Over the last couple months, yet another wave of experimental Atlanta rap has crested, powered largely by the breakout success of iLoveMakonnen and bolstered by a handful of increasingly viral singles like Father’s “Look at Wrist” and OG Maco’s “U Guessed It” (the latter recently reached the top of Billboard’s Twitter-driven Emerging Artists chart). Less present in the current conversation—but no less essential to the city’s new wave of anything-goes, genre-agnostic artists, informed in equal measures by Atlanta trap music and post-based Internet ephemera—is Key!, the 23-year old rapper formerly of the Two 9 collective. He’s featured on “Look at Wrist,” but his catalog extends far beyond that; he’s been making music since 2006, and his Mothers Are the Blame and Fathers Are the Curse mixtapes in particular (the latter featured his buzzy, self-produced 2013 hit “Guess Who”) contain a good deal of the blueprint for the latest edition of “new Atlanta"—informed in equal measures by trap music and post-based net ephemera, and delivered in a wry deadpan. The production is often stripped down to its most essential parts, but ranges from deliberately harsh (the nauseous sing-song of “Guess Who,” the Henny-soaked piano of latest hit “Give Em Hell”) to gauzy and translucent (“Recoup”), deliberately shirking any easy pigeonholing
Today he shares FKeyi, a five-track collaboration with production duo FKi, his strongest project in an already solid stream of 2014 releases. Pivoting away from the deranged rawness of the Give Em Hell EP, a collaborative project with OG Maco released earlier this summer, FKeyi favors slicker sounds and loftier, more radio-friendly ambitions. Stream the EP below, then read an interview with Key! about the so-called “new Atlanta,” internet fads and drunken freestyling.
You’ve been going crazy with the releases this year—No One Is Ready 2, 808Keys, Give Em Hell. I could barely keep track already, and now you’re dropping another EP. I’m just trying to flood the internet. But yeah, the new tape is with the group FKi—you know, they made “Make It Rain.”
How’s this one different from the other projects you’ve put out lately? This one’s gonna make me a bunch of money. This is like, transformed Key!, like pop star Key! It’s like—what’s that shit—new wave music. But with me on it.
If we’re talking pop star Key!: for a while now, you’ve been working in the style of music from Atlanta that’s just now crossing over with people like Makonnen. Yeah, that’s how they do it in Atlanta. That’s how they do all original Atlanta artists. Out of Atlanta artists, everybody’s swag has been stolen by everybody. But why I fuck with Makonnen—the name has nothing to do with the example really, but the example you gonna get is like, Marvin Gaye type shit. I don’t know—that’s how I feel when I hear his music, nothing else. I don’t hear hip-hop, I hear, like, if you put a piano behind this nigga, some old music, he could do it. He be talking about trap shit, though.
Does it get old when blogs talk about a “new Atlanta” every six months? Yeah, and I been in all of them, since the first one. I feel old now, and I ain’t nothing but 23. Like the Two 9 phenomenon, when that shit was going crazy, they treated us the same way. But like, if Atlanta is paying attention, then everybody is paying attention. Because it’s nothing but pushing rappers out the same way Detroit was pushing Motown out.
Do you feel like you fit into the Atlanta rap scene in general? Not the hipster Atlanta scene. The hipster Atlanta, they took other folk’s swag and brought it here and made it their own. I hear the A$AP sounds, all the other sounds, Internet fads—they brought that shit here. Again, this is excluding Makonnen because he ain’t a rapper to me. But the little hipster scene, cause that’s what people try to categorize me in, that’s where they think I came from—I’m gonna be honest with you, folks ain’t talking about shit. I hear a lot of music, and some folks do be getting deep on their projects sometimes, but the songs they be pushing, they ain’t talking about shit. It’s just like, let’s make a turn-up record! It’s really better in New York than it is out here. People out here are weird, they fuck with your buzz more than they fuck with you. They know your music ain’t changed, they know that you been fire, they know that you talented, but it ain’t nothing unless everybody fuck with you, or like they see something on Twitter. A FADER interview? Niggas could be famous off that, they don’t need no money, they could walk around just flexing off a FADER interview. I don’t know. I be in the house. I shouldn’t have been around as many artists as I’ve been around. After I left Two 9 I should’ve stayed by myself. Everything’s a blueprint, everybody’s trying to hop on the same blueprint, like some “let’s do it again” type shit. That’s how I feel. Hey, let me be part of your team, let’s do it again.
Do you feel slept on? I don’t think I am. I haven’t stopped eating for the last three years. I’m the only thing that’s pushing me back. It took a long time, so it’s gonna last a long time. Like I said, the only person holding me back is me. If I ever go broke, it’s because I let myself go broke.
What kind of stuff do you listen to in your spare time? Right now I just listen to myself and then some random shit. I used to listen to more music when I was sampling and making beats. But right now I probably just listen to Young Thug and Chief Keef. Bankroll Fresh, Ola Playa. And my wife—Dej Loaf, that girl from Detroit. She’s not really my wife, she commented on one of my pictures last night though, she sent me a heart. I’m waiting for you to ask me some deep questions though, so I can flex my brain and shit. Like, what do I think I’m about to do, what are my predictions for myself.
Well, damn, okay, what are your predictions for yourself? I’m probably gonna run music by the time I’m like 40. I probably won’t make no music by then cause everybody gonna sound like me. Or it’s gonna be like Stevie Wonder music. I recently just found out I can play the piano, I never knew I could play the piano before.
There’s some crazy piano in your song “Give Em Hell” that’s been making the rounds lately. Brandon Thomas made that beat, this little weird kid. He’s fire as fuck at making beats. He weird, though. I got cousins like that. I freestyled that whole song, though.
It’s a really weird song. You’re like on your drunk ODB freestyle shit. Yeah, that’s the same day we made that other song, “U Guessed It.” I ain’t gonna lie, I was inspired by that song, I don’t usually freestyle all the way through, it’ll be like a four-bar punch like how Lil Wayne and them be doing. But then when he did that I was like, "Ooh, I’m about to turn up," and I was a little bit more drunk, so I was just going crazy. That’s a whole different side of music, it makes you think differently.