“I like growth, I have to grow and experiment or else I'm going to get bored with this shit."
“Rap is the new rock…” – the statement which continues to be the subject of plenty of fiery debates. However it is stars like Father and his Awful Records collective that really concrete in the statement of rappers being the new rock stars.
Hailing from Atlanta, Father is the outlandish rapper breaking barriers in the rap scene, and living like a rock star while doing it. Since strolling into the spotlight with his 2014 hit "Look at Wrist" the rollercoaster hasn’t stopped. Father is known for his mischievous, dark humoured lyrics, which seem to fire off in all directions at once, bouncing over some rattling bass – crafting music with the specific purpose of shaking up the status quo.
Aside from his solo work, Father is the founder of Awful Records – which was established back in 2011. The collective set Atlanta ablaze in 2014, and has since been well known and praised for their commitment to pushing boundaries both sonically and culturally in rap music. Awful Records was the garden for emerging, innovative talents – with Father planting seeds and kick-starting the careers of artists such as Playboi Carti, Tommy Genesis and ABRA, to just name a small handful of the new-fangled collective. These internet-kid misfits became some of the most unpredictable and important new acts in hip-hop. Rock music was edgy, filled with rage against society, providing the soundtrack to teenage rebellion. Today, hip-hop and rap music manage to uphold that sense of rebellion, and Father’s music is a testament to this. Back then, all punk-rockers needed was a garage, a few instruments, a whole bunch of angst, and a lot to say. They were thrashing out simple chords on old beaten-up electric guitars, and with the right words they turned the heads of many. Today, rap stars are writing, producing and recording all in their bedrooms, creating beats on their laptops, and just like the punks of the last generation, having a lot to say about today’s world. Father and his Awful collective are all of this in a nutshell – Father and his family of oddballs rose up from the streets, combining the powers of innovation to speak to the masses.
It is safe to say that the rap renegade’s life has been one hell of a ride, after years of constant touring, partying like a rock star, and traveling through the music scene at breakneck speeds – now, Father is more relaxed, moving out of the fast lane and putting his life into cruise control.
How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?
I guess it’s like a merge of bass music, and lately it’s been a mixture of dream-pop and Atlanta bass / southern bass music. Nothing too complicated. I guess to others it sounds real out of pocket, but it’s naturally what my ears are fixed to when I make anything.
What do you think sets your music apart from other rappers?
I think personally it’s my lyrical content. I guess it’s the way I put together the thoughts in my head. It’s kind of non sequitur, it pulls together a puzzle in the end of everything, but the way I get there seems like I’m going in a bunch of different directions… some of it is completely, completely filthy and outlandish, but some of it is very grounded as well. It’s jumping in and out of psychotic thought, where people will be like “oh yeah I can agree with this… oh okay that was a little over the top… alright now he’s back to normal, that’s not too crazy, that’s not too out of pocket.” and then I jump right back out of pocket the moment I get to say something else outlandish. That’s just kind of how my brain processes shit.
Sonically, is it fun not sticking to the rules?
Oh absolutely bro. Otherwise I’d be bored as shit making music if I couldn’t do some weird shit all the time. Plus, especially now I feel like there are a lot of popular and accepted sounds in music now, a lot of shit that if you played back in the day people would be like “what the fuck, why are you playing this to me?” which people have warmed up to over time, and now they’re used to it. I don’t know if it’s over exposure and people are just saying fuck it, its playing so much so I have to accept this is how things sound now… or not. Look at hyper-pop, for a good point of time people were wondering what is this blood-curdling, cringey sounding music – and now if you put enough of the right voices to it, it’s like… this is fine and I accept this now.
Over the years, you’ve been well known for your commitment to pushing boundaries both sonically and culturally. Are the decisions that you make fearless? Are there ever times where you think “this might be too much – people won’t get it”?
Absolutely – more so now than before honestly. When I first started it was very much just “I think this is fire” and you play it to your friends like “do you fuck with this? Okay you fuck with this. If you all fuck with this, then that’s cool” – that’s all I could give a fuck about. Then it gets more appeal, and starts reaching out, and then you have to start dealing with critique you know? Critique after a few albums and shit, so then it turns into, oh… I’m not just a guy who makes cool shit… it’s about how this stands against the last two albums that were liked. Fuck man, I don’t want to have to do that. I don’t want to have to think about comparing what I’m doing now to how my old shit sounds or to how the current climate of music sounds. And that shit does get incredibly stressful. It’s in my head a lot. Especially now, I tend to make a lot of different things before anyone hears anything. I used to just make something, and drop it… whatever, it’s out. But now it’s like… is this too left field, is this too pop-ish sounding? Is this too underground? How do I find this perfect middle ground to where I don’t piss off old fans, while also somehow creating new fans? There’s very conscious decision making going on when I make shit now. Kind of fucks up the process a bit, I’m not gonna lie.
