The last time Mike Will Made It sat down with Life + Times he discussed a few things including his long-awaited debut album and discovering Rae Sremmurd and ILoveMakonnen. He also spoke on his work with superstars like Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, and Fergie, and yet one of the acts he was most excited to speak on was the newest edition to his Ear Drummers imprint, Two-9. “They can really rap, they really put together dope music, they work sun up to sun down, they’re super creative, and they got great taste in shit,” the platinum producer said of the five-man rap crew, who he has, in the past, compared to the legendary Dungeon Family collective.
A few listens to Two-9’s new mixtape, B4FRVR should definitely help listeners who are either unfamiliar with or sleeping on the group to understand why a serial hit-maker like Mike Will, who has worked with JAY Z, Rihanna, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, and so many others, is so eager to introduce the Atlanta-based collective to the mainstream. Complete with smooth and jazzy joints that are reminiscent of classic OutKast records and 808-heavy anthems that are in vein of much of what is currently flooding airwaves, the 13-track project is a unique mixture of both the old and new sounds that have become synonymous with Atlanta hip hop over the years.
According to the group, B4FRVR’s cohesiveness is partially due to the vision of Mike Will. “This whole process and working with Mike taught us how to put a body of work together and not just a collection of songs,” says group member, Jace. “The project we dropped before this was cool. It had gotten a great response and it put us in the position that we are in now, but there was no thought process in putting that project together.” To talk about B4FRVR, Two-9 members Jace, Ceej, LightSkinMac11, Curtis Williams, and Cartier Dave caught up with Life + Times during a recent trip to New York. Here, they also speak on signing with Mike Will, having an epic studio session with Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dolla $ign and their concept of forever.
Life + Times: Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dolla $ign are featured B4FRVR’s first single, “Full House.” How did that record come together?
Ceej: “Full House” wasn’t even planned out like that. We had this crazy ass studio session one day. It was random. Wiz was in Atlanta for some reason or another.
Jace: He was shooting the video for “We Dem Boyz.”
Ceej: So he was shooting “We Dem Boyz” and the next day he just came to our studio. I guess a bunch of people found out that Wiz was at our studio. It was already ten of us at the studio. Wiz pulled up like ten deep with Ty, Chevy Woods and Tuki Carter with him. Then a bunch of other people like DJ Holiday, DJ Drama, Don Cannon and Mike Will started showing up.
L+T: Oh it was lit in there…
Jace: It was a full house.
Ceej: It’s a very small studio room that we were working in and usually it’s real intimate. It just be us in there. I don’t know how they did it, because you could barely hear anything in there, because it was so many people. It was really like a party in there, but somehow Jace did the first part of the hook and Ty did that second bridge part. Me and Wiz added our verses in Los Angeles weeks later though.
Jace: It was like months later.
Ceej: Yeah. I went to Wiz’s crib a couple of months later. I wasn’t even thinking about getting on the song. We didn’t know what we were going to do with it. We were just drunk as hell and Wiz was like “Fuck that. Let’s get on it right now.”
L+T: Why did you guys want “World Gone Crazy” to be the first visual from B4FRVR?
Curtis Williams: It was a song with all of us on it. It was the whole set.
Ceej: It was up in the air between “World Gone Crazy” and “Gather Round.” Curt just had this crazy ass idea for the video. He directed the video.
LightSkinMac11: All by himself and he wasn’t even sober.
L+T: B4FRVR feels more like an album than a mixtape. Was that you guys’ goal with the tape?
Jace: That was Mike Will’s goal. I don’t think it’s ever our goal to make anything cohesive. We just want to capture our moment.
Cartier Dave: We want to capture a moment among all of us. That’s the easiest way to describe what we do every damn day.
Ceej: A few of those songs were old. We figured what the project would be called and that we’re going to drop it here, and from there started building around what we already had. Mike Will came in and put that shit together beautifully. He executive produced the shit out of it, real talk. Not saying that he was around for the recording of all of those songs, but he understood that we were trying to capture certain moments and then he pinpointed one moment that could capture all those moments. And that’s exactly what he did.
Cartier Dave: There are songs on the tape that I didn’t even think would be on there like “My Dawgs.” We did that record almost two years ago. He just sees stuff in the songs and just puts them together.
L+T: There is a nice selection of producers on B4FRVR. Being that you guys have your own set of in-house producers, are signed to Mike Will and are cool with some of the hottest producers out like Metro Boomin, was the beat selection process difficult for this project?
Ceej: It’s never a problem getting beats.
Cartier Dave: It’s really just based off of family. We only move off of if we fuck with you.
LightSkinMac11: It takes us a minute to grasp what you are about.
