Herbs and Eats With Grap Luva

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As a kid I was really into sports. I collected cards, lived for the highlights and could rattle off names and stats. In 1990 it was all about what Michael Jordan, Hank Gathers, Bo Jackson and Ken Griffey Jr. were doing on their respective stages. Ken Griffey Jr., for those who don’t recognize the name, was quite the slugger on the baseball field, amassing some 630 home runs. (Why do I know that?) But the coolest thing to me at the time, even now, was that in 1990 Ken Griffey Sr. was added to the roster of the Seattle Mariners, the team Ken Griffey Jr. was smacking home runs for. Can you image? Your dad, who had already won two Word Series’, joining the team that you had just recently started to wear a uniform for in your major league debut? That’s an incredible story. I love it.

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What impresses me more is that Jr. made it to the big leagues on his own merit. It’s not like that kid who makes the All-Star team because his dad is the coach or on the board of directors. This kid had talent. I mean, he never got the rings his dad earned but he’ll likely be a Hall of Famer while his dad will doubtfully be mentioned in those circles. Sometimes success runs in the family and it’s all due to individual hard work and perseverance.

Today’s featured guest is a Hip Hop Ken Griffey Jr. of sorts. Alright, his dad wasn’t holding down mics and MPC’s a generation before him, but the high quality talent was definitely coursing through the family genes. Grap Luva is an incredible producer and, in my opinion, a quite slept-on skilled MC. You don’t know Grap? Hm, we’re gonna remedy that right now. But I think you may have heard of his older brother or even his cousin. In musical terms, they were doing their thing one and two generations before him, respectively. His brother made a name for himself as a producer (and a sought after remixer) around the same time that Ken Griffey Jr. was being mentioned in All-Star ballot talk. Pete Rock. Yeah, that Pete Rock. Oh, I mentioned a cousin too, right? His cousin had Nuttin But Love for Hip Hop and had one of the illest double time flows in the game. Unfortunately, he’s no longer with us, but the world loved him as Heavy D. That’s some serious Hip Hop royalty to have to contend with, especially if you’re the younger brother/cousin.

Grap Luva has been on my radar for a good while. I first heard him on record at about the time we were all waiting for a Matrix sequel (could have lived without that though). I was in London and I picked up a DJ Spinna compilation album and this was one of the gems on that project…

Since then, I’ve come across him on countless features as both an MC and a producer. Probably, the most recognizable record that he’s associated with is the Center of Attention album that he had a hand in as part of the group, INI. (If that doesn’t ring a bell, get on that as soon as you finish reading the following interview!)

We caught up with the MC, beat technician, and now educator to talk a bit about the finer things in life – food and music. He shared with us one of his favorite recipes that his mother makes for him and we got a peak into the life of a talented musician, from a food perspective. Follow along and get to know the guy that Heavy D named Grap Luva.

Talk about where you’re at with food right now in terms of what you’re trying to gravitate towards or stay away from.

I’m a vegan. I’ve been a vegan for quite some time now. I’ve been a vegetarian since the 90’s – since about 91 when I came into the Rastafarian way of life. That’s when I let go of eating any flesh, any meat. I let go of eating red meat and pork but I was still eating fish. Until about ten years ago when I gave up fish. So, I’m a vegan and I try to stay away from anything that flies, crawls, swims or walks.

Have you found that to be difficult at all?

Yeah. It depends where I’m at. In certain cities they cater to vegans. For instance, when I went to Japan, I was eating this noodle dish with sweet potatoes every morning. And I loved it. I like carbs and stuff like that cuz I’m a skinny guy. But it depends on where I’m at.

I always find it interesting when people switch over from eating meat to becoming vegetarian. Oftentimes, I see their diet worsen rather than get better –

You mean in terms of what they replace that with? Yeah. They’ll stop eating red meat but still eat chicken, which out of all of them is the worst. I tell people, “you’re only doing half the job if you just stop eating meat.” I don’t want to appear like this is the only way to go – it’s really a matter of choice. I’ve made the choice to not eat meat, to not consume flesh. Others may not choose to do that, they may find that they need to eat flesh. I don’t want to pass judgement on that but I know in my heart that it’s not right. But if that’s what your choice is, then that’s what your choice is and you have to deal with the consequence of that. Just like I deal with the consequence of taking meat out of my diet. One of my consequences is finding a supplement, finding something to supplement taking that meat out. And that’s not a bad consequence for me compared to heart disease and other things that can happen.

