Hip-hop collectives can be confusing—even when they’re not eating Sbarro pizza and sharing inside jokes with each other in a tightly packed studio space. In a rap landscape filled with groups boasting large rosters and increasingly elaborate mythologies— think Odd Future, the A$AP Mob, Flatbush Zombies or Pro Era—Atlanta’s Two-9 is perhaps the most impenetrable. Even if you know each member and have a passing familiarity with their spacey-yet-Southern-fried sound, you only know half the story; the only way to fully grasp the group’s talent and ambition is to immerse yourself in the music.
Hanging with the group in Midtown Manhattan’s Premier Studios, it becomes apparent that the 8-member group seems to like it that way. They speak a coded language of shared musical references, pop culture allusions and personal experiences, often letting the booming music around them inspire tangents that are both fascinating and ridiculous. With de-facto leader Curtis Williams as our guide, XXL had a handful of the group’s young members—Johnny and Dave of FatKidsBrotha, Ceej of Retro Su$hi and producer Snubnose Frankenstein—take us through 10 tracks (or “Two-9 Classics,” as they like to call them) that can help the layman understand the perverse charms and hidden complexities of Atlanta’s most intriguing young rap crew. —Dan Jackson
Previously: Meet The Members Of Two-9