Gray dropped a freestyle last week over the instrumental of Drake's song "Charged Up," and he said he'll reveal the official release date and album title with his next freestyle. In an interview via email with Rapzilla this week, Gray shared an early look at the concept and sound of his follow-up to School of Roses, which debuted at No. 44 on the Billboard 200.
"In essence, you're getting the full scope of Christon Gray and all of the things and influences that make up my world," Gray said. "There is a lot of spitting on this project, and there are still ballads. We've got some fun, party-type records, and we have some very serious, current-event records. The album takes a lot of forms and shapes, but I think that's what accurately reflects me and who I am. We are all human, and this album is very honest. If those two things are cool with you, then I think we can enjoy this album together."
Here is an excerpt of that interview.
How will your next project compare to Body Art and School of Roses?
Gray: It compares because it has elements of both in it. On Body Art, you got the emcee. I had just signed my first record deal, it was a free project that we were dropping and I was trying to begin developing my brand. That is very similar to where I am at this current point in time.
With School of Roses, you have an R&B album written around some difficult moments in my life that had to do with love, marriage, being a Christian male and so many things that dudes my age were wrestling with. While I've grown as a person, you will still hear a lot of that on this album, the song "Ft. Knox" comes to mind off the new project as an example. So, there are lots of comparisons between them, but there is also a lot of growth.
What was the most memorable moment of this album's creation process?
Gray: I think it had to be in July when we flew to Dallas to play Kirk and Ron [Hill] what we had so far. We played them eight tracks in a row and were hoping that they'd sign off on at least five of them. That would have been a really big victory in our mind. By the grace of God, they signed off on all eight. We couldn't believe it. It was so encouraging and motivating to have guys like that cosign you work.
Then, when we were done that, they brought in Max Stark to meet us, who has been producing quite a bit for Kirk and a few other cats in the game. The first beat he played us ended up turning into a track on the new album called "Stop Me," and Max ended up producing or co-producing more than half the album, and he mixed it as well. So, while there were many memorable moments, inside jokes and revelations during this process, that day in July stands out. We captured it at the end of "50 Shades," which is the tension spot on the new LP.
How hands on was Kirk Franklin during your album creation process, and what have you learned from him since signing with Fo Yo Soul?
Gray: Kirk has heard all the songs and given his input on the direction of the music. Being around a guy like Kirk, even when we're just texting, really opened my eyes to what it's like to be working hard, to be in the limelight, but still being an available, cool dude. Especially considering he was finishing his first album in five years, it says a lot about someone when they give you that time.
He gave me advice throughout the whole process and has been a big encouragement as we wrap this up. He reminded me to be honest. He consistently told me I was free at FYS, as long as the Spirit led me, to do what I felt God wanted from me. As far as FYS, Ron Hill has been riding with us on this. He even made his way up to Toronto for the first mixing session. That's my boy! Between them, I have learned a lot of great things about the game that have helped this album come to light.
How much will you rap on this next project?
Gray: Man, it's almost half that joint! We have laid it out so they all flow together smoothly, but in the end, that will always be up to the listener to decide. We put out the "Guard's Up" verse first because I just had some stuff I needed to say, and sometimes those things are easier to get across when you're spittin' as opposed to singing!
But, trust me when I say, there are songs for all my fans that like to hear me sing. We really wanted to do something for everybody without spreading ourselves too thin. I really feel like the Lord has allowed us to accomplish that.
Photograph by Squint
READ MORE: Why Christon Gray declined major mainstream labels for Kirk Franklin’s Fo Yo Soul