Listening to Awful Records’ newest artist SEANTHOMMONEY feels like watching your phone freeze, short-circuit, and then turn itself back on again. Instead of a hook-verse-hook-verse structure with clear designations to make it clear to listeners when they are about to be treated to bars, a SEANTHOMMONEY song will proceed of its own accord. Hooks and verses blend into each other without any pause or chance to make sense of what is what. His tracks ramp up gradually, reaching an inevitable climax before smoothing themselves out.
The 22-year-old grew up in Maryland and moved to Atlanta to pursue music towards the end of 2016; although the young talent outlines his new home as a “mecca,” he’s equally insistent that the move was about personal exploration. “I was stagnant,” he explains over the phone. Whenever he speaks, SEANTHOMMONEY seems to weigh everything with a care, as if each question is something to really parse. “None of my friends were on the same thing as me,” he says. “I come from a real privileged place. They follow what their parents do, and I wasn’t ok with that.”
On his most recent single and accompanying visual, “Big 9s,” SEANTHOMMONEY takes listeners into a strange, post-apocalyptic world where we see the rapper do everything but sit still. Producer Ziti lays down a humming machine of a beat that remains at a perfect flattine while SEANTHOMMONEY fills in the blanks. The video, directed by Jackson Laurie, is a muted fever dream where a bleak landscape filled with Earth tones is only interrupted by blasts from a laser gun. “This is one of the first hit tracks I recorded with my friends when I first moved to the A,” he explains. When asked about what he has coming up, he gets giddy without giving too much away: “I’m sitting on a lot of songs so I have a lot of music to give to y’all. Singles, EPs however it may be.”
How did you begin making music?
I started making music in Maryland, in PG county — I know Rico Nasty and Q da Fool. It’s crabs in barrels out there. I moved to Atlanta because I felt like the scene was really blowing up. I felt like I’d get a lot of attention out here especially with the music I make. I enjoy making music, and being out here enables me to be around that 24/7.
What were your first songs like?
I’m not gonna lie, a lot of people miss my old cuts. All my friends growing up are used to that SEAN — that rough, raw-cut music. It’s definitely different. I make music based on my day-by-day. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was influenced by a lot of the Atlanta sound, but I picked up on a lot of lingo.
How important is it for a young artist to start making music without professional equipment?
When you’re doing it by yourself, you get that natural, honest sound. When it comes to studios and working outside your realm, it's a whole new ballgame. You have to work multiple times with people in order for them to understand you. Honestly, you don’t have to step in the studio to make things work. I know a lot of people right now pushing out quality content.
Did you start with production or were you immediately rapping?
I was looking up free YouTube beats and recording because I liked hearing myself execute a song. I remember thinking, Oh wow, this stuff sounds good to me. really didn’t care what other people were thinking. It was something fun for me, so I just kept doing it. I had split interests, 'cause I was going to college and my parents definitely wanted me to finish college and get a real job. You know how that goes.
Being able to say something funny or relateable on social media can open doors for people musically. How important is it to leverage an online presence into genuine fandom?
What’s crazy is that I started out being funny on Vine — before music and being funny online were linked. When I started to rap, people couldn’t tell if I was being serious or joking. There was a disconnect. I had to stop being funny and go 100% with the music. People still didn’t take me seriously until I had a real co-sign from Awful Records. It was kind of damaging in terms of my image, but it helped in the long run.
What’s your chemistry like with Ziti?
He’s one of my best friends I met through Jackson Laurie. It actually took me a while for him to send me beats when I first came to Atlanta. People have to figure out what you’re about.
In what ways is Atlanta a hub for young talent compared to other major cities?
Where I’m from, nobody wants to see the next person go crazier than them. Everybody wants to win out here, so you’re gonna get that support.
A lot of your sound features Auto-Tune and voice modification. Would you say your music takes form after recording or do you know what the final product will sound like and adapt your voice accordingly?
I’ll hear the beat and instantly decide if I need Auto-Tune or not. The whole concept will be in my head already after hearing that initial hit of the production. I like to record with all of the effects on my voice already, so I can fully hear the sound during the recording process. I like to hear the finished product in my head. If I’m recording and the vision isn’t coming to me, then I just stop.
Your song structure is unconventional in the way that you blur the line between hook and verse. Do you think we’ll have a hook-less future in hip-hop one day?
That’s what I’m trying to break. A lot of people try to get me to do hook-verse-hook-verse. I’m not trying to lay down a structured song, I’m laying down a vibe. Half the time, I’m doing one take. That way, it’s one continuous vibe. You get what came out for real.
What did Father's influence mean to you, and how does it feel to be a part of Awful Records?
It’s so crazy to me, because I grew up looking up to all of these people. These were young people out here doing these packed-out shows, actually making moves. I was like, Woah, maybe that can be me one day — but I never thought that I’d be with Awful Records. It’s a match made in heaven.