Atlanta Hip Hop collective Two-9 was in the building with us this week, just touching down in New York City a few hours prior to, we were one of their first stops before hopping back onto their Mercedez Benz stretcher, off to the next appointment of food, in search of some marijuana and a cooperative liquor store.  Being silly and talking their newly released album FRVR, plus a few other things with a few bottles of Jameson already in tow.  No DJ Osh Kosh this time, as the guys referred to her as the Ferris Bueller of the crew; she couldn’t make it as she had a few other things to tend to.

But it was cool, members Curtis Williams, Jace and Ceej of Retro Su$hi, Key! and FatKidsBrotha‘s Cartier Dave and Johnny (LightSkinMac11) kept the energy and momentum up, creating new flows to a prospective song upon their entrance into the room; shaking hands and giving out hugs; had me feeling like a fat kids baby sitting at a dinner table, knife and fork in hand, ready to eat.

Brothers to the core, we first spoke on the conception of their conglomerate, founding member Key! talked about how he and Curtis Williams – Curt for short, were first introduced to Reese, one of the original members who has since parted ways with the group, “Me and Curt went to this shoe store and we ran into this older guy.  We were telling him what we wanted to do, and he introduced us to Reese. And when he introduced us to Reese, we got in the car with Reese and he drove to their house (FatKidsBrotha), and they had a studio.” Leading them to real-life blood brothers Dave and Johnny’s (of FatKidsBrotha) home, where they had a little studio set up.  A laptop and a mic – was just about all they needed to do what they had set out to do.

So then we were like okay, we need them,” Key! expressed referring to FatKidsBrotha.  And then couple days later, Key! recalled meeting the guys of Retro Su$hi who already had ties to Johnny; as Ceej of Retro Sushi and LightSkinMac11 went to alternative high school together, seeming all too meant-to-be Key! resumed, “This DJ invited me to they’re show and after hearing them I was like, “Ah, these niggaz is fire.” We definitely need them.”

KEY! - Photo by Iriane
KEY! & Curtis - Photo by Iriane

“And then I was making most of all of the beats at first,” Curt spoke to the beginning of their union and marriage of dope, eclectic music.  “We really just hung out all the time, going to the same parties, and we would go back to grandma’s house, record.”   Always staying true to their original style, the merging and marrying of classic Rap styles with  Rock, Trap and some melodic R&B, they don’t really have a name to call what they do, just know that it’s dope and shouldn’t be mistaken for anything other.

Founded in 2009, hence the 9 in Two-9, the guys came together for a bigger picture.  A distinctive kind of group format, having their own individual styles.  They have honed their collective, down to the very spec.  Differentiating themselves from other rappers and/or other collectives out there, their claim to creating their own unique sound is accurate to say the least.  Releasing Two-9 Forever in 2012 as their official introduction into the world, a time when most Atlanta rappers like Future were milking the auto-tune sound, Two9 would spark their feat.

“Because all of the different parts of Two-9 are so different.” Ceej jumped in, “Key! makes totally different music than FatKids; and FatKids make totally different music from Curtis; and Curtis makes totally different music from RetroSushi & Jace.”

“Man, we started all this shit, everybody sound like us.  Straight up,” Key! as-a-matter-of-factly interjects.

But it’s all love, continuing with his thought, Ceej went on to say, “I feel like there’s a lot of groups that have a bunch of artists in it that all do the same thing.  They rap, or they just have one sound.  But it’s special because when Two9 comes together, all those different sounds make this weird ass Two9 sound.”

Sipping on his travel size bottle of Jameson, Johnny (LightSkinMac11) concurred, “I agree with both of them.  Mothaf—— was scared to do different sh–.  We started making lifestyle music; if I go to the store and get this and something crazy happens on the way to the store, I’m going to rap about that sh–.  I’m going to make to where it’s my story.  Everything I say is my story.”

Lightskinmac11 - Photo by Iriane
Lightskinmac11 - Photo by Iriane

“We make a lot of music, we drink a lot of liquor and we smoke a lot of weed,” says Ceej as to their wild lifestyle.

