griz is making his favorite music yet
Today he releases 'Ride Waves,' his first album since publicly coming out in 2017.
Images by Jason Siegel.
“This is the way that I should have been doing records forever,” Grant Kwiecinski tells i-D. “I gave myself the space to develop new ideas in my own way without thinking about what anyone needed, and it honestly sounds like the most next-level future stuff that I’ve ever done.”
Kwiecinski, more commonly known by his stage name GRiZ, is talking about his sixth studio album, Ride Waves, which dropped today and is a sonic buffet of funk-fueled electronica, punctuated by soulful saxophone riffs, hip-hop beats, and vocals that span from upbeat rap to melodic belting. It’s along the lines of the sounds that the producer, label founder, saxophonist, and philanthropist is known for, but these tunes seem to buzz with an extra special frequency. Despite the fact that only four of the 14 tracks don’t feature an artistic collaborator (Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, and more make appearances on the project), GRiZ feels it’s his most authentically Him project yet. “It’s the most real expression of who I am and how I feel about things.”
Written and recorded on the tail of a powerful 2017 HuffPost op-ed in which GRiZ publicly came out, Ride Waves is the artist’s first release as an openly gay man. He took a social media hiatus while putting it together and the result was total creative and personal liberation. “That was a way for me to see how I was feeling about the world and how I was feeling about myself, and to be able to live my life outside the judgement of other people,” he explains. “That [break] inspired a lot of really awesome stuff like me not needing to keep up with the loudness wars of dubstep and instead just create the most fun, bouncy, retro tunes that I could think of that made me really happy.”
One track on the album, “It Gets Better (feat. DRAM)” was created in collaboration with the LGBTQ advocacy group, It Gets Better, and is meant to instill a sense of hope and optimism within anyone who is going through a hard time. For GRiZ, it’s a particularly meaningful song. “I prayed to God in high school that I wasn’t gay,” reveals the artist, who felt incredibly depressed and isolated because of his internal struggles and turned to heavy partying as a means of masking them. It wasn’t until he met a group of friends a few years into college that he began to start accepting and loving who he was. “They were these cool kids that loved art and poetry and dope food and being healthy and partying and great music,” he says. “They were like yeah, we’re gay, we love it, and you’re gay, we know it, and you’re awesome and you don’t have to hide it. It’s a great, beautiful thing!”
He credits those college friends for helping him accept and love who he was but still, GRiZ wasn’t ready to come out on a grand and very public scale. “I didn’t want to be known as the gay DJ, you know? I am gay and I love my culture but that’s not where my identity stops,” he explains. “I wanted to make sure that people were in love with my music for the art of it first, and I also wanted to take the time to live as an openly gay man in my own life before living as an openly gay man in the public eye.”
GRiZ’s music does speak for itself. It’s a totally unique brand of funk-tronic that will leave you no choice but to get onto your feet and just feel — if you can listen to Ride Waves from start to finish without being overcome by one very real emotion or another then go home and hang out with Lil Miquela because you are most definitely a robot. GRiZ calls out “My Friends and I Pt. 2 (feat. Snoop Dogg)” and “Bustin’ Out (feat. Bootsy Collins)” as two especially funky, feel-good tracks, whereas “Mercy (feat. Valentina)” has a soulful, somber resonance.
The album’s final track, “Find My Own Way (feat. Wiz Khalifa)” holds an especially important place in GRiZ’s heart. “When Wiz sent me back the vocals for ‘Find My Own Way,’ his kid had walked into the studio during one of the outtakes and you can hear them having a moment before the tape cut— it was absolutely heartwarming. I was like, wow, it’s perfect and amazing that this is the type of environment this whole thing was happening in,” he explains. While recording the chorus of the song in New York City with the Harlem Gospel Choir, GRiZ was again overcome with emotion. “Every single moment of that session I was in tears, I was trying to hold it together as they were singing this nine-person three-part harmony, this huge belty gospel choir moment. I was just like, this is my favorite music I’ve ever been a part of recording.”
You can catch GRiZ on tour through August at his own headlining shows as well as music festivals including Hangout, Movement, Bonnaroo, Firefly and more.