awful records' father on his awful year
The Awful Records head discusses his new album, recovering from drug addiction, and taking Atlanta's wild and weird new hip hop sound to the world.
There's never a dull moment in an interview with Father. Having already turned his label, Awful Records, into the most talked about hip-hop independent imprint of recent years -- providing a spring board for both iHeartMakonnen and Playboi Carti to break out of Atlanta and go onto international success -- Father is now focusing on his own career. By Awful's prolific terms, it's been a while since the rapper dropped his second album Who's Gonna Get Fucked First -- a year, in fact. Now, with a renewed sense of clarity (and after kicking a drug habit), he's ready to drop his third album.
Fans aren't going to be disappointed; it's another trunk-rattling collection of throbbing basslines, clicking percussion, and Father's laconic lyrics. With typical joking-not-joking sense of humor, he's called it I'm A Piece Of Shit. As we chatted over a few tequilas, it turned out Father had plenty to say about recovering from addiction, Atlanta's explosion of talent, and a year he can't remember.
Atlanta seems to be going through a crazy explosion of talent right now.
People like to work with each other, but at the same time, it's kinda not genuine. I just stay home. People come over and we work on stuff. People ask me to go to their studios, and I'm like, 'nahh.' I work from home, or from hotel rooms, just using a laptop, some monitors, an interface, and little mic I carry around. I send it off to my engineer, they mix it and it sounds crisp, like I could have done it in a professional studio. And as I produce everything myself, it's easier for me to work like that.
There's definitely an ATL sound to your production.
Yeah we're all in the same city, we all ride the same cabs and hear the same shit on the radio. Generally that makes us sound similar, but bringing our own spin on the vibe.
Your biggest stars at the moment are Young Thug and Future.
It's amazing. The fact that Thug and Future are leading music right now is completely out there, because they don't sound like anything that would have been considered pop music before. It's melodic, it's different, I can't really explain it my damn self.
Has the mainstream opening up to strangeness helped you flourish?
Honestly, it helps a lot. I used to make really weird shit when I first started; I rapped very wordy, no space to breath, bars were like sentences when I wrote them. I used to listen to New York rap when I started.
What kinds of New York rap?
I listened to hella Wu Tang, Big L -- Black Thought isn't from New York, but all that shit. That's where my style comes from initially. But as I was growing up in Atlanta and hearing all this shit around me I was like, 'I should loosen up a bit.' There's this very uptight feelin' when you're like 'I'm-gonna-rap-real-good;' you need to sauce it up a bit, you don't need to rap that much, just make something you can sway to -- it's a bounce, like a hop-hop. Having a good word play and fitting it into a two step vibe. I mean music that makes you step twice.
When I chatted to Ethereal he told me that he was from Colli Park and then ended up going to school in North Atlanta where he was exposed to a lot of European dance music. Is that the same for you?
I grew up in Mississippi originally, and I grew up listening to a lot of bass, which ties into that same vibe, very electronic. That's what my mom used to play when I was younger so that's what influenced me the most. She used to take trips to Atlanta for Freaknik.
They don't do Freaknik anymore, right?
They cut that shit out with the Olympics. They were like, 'yo y'all can't be doing this anymore,' but I'd love to go back in time and spend one night at Freaknik. Just be like wow our parents were really fucking tripping. What was wrong with y'all.
I got the impression that recently you were either wasted or depressed because you'd be getting wasted.
Yeah, generally. I was depressed a lot before and didn't want to talk to anybody, because I was always high off pain killers and anti-depressants. All that sorta shit.
So when you say you were depressed, is that a headspace you're not in now?
Yeah yeah. I'm not there now, it was literally just drug use that did it.
Was that prescription stuff?
America's kinda fucked up for that, huh?
It's very easy to get, and it became such a popular thing in the last year that people started pressing fake stuff. I remember what got me off of it was, I went to New York, the capital of scamming people out of shit. I bought some shit up there and I took it for like two days and was like, 'this don't feel right,' I didn't get the same effects. I started withdrawing because I wasn't on it anymore, and then I started getting into a clearer space in my head and was like, 'Yo I have been fucking up for an entire year!' I got back home after two weeks spent getting clean, and there were literally people who I had met and had known for the entire year -- apparently -- and I would see them and be like, who are you?
Were they in your house?
They were in my house. They were friends of my friends.
Were any of them signed to Awful?
