All-around Breakdown: Spoken Nerd & Juan Cosby Talk New Collaborative Album GRAPES (Invisible Library)
Spoken Nerd & Juan Cosby have worked together on a number of occassions over the years—most notably, a 2016 one-off collaboration and comic book entitled "MC DOOM"—but now, they've re-joined forces once more for a proper rapper/producer full-length album. United by hustle and an unmatchable enthusiasm for Alternative Hip-Hop, Spoken Nerd & Juan Cosby have teamed to make the Synth-Pop/Hip-Hop-fused LP, GRAPES. GRAPES was, actually, first concocted as word of a rumored re-boot of Tales from The Crypt landed in the ears of Nathan Conrad. The whispers of re-birth for the series stoked the fire of nostalgia in fans of former years, but simultaneously sparked a larger scheme in the Nashville-based rapper, Spoken Nerd. Wheels turning, Nathan Conrad AKA Spoken Nerd shared his ideas of cultivating a Tales from The Crypt mixtape to Cincinnati-based producer, Juan Cosby.
Surely, the "on-brand" Horror-themed lyrics of Spoken Nerd would mesh seamlessly with the John Carpenter-esque beats by Juan to fuel fans of EC Comics and, perhaps, catch the ears of EC themselves. Unfortunately, EC Comics went out of business in the 1950's... and The Internet rumors proved unfruitful of re-boot, but the brainchild of Juan & Nerd's soldiered on. Much like The Crypt series, GRAPES is an album that covers topics like deception, forbidden fruits, envy, and sacrifice. You can hear features from E-Turn, Isaac Stinson, Darko The Super, MC Homeless, and 247 of Out of Place on this project. Spoken Nerd & Juan Cosby's GRAPES is available today on Invisible Library. We were fortunate enough to get Nerd & Juan to provide us with a fittingly juicy GRAPES-themed All-around Breakdown tarck-by-track breakdown. Check it out down below!
01. "Blood of The Grape"
Spoken Nerd: "I haven't written an intro track for an album in a long time, but over the past couple years, I've become intrigued with the qualities that make Hip-Hop albums excel. I wanted to open this album with a hybrid between an intro and a song, which resulted in an intentionally long verse. The title is a reference to the "forbidden fruit" in The Bible."
02. "Delicate Flower"
Juan Cosby: "Nathan's line on this one, "Alt-right, that's a bad look, bro. You need to align with other colors of the rainbow..." might be my favorite Spoken Nerd lyric of all-time. Also, the chopper raps in the chorus are so good, I did a lot in post-production to make sure that part stood out. It was "addition by subtraction," creating space for the vocals to stand out, but it really took the whole song to another level. Definitely one of my favorite beats on the album, as well. I like to use these goofy choir patches and keyboard sounds and God bless Nathan [Spoken Nerd] for supporting it."
03. "Sacrifice for Destruction" [-Feat. E-Turn]
Spoken Nerd: "Artists are no strangers to sacrifice. This song is, simply, about the sacrifices we make to pursue our passions. E-Turn had crashed at our house for a couple days in the fall of 2019 and she impressed me as someone who is, not only an amazing emcee, but, a person who fits this concept perfectly. I was stoked to have her on the record."
Juan Cosby: "This was my first opportunity to make a song with E-Turn. Of course, it's my favorite song on the album. For my part, everything came together very easily. I was with my family in Gatlinburg [Tennessee] when these keyboards just sort of fell out of me. Such a weird place to get inspired."
04. "All This Math"
Spoken Nerd: "Occasionally, I'll get an instrumental that I like so much that I'm intimidated to write to it. That's how I felt when I received this beat. Once I started writing, the catharsis spilled out of me. "All This Math" documents my coming-of-age experience, the days I began to pursue a relationship with God, and the moment where I started to question most of the things that I had been told."
05. "Circle of Fake Friends" [-Feat. MC Homeless]
Spoken Nerd: "This song is about being involved in a bad circle of folks. All of the sudden, you end up as the guest of honor to a party that you want nothing to do with. Juan Cosby had already arranged for my long-time friend, MC Homeless, to rap on this song. I was pretty stoked about that."
Juan Cosby: "I wrote this beat during the Immortal Jellyfish sound design period about four years ago. Chris Conde was originally going to do this one with MC Homeless for that album, but the timing with Chris wasn't great. I had just been listening to the Conde/MC Homeless [collaboration,] "Dead Rappers," so I set out to write something "dark" for them. Spoken Nerd really shows his versatility all over this one."
