Last week, as Kanye West was in the midst of another Twitter screed, I was in Atlanta scarfing down waffles with the intrepid local fixture Zeus Trappin. In between diner staples, Zeus mentioned that he and Lil Yachty, an artist he manages, were about to catch a flight out of Atlanta to Los Angeles for the rest of the weekend, which, if graded on Instagram cameos — hey, A$AP Rocky — was a good trip. After his song “1Night” was featured in a viral comedic sketch, the blood-red-haired 18-year-old saw the song rocket to over 4 million SoundCloud listens in recent weeks. No wonder a slightly deeper SoundCloud cut, “Minnesota,” found a home on OVO Radio’s first 2016 show.
While trap rappers like Migos, Bankroll Fresh, or 21 Savage remain the most easily understood portrait of Atlanta’s music, they present a limited scope. Even taking for granted the eccentricities of Young Thug, the work of Father, Makonnen, and Zeus Trappin all point to Atlanta’s constant imaginative inversions of trap stylings. Yachty might rap, sing, or even yelp on beats that retain trap drums, but everything else is ethereal and broken down, as if producers only got a drum kit and a solitary synth track.
A dive into Yachty’s SoundCloud is a mix of musical doodles and obtuse collaborations with little-known producers like Burberry Perry, Digital Nas, and Grandfero. But one of the known names in the mix is Awful Records's Playboi Carti, whose “Broke Boi” and “Fetti” racked up millions of plays in 2015 and pushed him from being the Awful Records youngin’ to being managed by Kanye’s lab partner, Ian Connor, and touring the country.
North on I-85 or just a couple of clicks away on SoundCloud, Carti's direct influence can be heard. Charlotte, North Carolina–based rapper Fendi Benz, on a “Playboi Carti Type Beat,” makes an effective facsimile of this particular style. The hook he penned, “Now I’m gone yeah / smoking on that strong yeah / This lil bitch won’t leave me lone yeah … ” is formless enough that it could come slurring out of the mouths of Carti or Yachty. This could be considered biting, but when the distances between artists is only a few numbers and letters on SoundCloud URLs, such blurred lines present an exciting norm.