Right. A lot of times, people don’t realize there’s more to it than just not eating meat. So, what do you gravitate towards?

Pasta, pasta, pasta. I love pasta. I can eat anything with spaghetti sauce and pasta. As long as you have a nice garlic marinara sauce and you cook the pasta right, I will eat it! And toast. Pasta and garlic bread is my go to. But the marinara sauce has got to be thick – not lumpy but a nice consistency thick. I don’t like soupy stuff.

Do you have a recipe that you could share with us?

Actually, I do. I don’t have measurements of everything – I learned from watching my mom and she never used measuring cups or anything, she just cooked. One of the things she cooked for me that I learned how to cook, but haven’t mastered yet, is a form of greens that is very well known in Jamaica called callaloo. And how you cook it is, you have greens and butter and onions. You put the butter in a sauce pan with the onions and you cook those a little bit and then you put the callaloo in – and I think a bit of water and let it cook down. Add more onions and, of course, salt and pepper and garlic cloves. Let that cook down until it’s almost a spinach-y consistency. And you make fried dumplings with them which is basically flour, water and a little bit of baking powder. You make’em into round balls and put them into the frying pan and fry them on both sides until they’re crispy brown. You take them out and then when you’re ready to eat them you just break open the dumpling and put the callaloo on top of the dumplings. You eat it like that. That’s my favorite meal that my mother makes. Everytime I come home, to this day, I have to have that. It’s a Jamaican breakfast food but I hafta have it every time. She knows, when I come home, that’s what she has to make. Callaloo, fried dumplings and mint or ginger tea every morning when I’m there. My mom is 82 and brittle with diabetes but she still finds the time and strength to make that for me. So, I honor her for that and I greatly appreciate it. It’s one of a kind and very special to me.

Thanks for sharing that with us. Looking forward to trying that. Do you get down with any other herb teas other than the mint?

With the teas I usually do green tea or ginger root – I take the ginger root and cut it into little slabs, put it into the cup and put the amount of sugar that I want, add hot water and let it seep for like five minutes. Drink it. That’s some bomb ginger tea right there. Or I’ll do mint tea or peppermint tea. My mom has peppermint growing in the backyard – she also has the callaloo growing in the backyard.

Nice. Lots of good healing properties in those.

Yeah. Ginger reduces inflammation in the body. I have a bad back, I have scoliosis in my spine and I also have subluxation – that’s where a section of your spine is compacted. And I have degenerative disc and arthritis in my spine so it helps with all of that. But I’m good. If you saw me dance you wouldn’t think that. Fifteen years ago I was amazing, now I’m okay – five years ago I was amazing.

Do you attribute that to lifestyle choices and food?

The stability of it, yes. I attribute it to my diet. I know people who have back problems and they can’t do half the stuff that I can do. The positive I attribute to the diet. The negative of it I attribute to a lack of exercising. I’m naturally thin so I don’t always pursue the desire to exercise because I’m already thin.

Are you choosey with ingredients?

Yes, yes. GMO’s and all that stuff. Yes. My wife really got me into reading labels and making sure I don’t consume anything genetically modified. I definitely stay away from GMO’s. Public enemy number one right there.

Anything else you’re keeping an eye out for?

Dyes. Any dyes. If it’s too chemically based. If it has too many chemical names in the ingredients I don’t eat it. But I have my little backslides with junk food that I get into every now and then. But I try to keep it as wholesome as I can.

You mentioned your Rastafari influence in your vegetarianism earlier. Can you talk about the spiritual aspect to that?

Yeah. With Rasta, we deal with humanity and love. And just trying to maintain peace upon the planet Earth. In terms of spirituality, I personally believe that Haile Selassie was the human raised as a guide – as a guidepost saying “this is how you should move.” Specifically for the Black Man. This is how you should move, this is how you should carry yourself. As a king. It’s about life and granting every living thing its own life. Man and animal alike. And we’ve been granted the herbs of the world to engage in – to fulfill our hunger and needs.

It seems like a lot of times people take “herb” to mean just one thing.

Yeah, there’s other herbs out there that are very beneficial to help you survive. For instance, there’s a root called comfrey root and that’s good for when you have colds and things. My mom used to give me that to drink. You boil it as a tea and it helps with your lungs and things of that nature. There’s definitely other roots and herbs out there. Ganja is not the only herb on the planet – it is a great herb and I’m blessed that the Most High put it here but he gave us a lot of herbs to work with.

What do you think is the biggest problem as far as people, generally, not focusing on what’s in the food they’re consuming or where it’s coming from?

