Photo via YouTube

Off the Cuff

CrucialBGR is the rap moniker of local artist Javone Graham. He previously appeared on Amethyst, the project that brought together rappers and producers from around South Carolina. The communal theme behind Amethyst parallels the Bag Group Representatives collective that Graham is part of (hence the BGR suffix). 

“I’m trying to be a selfless artist,” CrucialBGR said. “I’ve been extending my hand a lot to other artists. I’ve been doing the groundwork with no big label backing. I have no safety net; it’s all out of pocket; it’s all genuine; it’s organic.

While CrucialBGR has taken an active role in the rap communities in South Carolina and Georgia, he makes a point of not wanting to put extreme emphasis on place in his music. “Place isn’t bigger than creativity,” he said. “It has a lot to do with inspiration, but I want people to identify with the music instead of thinking about where you’re from.”

On Feb. 18, CrucialBGR released the music video for “TakeOff! (Fuck Rap),” the opening track on his 2020 release Big Bad 3!

The video doesn’t employ a nostalgic schtick, but it is reminiscent of VHS home movies and MTV-era rap videos. “I just wanted to do something in my realm that I truly like, so that’s why we took inspiration from older generations and shooting styles,” he said about the video. “It was a simple process of saying, ‘Let’s shoot today and then release it this day.’”

Like the “TakeOff!” video, CrucialBGR’s writing process is simple, but calculated. “I look at rapping as an equation more than a rhyme scheme,” he said. Similar to a sonnet structure he goes into a studio session with a numbered rhyme scheme and raps off the cuff based on the numbers. That way, in his words, “it already meshes the way that it’s supposed to mesh. I always feel like I one-up myself; I’ve never not had the inspiration to do this.” 

CrucialBGR also chooses to rap over beats that he finds challenging. “The beats that you hear on Big Bad 3! are the ones that were the most difficult to hear myself rhyming over, he said. “I never want to be in a pocket; I’ve got to be kept on my toes.”

One song on the album he singles out is “When 3 Speaks,” in which he speaks about racial injustice, rapping lines like, “They built this shit off of Indian scalps/ Like how they think to skin you?” 

“That was me tirading,” he said. “I felt like I couldn’t help at the time when there was rioting and public slayings through police brutality. But, that was the first time I’ve seen Charleston really band together on something, and that made me proud. You rarely see that here.” 

CrucialBGR has stated that he has no intention of releasing any new music in 2021, partly because of how he felt that his creative output was executed in 2020. “The push for Big Bad 3! could’ve been a lot bigger had I taken my time and gotten my footing right. I got ahead of myself and put it out before I had the chance to do things like shoot videos.” 

The next step in his progression as an artist is growing from what he knows and what he does best: Being intentional, never rushing, but always creating and thinking not only of his artistry but the artistry of others that he comes across. To him, all of that is absolutely crucial.