Sometimes the nice guys do finish first. Such is the case with The Grouch and Eligh, a hip-hop duo twenty years in the making, who will be performing at the Animas City Theatre on Tuesday, December 9th.
The Grouch and Eligh are touring in support of their new triple album, “The Tortoise and The Crow”, which is comprised of a solo album by each rapper, and a collaborative album. All in all there are 51 songs, making it one of the most prolific hip-hop projects in the history of the genre.
The project was inspired by one of the most famous rap albums of all time, Speakerboxx/The Love Below by Outkast, released in 2003. “Both of us are huge Outkast fans, and we thought how cool it would have been if they had done a third album together, as a collaboration,” The Grouch said.
Thus, The Tortoise and The Crow was born. The tortoise refers to The Grouch’s style, slow and calculated, and the crow refers to Eligh’s style, choppy, fast and abstract. “We compliment each other so well, because we’re opposites,” Eligh said. “It’s better than hearing two (rappers) with the same style. We are water and earth.
While their styles are different, content wise, their paths intersect dramatically. Both are introspective and have the souls of poets. They rap about spirituality, yoga, eating healthy, realizing mistakes they have made in the past, relationships, and trying to live in the moment. In short, The Grouch and Eligh destroy the traditional mold that hip-hop is all about violence, misogyny and drugs and alcohol.
“I rap about what is real,” The Grouch said. “I’m out trying to be the best person I can be, and pushing for a more positive life.”
The Grouch, who is married and has a daughter, often raps about his family, and put together a fitting tribute to his newly born daughter on the 2006 track called, “10 fingers, 10 toes, 10 pounds, 10 ounces”. However, as his name suggests, The Grouch wasn’t always happy.
“I grew up in Oakland, California and didn’t have much.” The Grouch said. “There was a lot of frustration. I would be riding the bus cause I couldn’t afford a car, and people would be stealing from me on the bus. ”
The Grouch went to high school with Hieroglyphics and Souls of Mischief, two hip-hop groups that went on to be relatively well known. “We knew we could do something similar,” he said. “But where they had record deals, we did something else with our limited resources. It did make us say “wow” when they were on TV on programs like Rap City.”
The two met at a mutual friends party in 1995, and began making music together shortly after that. In addition to Outkast, the two share early influences like A Tribe Called Quest, another group known for wise lyrics. “For certain rappers it was always important for them to be smart in their raps,” The Grouch said. “To us it’s called droppin’ science or kickin’ jewels.”
“Back in the nineties we had to hustle so much harder then,” Eligh said.
The Grouch, who actually started out producing music before he was a rapper, said the approach was completely different back then. “Everything was a stepping stone,” he said. “Make it (the music) in your house, sell it on the street and get the reaction. First, it was dubbing your own cassettes and making album covers at Kinko’s. Eventually we got more fine tuned and then the opportunities came.”
Last week the tour, dubbed, “How The Grouch Stole Christmas” kicked off in Santa Cruz, California. They are by accompanied by DJ Abilities and The Cunninlynguists. (If the triple album wasn’t enough, they just released a seven song EP with Cunninlynguists titled “WinterFire”. It is available for free on the Bandcamp website.)
The Grouch and Eligh, both note their favorite element of travelling is being on stage and interacting with the audience, many who are half their age. “The road is hard on me, it’s tiring, and stressful,” Eligh said. “But performing, that is the best part, I wish I could just teleport to each show. Come on teleport inventor, hurry up!”
The Grouch and Eligh also shared that Colorado is home to one of their highest, most energetic and faithful fan bases. “It’s always more challenging with the altitude to perform in Colorado,” Eligh said. “But the adrenaline from all the love we get in Colorado drives us, because the people support us more than most. They love us, and we love them, it’s a love affair.”
The Grouch described the feeling of being onstage as one of pure transcendence, “I love when I’m onstage and I am no longer thinking, I’m living purely in the moment. It’s a flow of energy, like a channeling from a place of God knows where. Sometimes Eligh will start a sentence, and I’ll finish it, with no prior rehearsal. That’s my favorite part.”
For more information on the tour visit: www.thegrouchandeligh.com. Tickets for the show can be purchased at Animas City Theatre.
This story is published in today's Durango Telegraph.