“You can be really eclectic and weird and don't have to give in to the status quo"
How do you go about combatting self-doubt?
I don’t know man, I don’t think I’ve ever perfectly combat it you know what I’m saying? Every step along the way is kind of like “ah... is this it?” Even after releasing something I’ll still be sitting there asking myself “was that really it...?” It’s just my personality to over-analyse how people think of me and what I do. But how do I combat it? I probably don’t to be realistic. To be real with you, I don’t think I combat it very well at all. I just kind of deal with it – it’s one of those things like the meme with the dog sitting and sitting and everything is on fire… like “it’s fine” this feels like hell but I got to get through this. I got to persevere through this. Fuck it, let’s go with it! I’m definitely too hyper-critical of myself, there are things I’ve done in the past that I didn’t really like, but then you put it out and people love it and I’m just like “damn, really?”. Even on the project I’m working on, when I first started it I loved everything on it. And now, towards the end of the process where it’s done and about to come out, I think I hate half the album. I used to love these songs, I don’t know what happened. I think it’s just one of the things in my mind where I constantly do this, until its out and people hear it and say something about it I’m just going to be flipping between which are my favourites, like trying to pick a favourite child, until people talk about it and I realise I wasn’t trippin’, it was a good idea. I have to bury my thoughts and not be so self-conscious about how a project might do… you just don’t know, there are things you do that people really take to, and you don’t know why and you can’t explain why… you just got to let go and trust it.
Rap is the new Rock N’ Roll – at times, do you feel like a rock-star?
I don’t do as much wild shit as I used to, its more chill now… if anything, I feel like a guy that makes cool music that gets to sit around all day. Well, even the lifestyle I live now is pretty abnormal. I got a kid, and I got a house, I’m a real dad guy now, but I still get to just do whatever the fuck I want, all day every day. If I want to get drunk 7 days a week, I can do that. It’s still a rock star-like lifestyle even as you get older, you just become washed. I feel like Ozzy Osbourne, he’s just walking around the house going “Ohhh Sharon? Where’s my shit? Sharon?” that’s how I feel now, I feel like after all the drugs have melted my brain, I’m just in the house like what the fuck is going on? So yeah, I do feel like a rock star – it’s just a different era of a rock star-like life. Before, I was all over the world, travelling from country to country just getting fuckin’ lit everywhere. Nothing really mattered, I was making money, I’m seeing places I thought I was never going to see, its wild man – very wild. Now I’m in the chill dad part of it, I feel like rock stars back in the day let the wild stage go for like… 20 years, but I think you burn out way faster living like that now. I don’t see how they could do it for so long back then. I did a good 5 years of the party life, and now I complain that my back hurts.
People who were once outcasts are now ultimately living the lives of rock-stars. How has your music helped you find your place?
I would probably say the content of my music. Even though I might come from a background of sitting at the crib playing video games and all that, the content of my music is very turnt, sometimes incredibly sexual and over the top, so people can respond to that music, and respond to you with how they see that. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing at the crib when they’re not around, it’s the content of the music that they see, and you. People get this idea of you through your music, it doesn’t matter the lifestyle you lived before.
Why do you think rap and rock are so inter-connected?
I guess it’s a similar lifestyle – it’s a punk “fuck it” kind of thing – fuck the establishment type of music. They both started as a counter to current culture, and then rose into pop-culture. Rap now has pretty much become pop, if you look up Pop music, you get rap music. A lot of pop acts make rap-type music – the beats and the production are all rap-type. Rap has entered where rock was where it was so popular. It just had the same trajectory. Same thing with Jazz way back in the day, jazz would have been the equivalent you know? Like “Oh all these guys out here in smoking weed and doing playing the fuckin’ saxophone? It’s devil’s music!” It’s just the new thing that replaces the old thing. And eventually something will replace rap and be the new rap, rock n’ roll & jazz.
I want to touch a little bit on Awful Records – you established the collective of unique artists back in 2011, and over the years you have planted seeds which have essentially kick-started the careers of some super talented artists; ABRA, Tommy Genesis and Playboi Carti just to name a few. Why did you do that?