Jace: With us, it’s definitely a process. We’ve been making music together for six years. In certain aspects I only trust these guys to create stuff that I could rock over. We had to build a certain artistic trust with the producers we worked with. Getting beats is never an issue. It’s just that we know how we vibe and what we rock with, so we try not to venture too far away from that.
L+T: The last Two-9 project was 2012’s Two-9 Forever. Why has it taken so long to release B4FRVR?
LightSkinMac11: You are the only one who knows that we released that in 2012.
Jace: Everybody else goes, “Umm… when did you do the tape?”
LightSkinMac11: It isn’t really the label when it comes to us. We joined forces with them, but it’s still our shit. Can’t nobody change what we do. Not even my brother Mike Will or even our manager can change that. We built this shit. You know what I’m saying? They believe in what we doing. We let the suits be the suits and we be the artists. It took so long because…
Jace: We had to work shit out.
LightSkinMac11: Even with that, we were still getting fed off of that first tape that we did. When that buzz died down we felt we needed new content. New content is what brings people to you.
L+T: How was Two-9 started?
Curtis Williams: We came together in late 2008. Me and my brother Key!, who I started Two-9 with had our little group and shit. Then we really started collabing and shit. That’s when these niggas just started fucking with me like super heavy. We were with each other everyday. We all were just homies kicking it.
LightSkinMac11: It was the passion. The passion that Curt and Key! had when I first met them just took me over.
Jace: And they were young as shit.
LightSkinMac11: Real shit. You young as hell and you got that type of passion? That passion just caught my eye.
Jace: I felt Key! and Curt had a vision in the same sort of way that Mike had a vision. Theirs was a little more unrefined, but they had a vision for what they wanted to create and for what they felt they could create. Being that young at the time and hearing them talk about music made me want to be a part of it. I didn’t know exactly what they were talking about or exactly where it would go, but I was with the shits.
Cartier Dave: I remember a specific time when we first started making music together and Curt was just making beats and he picked us out of a number of people and was like, “I know you guys will sound dope on this beat.” We jumped on the beat and dropped the song. The song went crazy. It was “Sunday Morning Radio.” I remember it like it was yesterday. After that, it just never stopped.
L+T: Mike Will compare you guys to the Dungeon Family. What are your thoughts on that?
Ceej: That’s crazy to be compared to Dungeon Family, because all of them were fire as hell, from production to rapping. Obviously, OutKast was the standouts, but there’s a lot of people out there that like Goodie Mob just as much as they like OutKast. That’s incredible, man.
L+T:What made signing with Mike Will and Ear Drummers the right move for you guys?
Jace: Even though Mike didn’t understand all the moving parts and who everybody was at first, he still got it. I tell him all of the time that he has great vision. When he sees something he sees just how far it can go. It’s like he’s looking twenty years down the line. That’s why I felt it was the right choice. He doesn’t force anything on us. He’s not trying to make us rap on all of his beats.
LightSkinMac11: You ever see The Matrix? Mike Will is the keymaker. He opens doors that you never thought could be unlocked. There’s no better way to put it.
Jace: Whether it’s the best fit or not, remains to be determined. Is it the most comfortable or most artistically gratifying fit? Yes, to me it is. I feel like collectively we feel like that. I don’t feel like we all would have had the same kind of creative control if we had chosen a different situation. He’s our age. He’s not a suit. He’s a label head, but he’s not no nigga behind the desk. He’s still in the studio with niggas. You know what I’m saying? He’s spending money out of his own pocket to make sure we’re hearing the music the way we want to hear it. To have someone that is a label head who really be in the field and really be right there with you is great. That’s something you can’t find anymore.
L+T: The number of groups and collectives that are making noise in hip hop has risen over the last few years. There’s Odd Future, A$AP Mob, Overdoz, Two-9 and many other crews that are doing their thing. Why do you think so many groups are having their moment right now?
Cartier Dave: I feel like groups and collectives give fans a variety, because there are different parts of these collectives. With us you get FatKidsBrotha and Retro Su$h! and then you get us collectively. You get a whole movement. People want to be a part of something. That’s always been a part of hip hop. It’s for people to get involved with our lifestyle, because it’s a lifestyle with us and not just the music. You know what I’m saying?
L+T: There are the mixtapes, Two-9 Forever and B4FRVR and the debut album from Two-9 is slated to be called, FRVR. What is the significance of forever for you guys?
Jace: I feel like the significance is just how we feel about each other. We don’t really have any choice at this point. We’re brothers. We’re locked in whether this music thing works out or not. They are going to be at my wedding. They are going to know my kids. For me, that’s the significance, because this is forever. What we’re trying to create and the legacy we’re trying to leave is forever.