Sex And Depression: Awful Records’ Father Talks
Awful Records are a crew of rappers, producers, oddballs and visionaries who have spent the last couple of years carving out their own freakish niche – smashing out music that veers from filthy-minded sex jams to beatless ambient epics to splintered sing-song rap mutations. People call them a hip hop label, mostly because they need to call them something. The crew are nominally led by Father, who scored a fair size hit with last year's breakout Makonnen featuring track 'Wrist', but they aren't a hierarchy in the normal sense, more a sprawling, free-wheeling family which happens to have a member with a hit. The interesting thing about Awful is that they're not just redefining the notion of what hip hop sounds like, they're also redefining how it's sold. Like some Atlanta-based socialist dream, they're reclaiming the fruits of their labour. Rather than sign to a major (and they've had a shit load of interest), Awful have remained independent. Resolutely so. They sell their releases on Bandcamp (Father memorably sold one track for $100), they make all their own artwork and videos and have no publishing or distribution deals signed. The fact that they've done all this and are touring the world, getting millions of youtube plays and picking up serious critical acclaim is enough to make major labels feel very sweaty indeed.
After hitting them up on Twitter, I arranged an interview with Father. Moments before we started talking I saw this tweet:
*wakes up, surprise interview, kills self*
— papicontin (@father) April 23, 2015
Ha! Having been out on the smash in New York, it's fair to say he wasn't looking forward to the interview. But, as it turns out it was all good…
What’s the plan for Awful Records in 2015?
I want it to continue to be the family it’s been for the past couple of years, I don’t want it to be some suit and tie corporate-type company, I want to continue to act as indie artists but tightening up a bit
What is it about being indie that you like?
Just freedom, how you want to put out your music, how you want it to be taken in, how you wanna put out your merchandising, just full 360 degree creative control of being able to do you.
So what do you think a major label would mess with?
The music, the lyrics, how things look, the videos – maybe in this day and age they might be more open, because they don’t know what the hell’s going on, but even then, our content is a little bit more radical. We don’t use a studio – I take my own set-up everywhere. Most labels won’t let you do that, they’d be like 'you’ve got to go to this studio we’re paying for, work with this engineer we’re paying for, with the money that we gave you, that you have no option of how to use.' So we pretty much operate completely not like that.
OK, so what do you do that’s radical?
The way that I word things. In Wrist, the song that everyone loves, at the start I say, ‘she didn’t wanna keep it, Oh my god, y’know, look at god, that’s amazing, that’s great’ – that’s pretty profane, and a kinda terrible thing to say, but people love to chant it. A certain label might not be behind one of their artists saying that. I say pretty fucked up profane things in every song, at least one time. It’s how my mind works. Me and my friends joke. If there were cameras in the room it would not be OK. Some of the stuff we say is pretty fucked up.
Two themes that come out from your lyrics are sex and depression. Do you get a lot of both?
Hahaha, pretty much. Usually one leads to the other. Most people hide it and act like it’s just fun and games. It's fun fun fun. It makes people unrelatable though, everyone goes through stuff and most people ignore the drama that comes with the fame and the money, and they continue to make the same stupid-ass songs about getting turnt up in the club. I more take the fucked up parts of being successful and turn them into club anthems, or depressing-ass anthems, or a little dance or a little jam or something for the girls, or whatever. I try to flip it so that even though I'm talking about something that might be depressing, I live in a depressing-ass world that’s very fun.
How important is it to you that people can dance to your tracks?
The scene in Atlanta is very club-oriented, the strip clubs, whatever, you want people to be able to dance. I like to be able to move to something, I wanna be able to move to my own music – if I can’t move, then why would I put it out?
Do you think of yourselves as a hip hop label or something more?
It’s not that, everybody is very much alternative to what’s currently popular in hip hop. Awful has its grounds in hip hop, because we’re all into hip hop and RnB, but we’re also into alternative sounds – it’s very much an alternative label, things like punk, My Chemical Romance, like other stuff we’ve heard of. Sitting at the house watching MTV and Evanescence comes on and being like ‘Oh my god this is amazing.’ I'm really grounded in electro, y’know Euro pop and all kinda random-ass stuff I heard growing up being an internet kid and just listening to random stuff I found on MySpace. Even going back to 2000, I always referenced Uffie and Justice, and a lot of other random acts I can’t reference now cos my head is so fucked up.
Am I right in thinking you’re an art school drop out?
Not exactly. I went to school for pharmacy, then when that wasn’t working out I switched to art, because that was what I enjoyed to do, but then I was like, this is stupid as fuck, I know how to do this already, why am I going to school for it? So I switched to film. I lasted about 4 weeks til I was like 'I might as well do this on my own', so I dropped out.
In my mind I’ve got this idea that all of Awful live together, is that true?
We’ve always been up under each other. One of us stays in an apartment, and then everyone tends to come over after a while the next thing you know. A couple of months later you look up and there might be somebody crashing on your couch, and there’s people coming over day to day to day. Atlanta’s very small, it’s very easy to navigate, it’s not like we live hella far away from each other so we end up congregating a lot.