Awful Records by Ian Reid

Awful Records: The Abbreviated Oral History

Get to know ​Atlanta's reigning do-it-together rap label, as told by five artists living in the heart of Awful.

photographer Ian Reid

One of the many highlights from my time spent in Atlanta with iLoveMakonnen—recounted in the 94th issue of The FADER—was meeting the squad behind Awful Records. Around the corner from the gas station where Gucci Mane supposedly made his first million, this ragtag DIY crew has made a headquarters in a messy two-bedroom apartment with mattresses on the floors and pictures of naked nuns on the walls. Over the summer, their profile—like Makonnen's—has only gone up, as the internet has scrambled to follow 11 seemingly out-of-nowhere artists racing to one-up each other and rap in general. When five of them—FatherRichposlimKeithCharlesSpacebarArchibald Slim and GAHM—came to New York recently, we linked up again for a chat about how they all became Awful. The first thing they did was ask if it was okay to drink in FADER's offices. The answer was yes. Here's what came next.

Are people getting paid from the record label?

KeithCharlesSpacebar: Not yet.

What makes someone on Awful?

Richposlim: We would have had to know and liked them for two, three years. 

Father: If I don’t like you, it doesn’t work.

How did the whole thing start?

Father: Really, it was this Keith and Obie, who records as Ethereal. It was the three of us living in my apartment. It was called the Darlington, in Buckhead. They were doing music, and I was doing graphic design, pretty much, and they got me started making beats. Just went on from there. Meeting people. I had known this nigga Archibald Slim for a minute. 

Archibald Slim: We were roommates in college. 

Father: That’s where the name came about. It wasn’t a label then. It was, like, Awful Media. 

Richposlim: Summer 2012, Keith was putting shit out. He started putting out EPs. Our homeboy Stalin dropped, and everybody just started dropping shit. We won’t announce shit, just shoot the video and drop it, and shit’s done.

How did you decide on the name?

Archibald Slim: We came up with the logo first. 

Father: I came up with the logo and decided to call my creative company Awfully Creative. Then I was like, "That shit gay as fuck, fuck that." I just shortened it down to Awful.

I figured it was because, like, y’all are awful.

Richposlim: We don’t care. Especially when we’re in an environment where we’re comfortable. It’s like that girl that came with us on Fourth of July. We was just having a regular day. We went to a few barbecues, we got some alcohol, we got blunts. Then we was like, fuck it, we’re about to whip out the cocaine. Our homegirl had never seen in real life people snorting cocaine and just chilling and shit. Once we get high, it’s Fourth of July, like, niggas start being like, “Ay, bruh, I got my gun, let’s go out back and bust it. Ain’t nobody about to come.” Three niggas shoot outside to go bust a gun, you just hear bap, bap, bap, bap. She’s just in there like, “Take me home. I’ve gotta go home, please. I thought this only happens in the movies.” That shit awful, I don’t know.

How many people is it now?

Father: Eleven.

I feel like it was literally ten two weeks ago.

Father: We just got Obie. We’ve always been making stuff together, but he’s always been off doing Obie.

Richposlim: I’ve known Ethereal since I was 16. We went to high school together. We went to North Springs. One day Obie just showed up with them. Three days later, I’m walking down the street alone, I bump into them, and they’re like, “Come on, man, come out and kick it.” From there I’ve just been rocking. I’m the youngest member of Awful Records in terms of initiation. 

Father: What about Quince and LUI? 

Archibald Slim: We met them through Obie, too.

How’d everyone know Obie in the first place?

Richposlim: Obie is around, bruh, he’s very charismatic. Even in high school, all the females loved him. Not even like he’s fucking all the girls, but that they just fuck with Obie. He likes people. He’ll pick their brain and observe and want to be in that element. He just gets out a lot. With his handicap, it’s so amazing to me. There’s not a city where he can go where it’s not like, “Hey, my partner, goddamn, so-and-so.” 

KeithCharlesSpacebar: Obie put Reason on my computer, and then I started playing some shit I was making on Fruity Loops, and we started hanging out. 

Archibald Slim: We’ve always been friends and he’s always been around, it’s just: he don’t have a phone. Sometimes we don’t talk for a minute, it’s just when he decides to resurface. 

Richposlim: When he says he’s Ethereal, he’s being dead-ass serious. He tweets once every four days with a black power rant or some shit, and then he stops. He does it at his own pace. It’s crazy that we hung out every day in high school, and in my adult life he’s still around. It’s not many people that I’ve met outside my family that I’ve known for 10-plus years. 

How many people live at the apartment?

Richposlim: The way it generally works is that somebody responsible gets a place to stay, then all of the rest of our irresponsible asses show up within a month, and we live there. And then we run it into the ground and start over. 

