“I Was Always A Young Leader:” An Interview with Big Moochie Grape

TE P. chats with the burgeoning East Memphis rapper about running the streets at eight years old and learning hard lessons about loyalty.
By    April 22, 2020

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90 days. 2,160 hours. 129,600 minutes. 7,776,000 seconds. No matter which way you break it down, three months is an incredibly short amount of time under any circumstances, but for Big Moochie Grape, the past 3 months have been the culmination of a life full of certain uncertainties.

When talking to the East Memphis rapper, it becomes abundantly clear that he doesn’t lack charisma or confidence. “Since I was 14, I’ve been a leader in everything that I did,” he says. For better or worse, this ability to be in the forefront and ahead of the curve has shaped Big Moochie’s life.

He doesn’t stray away from his past as a disobedient child. At the age 8, many kids are still learning how to form proper sentences and avoid busting their heads open jumping on bikes. For Big Moochie, he’d already hopped off the porch into the notoriously tough and unforgiving Memphis streets. “I was rough and rugged at a young age… I got incarcerated for the first time at 8.” Things only moved faster from there. As teachers waived off his potential, he quickly lost interest in school, and the confines of that structure became less applicable to the life he led.

Recklessly sprinting into his teenage years, his mother soon had enough. Wiping her hands with Moochie, she left him on his own to learn whatever the streets were willing to teach him. After being taken in by his neighborhood OG’s, the legend of Big Moochie Grape truly began. One thing that’s most striking about Moochie is his clarity in discerning the pitfalls of his environment. “If a nigga ain’t got no guidance out here—real guidance—to put them on the right path or lead them to the right level bruh, the shit you see you do,” he says.

As Moochie continued to shine in the streets, something always made him believe that he’d be able to change his life and those around him — especially his mom. Once he got back into the music, he began taking rap more seriously. After finding a studio that was willing to charge him per recording, he followed up with the tried-and-true recipe for success: he’d record the song, immediately take it to the club, pass it on to DJ’s, and gauge the crowd’s reaction. This became his routine until just three months ago, when he caught the ear of Memphis’ own Young Dolph. His hard work, hustle, and music converted his unwavering belief into a relationship with one of rap’s hottest independent labels. And that’s the magic of artists like Big Moochie Grape and music that comes from a place of grit and griminess. No matter where you’re from or how you grew up, the story and music cuts through any preconceived ideas or biases. They can change the entire mood of a room as much as they can change entire lives.

In Big Moochie’s case, it’s easy to see how his life has changed. After aligning with maybe the smartest man in Memphis’ music scene Young Dolph, and his Paper Route EMPIRE imprint, he’s already released his first full project, Eat or Get Ate. It features infectious tracks like “Clusters,” which forces any new artist to second-guess the clarity of their jewelry; and the rapid-fire ‘Uh Huh Uh Huh Uh Huh’ that takes listeners through Mr. Grape’s various interests in women, his hood, and energetic diamonds. Eat or Get Ate is a raucously satisfying introduction to Big Moochie Grape and the purple world he’s built.

With an undeniable buzz in the streets and a debut mixtape under his belt, normal days for Big Moochie are now spent driving around Memphis in a purple Lamborghini Urus—courtesy of the label—and wearing over $100,000 dollars worth of jewelry sitting on both his neck, his hands, and his wrists as luminescent symbols of just how far he’s come in such a short amount of time. In the song “Three Months,” Big Moochie celebrates his come up and stakes claim to not only having now but having next. From being able to care for his mom and his homies to turning what once was an afterthought into a career, this may be the most certain Big Moochie Grape’s future has ever been. – TE P.

You represent East Memphis in all you do. Can you tell me what that part of Memphis is like?

Big Moochie Grape: People had to do what they had to do. That’s why I picked up bad habits. It’s self-explanatory once people listen to my music.

What would you say your area is most known for?

Big Moochie Grape: Shiiiiitt… Drugs and violence. That was my neighborhood.

Ok. Who would you say were some people from your part of the city that you looked up to growing up?

Big Moochie Grape: The OG’s. Some of my OG’s that came up on the block. My OG’s took me in at a young age. I was like 10 years old hangin’ around niggas that was 30, 20, and shit like that. I been learned the game real quick. I learned it before I even touched middle school.

What makes you most proud to be from East Memphis?

Big Moochie Grape: It’s my hood. It’s where I was born and raised at. It’s where I put it down at. All my street cred. I got street cred everywhere, in every part of Memphis. But in East Memphis, I’m the Don Dada out there. That’s my shit!

When you’re not working what’s your favorite thing to do in the city?

Big Moochie Grape: Chill. Fuck other niggas bitches.

I saw you mention in an interview how eventful your childhood was. Can tell me more about you coming up and how fast things moved for you?

Big Moochie Grape: I had to grow up fast. I ain’t have no choice. When you bein’ so disobedient to your momma and shit. Daddy is locked up. It got to the point that my momma washed her hands with me at a young age. I was like 10, 11, 12. She washed her hands with me. She sent me off like, “I can’t deal with him no mo’.” I was rough and rugged at a young age. It started off when I was like 8 years old. My first time ever getting incarcerated I was like 8 years old.

