Music

Awful Records: How the Delightfully Freaky Crew Became Some of the Most Important Voices In Hip-Hop

The millennial misfits behind Atlanta's hottest guerilla rap label have become some of the most important, unpredictable and delightfully freaky new voices in hip-hop. Meet five members of the crew.

text by Kristen Stegemoeller / photography by Jiro Schneider / styling by Aisha Rae and Drew Manares


(L-R): Tommy Genesis, Father, Abra, KeithCharles Spacebar, Lord Narf

Tommy wears a jacket and top by A.L.C., shorts by Joe's, tights by Wolford, booties by Walter Steiger, earrings by Lynn Ban and ring by Jennifer Fisher. Father wears a jacket, shirt and pants by AllSaints, glasses by Retrosuperfuture and boots by Dr. Martens. Abra wears a chain top by Zana Bayne, jeans by the Kooples, boots by Kurt Geiger, earrings and rings by Lynn Ban. KeithCharles wears a tank top by AllSaints, pants by DKNY and boots by Dr. Martens. Lord Narf wears a bodysuit by Michael Costello, jumpsuit by Diesel, sneakers by LD Tuttle and ring by Jennifer Fisher.

Atlanta's hottest guerilla rap label, Awful Records, doesn't have a signature sound. Everything the 17 best friends and labelmates on the Awful roster needed to learn about rapping, singing, producing beats, performing, engineering, mixing, mastering and directing, they either taught themselves, taught each other or made up as they went along. Under the Awful Records umbrella is an Internet-enabled multiverse of musical and aesthetic influences, with the artists' individual styles running the gamut from woozy psychedelic trap to synthy romantic R&B to trunk-rattling Southern bounce. At Awful's helm is the label's founder and breakout star, Father, whose sinister, minimalist beats, dark humor and self-reflexive brand of debauchery propelled his fledgling label into the spotlight with his 2014 hit "Look at Wrist," featuring iLoveMakonnen. And just like that, these millennial misfits from Atlanta became some of the most important, unpredictable and delightfully freaky new voices in hip-hop.

The Awful Records formula is a calibrated balance between focused isolation and freewheeling collaboration. They've spent untold hours in front of computers and in makeshift closet recording studios, tinkering, watching YouTube tutorials, playing around, fumbling, sucking, getting better, developing a sound and using every tool at their disposal to achieve their own infinitely specific musical agendas. And then they get together and fuck shit up. They crash at each other's houses for days on end, drinking, partying, getting in and out of trouble, bouncing ideas off each other, jumping on each other's tracks, starring in each other's videos and moving the conversation forward. As signee Tommy Genesis describes it, "We forget that we make music when we hang out, because we're like, 'who's barbecuing, who wants to watch this movie, who wants to cuddle, who wants to chill?'… We're laughing." She continues, "I think the reason that it works is because we're not music first -- we're friends and family first."


Father wears a jacket and shirt by AllSaints, glasses by Retrosuperfuture

FATHER

Awful Records' fearless leader and most savage lyrical stylist has been on one hell of a ride. “On the intro song of [my 2014 debut], Young Hot Ebony, I said, 'Never mix vodka and Percocet / It almost had me dead,'" Father recalls. “Then I proceeded for the next year to mix every drug, pill and powder I could get my hands on." Art imitates life for Father, and the result of his shift in brain chemistry was 2015's Who's Gonna Get Fucked First, a pared-down, delightfully deviant ode to sex, partying, friends and “fuckshit." The party was definitely over by the time he released this year's wry, woeful morning-after follow-up, I'm a Piece of Shit. “[Those three albums] are like a trilogy," he explains. “Pure thought, drugged-out thoughts and trying to get to recovery. I feel like I'm back to making the music I started off making." After wrapping up his international tour this summer, Father will be taking some much-needed time off to mastermind the next part of his musical odyssey, out sometime at the start of next year. He's been in the studio working with the likes of Maxo Kream and Blood Orange.