Father: We destroyed my first loft. I had a nice pretty blue wall that I painted, I went through the effort with my girlfriend, and then I met all… these… niggas. They started coming over smoking blunts. Eventually I dropped out of school, I quit my job… 

Richposlim: The reason it works is: we’re really like a family. Usually, people are like, “Nigga, you ain’t paying rent and you ain’t doing shit to help nothing. Get the fuck out.” With Awful, it’s like, “Nigga, you my drunk uncle who I don’t really like being around like that all the time, but you my uncle and I love you. Make a beat. I’m going to teach you how to do something useful.”

How did you learn to make videos?

Father: All the stuff that I do, I never went to school for. I was in school for pharmacy. I switched to art, but I only took drawing before I dropped out. I liked to draw a lot, though, and that turned into graphic design, which turned into video editing, then learning how to produce, rapping and recording myself, learning to engineer. As the team grew, I needed more people that knew how to do that, too. Like, “Hey, Po! I need you to fucking learn to edit now.” 

Richposlim: I was 24 when I first met them, and I was in a transition period from being on that serious street life, ignorant nigga fuck shit, to trying to not going to jail every year. I got tired of being a jailbird. I was like, “Man, these niggas is young as hell, and they’re just doing everything.” I was just trying to figure out how I could get in and help and not just be a dick-rider. Father didn’t teach me shoot videos, but he asked me to, and he taught me how to edit. He was like, “Bruh, I don’t like listening to other people outside the group, and I don’t like writing the treatment. I just like having the treatment and going to shoot some shit. You’re around me all the damn time. When you’re doing this, you come up with ideas that I use. Write the treatments, Po. Give them to me, help me shoot it, it’s going to go a lot quicker, and we can make money.” We did a video for a group out of Florida called PayUp! Game, and the video came out immaculate. Everything that I envisioned in my mind and wrote in my storyboards came out the way I wanted it to. That’s my vision, and I never had that feeling before.

Does everyone always have a project at the time, or do you have a schedule of releases?

Archibald Slim: We didn’t get to that level yet. 

Father: Basically everyone’s just going in. Fuck it, put it out. We don’t care about dates. 

Richposlim: It’s a spirit of competition. We all trying to match each other’s pace. Thing is that Father done just shot up out of here, so everybody’s like, “You ain’t about shit on me, I’m going hard out here too.” It’s really 20 things being worked on at once. 

Is there a particular sound to the label? Young Hot Ebony doesn't sound like much else right now. 

Father: It’s really because it’s self-taught. I didn’t learn how to do anything in particular, so I’m just playing with sounds. Me, in particular, I mimic the shit I listened to when I was younger, like Timbaland and shit like that. And I learned from Keith. I’ve made some shit and been like, “Damn, this sounded like Keith last year.” Apparently Archie samples. He said he samples because of the shit I was listening to sophomore year. Big L, Nas, shit from New York. But apparently that’s why he makes what he makes now, because of the shit I’d play in the dorm room.

Is there a plan for the label?

Father: I want to keep the brand pure. I’ve been trying to limit crossover and all that. Any time I’m like, “Ah, I should just go pay an engineer,” I’ll be like, “Nah, fuck that. I need to sit here and learn how to do it.”

Richposlim: I want a Cash Money Baby deal. Fuck it. Fuck a major label. It’s 2014, if you’re not smart enough to stay at a major label and learn how to use the internet and market, then you’re a dumbass, in my opinion. All we need to do is get our business papers and do this shit legit and we’ll be printing our own money. Tek 9 has never dropped a studio album and he made the Forbes list. All I need is dope, which I’ve got, because I’ve got 11 niggas who are dope as hell, and a way to get it out there, which I’ve got, the internet and Spotify and all that. 

Father: A lot of people want it too fast and not put in as much work.

Richposlim: I first heard Father rap in 2012. His rap style was different, and he’s a little more high-pitched and Eazy-E. I’ve seen the maturation before he put it out there. He was sitting in the studio for a year practicing that style, and now he’s hard as fuck. 

The way I heard about Awful was from Makonnen, and I think it’s been like that for a lot of people. What's that relationship like?

Richposlim: That guy Makonnnen, he’s one of the realest friends I’ve made in this industry ever. We knew him from Twitter in 2012 when he first started music. He fell back, then he came back with the new shit and we was hitting him up. One day he was just like, “If you’ve got a song and want me on a remix, just send it to me.” Father saw it early in the morning, sent him “Nokia.” Makonnen sent back a verse in 30 minutes and said “When we gonna shoot the video?” We said, “Boy, we ready.” We threw a barbecue to shoot the video, and he was peeping the situation and looking at us and shit. Toward the end of the night, me and Father talked to him, and he was like, “Bruh, I pulled up on all these little cliques, all these little scene guys in Atlanta. I hung out with them, smoked with them, and ain’t none of them what they say they are. But y’all’s music, y’all’s personalities, y’all are authentic as fuck. Y’all ain’t trying to put on and say you have a bunch of money. And I’m going to fuck with y’all.” And everything Makonnen said he was going to do, he did. All we gotta do is continue making quality music. Stand down to come up and shit, instead of that fast, instant, overnight shit. 

Awful Records: The Abbreviated Oral History