OUTSIDE INFLUENCE: Bugout of Granite State

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Bugout is a wickedly talented veteran rapper from New Hampshire who made his name as part of the iconic 603 duo, Granite State. If you weren’t around back then, it’s hard to appreciate what a breakout year 2006 was, between Granite State’s The Breaking Point and The Aztext dropping Haven’t You Heard? here in Vermont: both albums were proof that local, indie groups were making professional grade hip hop out here in the woods. The bar was raised.

Granite State was only getting started, though: their next LP, 2008’s The RE:Public, saw their production game elevating even further, complete with guest features from Boston legends Reks and Esoteric, in addition to Evidence himself. After a long hiatus for the usual Actual Life Reasons, Bugout stepped back into the breach with a bulletproof solo outing in 2014, The Unfound Chapter, which proved to be a prelude for the duo’s finest achievement to date: the thoughtful, soulful A Tribe Called 30 LP.

Along the way, Bugout has stayed busy in the margins, like teaming up with DJ Nefarious for the BugNef project — which slaps without mercy — or his recent solo EP, One For The Money. All that backstory leads directly to The Monkey House this Saturday night, where Bugout will be performing alongside headliner Cesar Comanche, NC spitter Ghost Dog, and 802 godfather Mister Burns. We took advantage of the occasion for a quick talk about local roots, DIY hustle, and building a legacy.

VTHH: Looking back on The Breaking Point, it's wild how strong your quality control was right from the start. Was DC The MIDI Alien acting as a studio mentor back then, or were you all learning the ropes together?

Bugout: We were making music for years prior to TBP, but that album release really pulled everything together for us. We all discussed the vision before and during the process  (making slight adjustments when needed). Towards the completion we were all working like a machine, it was beautiful. 

VTHH: So did that process just carry right over into The RE:Public album in 2008, or was there some creative downtime in between those LPs?

Bugout: Yeah, there was really no downtime for us, if we weren’t writing new material we were promoting the album, designing new merch, playing shows, doing interviews and recording guest features. The process is slightly different now as a solo artist, but the idea is the same.

VTHH: What was it like trying to promote a dope rap album in New Hampshire in the late 2000s? Were there venues and spaces for that around you or did you mostly have to travel elsewhere?

Bugout: There were a lot of trips to Kinko’s. We would design and print all our own flyers and run around putting them up everywhere. Back then Def Rock had a residency at The Muddy River (now Thirsty Moose) in Portsmouth and we’d always go there to rock, but we were mostly traveling out of state for shows. As the buzz grew local promoters became more receptive.

VTHH: Do you feel like the 603 scene has witnessed a renaissance in recent years? From this side of the border, it seems busier than ever.

Bugout: A lot of doors have been opened in the last few years. Artists are building strong relationships with venues, promoters are staying active, and opportunities like Rap Night are giving newer artists a chance to grow.  Social media and the monthly Think Tank (currently hosted by Cody Pope at Vatican Life) is helping a lot as well. 

VTHH: Do you feel like the overall New England scene is getting more cohesive and active, too?

Bugout: The scene will always be around, but as the trends change, you’ll experience the crowds getting smaller. It happens. If you can ride those waves and stay tight with the hardcore Hip Hop kids you’ll make it through. 

VTHH: Were you looking up to existing rappers, producers, graf heads and DJs in the 603 when you get started, or was the scene pretty sparse?

Bugout: There wasn’t a lot of OGs to look up to around here back then. Def Rock moved up here from MA and really helped us early on. By the time we dropped TBP though, we had built solid relationships with artists from all over. 

VTHH: BugNef was a crazy strong album, to me, all killer no filler. Are there more collaborations with DJ Nefarious on the horizon?

Bugout: Thank you! It’s funny we get asked this all the time. Nef and I have been talking here and there about dropping a follow-up album but it’ll probably be slated for 2020. We’re both busy building our own brands at the moment but there’s no doubt we will be working together again. forever.

VTHH: Your catalog so far spans a huge range of sounds. Where do you want to take your music in the future? Are there things you still feel you need to accomplish?

Bugout: Inspiration is everywhere and sometimes I get caught up on a vibe that just takes me way out. The producers I’ve been working with, from Statik, Nef, Bza, Self Serv, and Neuromancer, is all ends of the spectrum, but what pulls it all together is message, and the real connection and love for the music we all have. I never been afraid to take chances but I think for artists like myself you have to really dial-in your overall image to make it feel cohesive. As far as the future goes, I’m really just trying to get as big as possible without sacrificing my core beliefs and go down in history as one of the greatest lyricists to ever do it. 

Gnothi seauton.

Bugout will be rocking alongside Justus League legend Cesar Comanche at The Monkey House on Saturday, March 30th. Doors are at 8:30 pm. Show is 18+, entry is $8 for a slamming Saturday night.

Justin Boland