I heard you also say you didn’t go to school much. I can tell you’re still a pretty sharp dude. Was there a teacher or a class that you did like?

Big Moochie Grape: Na. I can’t say that because all of my teachers doubted me. They all said I wasn’t gonna amount to be shit. So it’s, “Fuck all of ‘em.” I get more money than all of ‘em now.

As you began to hop off the porch early, who became that influence for you or that?

Big Moochie Grape: My big cousin Mane Mane.

What was one of the things that you can say you learned from him?

Big Moochie Grape: The hustle. I was like 12. My momma thinkin’ she couldn’t control me. So she made me move with my auntie. This my cousin Mane Mane momma. When I moved with them, my momma boyfriend had like a pound of weed in a draw. So right before I went to my auntie house I stole like 2 to 3 ounces and gave ‘em straight to my cousin Mane Mane. ‘Cuz I didn’t know what to do with it. I just stole it to be on some bad ass shit. Gave it to him. He was like 15, 16 then. He been turnt up ever since. He ain’t never look back. The real Art of Hustle.

You’ve also spoken about your pop being locked up at the time. What was it like for having a pop in a situation while you’re getting into situations too? How did that affect you at the time?

Big Moochie Grape: Me and pop wasn’t really talking like that. I was worried about the shit I had going on. Doin’ the shit I had to. Every time I talked to pop, he was cool. I would be like, “I’ll take your advice and what you got to say. But shit—you ain’t out here with me every day.” Guess what? Life goes on.

What would you say was one of the biggest lessons for you as you started gettin’ it in the street?

Big Moochie Grape: The biggest lesson that I learned was putting my neck out for muthafuckas that didn’t deserve it. In the street shit, I’m big on loyalty. If you loyal to me I’m gonna be loyal to you. But if you ain’t loyal to me then it’s Fuck You. Show me one time you ain’t got no loyalty in you, I’m ready to kick you to the curb. I’m real big on loyalty. All my niggas that’s with me now—the ones that be around me everyday are loyal to me. Ain’t nothing we gotta worry about. If we ask, “Can you do this for me?” It’s gonna get done.

I know music has always played a major role in your life, but how big was it for at that time as you’re starting to figure things out in your life?

Big Moochie Grape: It came in right on time. I’ve been rapping. I used to write raps when I was in the 2nd grade but it wasn’t shit. I was so caught up in the streets that I was n’t even worried about it. I was really just rappin’ my thang. Nigga picked up trappin’. Nigga picked up other hobbies and shit. Rappin’ was really there. But when I got around the Paper Route Family this shit changed up.

Your name says where you’re from as far as your tribe. Can you speak to what that means to you?

Big Moochie Grape: What it means to me is that I’m ME. I been me. I been hot in the streets before rap. I been had my name out here before rap. Everybody knows what’s up with me. My city knows what’s up with me. I’ve always been popping on some street shit!

Even speaking to that, and being a part of where you’re from, what are some aspects of your tribe that people don’t see that you’re most proud of?

Big Moochie Grape: I was a young leader. Through it all. Anything I did I was always the leader of it. I always kept a gang of folks with me. I always kept a couple youngins with me but I was the brains. Sometimes we came on top, but sometimes we didn’t come on top. It’s all good.

What do you think was a common misconception about cats like who do become part of a neighborhood that people just don’t get?

Big Moochie Grape: Some folks don’t get that sometimes a muthafucka don’t have no choice. You see a nigga out here so young doing this shit? It’s self explanatory. He ain’t got no choice. You start doing this shit everyday, you’d know if a nigga came from a good home. Or don’t wanna go back home. This is Grape, shit. Shit we did back then we had to do it. Shit I did back then I had to do it. I wasn’t worried about how nobody labeled me, I did what I had to do.

I also saw you made steps towards rapping. You would record, go to the DJ’s, and give them your records. When did start making that transition to taking this more serious?

Big Moochie Grape: 3 years ago, like 2017.

And was it just like I want to be more serious about this? Or was it a situation where you were in a studio and got inspiration and kept going at it?

Big Moochie Grape: I just been knew how to rap. I just found a studio that was in my budget. It was studio that I could really fuck with that like, “Aight. This my nigga right here. He charging me $20 a song.” I could pay a little $20 a song and I could keep doing that.

How did your homies react when they found out you were putting this time into the studio and taking rapping serious?

Big Moochie Grape: My homies knew. My homies always knew I was going to be something. They always told me I was hard. They always told me I could really rap, bruh. Like, “You ain’t just some nigga out here playin’ with it. Bruh, you can really rap.”

I spoke with a Key Glock a few months ago. Something we talked about was Memphis cats having an “I don’t give a fuck” attitude and that was something that stuck with me. For you, where do you think that comes from?

Big Moochie Grape: Shiiiit. Lil bruh had to do what he had to do when he was young. If a nigga ain’t got no guidance out here—real guidance—to put them on the right path or lead them to the right level bruh, the shit you see you do. Just like a child. A child is going to adopt anything they see. Like, if you cuss around a baby the baby is gonna end up cussin’. We had to do the shit that we saw.

