Don’t let the name The Opioid Era fool you. Hailing from Virginia, the rap group is comprised of three spitters: King Kong Gotcha, Ambassador Rick, and Grunge Gallardo.
Their music will appeal to those who love the Griselda sound and fans will recall The Opioid Era’s 2018 banger “The Foundation” with Benny the Butcher.
Since then, The Opioid Era has unleashed records chock-full of substance, meaning, and authentic hip-hop down to the core.
Per the Center for Disease Control, over 17K Americans died from prescription opioids in 2017 alone.
While substance abuse remains a public health emergency, The Opioid Era is here to turn that negative into a positive. Their music consists of real-life stories from their experiences in the streets, infused with the realities of addiction and dependency.
In this day in age of trap rappers, this rap trio sticks to their roots and never falters from their truth.
By painting the picture of the dire consequences that come with substance abuse, The Opioid Era is able to save lives all across the world through their music.
One thing they’re adamant about is being solo artists before the group came together.
King Kong Gotcha was the official DJ for The Clipse, Ambassador Rick collaborated with Rick Ross on “I’m Like That,” and Grunge Gallardo has been a staple in Virginia’s local scene.
AllHipHop caught up with The Opioid Era in downtown Los Angeles to discuss their upbringing, their name, linking up with Griselda.
AllHipHop: Tell us about Virginia and the area you grew up in.
Grunge Gallardo: We’re from Tidewater, Virginia Beach. Hampton. Virginia Beach is a cool place man, it’s everything you hear about it. A lot of partying, a lot of living. It’s not LA, but we do it up a little bit.
AllHipHop: What neighborhoods are you guys from?
Grunge Gallardo: I’m from the Green Run section of Virginia Beach.
King Kong Gotcha: I’m from the Rosemont, Bridle Creek section of Virginia Beach.
Ambassador Rick: I’m not from Virginia Beach. I’m from Hampton, Newport News area. It’s a little ways away from where they are, probably 30 minutes away. It’s still one area that’s called Hampton Roads. I pretty much lived everywhere in the city.
AllHipHop: How did all 3 of you guys link up and come together?
Grunge Gallardo: We’ve been doing music together over 10 years, just in the town knowing each other. We go back a long way. He was a DJ initially (King Kong), so he’s hosted our mixtapes. But he’s always been an MC.
AllHipHop: How close are you to Charlottesville?
Grunge Gallardo: About 2.5, 3 hours.
AllHipHop: What are your thoughts on all that drama?
Grunge Gallardo: Aw man, any time you have any of these crazy things going on… you talking about the recent stuff? Or the tiki torch? All of the weaponry, Virginia’s trying to ban assault rifles. But it fell through, so people are still able to purchase their ARs and do what they need.
Ambassador Rick: Politics is real weird in Virginia so I try to stay away from it. But I stay conscious to what’s going on.
AllHipHop: Please explain why you chose to use the name of The Opioid Era.
King Kong Gotcha: Opioid Era, we chose that name because we’re not doing something that hasn’t been done already. We’re actually bringing back a certain era of music that people haven’t heard in a long time. It’s refreshing. The Opioid Era is actually the era we’re living in right now, but it’s also an era that’s already happened before.
AllHipHop: Were you worried at all about any negative connotations with the name?
King Kong Gotcha: No, because we live it. It’s different when you have homies who die from overdoses, you have uncles in and out of rehabs. It’s different when you live it. You can talk and walk it a little different than somebody from the outside. They might be partying with Percocets, but that’s way different than actually seeing it firsthand what type of effects it’s having.
Grunge Gallardo: It’s informational to be in the opioid era now, but people don’t even understand what it is. They just think it’s an addiction, but they don’t realize how grave of a situation we have at this point.
Ambassador Rick: I like to say we touch on the good, bad, and the ugly of the era that we live in. It’s not glorifying anything, we’re putting it all into perspective basically.
AllHipHop: Do you have relationships with any of the bigger rappers in Virginia?
King Kong Gotcha: Most definitely any artist that you can think of who came out of there, they know the name. Whether it be individual, whether it be group-wise — if they say they haven’t heard of us, they’re lying. Guarantee you.
Grunge & Rick: For sure.
AllHipHop: How did you link up with Griselda?
Ambassador Rick: I built a relationship with Conway and Benny early, actually through each other being fans of our music. I was fans of their music, they were fans of mine. We’ll work, do things together. Me and Benny were supposed to do a lot more work earlier, but I had a lot going on. That was early, during the beginning of his push.
