Thought-provoking, half-joking and radically vaudevillian, Grand Buffet knows how to put on a show with home-brewed hip-hop panache. As they drop their newest release, a CD/DVD combo appropriately titled Five Years of Fireworks, and gear up for a European tour ("Operation Sour Wine"), Lord Grunge (Jarrod Weeks) and Grape-A-Don (Jackson O'Connell-Barlow) are leapfrogging their misfit status in the grand scheme of rap conventions. But, as Grape tells me, "You get in where you fit in, like Too Short said." So, where does Grand Buffet fit in? Where else? Pittsburgh.
What's missing from hip hop these days?
Lord Grunge: I think there's an overabundance of pretentiousness. In the indie scene,
fans and artists alike are disappearing up their own assholes because they're trying so
hard to fit into a fucking template.
What should other crews know before they mess with Grand Buffet?
Grape-A-Don: We're proficient in the invisible arts. I always have a sack of dust that I can put in the palm of my hand and blow in their eyes. But we're equal opportunity. You know, male or female, if they wanna get real with it.
How do you guys manage to be ironic and sincere at the same time?
Lord Grunge: I've been wondering lately if that is, in part, why we don't have more fans than we do. A lot of people resent the fact that they're being challenged.
Grape-A-Don: But we never wanna venture into one-trick-pony, GG Allin territory. It's like, after you throw feces at someone and hit a girl with a microphone stand, what are you gonna do for your next trick?
What are your thoughts on emcees who try to be PC?
Lord Grunge: I think the whole movement of political correctness -- or whatever you want to call it -- is squeezing the life out of us.
Grape-A-Don: It's stifling to basic, human honesty.
Lord Grunge: I mean, when people offend each other, that's how we progress. We need another Sam Kinnison badly. [Andrew] Dice Clay needs to come out of retirement.
Songs like "Americus," "Candy Bars," and "Benjamin Franklin Music" seem to embrace our culture for both its faults and its freedoms. What's your favorite American tradition?
Lord Grunge: There are so many pockets of sweetness to choose from. I like the America I've grown up with that's free of pretense; just motherfuckers doing their own thing, for better or worse. I like rowdy America.
Any messages for young kids trying to get into the rap game?
Lord Grunge: Study the masters. I mean, there is literally a generation of rappers who started listening to this shit in '99 when they sold their ska collection. These cats gotta go back to the 'core and do their fucking homework.
Could you call Five Years of Fireworks a greatest-hits collection?
Grape-A-Don: Five Years of Fireworks represents us on a sound and vision level. It's a glimpse of what we did in our time period, so if you like what you see or hear, come fuck with us at a live show.
You guys rap about all kinds of peculiarities. Everything from energy drinks to child-labor politics. Is there any subject matter that you consider off-limits?
Lord Grunge: We have an unofficial agreement never to use the word "fart" in a song.
Grape-A-Don: A song about flatulence. Unless we had an amazing prog-rock group to back us, with a full horn section.
If you guys wielded powers of resurrection, which rappers would you raise from the
Lord Grunge: It's probably really obvious, but Tupac and Biggie. I'd wanna ask who the fuck shot 'em.
Grape-A-Don: Eazy-E. I liked what he was getting into with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony out of Cleveland because that was really on some metaphysical, almost pagan stuff. But, if they were really adept at mystical powers, they could bring Eazy back by themselves.
What does touring make you appreciate about Pittsburgh?
Grape-A-Don: Pittsburgh has got the skeleton of its industrial past and the mark of its present future. Beautiful things come from both. So, it's heartbreaking seeing people try to make Pittsburgh their approximation of Greenwich Village. But, the city creates a hungry breed. People wanna do more because there is less in place.
You refer to Sage Francis as the Bruce Willis of underground hip hop. So, who is Grand Buffet's Hollywood counterpart?
Lord Grunge: We're the Kermit and Fozzie of underground hip-hop.