Rappin' Radical

Grime is the unholy terror of the Valley's hip-hop scene

Grime is serious about success, but willing to lose his own money pursuing underground notoriety, because he believes his revolutionary evangelism's prospective impact has the potential to make the ends justify the means.

These days you'll likely have to catch Grime opening for a national act, as he will when Rakim and Ras Kass hit town at the Clubhouse Music Venue in Tempe on Tuesday, September 5. Meanwhile, there's no rest for Grime. Like a chess player, he's thinking far beyond his next couple moves.

For the past year, Grime's been assembling a selection of beats culled from big-name underground producers like Southpaw, Maker, and Blockhead for the next LP, titled A People's History. It will be a concept album based on Howard Zinn's influential reverse-perspective record A Brief History of the United States, covering events from 1492 through the present.

Grime: A portrait of the artist as a young MC.
Grime: A portrait of the artist as a young MC.
Fazal Rahman and a very young Tariq lock eyes.
courtesy of Tariq Rahman
Fazal Rahman and a very young Tariq lock eyes.

"I was raised by wolves, ya church can't save me/Die in the street before I live in a cell/On the White House lawn with a pocket full of shells."

— "On the White House Lawn"

Tariq Rahman, the boy who would grow up to be Grime, was born to Lee Rahman, a white woman, and Fazal Rahman, a Pakistani native, who met while studying in the Amazon rain forest in Brazil, in Portland, Oregon, in 1983. Before the birth of their son, the couple was active in leftist politics and the Communist party in the late '70s and early '80s. "I was looking for an outlet, a place I could make a difference, and I found one with the party," Lee says. "During the whole Vietnam War thing, I was very disturbed by the whole thing, but I didn't really get active until I got with Tariq's dad."

Leftist political discussions were a constant in the Rahman household. "Growing up, when I was younger, I used to not pay attention to anything my dad said," Tariq says. "As a kid, it was always around — he would tell me things and try to teach me things, but I was more interested in sports . . . things like that."

Lee and Fazal divorced when Tariq was 5, and Lee moved to the Valley for a job as a professor of biology at Glendale Community College shortly after (Tariq has an older half-brother, Jason, from his mother's first marriage, who still lives in Portland). With the intention to stay in his son's life and raise him, Fazal, who was raised in Pakistan, followed. "Politics was always at the dinner discussions," Tariq says. "When I got a little older in junior high school, I got into a lot of bad shit. Robbin' people, stealin', breakin' into houses . . . a lot of bullshit. Gang bullshit, fighting, lots of dumb shit. I went down the wrong path for a while."

As a student in west Phoenix, Tariq had a teacher who recommended that he take some time off from junior high and be home-schooled. "I wasn't disciplined enough," Tariq says. "I was crazy. I was the kid in junior high who was sitting in the back of the class facing the wall. I don't know how they expect you to learn facing the wall, but they do. At the same time, I was an asshole. I was always talking out, throwing pencils at people, talking shit. I was the worst kid in every one of my classes, seventh and eighth. I was a clown; I was on some gangsta shit."

"I hope there's a God and I hope he don't forgive you/I hope there's a lake of fire that you get sent to/And I hope there's a heaven that my mother can get into."

— "On the White House Lawn"

Before Tariq's troublesome school antics, his father had already exposed him to a facet of the world that would later change his life. When he was in third grade, at the age of 9, Tariq was taken to meet Fazal's family and spend his summer vacation in Pakistan.

"I was worried that his father wouldn't bring him back," his mother Lee says. "But he promised me, and he's always been honorable. It scared my parents, though. But I thought it was really important for him to know the other part of his family."

Father and son traveled to Islamabad and Peshawar before landing in the northern North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, in the relatively rural, Urdu-speaking town of Kohat, where Fazal's grandmother (now Tariq's only living grandparent) and his sister Nazo, Tariq's aunt, still live. "My dad understood something that I didn't get at the time," Tariq says. "That despite the United States and however strong and mighty it is, it's a grain of sand comparatively. There's billions of other people. People become really cynical in [America], they value competitiveness, selfishness, and everybody else around them thinks the same way. That's why it's so important for people to step out and see that the whole world doesn't think that way."

In Kohat province, where Tariq was surrounded by gum trees and mango trees, and where a friend he made that summer, Pekwon, was one of the family's servants along with his blood relatives, the land seemed to sprawl to the horizon. It was a stark contrast to the one-bedroom apartment he shared with his mom in the States, or his dad's studio apartment. It was mind-boggling to the young man, who witnessed both the innocent devotion of his relatives and the brutal reality of Third World civilization.

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