Interview By: Gavin Godfrey
*EDITOR’S NOTE: Key and Two9 parted ways business-wise months after this interview.
To know Two9 is to spend some time with the entire Atlanta Hip Hop collective. This particular interview is taking place in the middle of a Morehouse dorm room, where in a small living area littered with to-go boxes wreaking of everything from old Chinese food to hot wings, the gang is giving CEEJ of Retro Su$h! a hard time about his affinity for Black women.
“He thinks he’s ready for them Black girls, but he ain’t,” Key says while everyone else hollers in agreement. “She gon’ have him swimming!”
It took Two9’s day-to-day manager, Meezy, a minute to round up all of the troops, but with the exception of DJ Osh Kosh, the original Two9 crew is all here. Yes, all of them. There’s Curtis Williams, Key, FatKidsBrotha (Dave and Johnny), Retro Su$h! (Jace and CEEJ) and Original Fani. The kids who hail everywhere from Tacoma, Washington to Detroit now all call Atlanta home and are on a mission to change the city since forming in 2009 (hence where the name Two9 comes from).
I prefer the name two9 to your original name, Pilot Music. What the hell is that?
Curtis: I think Two9 was cooler than Pilot Music.
Key: When it was Pilot Music it was something we thought about, but then when it was Two9 it was like, “Its Two9 and we on now!”
Curtis: We were like it’s a tight name, shit’s cool, but Two9 is something niggas could really like latch on to. We all could be Two9 forever no matter what because we were the niggas that created it.
So why is that important? Why did y’all come together and everyone not just do their own thing regardless of each other?
Jace: It was just a better look. It was the fact we were all a gang and we were all making music.
Key (says to Jace): It was fun, nigga. You want to get all deep with it. It was us just chilling, bruh.
Johnny: Like Entourage, man – all brothers.
The “next ASAP Mob, “the next odd Future,” you ever get tired of hearing that shit?
Key: I like them and it’s cool, but I feel like one day it’s just going to be Two9.
Johnny: And then when we surpass niggas, it’s going to be like “the next Two9.”
Dave: There’s no comparing the three groups because we all do our own shit. We do our own shit, they do their own shit. There’s no comparing. It’s just it’s a group of niggas so they have to compare us.
Curtis: I like that they compare us to them though. They’re like some niggas who are kind of in our lane and they made it doing kind of what we’re trying to do. I fuck with that they’re comparing us to successful niggas and not this random ass click. When niggas start listening and looking they’re going to be like...
Key: ...We’re not just going to be a click of niggas no more.
is that the misconception behind two9?
Key: Ain’t no misconception. We just doing us right now and just watching that shit grow.
Johnny: They think Two9 a group though.
Curtis: Somebody thought I was CEEJ! Not even CEEJ, “C-J.”
Dave: Some people think Two9 is one fucking guy.
Key: I feel like people are just going to find out when they find out.
Johnny: They’re going to like what they want to like.
Why doesn’t this happen more? Why don’t artists come together more?
Dave: The thing is when people come together they’re not friends really. We’re friends. We’ve been friends for a minute.
Key: Some niggas be like, “Oh let’s just do this shit, let’s start some shit, bruh.” The first day, them niggas get into an argument and be all like, “Fuck you, bruh. I don’t ever want to see you again!”
Why form the collective here in Atlanta?
Curtis: I feel like we came together doing this shit in Atlanta because we’re like the young niggas in Atlanta. We’ve always kind of represented the young crowd. Most of the people you see at our shows, most of the people that all fuck with us, is all young niggas. Sometimes, it’s niggas 15-years-old with their little cliques and they got cliques because of us, so it’s kind of like we’ve got to keep doing this shit in Atlanta for those kids.
What is it like to come up as a collective in Atl?
Dave: I feel like we have our own world. People come around us and like think we’re free spirits. They’re like I don’t understand how y’all live like y’all live. People act weird and act like they don’t know how to act around us.
Key: Everybody fucked up right now. Bad bitches want to be like drug dealers and...