By the time we got back in touch to work, we’d already established The Opioid Era. Because we all were solo artists, but this is a collective. We’ve always been doing music together for over 10 years. By the time I reached back out to Benny, we had this going on. It made more sense to do work with the group, with Benny. That’s what it is, we’re fans of each other’s music and have been for a minute now.
AllHipHop: You guys are obviously heavily influenced by the drug game. Did The Clipse influence you guys?
Grunge Gallardo: Nah. We’re not new to music, we’ve been doing 20 plus years. The people who influenced us would probably be the same people who influenced The Clipse. Because we’ve been doing what we’ve been doing for a long time.
King Kong Gotcha: We were peers in the town before they established as who they are.
AllHipHop: Who are some of your favorite influences?
Ambassador Rick: It’s a wide range, we all 3 have very diverse [influences]. I grew up listening to a lot of different hip-hop, music in general. I got a musical background, my father was a DJ so I grew up in the household hearing all types of music. But from a hip-hop standpoint, of course all the early stuff when i was a kid. As I grew up, I started getting into a lot of East Coast. Of course Nas.
Grunge Gallardo: Say Rakim man, knock it off.
Ambassador Rick: I like Rakim, but I also like Scarface. I also like UGK. I also like E-40.
King Kong Gotcha: Earlier influences for me, James Brown first. My first influence is James Brown. After that, you have your Biggie’s, Scarface’s, the list goes on and on. For real, if you’re a real fan of hip-hop, there’s no favorites. You also have to follow certain things to make your own. I can say a lot of things.
Grunge Gallardo: Same thing, the 90’s. The 80’s. The 2000’s. Just in general, good music.
AllHipHop: Like your Griselda associates, you guys focus on creating traditional boom bap hip-hop. Any reason you’re going against the grain of today’s sound?
Grunge Gallardo: I don’t think we’re going against the grain, we’re doing what we do. We all do a lot of different things, we’re solo artists anyways. But when we come together, these are the vibes we like to work with each other and do. We don’t go against any grains, it’s just what we’re into for us.
King Kong Gotcha: We do the grimey underground hip-hop, but I don’t want you to box me in. Because I was doing this 20 years ago: grimey, dirty, needle beats, samples, loops. This is easy math. For a lot of people, it’s “wow, new genre.” This is old. This is nothing new. Don’t box an artist just because he’s doing this, does that mean I can’t do trap now? [chuckles] Does that mean I can’t hop on a track with Future or whoever?
Ambassador Rick: It’s fortunate that people are starting to open up to liking different forms of hip-hop, because it’s enough room for everyone to do their thing. Griselda is a testament to that. Not necessarily that “oh, it’s surprising that people like this hip-hop,” a lot of the classic hip-hop is that type of hip-hop. The fact that now the market, whether it’s streaming services or whatever, that’s allowing the fans of that to show up. That’s what it is for real. Us being able to do that along with other types of hip-hop, it’s natural for us to tap into it. It’s easy. We can do it with our eyes closed, so why wouldn’t we? Not to say you won’t hear us do another type of sound, not within The Opioid. But that goes back to us being solo artists too.
AllHipHop: You guys are obviously independent. Who’s shooting your visuals, crafting the look and helping convey the messaging?
King Kong Gotcha: We formulate what we’re trying to convey. We don’t have one director we work with. We got a few videos with a few different directors, but we always make sure that our point is getting across. We don’t let the director shoot what he wants. We let them be creative, but within a certain standpoint.
Ambassador Rick: We’re hands on. We’ve shot our own visuals too. We’re basically in the process of putting together a machine if you will, for that type of thing. So it has a uniformity to it. So you know it’s Opioid when you see it, we’re in the process of developing that now.
King Kong Gotcha: A lot of the stuff we have out, some people may have seen. Some people may have not seen. But a lot of the things we’ve done earlier, a lot of people are starting to tap into it. Maybe doing it unconsciously. Maybe the look, maybe the texture. Somebody saw what we’re doing and they’re understanding “oh, we can dab into that too.” They’re going to do it their own way, but we did that look 2, 3 years ago.
Ambassador Rick: It’s rubbing off.
AllHipHop: Walk us through the creation of your breakout mixtape 3xdope. On the title, were you guys influenced by EST/Philly? Or is it just a flip?
Ambassador Rick: We’re all definitely fans of EST. We’re tapped into EST. We grew up on a whole lot of hip-hop, Philly included. They had their own run. We incorporated that flip with the fact that we’re The Opioid Era and the music is dope. It’s reflecting the new era of dope.
