Mixtape: Fathers Are the Curse
Producer: Ron Shaw

When Two-9 first emerged among a flurry of rapper "collectives" whom blogs were eager to crown as the next A$AP Mob or Odd Future, the enthusiasm felt a bit premature. Slotting in as a slightly less distinctive Raider Klvn was probably not an ideal way to introduce yourself to the industry. But much as Raider Klvn members like Yung Simmie have proven that, with time and experience, they can develop into more formidable talents, Two-9 members like Curtis Williams and now Key! have shown signs of finding their own respective lanes.

The smartest thing Williams and Key! have done is to choose production carefully. They work with producers like Sonny Digital, FKi, or Childish Major, who have each gotten a reputation for their strip club/street rap-oriented work. But Key! and Williams are drawn toward fully fleshed out, melodic production from those beatmakers. The result is a kind of classier, more tasteful version of contemporary ATL street beats. (For the best example, listen to the jazzy, Sonny Digital-produced "Don't Believe Me."

A highlight of Key!'s latest mixtape, though, is the far-too-short New Orleans tribute (maybe?) ".45," which has a minimal KLC-esque swagger that serves as a regional gangster rap throwback. (It may turn out that this is, in fact, an older beat I missed in Southern Rap 101, in which case: mea culpa.) For a more representative flavor, don't skip "Cathedral." The bulk of the beats, by producer Trap Money Benny, have a lush, glossy feel at odds with the kind of lo-fi "lushness" valued in the Clams Casino era.