Key: We got to deal with that though because when we’re not doing music we have to get around those drug dealers and those bad bitches.
CEEJ: I think it’s a different look for Atlanta you know what I’m saying?
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from Atl?
Jace: They see you too much out here. Like I saw you yesterday and now you’re on stage. It’s like a small ass pond sometimes.
Johnny: I learned no matter what, you gain fans every day, so don’t ever shit on them and don’t let your ego take over and mess upyour opportunities.
Jace: This is not something that everyone in Atlanta sees you know what I’m saying? But as long as you’re out there, as long as you’re doing what you’re doing you’re going to gain one or two fans and you’ve got to just keep moving with that.
Curtis and Key, you’ve said you’re finding a lot of folks in the industry you’re meeting are “dickheads,” or so you once told creative loafing...
Key: A lot of these rappers are fraudulent know what I’m saying? That was in reference to writing and production and niggas jacking.
Curtis: There’s people that might think we’re dickheads. They might think that we’re dickheads because we’re doing what we’re doing. I’ve noticed, and this is one of the most basic things, niggas only start fucking with you when other niggas start fucking with you.
Musically, what void do you guys fill? What brings other artists to you?
Jace: I feel like there’s groups of young niggas just like us. When we were all 12, 13, we came up on crunk and these kids are growing up with Two9. We had different influences too. Curtis listening to the shit he listens to, the shit me and CEEJ listen to, so it puts a different spin all the same shit that everyone heard.
Key: I think a lot of our music is original and is relatable on an age basis. I feel like we probably only talk about the shit 21 and 18-year-old niggas think about, know what I’m saying? So I think that’s why people fuck with us. I haven’t seen too many old niggas run up on me.
Curtis: Back to what I was saying before. There are a few people that really fuck with us. But I know there are other rappers starting to want to fuck with us just because. I’ve had a nigga hit me up who has never heard my music and be like, “Yo, what’s good? Let’s work. I want some beats.” I emailed him, he said, “Yo, I never heard your shit before?” So you hit me up because you see niggas talking about me?! Those niggas – I don’t really rock with that shit. I’d much rather it be somebody we really fuck with.
Key: These niggas and couple niggas that’s here. That’s it though. I don’t know why, but there are plenty of people I don’t give a fuck about. It ain’t no niggas that’s trying to make music no more. Everybody else, they have an agenda for their music that they’re about to make.
Fani: I think there’s a void in Atlanta filled by Two9 because I think within Two9 just like Key said you can find some original creativity and you can find some sprinkles of sounds of everywhere. You listen to Future you know what to expect from Future. It might get lyrical, but you know it’s that southern sound. Two9 you might just hear some stuff where you’d be like wow they were just spitting, this is just lyrical, but then you’ll turn to another song and its going to make you want to dance just like any song you hear out here in the south. The mix between all of that within the same house, people like that.
So what’s your response to folks who say there’s nothing special about y’all, you all sound the same?
Curtis: This goes back to what you’re talking about like when people have misconceptions.
Key: The way I feel though is every time we make a song they never sound the same. That’s going to be timeless as fuck. We’re going to make timely music because we’re not going to make music with an agenda. I’ve done been in positions where they’re like, “We gotta get this song on the radio.” The last two years I don’t give a fuck. I’ll give them a song and be like, “Oops took the condom off.” That’s how I feel. Real shit.
Key: Everything is going to sound different. If we did find a “set sound” that’s going to put a ticking time bomb on this shit.
Wu-tang, Dungeon Family, Two9...what will they say?
Curtis: I want a nigga that rhymes to be like, “I’m back on this Two9 shit!” A nigga we never met and he’s just talking about his lifestyle and how it relates to how we fucking used to be. How we rebelled, being fly, making good music – all of that shit.
Dave: I remember Curtis telling me, “I want us to make Atlanta different. I don’t want people to come here and be like “Oh this is where the strip clubs are.” I want somebody to come here and say, “This is where Two9 was.”