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Bradford (stage name Piehead), 22, is the closest thing the Brothers Grimm have to a vocal headliner. On "Wreckin It," his raspy-tinged raps rise above the beats at times and surf them as if the rhymes were waves. Bradford's lyrics stand out, too, particularly his goofy sports metaphors (I'll do you like Rose did baseball") and decidedly un-hip-hop name checks of Slayer and the Grateful Dead.

Graves (a.k.a. No-Doz), at 20 the youngest and least musically experienced Brother, only started rapping last year. He's already capable of mixing it up on a major league level, but hasn't developed a style equipped to wrest attention from Bowers and Bradford.

Graves' almost effortless rise to the near-top is seemingly rivaled only by his group's own story. The Brothers have been together only a little more than a year. The industry notice they've attracted in that time has elicited grumbles around town that the Grimms haven't paid their dues.

"I think we've worked hard enough," argues Bradford. "Some people just mess around. We've got 40-some jams."
But Graves, who's already recognized that his skills and the Brothers' success have given him the okay to get cocky, adds, "If you can freak it right, it don't matter."

Background checks of the group's members reveal, though, that Bowers is the only Brother who's paid his dues consistently. As parts of two different hip-hop groups prior to the Brothers, Bowers already has recordings on a couple of different indie labels to his credit, neither of which foreshadows what he would accomplish with Brothers Grimm. In 1990, as part of the group 2 La Jit, Bowers had a pop-crossover 12-inch out on Miami's Peters' Records. In January, as half of a group called Styles and J.I.Z., Bowers released a Miami sound album on San Diego's Heat Wave Records.

The Brothers' germination began in 1990, when Bowers listened to a crude demo tape of Bradford at a party. Bowers was mightily unimpressed with Bradford's raps, inspired by Public Enemy. "The first time I heard it, I thought it was doo-doo," the producer recalls. "But I said I'll produce a couple of tracks because he wasn't trying to front." Bowers threw Bradford some material he hadn't worked on too ambitiously, and a friendship developed.

Though Bowers went on to Styles and J.I.Z., he eventually grew disenchanted by the Miami sound of the group. Looking to branch into a more hard-core style, Bowers started to work more intently with Bradford and Bradford's new partner, Graves, with whom Bradford had hooked up while the two were bagging groceries at the same supermarket.

Because of contractual obligations with Styles and J.I.Z., Bowers initially formed a production arrangement with Bradford and Graves for a group called Hyde Park. Once Bowers was able to wriggle out of Styles and J.I.Z., the Brothers Grimm began.

Since the formation of the group, reality has seldom gotten in the way of the Brothers' charmed trip. Still, the record industry's teasing courtship of the group has left it hopeful but frustrated. Bowers admits he's disappointed that Nicolo didn't grab at Geffen's limited offer. Bowers claims the group could've gone with Nicolo's own Ruffhouse label, but that because of the company's other commitments, the Brothers' album would've been put on hold for another year.

Hip-hop giant Tommy Boy Records also showed up at the Brothers' door, only to knock and run. After hearing their demo, the record company called the Grimms to let them know that if they had sent their tape to the company a year earlier, they could've been House of Pain. In any event, Tommy Boy passed on making the Grimms House of Pain II, as Bowers explains, launching into his imitation of a Tommy Boy A&R rep: "Their thing was like, 'We just released House of Pain, a white group. So now we're gonna follow it up with another white hip-hop group? What does that say about Tommy Boy, that we're just trying to go with white rappers, or we're not putting out black rap?'"

In fact, the group is interracial (Bowers and Bradford are Caucasians, Graves an African American), which has met with other weirdness on the part of the industry. Bradford says one exec, for instance, even saw the two-tone makeup of the Grimms as a selling point, telling the group, "You guys know you've got the black-white thing working."

"Shoot, maybe we should get a Mexican and a Chinese dude," says Bowers, snickering.

The Grimms don't like to discuss their racial makeup. "I think our album should have a blank cover so people don't see what color we are," says Bradford.

Interestingly, both of Bowers' previous groups were interracial, a coincidence he explains away by noting that good white rappers don't exactly abound in Phoenix.

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David Koen