The opening synth passage on GrandAce’s new EP, French Vanilla, teeters back and forth between notes like the ticking of a clock. Once the beat comes in and gives the song a steady pulse, GrandAce (real name: Jody Jones II) raps about aimlessly scrolling on phone screens and spacing out on endless drives. Given the times we’re living through, this can be read as a metaphor for life in a pandemic, but GrandAce’s kaleidoscopic writing doesn’t stay on one idea for too long.
French Vanilla is the first installment in a collection of projects that GrandAce has planned for the year. From his bedroom studio in Hyde Park, GrandAce produces, writes, and records each track totally on his own. He starts with a beat and builds the song by ear, feel, and intuition. “If music is as individualized as I like to believe it is, each song will tell you where it needs to go,” he says about his creative process. The new tracks find him dialing back his sonic experimentation in favor of crafting a subtler vibe, which encourages the listener to pay attention to the details. “I really want the way the music hits you to change,” he says. “That’s the new mission for me.”
GrandAce has been tinkering with the sounds and ideas on French Vanilla since before the pandemic, but it didn’t fully come together until this year. Coronavirus has left its mark on the project, and GrandAce’s approach to writing and recording has changed because of the new normal. Being cooped up in his room all the time, which also doubles as a studio and creative space, has stunted his old approach. “When I’m making music, I like to live a little, then write a little. But I was running out of experiences to pull from,” he says. “At that point you’ve just got to get creative and approach things differently.”
The writing on French Vanilla is very introspective as a result of this mindset change. How do you derive meaning from a day when the most consequential decision to be made is What should I eat? GrandAce pauses to look closer at his surroundings, like on the standout track “Pish,” which opens up in a garden, picking through flower petals. These small moments make up much of the lyrical content on the EP, as GrandAce searches for magic through the monotony. “Hip hop and loop-based music can allow you to live in the present,” he says. “If it’s really groovy you’ll be locked in, and it helps you stay centered.”
With this project, GrandAce is ultimately reflecting on identity. “There comes a point where you question if you’re even the main character in your own story,” he says about his headspace. “If not, do you settle knowing that?” At the end of the project, GrandAce doesn’t necessarily have the answers, but it’s clear he’s making the most of his search.