Words by Azia Egbe.
New Atlanta’s “Awful Records” collective has carved a niche in ATL’s creative scene that’s so deep, that even their shallowest material is drowning out all the tropes and cliches that usually hang over the heads of young colorful creators.
I remember the first time I really sat down to think about the fact rappers, the good ones with staying power at least, don’t really sit around all day smoking weed and sipping lean in strip clubs. It was a Big Sean line actually, on Travis Scott’s “Don’t Play”. He said, “Up at 5AM still working, but I treat it like it’s 1/I’m never acting like I got it bitch/I’m acting like I want it.” I guess I’d never really thought about it before; all the time and money and work that go into releasing a good record.
Awful Records, and particularly Father, do make me wonder what the fuck is going on at 5am in their world. Are these kids really doing all these drugs and making all this music at the same time?
Awful founder Father and rapper/producer Key! recently released the video, “Tell You No” which featured them standing side by side in the woods, occasionally rapping along to the song. I personally find Father’s persona and rap style to be mildly comedic and awfully relaxed, so I decided to relish in my brokenness by attending Key!’s, Goodbye Summer show.
I was only slightly familiar with Father and Awful Records at the time, and had no idea who Key! was. Because I’m chronically late and caustically interested in all new music branded “next,” I struggled from the Marta to the venue to stand tall in a pit of sweaty man children.
I caught the end of Father’s set, but couldn’t actually see him, only occasionally hearing comments like, “Back the fuck up” and “If you push this nigga in a wheelchair out of the way I’m fighting!” These were all said in a slightly high pitched, almost nasally voice. Once Key! performed “I Can’t” and the mosh pit got out of control I left.
Lucky me, two days later I ended up at Mother for another Father show. That’s when I realized that while Awful Records undoubtedly possesses talent, the fact that they make good music is less impressive than the fact they found a way to corner the market of ATL’s black alt kids.
Their alternate lifestyle now exists in Atlanta in ways that they don’t exist elsewhere. Awful has managed to monetize this lifestyle, with rebellious lyrics and beats that ALWAYS go.
Whatever you say about their content (my mom expressed her distaste and refusal to believe their crass claims of long dicks and fist fucking, of course), but as time goes on, there’s not an Awful beat that isn’t appropriate for 9 out of 10 situations.
Why is it that Father and Key! are not in the same subgenre of rap, yet their collaborations feel as natural as Trey and Drake, er, Bino and Chance, or you know what, let’s just make it ‘Ye and Jay for the win?
Sure Awful isn’t the first team to talk about sniffing cocaine, (which in my experience with black friends, you have to choose who you tell wisely) or even about sexual acts, although Father has the tendency to word things in a vulgar, yet honest way that makes you feel that he’s actually done them. It’s the mere fact that their whole image and sound is spot on brand wise that makes you believe their message.
“Tell You No” isn’t the only Father video that embodies the no fucks given mantra. “I’m back on clear boy fuck the brown.” It’s like, let me and my niggas do this line off this girl’s ass, but we’re actually strategic about this shit. It’s clear that no label heads or A&R’s are coming up with the images Awful is projecting.
“Look at Wrist” is actually the best example of the Awful aesthetic at work. Watching as Father sometimes raps, sometimes dances (a move that will become his signature as his fame grows), with Makonnen occasionally cooking dollar bills while Key! is entirely too… something to even rap, you want to do the same. You want to be high as fuck with your friends in a room somewhere doing whatever it is you prefer to do when you’re high with your friends and it’s 98 degrees outside. I, of course just moved from New York somewhat defeated to Atlanta, so perhaps I’m more thirst for decent shrooms and Molly that will actually start the party than this scene, but still.
Father in particular, exudes the energy that makes Awful’s movement so dynamic. With the release of his latest Awful collab, the three track EP titled, “Brawl”, he is cementing the Awful formula. The songs are short, sweet, with beats containing plenty of bass and high hat action. Songs are ended mid verse, hooks come and go, and release dates are non-existent. Of course, fucking bitches, going wild with your friends, and living recklessly are more essential to the Awful formula than traditional rules of song structure. But who’s to say the formula’s not working?
While Awful artists post pictures of coke and tweet openly about illicit drug parties, one can’t help but wonder if they’re actually doing these things all the time. Biology would tell you there’s no way they can and release music regularly while partying this hard, but humans defy biology all the time. Bobby Brown is still living. Madonna’s still crushing young dick with her iron vag. Gaga’s getting married (or is married w/e). And Lance Armstrong can probably still bust a fertile enough nut to impregnate someone and Father started rapping a year ago. Look at God.
By year’s end, there’s going to be people tagging their line up ‘grams with #awful. Red Bull will probably hop on the train by next summer, and as a whole, all 11, or 13 or however many of them will probably see a check. A substantial check. Father might actually get to put his niggas on after all. (See Mass Appeal interview)