Cartier Dave - Photo by JustinShootz

FatKidsBrotha Cartier Dave explains their contagious style and coming up in the trap era, “You gotta understand, we dress like this all the time, you know. We’re from the trap era.  N–g-s wasn’t dressing like this.  We were the wild-skinny jean n–g-s in the party literally partying.  They would get mad because we are jumping up and down, but that’s what we do.” And touching on their rise, and trying to maintain their identities, Dave followed up with, “I feel like, we made so much of a noise then, that they had to respect it. It was so many fights and doors we had to break down ourselves, and now that that’s done, I feel like everybody see’s it and copies.”

“We made a lot of shit cool, and we didn’t ask or demand anything,” – Retro Jace

Retro Jace - Photo by Chris
Retro Ceej - Photo by Chris

“Yeah, we started a lot of sh–, but we are humble about it,” – Retro Ceej.

Not able to hold a straight face at times, between their in-between banter and storytelling style, reminiscing on their come-up and influences, bringing them to this point, tying their growth and likeness to trial and error, growing up, & f—ing up.

“I was born in 1990, so we are all pretty much like 90s babies.  We know all of this sh– when it comes to Hip Hop; we grew up listening to real Hip Hop sh–.  But then we grew up on Myspace too for a minute.  So we are into all of that shit.  I like all of this shit.

Curt - Photo by JustinShootz

I got into Hip Hop because I felt like you don’t have to stick to a blueprint.  Like in R&B or something, you have to stick to a blueprint.  There is a format for an R&B song.  With Hip Hop, I started rapping because I seen a n–g- just screaming on the mic, then I seen n–g- spit poetry on the mix, and then I’ve seen a n–g- just dancing (on the mic LOL).  So thats what made me get into to it, that’s why I love it. We just want the same respect because we Hip Hop as much as the next sh– that’s Hip Hop.  And I love everything that is going on with music, because now n–g– is like doing sh– that they weren’t doing in Hip Hop before.”

Cartier Dave & Curt - Photo by JustinShootz
Cartier Dave & Curt - Photo by JustinShootz

Expanding on co-existing amongst the other genre’s of Hip Hop, Dave spoke on the state of Hip Hop always evolving as its listeners and influencers should do too, “Everything grows, evolves.  You can’t always be the same thing, like Boom Bap forever.  It’s always going to be someone thats younger that likes a Lil B or someone like that;  and that may be the only person that he knows, like he may not know a Jay Z, you can’t sh– on him because he doesn’t know Jay Z.”

“Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean that it’s not good,” Curt affirmed.

Photo by Iriane

Taking much of the lead in the conversation as far as FRVR, which dropped earlier this month, Ceej elaborated on why it was important for the whole crew to come together this time, saying FRVR was always going to happen, even before B4FRVR which they dropped two years ago.  “That’s why we named our other mixtape B4FRVR, you know, that was like two years ago.  Key! was doing his solo sh–, he took a break from the group sh–.  And for the album, he wanted to come back and we all wanted him to come back. It was the only way it could have happened was with Key! coming back; we couldn’t have ever done it without him, bro (Key!).”

Taking about two weeks to conceive, with rough songs and ideas here and there, the Mike Will Made It signees talked about Mike wanting to give them more creative control over the release of FRVR vs. B4 where his touch was so prevalant. Laying a little low this go-round, Ceej explained, “He believes in us 1000%, and trusts our creativity, but he just wanted us to do what we wanted to do.  I feel this album is true to our sound.”

“This is us, in a nutshell, this is Two9.  If you don’t f— with this album, you won’t f— with Two9.  And that’s fine, Two9 is not for you if you don’t like FRVR.  It’s a sound that we been working on for a minute, and I feel like we finally got it”

As to the story behind the dolls on their album cover, the idea was in fact conceived by Curt and management who just ran with it, so we were told.  Because the guys are known for turning up and having fun, the bobble headed dolls represented their personalities and lifestyle.  Hooking up with photographer & friend Cam Kirk, it just made sense.

And with SXSW and other festivals slowly gaining and taking up their schedule for the spring-summer months ahead, FatKidsBrotha and Key! both are set to release new music soon as well, outside of FRVR of course.    In hopes to reach Top 3 rapper status, Key! says he is just trying to solidify himself with his next project “Live Slow Die Old”.  And FatKidsBrotha, who have been teasing us with little nuggets here and there on their upcoming-already completed album “Mad At The World” being locked, loaded and ready to go, however, they thought it best to currently just put their focus on FRVR for the time being, again teasing that the album is still coming soon.

Photo by Iriane

All original photos, courtesy of