I think the biggest issue is that people don’t believe that food can actually be used as a weapon. The easiest way to break a car down is to put something in the place of what it needs for fuel. So, if you put sugar or sand in the tank where gas is supposed to go, that car’s gonna malfunction. If you put the wrong food in the body, that body’s gonna malfunction. People are not even making the correlation to even the most common, I say, drug. Sugar. Processed sugar. People are not taking into consideration how dangerous sugar really is. People are dying all around them and they’re still not taking it into consideration. And the fact that there are also people who reside in food deserts. Where there is no good food available and if there is it’s very, very expensive which makes it unattainable to them. Food is our fuel and if you’re not getting supreme fuel, you’re gonna get bloated folks and heart attacks. People fail to realize how corporations cater to your desires. The people not paying attention worries me.

So, what’s the relationship between food and creating music?

It’s all art to me. It’s all art. You’re taking raw ingredients and creating something that’s consumable. It’s the same level of creation.

I’m gonna share some food related Hip Hop lyrics and you tell me what you would do to add, change or rearrange the “menu” in those lyrics to fit your lifestyle.

“Some Stove Top stuffing and collard greens on your plate
Oh what about the buttered cornbread?
She wouldn’t sit down to eat till the whole neighborhood was fed
The hospitality that I savor
Wanna make some Kool-Aid? Kid, get a cup of sugar from your neighbor” -from “Southern Comfort” by Down South (1994)

I’d definitely take the Kool-Aid out. Maybe some Hanson’s soda, it’s made with pure cane sugar and allathat. The corn bread if they didn’t cook it with any lard in it, I’d probably jump in that. The collard greens would be callaloo, of course. And the stuffing would be homemade. My mom would make that. I wouldn’t eat the store bought stuff.

Haha. Yeah, I remember hearing that song when it first came out and, even then, I was like, “really, Stove Top?”

I will tell you this little Hip Hop tidbit that folks don’t know. My cousin Heavy D and my brother Pete used to get together and go to Hev’s house and make sugar cookies. From scratch. To me, that symbolizes the idea of them coming together to create. Now we go back to the relation of food and music, you see what I’m saying? They came together to make those sugar cookies and trust when I tell you. They were good as hell! Bomb ass cookies from scratch. A lot of people don’t really know that. This was before Hev got on.

“The easiest way to break a car down is to put something in the place of what it needs for fuel. So, if you put sugar in the tank where gas is supposed to go, that car’s gonna malfunction. If you put the wrong food in the body, that body’s gonna malfunction.”

What are you listening to these days?

I’ve been dealing with some old cassette tapes I have in the house. Old mixes with Pete and Marley, beat tapes from Pete. I recently moved and unearthed a nice little box of cassettes. A lot of 80’s R&B. Madlib, Dilla, Large Pro. It varies. I get on my Jazz kick. I get on my Studio One kick. It varies. I’ll listen to all D.C. artists: Oddisee, Diamond District, Uptown X.O., YU, those guys. Listen to some Low Budget.

You don’t have anything in the works right now?

I’m in the incubator stage, so to speak. I may get together with Rob-O and do some things but right now, as far as a solo piece, no, I’m not doing anything. I may drop a little single out there. Who knows? Just to keep the flow buzzing. Because I appreciate any and everybody that even thinks about listening. I’m humbly appreciative of that.

Anything you wanna leave us with?

A special thank you to all the fans. Anyone that’s a fan of Grap Luva’s music. I appreciate you. People, try to eat right. Eat to live don’t live to eat. You will be able to think clearly and think your way out of any negativity that may come your way. If you put good things in your body you’ll be aight. Live free and think free so that you can be free. Love to all the good people in the world. And if you burn herb, burn it in love and keep peace in your heart.
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One of the coolest brothers that we’ve had the honor of chopping it up with. Do yourself a favor, head over to an online music database like Discogs, look him up and purchase something that he’s either leant vocals to or produced. He’s incredible. You can find and follow him on Twitter and see what else he’s about. Just like his big brother and cousin, this dude has a thing for dropping gems. It’s all in the family. One.

***For those in the New York area, be sure to check out Jolo’s Kitchen. Grap couldn’t say enough about how incredibly dope this spot is. Apparently, his dude Ras Jolo from the group INI owns a vegan and vegetarian cuisine restaurant in New Rochelle, New York. It’s called Jolo’s Kitchen and is located at 421 North Avenue. We will definitely be making our way when we’re in the NY area. Check it out and let us know what you think.

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