Two-9 Break Down Their 10 Most Essential Tracks
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
"Scottie 2 Hottie" — Two-9 Feat. Curtis Williams And Key!
Johnny: That's the song that broke us.
Curtis: Yeah, that's the song that got most people's attention. Even though that song is so simple, the energy of it and the video of it was cool. I think we fucked with it so much that it made other people fuck with it too. When we made it, we were fucking around and we'd play it for people and be like, "Damn, this shit is tight." "Scottie 2 Hottie" is definitely a Two-9 classic. To the new people that are just now onto Two-9, it's usually the one that got their attention.
"1,000 More Blunts" — Curtis Williams
Curtis: You know how Rick Ross has Maybach Music and he always has a "Maybach Music" song on all of his tapes? This is kinda like how this one is. I made a song called "1,000 Blunts" two years ago. I remember I was at Juicy J's house, and I was like, "Damn, I'm really smoking all this weed." He had all this weed in his house and I was smoking hella weed. I felt like I was smoking more than him. There were times when I would roll up and I would load the bong up and he'd be like, "Nah, Curt. I'm good. I'm good." I was putting weed in my pocket. Fucking taking shit back to the hotel. The artwork from it is from his crib, it's me with a pound of fucking weed in my hand, blunts everywhere. So this song is called "1,000 More Blunts" 'cause it's the second one. On my next project I'm gonna make like... I don't know what I'm gonna call it, but...
XXL: 2,000 More Blunts?
Curtis: Yeah, 2,000 more blunts. Or 3,000 blunts. Something.
"Automatic" — Curtis Williams (Produced By Childish Major and C4)
Curtis: I just made that song randomly. That's why it sounds kinda different than my other songs and the whole project. I just made it cause C4, he's one of those producers that's worked with Gucci Mane and people like that, but him, me and Childish have always been super cool. C4 always wanted me to rap on his beats, but he never really had beats that I wanted to rap on for myself, that I could make serious shit. But then him and Childish made that together. I was recording in another room, but he kept being like, "Yo, Kurt, come work. Come work." I didn't wanna blow him off, but I knew he was about to play all these super trapped out beats that I probably don't [have] nothing for. So I walked over there and he was like, "Bro, listen to this beat." He played it and I just freestyled the whole song. Right from the beginning. I didn't even hear the rest of the beat until I was recording. I heard that first part and I was like, "Put me in the booth." So I recorded literally the whole song. I heard the beat as I was recording it. Just because of that beginning part. I was like, "This shit sounds crazy as fuck."
"Face It" — Curtis Williams
Curtis: This is one of my favorite songs I've ever recorded. A lot of people who like my music like this song. It's the first song that got me working on this mixtape, and I think it helped me find my sound a little bit. That song is just about smoking weed and feeling some type of way. I smoke weed a lot. You know how when you're smoking weed... Weed is real social. When you come in with a blunt, you pass it around and smoke with niggas. But it's about feeling so good that you're like, "Yeah, I'm just gonna smoke this whole shit by myself. I can't even share this one. I'll smoke with y'all but this my bitch right here. I'm facing this one. I'm just gonna roll a gram in a blunt and take it straight to the face and be geeked up."
I really made it at my old crib and my homeboy who records me and engineers me, he smokes and stuff, but he won't smoke or drink while he's recording a beat. So it was just me and him in the house. I'd kinda faced a blunt just 'cause I was with him. That helped me come up with the song. I was just sitting there and while I'm facing this blunt, I'm just listening to all these beats my homeboy had been working on. By the end of the blunt, we kept playing it and trying to figure out the beat. I was like, "Why the fuck did he do the snare like that?" And we just made the song.
"Bang" — FatKidsBrotha
Dave: When I first heard that beat, I was in my car. That's where I did a lot of writing for this project. I wanted to be surrounded by the beat. I heard it and I was like, "I gotta say something on here." My first line has to be something powerful. So I said, "Salute me bitch, I'm great." I felt like that was me making my presence known on the song. I wrote the verse and I brought it to Johnny. He was in the studio so we just knocked it out. He likes pitbulls so we put the dogs on there.
“DooRag” — Two-9 Feat. FatKidsBrotha
Johnny: With "DooRag" I was trying to be the little kid from Menace II Society. The little kid on the big wheel. That's what the whole song was about. My perspective as a kid growing up and the shit that I saw, shit that I wanted to do, shit that I wanted to be. I just turned it into a song. That shit was fun to me. I feel like that's one of my happiest songs. Most of this shit is about my mama and where I came from. That's what I talk about. That's what "DooRag" is about. I say I wanna get my mama that suburban truck. So I just incorporate that shit into it.
"Magic" — FatKidsBrotha featuring Miloh Smith
Dave: Every time we perform that we get a lot of crowd participation. We recently shot a video for it and we're looking to release that. It's a powerful song because it's our first song we've ever done with a singer or another person outside of Two-9.
"Staying True" — Retro Su$hi featuring Key!
Ceej: It's another Two-9 classic motherfucking thing. It's off our first mixtape. Ricky Fontaine, he's a super dope guitarist/rapper/producer out of Atlanta, he did the guitar part. It took him about a year to get back to me but it finally got sent and it was amazing. I produced that beat and he added that.
"D4L" — Retro Su$hi
Ceej: It's definitely my favorite song that I've ever made as far as Retro Su$hi goes. Probably the best Retro Su$hi song. I remember I was out of town in Cleveland with Curt and Jace just sent this rough ass, amazing ass beat and he was just rapping for like four minutes. Then he sang some shit on the end and I was like, "Bro, we have to make this shit crazy." So we laid it out as an actual song and it ended up being crazy. It's super tight. It's pretty epic. D4L is a legendary rap group out of Bankhead, Atlanta that stands for Down For LIfe. You know Laffy Taffy? Thats D4L. But Laffy Taffy don't really define D4L because they were way hood-er. They weren't dancing motherfuckers. D4L is just Down For Life. I just saw Fabo [from D4L] the other day and I told him I made a song about his group.
XXL: What'd he say?
Ceej: He was like, "Yeah, I ain't in Down 4 Life anymore." I'm like alright. Down 4 Life. Okay Fabo.
"Last 2 Orgy" — FatKidsBrotha Featuring Key!, Snubnose Frankenstein And Curtis Williams
Snubnose Frankenstein: With the songs for the mixtape they had coming out, I stay a little bit farther away than everybody else. And there's not really much to do besides listen to music and play beats. The Clipse are one of my favorite duos, so I like them and I like their stories, so I wanted it to be reminiscent of that. But being from the South, I wanted it to use a lot of the 808 sound and mix that together while still telling their story. They live in Atlanta but they're from Detroit, so when I sit in the studio with them, they tell stories about the pitbulls and all of that. So that's where I get the influence to create the beats and stuff. I was just sitting at home and experimenting with a lot of organs and shit like that. It just happens sometimes. I've been making beats all day. So I take them to the studio and play them and they just go.