable than a video ho.
"I hope my daughter doesn't watch videos and think that that's how she has to be in order to be culturally accepted," he said. "I want her to realize that she's a queen and bring her up on more of the India.Arie vibe, not the total opposite end with 'My Neck, My Back.' We want to put something out there that's going to bring a balance to what's already being put out as far as the images of women."
Similarly, Grits hope to instill a sense of self-worth into their listeners, who they feel are bombarded with largely negative tales and images of the hard-knock life. The cautionary "Lovechild" attempts to provide a balance.
"You are worth something," Bonafide said. "You're a 'Lovechild.' Whether you were born illegitimate or whatever, you were created out of the essence of love. There's more out here for you than whatever it is that you're involved in that [is leaving you unfulfilled]."
Grits hope that listeners will find solace in their messages and be impressed by their muscular music, which is produced by long-time collaborators Incorporated Elements. Even with the increased emphasis on making catchy jams, Grits remained focused on their spiritually-grounded edutainment.
"We were more strategic with this album," Coffee said, "but at the same time, if you listen to this album there's no way you can walk away not knowing where we come from and what we believe in."
As long as they can still spread their message with their music, Grits will be happy — even if they have to revise their music-making process.
"If hooks is what attracts people to listen to songs, then you know what? We're going to write better hooks," Bonafide said. "But we're going to keep our goals and motives the same."