Words by Bryan Hahn

Two-9 is flourishing. The rowdy New Atlanta collective is now making that Mike WiLL Made-It type of paper. That Corey Worthington Delaney house party kind of paper. For 45 days straight. Sound excessive? You must be unaware that there are levels to this ish. (See: Oct. 2-Nov. 15 of last year for Big K.R.I.T.’s Pay Attention tour). Your rapper’s favorite accompanying tour act has discovered and been basking in their panacea to the bane of struggle rappers around the world--getting signed on your own terms. Each piece of Two-9 brings its own style of confidence matched with creativity which draws the attention of new fans, critics, and labels alike. Curtis, Retro Su$h! (CeeJ & Jace), FatKidsBrotha (DavE & Light Skin Mac 11), and DJ OSH KOSH have been proving time and time again how they’ve set the bar admirably high for the future generations of this thing we call Hip-Hop.

With one of the most unflattering of nicknames for a younger brother, FatKidsBrotha, caught my ear first out of the members of Two-9 back in November ‘12. The title of their track, “N.W.A.,” had my curiosity and the black and white video set against Snubnose’s Southern take on G-Funk had my attention. Working with producer and occasional rapper, Snubnose Frankenstein, half brothers DavE and Light Skin Mac 11’s music takes you cruising in a Cadillac Fleetwood Convertible with a few Pitbulls in the backseat. The sparse production that rides a sauntering beat allows their stunt raps (“Taking over that Peach State/Won't give it back no rebates/Lean, no ‘caine, hope it make me able/To live like a fable with my niggas at the table”) to breathe.

As I sit in the passenger seat of my Maxima with my laptop recording DavE explain, on speakerphone, how reading books like The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Godfather has opened his mind to worlds outside of the Eastside of Detroit and Atlanta, I almost forget that I have two more calls-one with Retro Su$h!, the other with Curtis-after this one.

I’m not sure you knew a slightly odd kid like Jason, who played golf with me in high school. But I hope you did. He introduced me to the Gorillaz and Icelandic group, Quarashi. You could say that Retro Su$h! is the Jason of Two-9. Meeting as high school friends, CeeJ and Jace challenge the idea of what a Hip-Hop duo from Atlanta is supposed to sound like. While CeeJ can hold his own on the mic (“Ya’ll stuck in this mindstate where ya’ll worry about us/but bet I bust because I’m the only one that matters that much/to me/and as you can see/not really worried ‘bout such/rap on that Jay Elec’ beat and call it ‘Exhibit Give A Fuck’”), he focuses on defining the sound with production for him and Jace, who has married the mentality of UGK with production of an experimental DJ Premier like it was meant to be (“Said, fuck college, gimme what I want/in all Bape/on Rodeo/with my posse ’bout to stunt/like my wallet isn’t heavy but my ego weighs a ton/tryin’ to earn our hundred mill’ in a hundred ways and one”). It’s their flexibility that can have them rocking a Donna Summer-esque Disco beat and then score the very rare OJ Da Juiceman guest feature over a new age Trap beat without missing a step.

If you had to name the spokesperson of Two-9, you’d most likely direct all questions to Curtis Williams. After former member Key! left due to creative differences, the blogging spotlight sought out Curtis as the tall, skinny poster boy for the group. The free spirited emcee who would rather get high off his own supply than sell it, has put out the most amount of music, rapping and producing, for hungry fans to consume and share. His last project, Danco James, was written in the summer in contrast to Half Forgotten Dreams which he worked on in the fall, giving off more positive vibes and an idea of what Juicy J would sound like today if Three 6 Mafia never existed. With all of the heavy drug references in his music, I had to ask if he remembered his first time getting high. He went on to laugh and describe a time in high school when he smoked weed with his stoner, skater friends. He had to constantly remind himself to play it cool when he was understandably freaking out inside ("Aw, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah man. Whatever man. I'm not even high, bro...okay."). Something tells me he doesn’t have to put on any fronts these days.

And how did these guys all meet? It all started with the Starting Five mixtape and one concert, aptly titled, “The Show”. A friend of CeeJ’s who is now Two-9’s creative director, Original Fani, put on a showcase for his rapper friends, including the members of Two-9 who went by Pilot Music at the time. Several makeshift studio sessions and 3 compilation projects as diverse as Riff Raff’s wardrobe later, they inked a deal with a friend and rising star, himself, who believed in the buzz, Mike WiLL Made-It.

Two-9 is exactly what a Hip-Hop group should be by breaking preconceived notions of today’s music industry. They focus on their craft, whether it be putting out creatively edited, quality music videos (“Discreet,” “Saturday Night”) or concert recaps, instead of formulaic, hit singles. And they let the world know that they’re having a damn good time while they’re doing it. They’ve embraced the new Hypebeast culture that includes that Wiz Khalifa regimen of “Smoked out. Choked out. But I still be rolling up.” They may be composed of three separate acts but each member never shies away from helping another one with collaborations. The only question left is how it will all end. Although they live by the phrase, “Two-9 forever!”, to what extent will that hold true? Will they continue to evolve and stay ahead of the curve, nurturing individual, superstar careers like the Wu-Tang Clan or will they follow the path of many recent groups who enjoy early success only to break up soon after like Pac Div and The Cool Kids? Only time will tell so in the mean time, roll one up, crack a bottle open, and enjoy the show.