I don’t know, I’m not too sure honestly. It didn’t feel like a duty or anything, it was just that the shit we had was just so fire, come join. Already we were a large crew of friends, kind of the anti-group around in the city. Nobody would have expected us to do well, it was like “oh those are the weirdos – they’re strange, they hang out with each other constantly, they’re a sex cult…” you know, people just looking from the outside in. We were a very close unit of people, and I guess as things started to go up it just felt good to keep the group around. I love the company, it felt like a real crew, so of course I would want to continue to add onto it, add on strong assets. From there, I started looking towards the internet. I didn’t really want to work with anyone else in the city we were in, this is the crew right here. So I wanted to find some people outside of that. That’s how I met Tommy Genesis, I had already seen her on the internet and I was in Vancouver. So I thought I’d see if she’d want to clique up with the gang, and she was down as fuck. I’m not sure why exactly I wanted to expand like that – it’s just having a mob seemed fucking great. People definitely thought we were a cult, to be fair as it got older and a little weirder and more drugged out it sort of got a little cult-like… and even in that sense this shit was fucking fire. You’ve got 20 people running around the city in all black causing trouble and havoc and shit, anytime you saw us pull up it was like “fuck… here we go…” That shit was fire. It was strength in numbers, we were all good at what we do, it was just going to look even better being together. I just love the whole large family, mafia mob style mentality type of thing. It’s us or nothing. It was great. Now things have scaled down of course, everybody I work with are all still friends, we are all a clique, we are just older now and we are in different lanes.
I saw in a documentary, ABRA said you see potential in an artist before they even see it in themselves… how do you know an artist has potential?
A lot of it is personality for me, plus some sort of uniqueness… everyone in the crew was very different from each other, nobody was very much alike nor sounded alike to each other. Of course production would cross over, but for the most part everybody was their own individual person, and it did not matter how anyone else acted, they’re going to continue to be themselves so I always sought after that. Just finding something that was not the ‘last thing’. I guess I do see potential, before they even see it in themselves. One thing that always stood out to me was a voice, something that sounded unique and that would stand out. That’s part of me finding potential as well, people with unique or calming voices. Either left or right I guess. I’ve never liked people that sing too well, I will probably never seek out a Beyonce or a Mariah Carey… something that is so over the top and grand, so perfect – I’ve never liked that. I need something that is out of the normal. Quirkiness always gets me, some kind of quirk… something that is not quite right, and might be a little unsettling.
In what ways can a collective be powerful?
Really it’s just if you have great enough numbers something will always succeed. If you have a powerful unit I feel like it’s destined to do well. If you figure out a way to have a good unit and a good support structure, it’s not going to fall – it’s got great foundations. That’s what makes a good house – good foundations, a good roof over your head, it’s going to stand tall. You can’t just have fifteen complete hooligans, you have to have a little bit of conscious, and someone with a good head on their shoulders. And not just letting anyone in too… I was very much on top of that if anything, any time someone was around I didn’t like I was like nah, you know? They’re going to fuck it up – I can see it in people. I can see they’re a destructive person and they will destroy it and tear it down.
Where are you taking Father next?
I’m about to release this next project, “Come Outside, We Not Gone Jump You” which is due to be out in a month. That’s kind of experimental – I’m in an experimental area right now. That’s why I haven’t released an album, I’ve been exploring new sounds and want to keep trying new sounds and having fun. I guess coming out of that label deal with Sony helps – when I was with Sony it was like “I need to make an amazing album… right now.” and that shit was kind of stressful. You lock into an idea and lock into a structure and focus directly into one idea… but now, I’m going to try this… I’m going to change my melodies – I want to try some more melodic shit, experiment with auto tune and things like that. I might want to go back to a couple songs that sound like old Father, like way back in the day. I might do a couple songs that sound completely different. The next project sounds more melodic, there’s more singing... I know some people are going to hate that, because some people just want old monotone Father, which was cool and I love some of that shit too to this day. But I also like growth, I have to grow and experiment or else I’m going to get bored with this shit. Relaxed! It’s a pretty chill point in time. Now I’m a home body dad… before I was a lit dad. My thought process is still the same, but just very relaxing… not quite retirement, but on the road to wanting retirement. I’m not even that old, things just move a lot faster in this day and age. I want to enjoy the fruits of my labour – that is the current era of me.
What mark do you want to leave on the rap culture?
You can be really eclectic and weird and don’t have to give in to the status quo – you can always vary up what you’re doing, because what I was doing was not relative to any popular culture, popular music or anything like that - it was very counter. I think that goes to show that leaning left is always the best way to go. Stray from the centre… definitely don’t stick to the centre where everything is real regular, always stray away from the normal, and I feel like you will find your way.
Listen to Father's latest album, 'Come Outside, We Not Gone Jump You' on Spotify below:
Words by Oli Spencer
Photography by Oli Spencer
Shot over FaceTime
Father is the fifth cover star for Tenner Magazine Volume One.
Order your copy of Tenner at www.tennermag.com/shop