The Atlanta hip-hop scene flourished this summer. Despite DJ Mustard and the Bay Area's dominance on the radio, ATL rappers like Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan captured the attention of the world with their AutoTuned ascension to fame. With that fame, the spotlight turned to the nascent underground scene of Atlanta, bringing names like iLoveMakonnen, Rome Fortune, and OG Maco into the public eye. An integral group in this era of "New Atlanta" is Awful Records – a DIY family of fourteen creative types plus their ATL associates. CMJ brought the movement to New York last week and I got a chance to sit down with them. We talked about artistic process, the rise of the Atlanta sound, and punk rock influences.
GAHM and Archibald Slim of Awful Records
Award winning photographer Ian Reid provided Awful Records' residence for the week – a cozy apartment in Prospect Heights that they had temporarily transformed into the barrio. Skateboards, backpacks, and 10 Deep deadstock cluttered the space. A small studio setup (mini-keyboard + laptop + speakers) lay in the center of the room, just in case inspiration struck.
(Note: all answers from Awful Records are a compilation of responses from various members of the group, not an individual)
Daily Beat: So what is the official Awful Records roster?
Awful Records: Archibald Slim, Rich Po Slim, Stalin Majesty, Lord Narf, Micah Freeman, GAHM, Ethereal, Slug Christ, LuiDiamonds, Pyramid Quince, Sir Cartier, Father, KeithCharlesSpacebar, Dexter Dukarus.
DB: How did you all find each other?
AR: We've been friends for a long time before the music sh*t.
DB: Why do you think having a collective is so important?
AR: We're not really a collective, we're a family. Everybody was already making music before we formed Awful. We were friends before we were like "here listen to my music." It went from being friends to making music to all helping each other at the same time. If there's something that I can't do, there's someone else who's willing to help. We're here to push each other along and further everyone's interests. And we're friends at the end of the day.
DB: Why the name Awful?
AR: Father was taking art classes at the time and he made this logo, "Awfully Creative". It went from Awfully Creative to Awful Media Group. At first we were shooting videos for a lot of other acts around the city, but then we turned around and started creating our own sh*t
Awful Records merch on sale at a pop up shop
DB: Why did you decide to pursue your own label instead of seeking other options or deals?
AR: We already did everything ourselves. If everything is self-controlled you don't have to wait for anyone's approval besides each other's. You do everything on your own time and make your own schedule. We all make our own beats. We all rap or sing. We all record ourselves and direct our own videos. It's all internal.
DB: Would you ever sign with a major label?
AR: No. Only for distribution.
DB: Not even on a label imprint deal? Like how Mac Miller stayed independent for a while then signed his REMember Music label to Warner Bros. for $10 million.
AR: I'll need a billion [laughs]. It almost seems like major labels are just as lost as everyone else. They tend to not have their ear to the streets. Look how much you can do for yourself with Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Audiomack, and all those little distribution companies that will f*ck with you without having signed with anyone.
DB: How does the Atlanta music scene stay so connected compared to other areas like Philly or New York where cliques butt heads all the time?
AR: We came up here and thought the same thing about New York. I think you're on the outside looking in. We have a big circle in but it's tight. Not everyone's f*cking with everyone in Atlanta.
Hitting the stage at the FADER Fort
DB: Why do you think the "Atlanta sound" is just now getting the spotlight?
AR: There is a weird influx of Atlanta energy in music right now. People not from the South like A$AP Rocky still sound very "Atlanta". People are becoming more comfortable with that sound. It was the crunk movement that introduced that idea of ignorance in hip-hop that was really bumping in Atlanta and now it's bumping everywhere.
DB: What other music do you like to listen to?
AR: A lot of trap. We've been really bumping Gleesh's new tape. Gucci. Free Guwop.
DB: Anything that I wouldn't expect?
AR: We all have our separate artists that we like. We could list some really weird sh*t.
DB: Go for it.
AR: Afrobeat, Sopor Aeternus, National Socialist black metal, MF Doom...
DB: I see a lot of influence from punk in your music.
AR: This is Slug Christ's question [laughs]. Slug Christ -- "My aesthetic is punk rock. Let's be punk rock about it, film it on the iPhone and put it out there." Dexter -- "I have a question. Who do y'all classify as punk? Band wise?"
AR: It's not the genre, it's the how they do it. Bad Brains, Misfits, Crass, Suicidal Tendencies, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles. All them.
DB: What is your creative process like? Do producers make beats with specific Awful rappers in mind?
AR: It's not a process man. You see how everything's set up right now? [points to mini-keyboard in the middle of the apartment] You just sit down, you're working on some sh*t. Everyone else is in the room. It flows naturally.
DB: Alright those are all the questions I have. Thanks for the interview!
Awful Records members played official showcases at SOBs and FADER Fort during CMJ week along with appearances at Webster Hall and Terminal 5. For more info, follow them online:
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