Clifton Grefe brings Beef to the West Coast

Grefe first tasted success in 2010 with “Teach Me How To Bucky,” which blew up on campus.

Image By: Photo Courtesy of Clifton Grefe

He lives now in the ever-sunny Los Angeles, where stars are made and others fall by the wayside, still fighting for their shot. In the midst of the riotous talent is Clifton Grefe, age 25, with the stage name Beef.From a love for music as a child, to exploring his passions in college, Madison-raised rapper Beef exemplifies what it means to make leaps and bounds in doing what you love.

“I live with 30 crazy personalities from all over—Germany, Wisconsin [and] Texas,” Grefe said. Surrounded by so much talent, Beef expressed the motivation to always improve and “one-up the next one” he meets. Over a Skype interview, the growing rapper eagerly shared his musical beginnings, what he's learned and his plans for the future.

Grefe said that music always surrounded him growing up. He first listened to his parents’ many ’70s and ’80s vinyl collections. In the cornfields of Wisconsin, music decorated his world. Eventually, the poems and lyrics he wrote at 16 became colorful songs for his Badger community at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Zooniversity, Grefe’s collaborative work with DJ, producer and UW-Madison student Quincy Kwalae, was popularized on campus with songs like “Coastie Song” and “Teach Me How To Bucky,” the latter becoming an iconic campus statement. From Beef's sophomore year to graduation, the two artists excited the Madison campus, even managing to get former Chancellor Carolyn “Biddy” Martin to make a video appearance.

“We made our music to be fun and clever,” he said, chuckling as he reminisced about his college years.

After successfully featuring his music and establishing his name, it was time for change. “I still had no [record] deals and made the decision to go back solo,” Grefe said. This decision for change also meant diving deeper into discovering his personal sound.

“I enjoy writing a narrative. I have a storytelling style [and] a chance to embrace what I grew up on,” Grefe said. He went on about incorporating tastes of rock, funk and jazz—all memorable music from his parents’ records—into his new sound, much of which we can enjoy on Beef's current project Chapter 2: Double Major. A few promotional singles can be checked out on YouTube, like “Smörgasbord,” which features Beef's fun and clever style. The children’s song “Apples and Bananas” is the background sample for the song, and Beef's lyrics, “I like to eat rappers and my stanzas.”

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Beef then explained how LA has impacted his plans for developing his video production capabilities for the new project.

“I was never on an actual set until I got out here. It’s good being there, seeing how everyone interacts. I learn the most efficient way to make films and organize people. Folks are always shooting videos out here,” Grefe said. It’s clear that the growing artist continues to seek improvement.

Grefe further explained that with ambitions for the new album, he really wants to hit home in Wisconsin. He stayed in tune with the recent struggles of communities whom he often shared a stage with in college. The recent death of UW-Madison alumnus and First Wave scholar Andrew Thomas, aka Phonetic One, has Grefe focused on the possible impact of his work. Alongside the recent deaths of his friends Spencer Zuelsdorf, a growing producer and partner in music, and graduate Kelsey Olson, an admirable classmate, Grefe created the song “Outer Space.” Grefe dove into his music to mourn and cope, but also encouraged others mourning the losses. For these moments of sorrow, Grefe stated, "Part of [Outer Space] is about using your craft. Pour it into your craft. I want to encourage First Wave to use their creative talents."

Compiled with the fun music, Grefe definitely brings deeper subject matter to his list of songs, not only through his tributes to the struggles of death, but also in memory of the dark spots in his past. Grefe talks about the struggles of growing up while diagnosed as bipolar in his music; to him, the adversity only makes his success sweeter.

Beyond the actual music, Grefe has also taken strides to explore the journalistic side of music. He took pride in developing his website, where he posts stories to help promote the music of others. In addition, Grefe landed an internship with HipHopDX, an online magazine that stays on top of what’s relevant in all of hip-hop culture, featuring stories and artists from the big leagues like Drake and Jay-Z, to the those working their way up like Grefe. The LA move has really done wonders for our fellow Badger.

Grefe continually works to improve himself and encourage his community. He’s an example for many who want to continue growing and doing what they love. Thumbs up to our fellow Badger showing those in LA how to Bucky.

Stay tuned for Beef’s album Chapter 2: Double Major, planned for release in October.

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