Memphis is ground zero for music innovation. Always has been and always will be. There have been a lot of movements and Paper Route is one of them. What does it feel like to part of such a dope team?

Big Moochie Grape: I ain’t gon’ lie. It’s a blessing. Where I come from. Where I been at. Where I was at right before I signed my deal. That shit is an amazing blessing. I know God workin’ with a nigga and workin’ on a nigga. I’m a part of one of the best independent labels in the game. Shit don’t get no better than this.

You and Jay Fizzle were homies before Paper Route. What does that feel like for you to be there now with your brother and do this on this level?

Big Moochie Grape: That’s another blessing. I know me and bruh—what we use to do back then. Me and bruh come from shit too. Like I said, we adapted to what we were around. And bro was around me. Like, this my nigga. That’s my brother. Blood couldn’t make me a bruh no closer.

What game have you picked up from Dolph so far?

He’s a smart, wise man. He really teaching a nigga something. Bruh really give you the recipe to get it. Only thing he tell you to do is listen. If you listen to bruh, he won’t fail you. That’s what I learned. Being around him, as long as I listen to him I’m good.

“Big Juice” was many people’s introduction to you. Can you speak to dropping the record at that time and the reception you got?

Big Moochie Grape: “Big Juice” in my city, back in Memphis, they go crazy! They act like “Big Juice” been out a year already. Everybody know I ain’t lyin’. That’s why they eat it up. I been had juice in the streets. I was never no little boy ass nigga out here. I always was a big dog with BIG JUICE! That’s how that song came about. Every song I put out and all the songs on the mixtape are really gonna tell you shit about me. It’s either shit I’m doing, did, or I got going on right now.

Moving forward, you put that out and now we already have a full project. Can you speak to what that journey been like? What does it feel like to have a full body of work that people can listen to and see you can really go?

Big Moochie Grape: It comes from my hard work and dedication. I put in too much hard work into this shit. I knew this shit would pay off. Then I’m fuckin’ with the best people in the game doing this. It’s like I’m in a win-win situation right now.

Was there anything in-particular you wanted to accomplish with the project?

Big Moochie Grape: I wanted my project to go number one on everything. I want my first project to be one of my biggest projects. I went hard on this one! Every song on this will go! There ain’t no song you can be like, “I can skip this song and go to this song.” You can play the whole mixtape without skipping one song. It’s that hard!

At PRE, you boys work really hard and really fast. What was the process of making this project like?

Big Moochie Grape: It was just consistently working. Out of all the songs I’ve been making, I was like this one here will go. And bruh was like, “Na. You gotta keep going.” It was just keep going and going. I’m tryna get me some platinum plaques and shit. I’m tryna do some shit.

What does a song like “Three Months” mean to you?

Big Moochie Grape: This my come up song. Let you know how I came up. Like, I did this all in three months. That’s why I’m sayin’ I’m signed to the best label. I ain’t never seen no label, no major label, when they sign a nigga they do for their artists the way I got did. I ain’t never seen no nigga pull up a purple Lamb truck. I ain’t never seen 150 thousand worth of ice when he first get signed. Niggas ain’t doing that. I’m with the best squad ever, bruh. I ain’t even sayin’ that just ‘cuz I’m with it and a part of it. It’s just, once you see this, it’s so beautiful.

In the song “Veterans” and “Now & Next” you mention your status as an OG. What does being an OG mean to you?

Big Moochie Grape: Since I was like 14 everything I did I was always a leader. I was always the head of everything I did. And I always kept niggas that put their trust in me and beleived in me. They was like, “We can listen to him. This the nigga we can follow.” It’s been like that for years. That’s how the OG came about. I got it at an early age. It’s just puttin’ this shit down. I’m gonna let em know, “This ain’t that!”

It’s felt in your music and you have a real story to tell. So, you do you consider yourself a rapper now?

Big Moochie Grape: Yeah. I consider myself a rapper!

What’s next? What do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish?

Big Moochie Grape: Hot shit on top of hot shit! Keep working. I wanna keep droppin’ hot shit! I wanna do what I gotta do to take care of me and my folks. ‘Cuz I got a lot of mouths to feed. Like I said, we come from shit. It ain’t like we came into the game flexin’. Well I came in the game flexin. I’m talkin’ bout my folks. My momma, my brothers, my aunties. I’m tryna make sure I get my bag so I can put them in a better position. We ain’t gotta work about nothing.

Now that you’re here, listening to you speak about your relationship with your mom. How does she feel about where you’re at now? I can only imagine how proud she is.

Big Moochie Grape: Yeah. She proud as a muthafuka! Me and my momma just really like cool a couple years ago. I’m 25 not. We used to be arch rivals. She couldn’t stand me. I couldn’t stand her. But I had to realize I was a disobedient child. I had to stop doing that to my momma. We had to come to an agreement. I told her. I always told her I was going to be the one to change everything around her. She happy as a muthafuka now though!

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