Juan Cosby: "When we first started putting this album together, there was talk of giving it a Horror theme. I started thinking about all the different kinds of sounds and vibes that get used in Scary movies and how I could represent various themes. So, on this one, I set out to create Scooby Doo "investigation scene" music."
Spoken Nerd: "I wrote this song in a hotel room in Rutland, Vermont. It's about stepping out of a negative mind state and focusing your energy on building something better. Sometimes, our anxieties get the best of us and we kind of forget who we are. It's good to focus on the things that bring us joy."
08. "Bad Coffee"
Spoken Nerd: "I played an outdoor show in Blue Island, Illinois at Rock Island Public House, which is one of my favorite bars. I had spent that trip eating all of my favorite foods, none of which were very healthy, and I decided to drink lots of beer, instead of water that night. The evening was going great, as I was playing pinball and catching up with old friends, when it started raining cats and dogs. I had taken a Lyft to the show from my hotel, so I had to take cover with my merch set-up in the bar and Lyft back to the hotel.
The next morning when I woke up, I played the ["Bad Coffee"] instrumental through my iPhone speaker and brewed a cup of the complimentary coffee provided by the hotel in hopes to write a hit. I nearly threw up when I took my first swallow of "coffee." My voice was thrashed and my body was worn, but the melody was hitting me for this song, so I pressed on. The song is about the realization that you've put yourself in this "Bad Coffee" situation. It's about coming to terms with your own lack of self-care and moving forward in truth and empowerment."
09. "Catch 23" [-Feat. Isaac Stinson]
Spoken Nerd: "This was one of the first tracks we did together for this project. I think, we made this song before we even had the intention of doing a full-length album. I had booked Isaac Stinson for a show in Nashville and was so blown away by his passion and flow that I put out his album on my label and took him on The Birthday Boys of Summer Tour with myself and Quiet Entertainer. We wrote this song for the tour, but never performed it."
Juan Cosby: "That tour was the first time I ever met Isaac and I was really impressed with his delivery from the start. The rhythmic splashing sound in the intro I recorded on my iPhone in an indoor hotel pool because the space had such a great natural reverb."
10. "Tales from The Dorkside" [-Feat. Darko The Super]
Spoken Nerd: "GRAPES was, originally, an idea I had to make a Tales from The Crypt[-style] mixtape. There was a lot of talk, at the time, about an M. Night Shyamalan-produced re-boot of Tales from The Crypt and I got really excited. My label, Invisible Library, had just released a comic book and compilation for Free Comic Book Day and gave them out at comic stores. I had an idea to make this mixtape and get EC Comics to sponsor it. I, then, discovered that EC Comics had been out-of-business for years and there was no re-boot. We moved forward and kept making music. This was a song that I wrote in that period of time where I was still under the illusion that we were doing a Horror/comic-themed album. Having been a fan of Darko's playful flow and unique voice, I found this song a perfect fit for him. I had written a really dark hook for this song, but it was just awful... so, I scrapped it."
11. "Let's Go" [-Feat. 247]
Juan Cosby: "When I first met 247, he was running sound for a show at Cafe Coco in Nashville. It was 2009 and I was on tour with my best friend, Wonky Tonk. As far as the beat, I wanted to make something Jazzy, so I centered everything around the punchy drum fill."
Spoken Nerd: "I wrote a good portion of this song in a crunch where I [was] pressed to leave the house to be somewhere. 247 killed it on his verse, as he often does. His group, Out of Place, has an incredible [catalog] of dope music. Check it out."
12. "Hit or Miss"
Juan Cosby: "Another beat from the Tales from The Crypt batch that Nathan [Spoken Nerd] referenced earlier. I was going for a thrasher/chase scene vibe here. Definitely one of the more straight-forward songs, in terms of structure and sound design."
Spoken Nerd: "This song is about the front of false positivity. Anyone who has worked a customer service job knows what I'm talking about here. Sometimes, life makes you put on a smile and press forward, whether you're feeling it or not."
Juan Cosby: "This was one of the last beats Nathan [Spoken Nerd] took on for GRAPES. A lot of the album, at that point, was minor tones because we had the Horror mixtape in mind; so, I wrote something with more of an uplifting, major vibe, in an effort to add balance to the album."