Out of Los Angeles California, Oakland transplant, Cory Scoffern (AKA The Grouch), is continuing to make a mark in the West Coast rap scene as a prominent figure who has helped to pioneer and spotlight what was once considered an underground movement. The rapper/producer/beatsmith made his dent with the infamous, 8-strong Living Legends crew and with such projects as G&E, Mystic Journeymen, and CMA. In 2008, The Grouch has already released two albums; “The Gathering“, with the Legends crew, and his first solo album in 5 years, “Show You the World“. Since the release of his last solo effort, 2003’s “Crusader for Justice“, Scoffern has released “No More Greener Grasses” (G&E), Classic (Living Legends), Sound Advice (w/ Daddy Kev), All Over (CMA), and “Heroes in the City of Dope” (with Zion-I) as well as experienced the birth of his first child. After promoting Show You the World earlier this year with a tour and between a handful of G&E shows which will take him to Victoria and South Wales, before embarking on a full on West Coast run with the Legends, he definitely has a lot on his plate. Somehow, in the midst of all of this, the lyricist took time out of his schedule and was accomodating enough to answer some questions for us at MonsterFresh.com.
MonsterFresh: From what I understand, you had been making beats for a while before you started performing vocally. Were you making beats for anyone else pre-Mystic Journeyman.
The Grouch: Not really just messing around learning.
I’ve read that you originally started writing lyrics after being encouraged by a friend of yours and have heard you refer briefly to your beginnings as a rapper. I was hoping that you could elaborate about what that experience was like for you spitting on stage for the first time and what inspired you to continue in that direction.
I was awful, had literally never thought about riding a beat before. When I went to write my first rap I didn’t know how. I had a pen and a paper bag and I was stuck on the first line forever. I had a good creative writing teacher in the sixth grade. She had this catch phrase that went “show not tell” meaning be descriptive enough for people to see what you’re writing. I still think about that and know that it helps me write. As far as performing, my first show was in East Oakland by the Coliseum. I hadn’t come up with a rap name so I just used my real name. I was just like, “I’m Corey Scoffern and heres me and my music.” People felt the humble approach, it was real and I ran with it.
What was it like growing up in Oakland and trying to establish yourself in the rap scene as a white MC?
Back then it was odd to see a white guy who even liked rap. White people used to make fun of me for listening to it (how the world has changed!) I was somewhat of a spectacle. The audience in Oakland was 95% black at the time (even for the underground). Needless to say, a lot of folks were skeptical. I performed at the Black Repertory Theatre once in Berkeley and people were throwing shit before I could even open my mouth. Mystik Journeymen had to cosign for me long enough for them to hear me out. When they finally did I had won a lot of people over.
As a father, I know that everything changes the minute that you first look into your child’s eyes. Since you have a daughter now, are there any insights that you have had and could share with us as a father and a songwriter?
Having a daughter is my crowning achievement. Nothing else matters as much or is as rewarding as watching her grow. If you don’t have a child yet use your free time wisely. If you do, make sure to stay in their lives.
You seem to always have your hands full with a variety of projects. How much of a challenge has it been for you to balance your work and your home life?
It is a challenge but definitely worth it. Having a family is the new “I’m a player“. Haven’t you heard? No really, to make it work you have to prioritize what’s most important to you and work on that. I bring my family with me on tour/vacation. I record songs with my daughter making noise in the background. I put my daughter on the front of my album cover. I steal some of my wifes ideas and make raps out of ’em. I’ve made it so work and home life can overlap in certain areas.
Right now alone you are busy promoting both this new solo album and the new Legends album. Were there conscious directions that you and the guys went into these projects with from the beginning?
It took me about three or four years to put my album together. I don’t really conceptualize whole solo albums before I start them. I’m just kind of living life and making what comes natural at the time. The Legends project was made in a couple of weeks. We talked about some ideas we wanted to get across but mostly song for song. We knew we wanted to have some fun, less serious songs on there but also an anti war song for sure.
Exactly what IS the creative process for you like? How and if do you approach each of your projects differently? Do you have a surplus of beats in the wings until you find the right project for them?
I definitely don’t have a surplus of beats waiting around. That’s Eligh. I don’t make beats that often. When I do make one I like, I usually can’t help but to start writing to it right then. When I’m making my albums I think about pieces that I already have and what kind of bases they cover. “Is what I have dark, melancholy, slow? Well then, I need something faster and more aggressive to balance out the project.” Stuff like that. When we were making the legends project I had the beat to “After Hours” in my computer for years. I liked it but never came up with anything to it. They breathed new life into it. I made the beat to “She Wants Me” in the studio on the spot because I felt we needed a sound like that.
You get asked a lot about who your influences are in the rap game but to be a producer and avoid the pitfalls of making static repetitive music as you have, you must have a wider knowledge of music than that. What I’m curious about is your musical influences beyond what we might expect.
I listen to everything. My Ipod is stocked with every genre of music. You have to have a well rounded ear for music an an open mind. That’s how I feel. i can see the beauty in all genres. I think people in general are becoming more open to different sounds these days. We listen to a lot of Fela at my house. My wife plays a gang of latin music (Ruben Blades). Roy Ayers, Nina Simone, The Police, The Beatles, Raphael Saadiq, Badu, Warrior King… those are some of my favorites. Of course I really like the Santogold album.
How did you wind up hooking up with Raphael Saadiq?
A friend/assistant of mine, Brick ran into him in LA once and told him that he worked for me and that I was a big fan. Raphael was like really, “I just bought his album from Amoeba!“. That pretty much made my career right there. They exchanged info, I called and the next week we were in the studio. Hopefully there will be more to come!
The Alpha Pup website is selling and promoting your new album “Show You The World” and I know that you and the Legends have done quite a bit of work with Daddy Kev over the years. How deep exactly are your ties to Daddy Kev? Do you see yourself doing any more projects with him or anyone else on the Alpha Pup label?
Daddy Kev is a very good personal friend of mine. We’re friends before business associates. I’d like to be more involved with his movement but our schedules don’t always allow for the overlap. We’ve definitely discussed a follow up to our first project, “Sound Advice“. There are more than a few guys in Kev’s circle that I’d like to and probably will do more work with. Flying Lotus, Edit, Gaslamp, Daedelus, Busdriver… the list goes on. They’re all good people!
What you know about that new CMA? Anything in the works?
Not as of now.
How about future collaborations with Zion I?
Most Definitely. Plan on it!
As the story goes, you got your name from an argument that you had with Sunspot (Jonz). Do you still remember what the argument was even about and did you ever use or kick around any other stage name ideas before you settled on the Grouch?
Me and Sunspot butt heads so much I could never attempt to go back and narrow it down to a specific argument. Before The Grouch I was just a regular dude, Corey Scoffern. That was my rap name.
The legends have had a pretty tight affiliation with LRG and Reebok even put out a limited series of Living Legend shoes. Any talks of Reebok putting out Living Legends basketball pumps? Any other projects or aspiration outside of the music scene for you that we should look out for?
The Reebok thing happened because my homie Brick (a fan at the time) worked at the LA store and hooked it up. Theres talk of maybe running off a few more pairs but probably no new Reebok shoes for the Legends at this point. Tennis Shoe culture is way played out to me. I’ll probably get bombarded with hate mail for that but really, I’m over it. I’m working on some other things but I’m not one to talk too much until things are solid.
Thanks for your time, it’s appreciated. Continued success with your music and family.
Peace and Thanks.