King Kong Gotcha: It’s 3 of us. That’s the main thing we’re conveying: it’s 3 individual solo artists that make a collection of The Opioid Era. 3xDope, 3 different individuals.
Ambassador Rick: 3 different dope individuals.
AllHipHop: You guys released your self-titled debut album almost a year ago. What’re you guys working on now?
King Kong Gotcha: Working on 3xdopex3, the third installment of the mixtape. We just finished another project called Throwaways. It’s records that might not have made the projects out right now. It might be some songs that we exclusively release.
Ambassador Rick: Some songs were only released on vinyl, a few of them.
King Kong Gotcha: We’re taking beats right now, and that’s for the second album.
Ambassador Rick: That’s as of right now, things can change. Something spontaneous can happen. [chuckles] We’re not opposed to that.
AllHipHop: In terms of the opioids, how are you guys impacted by the actual crisis?
Grunge Gallardo: It’s impacted a few ways. You have family members afflicted by it. I have a brother who’s incarcerated right now for the selling of it. You see it all around you. You can’t escape it, in all different aspects of life. You don’t have a family who doesn’t have any type of relation to something going on with this crisis. It’s not there, it doesn’t exist.
Ambassador Rick: The lifestyle in itself, you see things change over time. Peers start to change because of usage. You being a hustler, you see things change in the streets. What’s in demand, what’s not in demand. If you have your eyes open, you see the effects. It’s all around you. Only person who’s totally blind or not hip to what’s going on would not see it.
King Kong Gotcha: The crisis that’s going on, we needed to see it because there was a crisis going on in the 80’s called the crack era. The type of funding, the type of information and treatment right now, they didn’t have that for crack. They didn’t have that for african-americans. They gave us a lot of jail time, and they broke a lot of families apart. It’s good to see when it’s not the crack era and it’s the opioid era, you get help. When you don’t have brown skin, you can get some help. It’s deep..
AllHipHop: What year did you guys actually come together and form?
Grunge Gallardo: 2017. Actually as a collective, that’s when we started.
AllHipHop: What were each of you guys doing prior to being in the group?
Grunge Gallardo: We were all solo artists, doing different things. I also did a little podcasting but for the most part, I was solo rapping. Doing music.
King Kong Gotcha: I was a solo artist. I was a DJ, producer, arranger, all that. An all-around businessman, period.
Ambassador Rick: I was doing the same thing, putting out music. Solo projects, mixtapes, also releasing a brand. I still have a clothing brand so I’m designing and running that.
AllHipHop: Where do you guys record your tracks?
Grunge Gallardo: In the basement of the pill press lab. We be tucked into the basement, getting to it.
King Kong Gotcha: We have a real organic formula. We go through the records first, peep the vibes. Whatever pours out, pours out. There’s really no big operation, we cut the beat on and whatever you feel.
Ambassador Rick: We cut the beats on, we pull the folders up. Whichever one makes us make that face, then we know that’s the one we have to do right now.
AllHipHop: Why did you guys decide this lane instead of doing trap? Which is kind of what opioids have been associated with.
Grunge Gallardo: I don’t think we decided on this lane. Collectively when we get together and do music together, we tend to know that all of us like a certain thing. We know we can all work together on this. Whereas I might not like this type of beat or that sound of beat, or he might not like this vibe of beat. But we know collectively, we all like this dark s##t together. We all like trap. We all like different types of trap. We know collectively, we all rock over these grooves you hear. It’s not all hard boom bap. Some of it is sample free. Musicality means a lot with it too.
AllHipHop: Who are your Top 5’s for each group member?
Grunge Gallardo: That’s tough. In no order: Hov, Scarface, Nas, Redman was my first favorite artist so I can’t not put him in there. He influences me a lot. I didn’t realize it until last night, but Drake is in my 5. [chuckles] I have to put him up there at this point. When I saw the new video, I said “oh, this guy’s at the top.” He’s on my list. [chuckles]
King Kong Gotcha: Ima say Biggie. I’ma say Scarface. I’ma say E-40. Damn Top 5? A lot of people getting shaved off. I’ma say Snoop. For #5, I’ma say Ross.
Ambassador Rick: I got Nas. I got Jay. I got Face. I have to switch it up a little. Black Thought, and Andre 3000.
AllHipHop: Anything else you want to let us know?
Ambassador Rick: Look out for 3xdopex3. Look out for Throwaways. Look out for the second debut album, Get the merch. Get all the music, we got 7 albums out right now. Our videos on YouTube.
Grunge Gallardo: We’ll be in a city near you soon. That’s a fact.