Rap in 2018 moves at a rapid pace. That’s why an artists like Chief Keef, at just 23 years old, is considered a legend and an influence, and why Young Thug has already given birth to a new set of Atlanta rappers primed to build upon the groundwork he’s laid in the past five years. If Lil Baby and Gunna have become Atlanta’s stars of the moment in 2018, then consider Lil Keed a sure bet to follow suit in the coming year.
Hailing from the same Cleveland Avenue apartments where Thug grew up, Keed has quickly graduated from neighborhood stardom to city-wide fame as songs like “Blicky Blicky” and “Fetish” have become staples in Atlanta’s clubs. Following the release of his second mixtape, Trapped On Cleveland 2, in July, the 20-year-old appeared on Thug’s Slime Language in August and released a remix of “Fetish” with the rapper in September. Now, as a new signee to Thug’s YSL imprint, he’s preparing the release of a new project called Keed Talk To Em before the end of the year.
Premiering today on The FADER is Keed’s new video for “Wop,” a forceful banger produced by frequent collaborator Mooktoven. In the video, directed by Be EL Be, Keed hosts a Cleveland Ave haunted house, rapping the song in front of the apartments where many of his videos are shot while flanked by dancers in Michael Myers masks.
Watch the video and read an interview with Lil Keed below.
Tell me a little about where you come from.
I’m from Zone 3, Jonesboro Road, over there on the southside. We had to do hot stuff to get money. I used to do a lot of hot stuff, that’s all I’ll say, ‘til I started rapping.
When did you first start rapping?
When my patna Rudy died. Well I was already rapping but I started taking it serious after he got killed. That was in 2016 so I was like 16 or 17. It was like, “He’s young and he’s gone.” He ain’t even lived no type of life and it got took away. It opened my eyes up like, I gotta do something different. Can’t go out like that.
What kind of stuff were you listening to growing up?
I was listening to who I'm with now. Young Thug, Rich Kidz, and all that. I listened to them type of folks. I never been the type to listen to T.I. and them. I don’t know why. Folks older than me were listening to them so I couldn’t really get into ‘em. I was in middle school when Rich Kidz was coming up.
When you did start to get serious about it, what was your next step?
Being in the studio every day. For one year, I was in the studio every day. I got so many old songs that nobody never heard ‘cause the computer got messed up. All our patnas in the neighborhood would come together. Rudy died just a couple of days before his tape was about to drop ‘cause he rapped too. We were coming together, all our patnas, trying to make part two to that shit. We would all be at Mooktoven’s house and he lives right there on Cleveland [Avenue] so it was just a walk away. Wake up, go straight to the studio.
How did you and Mooktoven first link up?
I met him on Easter. My patna took me over there ‘cause we couldn’t find no studio to go to and we were trying to do a song. There was a lot of folks in there, and I did the song fast. They were like, “He just freestyled? He didn’t even write?” It was lot of older folks too — it was like an audience. After that, I just started going over there every day.
What did you try to do differently on Trapped On Cleveland 2 compared to the first tape?
The first one was what I was talking about earlier — it was just some of the songs I had from that year of recording. I always wanted to drop a project. My patna used to be like, “You not gon’ drop no project, you just gonna make music so we could listen to it.” ‘Cause that’s what it was: everybody else wasn’t listening to it but our neighborhood was listening to it. I tried to more versatile on the second one. I just didn’t want to do all trap, trap, trap.
At what point did you feel like you graduated from being known in the neighborhood to being known throughout the city?
When they started singing word for word in the club. You gotta be poppin’ in the club in Atlanta before you get big. Once everybody in Atlanta start knowing your song in the club, you ain’t gotta worry about nothing. It’s gon’ spread. “Blicky Blicky” — we didn’t think that song was gonna be anything but they played it one time in the club and that’s all it took. It was “Follow The Leader” then “Blicky Blicky” after that.
You got to witness Thug go from being in your neighborhood to being a rap star. What has that meant for you?
It’s crazy ‘cause I’m doing the same thing he was doing. The neighborhood loves him. Folks be telling me like, “You remind us of Thug.” So, I know I’m doing something right. He made it out the same exact spot I’m in. Walking the same streets, doing the same things. It just means I have to perfect my craft big time ‘cause I know who I’m up under.
How did Thug first reach out to you?
They called me like, “Thug out here you need to come out.” They were playing the songs out there on Cleveland in the parking lot but everybody was trying to talk to him at once. He came over to me like, “What you working on?” I played some of my songs for him and he was just like, “Keep going, keep working” and just pulled off. Then, later, he came and got me.
I’ve heard in the studio you’ll freestyle until you find a bar you like and then tell the engineer to put it after the last one. Do you always record like that?
Hell yeah. I got that from slime. I got some stuff from him and incorporated it how I do things. I ain’t gon’ tell you exactly how I do stuff. But it sounds better like that. You’ll say the same thing two or three different ways and whatever sounds better that’s the one you keep. It helps me make songs faster.