Two-9 is the latest oversized rap crew to seep up from the underground. Consisting of five key members at its core, the Atlanta-based unit has already clocked up collaborations and tour dates with Ludacris, Chance The Rapper, and Juicy J, while anthem-maker Mike WiLL Made It recently took the group under his guidance. (Consider 2012’s Two-9 Forever as the mixtape jump-off point.)
With Two-9 playing a New York City show at The Studio at Webster Hall on June 10th, we got group staples Jace and Curtis Williams to break down the collective’s back story, ponder on the dynamics of a collaboration with Miley Cyrus, and explain why their live show is an emphatically coital experience.
How did Two-9 form?
Jace: Two-9 came to be when Curtis and another friend decided that we should become a group together ’cause we all knew each other and liked the music. This was around 2009 and that’s why we’re called Two-9 — ’cause we started in 2009.
Did you consider any other names for the crew?
Jace: Originally we were called Pilot Music but around that same time Curren$y was coming up and getting a lot bigger and so a lot of things associated with pilot music was with him. So we decided to simplify the name and pick something that was closer to our own identity.
Did you have many conversations about the direction and image of the group?
Jace: We didn’t really have any conscious conversations about what we were trying to do and which direction we wanted to go in with the music. It’s more that we all have the same mindset so whenever we do talk about stuff we always know what direction we’re going in.
Can you break down what each of the core members brings to Two-9?
Jace: Well FatKidsBrotha, which is Dav.E and Light Skin Mac 11, they are more like N.W.A. and I want to say their sound is more low-fi and stripped-down. They very much like Master P a lot and Eazy-E and N.W.A., so I’d say that would be their biggest influence sound-wise. Then Curtis is just energy! His songs are just energy and you can feel that in his music — I don’t know if you could classify it as a style but he wants everyone to feel his energy when he makes music. Then myself and Ceej as Retro Sushi, we’re the most eclectic of the group as far as our influences and what we put into the music. Our process to making music is probably the most different out of everybody.
Which other large rap crews do you most often get compared to?
Jace: We get compared to Wu-Tang a lot which I feel isn’t really fair as they’re legends. We also get compared to the Dungeon Family a few times, like the new Dungeon Family, but those are all legends so to make that comparison is one-sided.
Which comparison would be more accurate?
Jace: I don’t know, I think you can’t really compare us to anything because we’re the first of our generation to come out of Atlanta. Musically, I don’t think in this era what we’re doing out of Atlanta has happened yet — and I feel like that’s why people reach for comparisons because they need something to relate it to — so like it’s the southern Wu-Tang. But really we don’t sound like any of them — it just so happens that there’s a group of us. I don’t think we sound like the A$AP Mob, I don’t think we sound like Pro Era — I don’t think we sound like any group that’s currently out.
You’ve been taken under the wing of Mike WiLL Made It. How did that come about?
Jace: My manager introduced us. He’d been doing a lot of Mike’s merch work and design stuff and he kinda put the bug in his ear. That was around the end of 2012; Mike had heard about us so much and wanted to hear what we were about so we met up at Treesound Studios and formed a really good working relationship.
Does Mike give you much advice when you’re in the studio?
Jace: Always. A lot of times with us we’ll hear our music and obviously we like it and think it’s the best it can be, but Mike is one of the first outsiders to come and say, “Yeah, this shit’s tight but tweak this or say this line a little different or maybe let’s add an ad lib here.” He’s very open creatively — he gives us advice all the time.
If Mike hooked up a connection with Miley Cyrus, would you make a song with her?
Jace: I’m not opposed to making a song with Miley. I’m not opposed to that at all — I would be down! I’m a pretty big fan of Miley. As an artist, she’s pretty tight. I respect any artist that goes in their own direction and does their own shit despite what people think. So I wouldn’t be opposed to that at all.
Curtis Williams: She’s probably more talented and puts in a lot more work than a bunch of those crazy wack-ass, straight, core hip-hop heads anyway. It’s like shut the fuck up!
What sort direction would you want to take a Two-9 and Miley Cyrus collaboration in?
Curtis Williams: We’re pretty crazy and pretty turnt up and she’s pretty crazy and pretty turnt up, but at the same time we’re kinda soulful dudes too so we’d have to just be like no boundaries in the studio session. We’d probably make like a crazy, turnt up song but then also make some shit like that song The Roots made with Erykah Badu! We’d probably hang-out for hours and hours and get no work done before we actually got started on making anything.
If someone’s never heard Two-9 before, what one song would you recommend they check out first?
Curtis Williams: I’d probably tell people to listen to this song by my homie Dylan and it features me and Jace and it’s called “Pretty Memories.” It’s kinda like a newer song that’s really personal but also a really cool song and I don’t think we have any current songs along those lines that we want people to hear. So, yeah, I’d direct them to that song.
Jace: I’d agree with that. I like that song a lot.
Finally, what can people expect if they check out a Two-9 show?
Curtis Williams: A great time. Ever been to Six Flags? Ever been to Disney Land? You ever did ‘shrooms and went to the movies?
Jace: It’s like all of that shit.
Curtis Williams: You ever had sex, you know what I’m saying, without a condom with someone you really like? Imagine that experience but in a concert, so getting that same satisfaction and just having that much fun — of course not actually having the sex ’cause we’re all dudes so it’s kinda crazy — but that same exact feeling and just walking away and feeling like, “Wow, where was I just at? How did I even get this honor?” That’s how a Two-9 show is.
So do you encourage members of the crowd to have sex during a Two-9 show?
Curtis Williams: Yeah, I’m saying, I have no problem with being kinda like a wingman for a young dude in the crowd. Maybe one of my songs makes you bump into a hot girl, she turns, you lock eyes and, you know, if at that moment that’s all you can do then go for it.