Read an extended interview with Father

Abra wears a bra by Noë Garments, pants by Bassike, choker by Zana Bayne, tights by Wolford and cuffs by Maria Piana

ABRA

Self-described as the “Darkwave Duchess," Abra is the lone singer on the Awful roster. Her slinky, spooky, self-produced bedroom-pop bangers bear testament to the powerful combination of creativity, introversion and an Internet connection. Following years of social overlap with the Awful crew in Atlanta, she was signed to the label in 2014 when Father saw her “folksy" guitar covers of Waka Flocka and Gucci Mane on YouTube. On her 2015 releases with Awful, BLQ Velvet and Rose, Abra sings songs of innocence and experience, bloom and decay, the first kiss and the brush-off, collaging sensual choral harmonies over her phantasmic hybrid of new wave synths, '90s house basslines, R&B, screwed UK Garage and gospel. Her new EP, Princess, was released this summer in advance of some heavy international touring. “It's about all the facets of being a woman," she explains. “I can be a strong woman or I can get really emotional. Sometimes I need you, and sometimes I don't."

KeithCharles wears a jumpsuit by AYR, briefs by Calvin Klein, suspenders by Manokhi, boots by Dr. Martens and bracelets and necklace by M. Cohen

KEITHCHARLES SPACEBAR

Rapper and standout producer KeithCharles Spacebar is a charter member of the Awful crew, linking up with Father in the Georgia State University dorms and sharing the succession of Atlanta apartments that served as crowded crash pads and vibrant creative incubators during the collective's formative years. Keith's eclectic sound has evolved significantly over time, from the sunny, sample-heavy throwback grooves of 2011's BeforeCommonEra to the spacious, icy 808 spikes of his 2015 Awful Records debut, We're All a Little Triflin. His latest spaced-out, synth-washed EP Chillin...Killin was released in March, marking his first release since he decamped from ATL for New York to branch out, “move and shake, meet new people and get [his] foot in the door of the music industry." His new demographic? “Any girl with a car."


Tommy wears a jacket by Pam & Gela, bralette by American Apparel, shorts by Phlemuns, body choker by Zana Bayne, tights by Wolford, shoes by Kurt Geiger and rings by Jennifer Fisher

TOMMY GENESIS

Vancouver-born, LA-based “fetish rapper" Tommy Genesis is one of the newest additions to the Awful family, enlisted by Father in 2015 after he heard one of her early mixtapes on SoundCloud. Her 2015 debut, World Vision, followed soon after. Her trap-based sound is subterranean, dark and mutable, morphing track by track from sparse industrial chill to fogged-up echo chamber, with raspy cascades of abstract imagery that drifts from the erotic to the divine to the downright nasty. “I think it's cool that people fuck with [World Vision]," Tommy says, “because I thought it was really weird and not marketable. But hey, I'm not mad." She's currently reworking her follow-up LP, World Vision 2, stripping away its initial “pop-ish" tone to align with the “hard, destructive, dark shit" she started writing when she moved to LA in March. “I can release the pop version when I'm 80," she says.


Narf wears a bodysuit by Michael Costello, jumpsuit by Diesel and ring by Jennifer Fisher

LORD NARF

Native ATLien Lord Narf has been running around with the Awful crowd for over a decade now. She started rapping three years ago, finally fulfilling her songwriting ambitions after years of posting her “little short stories and poems" online. Narf has the distinction of being the first female MC signed to the label back in 2014, and her playful, turnt up, off-kilter experimentations with style and mood seem especially well-suited to Awful's collaborative DNA. On her Sick EP from 2015, she worked with seven different producers, including Awful OGs Slug Christ and Ethereal, using their mix of styles as her springboard for twists and backflips, fully inhabiting each beat with her quirky, drawling, endlessly varied flow. Narf just wrapped up her very first tour, and is currently putting the finishing touches on her first LP Witchcraft, a “'90s vibe" album that she describes as “chill" and “a little darker than usual."

More Awful Records Photos!

Makeup by Tami K. Shirey

Hair and grooming by Zachary Rej Morad

Location: The Forge


Catch the Awful Records crew in London on October 20th. Buy tickets HERE!

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