Tuesday, May 06 2008 | 00:00

272As the clock read 2000 zero zero, the party was not over (sorry Prince), but just beginning. A Philadelphia wordsmith named Jared Taylor was rapidly climbing the top of the rap charts. The debut solo single, Mingling … With Mayhem, a Top 3 song on the rap charts, introduced the Grand Agent to the new millennium and vice versa.

The album, “By Design”, is a return to the most basic of hip-hop principles – lyricism. The main message throughout Grand Agent’s solo debut is that verbal communication is fun. Some people might be doing it for the paycheck. But a real emcee does it for the love. This love manifested itself early. “When I was 11 years old, my moms had this microphone, says the Grand one. And out of nowhere one day I decided I was going to see what the new toy could do. I cranked up the music and like second nature, I started blasting my own words through the mic.”

Grand Agent got his start on the Philly streets with the group Name in 1995. The trio of Mr. Cisum, Old Man, and Agent made a name for themselves by tirelessly releasing and promoting their music independently. In 1997 the debut single, 12,sold out its limited release. The next year, some tracks from the never-officially-released album, “The Lost Page Of The B-Boy Document”, became a regular on Bahamadia’s radio show on Philly’s 103.9. One of those being Essay Tee, which was Grand’s solo coming out party. The group sold the album on home-dubbed cassettes at shows and local stores around the city. A four song EP titled Artist Of The Yeah, featuring Philadelphia ‘s own Schooly D and the Mountain Brothers, as well as Wise Intelligent (Poor Righteous Teachers), was released in mid-2000. Even though “By Design” is a solo project, the self-contained Name remain a tight unit while they each go off on their own (FYI: Group member, Old Man, is an award-winning theatrical director; one of the first African Americans to direct in Ireland).

The first single from “By Design” is the optimistic, Every Five Minutes, produced by Kut Masta Kurt (who also produced Mingling…). I wanted to capture the essence of when a new song comes out, Grand Agent declares. When kids on the street scream out, ‘that’s the joint.’ Also, the excitement of the setup, from the street teams putting up flyers to pitching the DJ’s. And then the song is on the radio like every five minutes. The flipside, Know The Legend is produced by and features rap veteran Lord Finesse. Hi-Tek from Reflection Eternal produced It’s Only Right (Rap Niggaz, Pt.2), a fiercely competitive but friendly collaboration with Planet Asia. Grand Agent produced Rap Niggaz, a bouncy duet with D.I.T.C. Bronx bomber, A.G. The Mountain Brothers also produced the tracks, Grand Right Now and Water.

How did the name arise? Grand simply means great, says the 25 year-old. A little boasting, I guess. One of the definitions of agent is medium or channel, and I feel that I’m the channel for people to hear great music. Plus, the word ‘Grand’ is a permanent form of remembrance. The originators started their names with ‘Grand’ not so much for the literal sense but, for the intentional authority it possessed.

From Gamble & Huff and the whole Philly Int’l sound, to Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, The Roots, and Jill Scott, Philadelphia is a city that knows its music. The town has an impressive musical legacy, and now this Agent makes plans to make it a Grand one as well.

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