This time last year, longtime SAFS Crew producer Vincent VanGREAT was planning to release his debut solo release, UnGREATful, which would bring the beat maker to the forefront and allow him to sing and rap over his own beats. Life had other plans. Health issues, behind the scenes changes, and his perfectionist ways all coalesced to delay the record. Along the way, VanGREAT improved as an artist and tracked down some of Milwaukee’s finest rappers to bring new life to the project. This week, UnGREATful will finally see the light of day. Before the long-awaited album comes out, Milwaukee Record spoke to the singer/rapper/producer about the delay, how he approached his first solo venture, and why it’s important to have a wide range of sound. You can also listen to an exclusive stream of a single called “To The Stars” before it’s out.

Milwaukee Record: It seems like UnGREATful has been in the works for a while. We premiered a song from it last spring. What led to the delays?

Vincent VanGREAT: Some health complications I was having dating back to a year or so ago was a really big reason it was such a delay on UnGREATful. God, family and health are the star players in my life, so it was a priority to have my mind body and health right for this moment. [UniFi Records’] Dima [Pochtarev] and I deciding to go with a different publicist, and growing everyday as a producer and gaining new skills everyday were also all key players in slowing down the release.

MR: Now that it’s ready to see the light of day, how do you feel about the final product? What did you learn along the way?

VV: Now that I’ve went through the process of completing my first project I’ve learned a lot about the business. I learned a lot about the grind and the work that needs to be done every day. I’ve learned even more about process of making quality records, and I’ve learned a lot about some of my closest friends and family during this process. Most importantly, I learned to never give up and that timing is everything.

MR: You’ve primarily made music as a member of a group up to this point, right? How did your approach differ this time as opposed to the way SAFS Crew does things?

VV: This project was really organic. A lot of the beats I made were on the spot. Every hook was made during the production process and every artist that was featured kind of followed my lead on the record and got to come however they wanted, and got to be as creative as they wanted without me restricting them or telling them exactly what to do. SAFS Crew is also all about being a free creative spirit with no boundaries. So creating this project, I wanted to keep the same formula SAFS has always had, except with it being my own project, I got to sing on songs much more than in the past.

MR: Was the ability to have total license over your sound a freeing experience or was it sort of intimidating to have total say? Both?

VV: It was a very freeing experience to be able to present the sound I wanted to bring for this project. Even though I must admit, I gave Mammyth full control to over see every song I made. I trust him because he’s such an amazing musician himself and from us working together for years in SAFS Crew, and now with UniFi. He really knows the sound I want to bring and we work so well together.

MR: Though you produced everything, you did call upon a lot of others to contribute: Klassik, Y-Dot, Pizzle, Q The Sun, and a lot of Dana Coppa and Blizz McFly featured verses. Why was it important to bring in so many different talents with such a wide range of styles?

VV: It was a great experience working with all of those artists. With this project, I wanted to showcase my production skills most. So it was very important to have some of the premier artist from our city, as I’d like to say, “kill” some of my beats to give people a better idea of my approach when it comes to producing records. As for Blizz McFly, Dana Coppa, Yo-Dot, those are like three of my personal favorite hip-hop artists from Milwaukee and three people that were, and still are, very instrumental in my growth as a man and as a record producer.

MR: The songs also seem to differ greatly, with themes that range from love songs, to anthems about uprising and the police state, and even one about Reggie Miller. Was the diversity important to you? Was it intentional?

VV: Like I said before, I really wanted to showcase my production abilities most. I have this large library of sounds in my mind and it’s not just hip-hop shit I’m hearing. I wanted to let people know I can producer any kind of record, from the smooth, singing ladies-type of pop jam “So Cool” to some hard-hitting trap style stuff like “Work.” I can produce any type of record.

MR: Talk about the single. What’s it about?

VV: “To The Stars” features my big cousin APRIME—people are shocked to hear he’s actually my cousin—and New York-based artist Signif. I think it’s fitting to give you this recording because it relays a message to never give up, NEVER stop reaching for your goals no matter how hard it is or how long it takes because the finish line is near.

Vincent VanGREAT will perform with The Rusty P’s during Saturday’s Summer Soulstice Music Festival. On July 29, he’ll perform at Bremen Cafe as part of SAFS Crew and will perform solo at Company Brewing on August 5.