It coulda happened! I coulda had like two new members and been like, 'uhhhhh when did I sign you to my label?' It was bad.
So did Who's Gonna Get Fucked First get made in this period?
Yeah, and the album I'm about to drop, I'm A Piece Of Shit.
Hence the title?
Yeah. Who's Gonna Get Fucked First was me going into that phase and becoming a shit head and doing really fucked up things.
And it was you getting fucked first?
I definitely fucked myself over.
Was it a challenge to everyone else to see who could race to the bottom?
It was that. A race to the bottom of the fucking glass.
It blows my mind how prevalent drugs are in the States. From an outsider's perspective it's kinda scary that there's a whole nation on prescription medication...
It is fucking scary. When I go other places, people act completely fucking different, their personalities are completely different. I go back to America, everybody is just, I don't know, clearly high on drugs they've been on since they were a kid -- you'll be talking to someone and they'll be like, I've been depressed since I was little. I was like, I have been depressed for a year, I've always been happy, and then I put it together, like, 'oh, I've been fucking depressed because I've been taking drugs that are supposed to make you not depressed.'
Sometimes depression seems a natural response to a mental world anyway?
Yeah. There's just these dumb ass coping mechanisms they've instilled in an entire society and we're kind of stuck in it now.
I see Makonnen is on the new record. How's your relationship?
I haven't seen Makonnen since we recorded the songs for the album. Me and Makonnen have a relationship that's very different. We don't actively talk a lot, but we have a level of respect that's just there. What he does, I really don't know where it comes from. I wish I could just tune in to that inner thing. Every song he's done with me, it's always been a straight freestyle, just on the spot. We were in Black Wax in New York, and I played him two songs, being like, 'these might go on my album.' He walks into the studio, goes the fuck off for three minutes straight, I chop up those vocals and that's it, it turns into a song. That's usually how we work. Both of the songs on the album he just came out of the booth each time like, 'aiiight, what's next?' He did five, six songs in that session, and the other ones went to Rich PoSlim. They're bringing out a joint tape together.
Have you got a next album already ready?
Yeah, I'm half way through the next album.
You bang them out don't you?
This last one took a year because I was just so off. My headspace was just everywhere. But the next one I'm already four songs into. Basically, half way done with it. That one's gonna be called Mad As Hell.
Mad as hell?
That's how I felt when I came up with the title. I'd just got off my year-long drug binge, which I thought wasn't a year. I started looking around at everything, and I was like I am pissed the fuck off. How have I been so dumb this whole time?
What were you pissed off about?
Just life in general -- a lot of decisions I'd made over the last year. People that I'd fucked with, shit that I didn't do, shit that I did do. Particularly that day I got home from New York; I was upstairs in my room, and all my friends were over, they were making hella noise downstairs. I was incredibly agitated, I was still withdrawing. And I was just like sitting there on the bed not doing anything, thinking 'I can't take it anymore, I can't take it. I'm not fucking with this. What the hell is going on? My house looks like shit, everyone is just partying.' I heard a phone ring, somebody was texting my girl, and I was like, 'why the fuck are they texting her right now? Why the fuck are they laughing so much?' It was building up, one by one -- I was tweeting it; why is this happening? Why is this happening? Why does this look like this? I kicked open my door and the thing damn near exploded. I went downstairs, and Slug [fellow Awful member Slug Christ] was playing music through the speaker -- he got so upset because he thought it was because of him -- I unplugged the aux cord, grabbed the speaker, opened the front door, everybody got quiet as shit, I just lifted it overhead and chucked it out the front door, didn't say anything to anybody and just stormed back upstairs and slammed the door.
You'd landed with a bump.
Exactly. Everything was a lot more chilled after that.
Basically you were mad as hell because you'd turned your life into a circus.
Yeah, that's basically what happened. I'd been letting so much shit slide the entire year. Shit just builds up, and you get sober and you're like 'what the fuck has been going on? The entire year?' So you get sober and get mad as hell.
It seemed like the whole Awful camp seemed depressed at the time.
Awful has a real symbiotic collective conscience. If one person feels a certain way, generally the entire crew does, it just bounces from person to person. I'm mad, everybody else is mad, I'm happy, everybody else is happy.
So are we gonna see more Awful party jams?
I hope so! Because as of late, we've been sitting back down and working together on songs. Everything is sounding like old vibes again, not so much sad boy, it feels different.
Text Ian McQuaid
Photography Vicki Grout