Inglewood has been buzzing thanks to artists like TDE’s newest signee SiR and Skeme. But the city is ready to produce a new artist who goes by the name of Griff Queso. Born Aarin Griffin, he got his stage name after playing football, where the coaches shortened his last name to just Griff. Then, as he got more serious about his music, he added his favorite term for money, Queso. He finally had to quit football in college (he was a running back) because of an injury and has since turned his full attention to making music.
After getting his start at the age of 10 by writing poems, Griff got his boost into music in middle school with his first visit to a studio. After developing his own sound at a young age, he was encouraged to keep singing and rapping by watching he likes of Drake and Kanye West.
The 23-year-old Griff based his debut EP around the story of his first love. Titled Passion, the eight-track project showcases his crooning ability and knack for painting pictures of emotion and strength.
Ahead of his show opening for Dreamville’s Cozz in Los Angeles on March 30, HipHopDX spoke with Griff Queso about Passion, his musical influences and what’s next.
HipHopDX: What is the concept of your debut EP, Passion?
Griff Queso: I was just portraying a love story, but what’s unique about it is that it’s not ordinary. It’s like a player falling too deeply in love with somebody. So he’s experiencing emotions he’s never felt before, doesn’t know how to control them. They’re always on 10. They’re always extreme whether sad or happy, so then I just relate it to passion, just how passionate you are about somebody.
DX: How did you meet the girl and what sparked the passion for her?
GQ: I met the girl about three and a half years ago due to us having mutual friends. We didn’t talk much at first but after the first time we chilled, the chemistry was crazy. It felt like we had already met before and we were already close. She became my best friend and even gave me advice on all the other women I was dealing with. Basically just always had my back even when it wasn’t in her favor. Through time, she ended up falling for me while I was still being a dog. It began to hurt me to keep hurting her like that because I, too, fell deeply for her. She didn’t think I cared or valued her. So I felt I had to show her and chose to become hers and exclusive to her.
Our relationship was very fiery and passionate due to how deeply we felt about each other. Whether we were sad, happy, or any type of emotion, it was extreme. It was on 10. That caused a lot of ups and unfortunately also caused a lot of downs. But no matter what happens, whether we’re together or not, I’ll always have passion for her. This passion inspired a side of me that I never experienced. It took my creativity to a new level and helped me evolve as an artist. This tape is timeless because of her.
DX: And that same passion for her do you feel it for your art?
GQ: Exactly. What I think is passion is the driving force in love. If you’re not passionate about something, that shows how much you value it or how much you’re in love with it. So for me, like when I fell in love was when I realized that how much I love music was how much I loved this girl. That’s how I realized it was passionate because I’m passionate about this. I was like oh wow.
DX: In “Drown,” you talk about your girl being ambitious and obviously you’re trying to be ambitious, how do you balance your music and having a relationship?
GQ: It’s not that hard. The hardest times is really when I’m not doing anything. When I’m on the move, I don’t be thinking about anything, but it’s like when she’s on the move and I’m not, that’s what “Drown” was about. I’m just chilling when she’s going.
DX: How long did you work on this project?
GQ: It actually took like two years, but what’s crazy about it is we did a full tape and then we decided to do another one that had nothing to do with Passion and we came back to Passion and we took everything off and started all over. That’s the only reason why it took two years and then after that, it didn’t take too long. I recorded drown on April Fool’s Day of last year. Then everything else I recorded in one day for two days I think. I just wrote and recorded it in two days. But it felt better than the first time. It was more soulful, so I used all the songs, all the new ones. There’s a Passion EP that’s not out.
DX: How does it feel to have your debut project out in the world?
GQ: Man, it’s just relieving. It took so much time just waiting on the right time or getting frustrated because it’s not your time yet. It’s relieving. I’m just like relieved. Everybody gets to hear what I’ve been working on.
DX: How did you connect with Cozz and what does it mean to you to be a part of his show?
GQ: I’ve known his producer Meez for years. We used to make music back when we were like 15, 16. One day we just linked back up. I showed him everything I’ve been working on plus the stuff that’s already out. He thought it was solid and chose to look out for me and make me a part of the show. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to showcase my talent, get more exposure, and gain new fans.
DX: When did you start making music?
GQ: When I was 10 years old. I started writing. It started off with poems, then I started writing songs when I was 10 then I started recording when I was 13, but never put anything out.
DX: How did you record when you were 13?
GQ: My school, my middle school, they wanted us to do extracurricular activities besides school so when they found out that I rapped, they took me to the studio when I was in middle school, so they introduced me to everything that I needed.
DX: What was the school?
GQ: Culture and Language Academy of Success. That’s how I started recording, then after that, me and my friends that went there that did music, we just kept recording in the house and then eventually I just perfected it, started going to real studios and stuff.
DX: What do you see in the Inglewood Music Scene?
GQ: Skeme, Casey [Veggies], that’s all I really listen to from Inglewood is them. Besides that, me and myself. But I think that I’m just different because nobody from my section’s putting out music like this. Everybody putting out music like this is from the North, from another country, not anybody from the heart of LA, Inglewood, South Central, nobody’s putting out music like that.
DX: Who are your influences?
GQ: I listen to everybody, so I draw influences from everybody. As far as this singing and rapping sound, I kind of developed that on my own and then I heard them doing this. It’s not like I heard them doing it first. When I first started this, I was like 14 years old, then Drake came out. I was like ‘Wow I love this music.’ So that’s why I kept doing it. But as far as that sound, probably Drake and Kanye, biggest influences as far as the singing rapping sound. As far as rapping because I do rap, too, which you’ll hear in the future, Cole, Kendrick, people like that.
DX: Yeah and you’ve got Tupac on your shirt.
GQ: Yeah, ‘Pac, all the legends. I listen to every single person. I’m not biased when it comes to music. I listen to all genres too. I try to take influences from everything. I don’t have a favorite because I listen to everything. I’ll be here all day if I was naming every influence that I got.
DX: What’s next for you?
GQ: I got this project titled Practice Run that’s gonna drop sometime towards the end of the year and this is completely different from Passion. It’s all rapping and it’s all hype, all turnt up. Every song is a performance song. It’s totally different because I want people to see both sides of me. I just put out the singing first so they could see that side and then I’m gonna put out this so they could see the more turnt up side, the rapping side and my lyrical ability as far as flow. Then, after that’s all together, then I can put out something where I’m doing both so that people can already know. I just wanted to separate it first, but Practice Run, look out for Practice Run.
See Griff Queso perform with Cozz and friends in Los Angeles Thursday night (March 30) at Los Globos. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15 here.