At this point, there's rarely a passing week where Grey Dolf isn't playing a show in Baltimore's downtown music scene. Active for almost an exact year, the 20-year-old who was born Brayaira Simms took on the challenge to finally pursue a career in music after playing around with the form since childhood, moving to New York at 18 for personal growth and coming back home to a continuously growing DIY scene fronted by black and brown kids. Dolf's music doesn't fit into any box, not even ones made for what "alt rap" is supposed to be. At times, she raps conventionally and even fits in a bit of comedy like performing a full tape worth of Chief Keef covers. Wailing uncontrollably over lo-fi production isn't out of the norm for her and neither is creating an impromptu mixtape with Blaqstarr called D'usse Blunts in a matter of four hours. No matter the classification for what Grey Dolf's music and overall aesthetic is, she's been attracting a growing level of support and attention since mustering up the courage to rap at local collective Llamadon's open-mic series, Beet Trip, last summer. We recently caught up with Grey Dolf and learned about some pivotal points in her growth as an artist and where she wants to move, going forward:
Grey Dolf: I started getting into music in middle school after people started to tell me my voice sounded like a boy. That actually made me sad and I became more conscious of my voice. It made me hate my voice and sometimes I still do. But my early music came to me when I was in the shower or in the mirror looking at myself, making up songs. In high school, I used to take academic things and take them to another level or more relatable through music. If I would be thinking about something that I was having a hard time with, and then start listening to myself to figure it out, it would turn into these ballads I’d be singing to myself. I have so much of that material from voice memos. It's actually ridiculous.
When Pursuing A Career In Music Became Real
I attempted to try college in Baltimore then I just had to leave because it was too much. I moved to New York when I was 18 and stayed for like 7 or 8 months before I came back last summer. I worked at Banana Republic in Soho (laughs) and lived in Lower East Side.
I came down to Baltimore like two times one month in the summer while I was living in there and I went to Llamadon's Beet Trip one night. I was drinking a lot of Patron and cooling it with people I hadn’t seen in a while and I was just really feeling it. I was really turning up and got on the mic and it felt really good. A lot of people were like, “Oh my gosh, I wanna work with you.” I was just listening like, “That’s what’s up.” But when I told some people that I was really about to do this, like really be Grey Dolf and perform and put on shows, some people were like, “You not gonna be able to build it up that fast.” It was funny when I look back. It was actually November 14th when I did put on my first show and performed last year.
I interned at this shop downtown called Agio when I was in high school and that’s where I met Jacob Marley, Butch Dawson, Black Zheep DZ and some other people. Seeing all them make music was a big influence. Even like being in studios with random hood rappers when I was younger was an influence to me. But I always thought Baltimore was super chill. I think everybody could work more collectively but like 2Pac went to Baltimore School for the Arts and it’s a lot of cool factories for manufacturing here. It’s just a lot of cool and inspiring things going on here.
How To Release Music
I’m strategizing from an energy perspective but I’m trying not to be too forceful. It’s all these different things. Like, I just deleted my whole SoundCloud just because I wanna release music in a better way. I can do better than that. I’d rather post all my songs visually. I was on YouTube and typed in my name and saw so much shit that I didn’t even post. Audio is great but I don’t think people will get me without a visual. It’s really fun. I’m still figuring how I want people to receive my work, though. At first I was just making things for me but the fact that other people are involved in that process now is interesting.
What Could Be Better
I could definitely sharpen my organization because it’s crucial to how people receive my stuff. I need to work on production too. I just got rid of my computer because the beats I was making on there weren’t quality. I wanna start incorporating more instruments in my work beyond digital sounds like piano, maybe clarinet and guitar.