Sonny Digital wants you to listen to him. Not simply to trace his name in the credits as songs he’s crafted for superstars (Future, Beyoncé, Young Thug, and so on) scamper up the charts; not just to feel the skull-rattling drums that have helped make him one of hip-hop’s most in-demand producers. He wants you to listen, because he’s really been through it. He’s given himself impossible deadlines—make a hundred beats in a month, just to see if you can—and driven himself to his mental and physical limits, all to further his musical goals. So when he steps in front of the microphone to tell his story, he’s worth your full attention.

Sonny Digital for Puma x Complex August 2017
Image via Anthony Trevino

“I never thought that I’d get there this quick,” the 26-year-old Atlantan says. “I thought this would be a 20-year process.” Lanky and animated, Sonny—born Sonny Corey Uwaezouke—has indeed seen his profile grow rapidly and to previously unthinkable heights since his breakthrough at the beginning of this decade. His hometown’s commercially dominant strains of trap music figured heavily in Sonny’s early work; in his formative years his beats could have been retrofitted onto Jeezy’s albums with little incident. When he struck gold, with YC and Future’s “Racks,” Sonny was catapulted to the forefront of Atlanta’s new era. “It’s a lot of responsibility,” he says of his role as an architect of the city’s sound. “You’ve gotta stay ahead of the curve.”

Sonny Digital for Puma x Complex August 2017
Image via Anthony Trevino

None of this is to suggest that things have always gone smoothly. Like so many young artists, Sonny initially found himself on the bad end of an unfavorable publishing contract. It stemmed from uncertainty: when “Racks” hit, Sonny was unsure whether the hits would keep coming, and calculated that he might be better off taking whatever cash he could up front, even if the back-end terms were less than ideal. When he persevered and found success on the creative side, he was faced with a new type of adversity: how to be properly compensated for his work. Today, Sonny says he hopes to guide younger artists and producers through the industry’s shadowy business side, to help them stay ahead of the curve in their own way.

Sonny Digital for Puma x Complex August 2017
Image via Anthony Trevino

That said, no amount of paperwork or red tape can dampen Sonny’s enthusiasm for art. “I just follow what I feel,” he says. When it comes to his personal style, this usually manifests itself as quiet, subdued tones (“My swag pretty subtle”) and jeans that have been tailored to fit his frame. But the PUMA Tsugi Shinsei ‘90s have made the gears in Sonny’s mind whir to life. The layered, multi-colored patterns seem to take on new qualities as the house lights transition from hue to hue, which makes for a bold, slightly psychedelic feel. “They on some chameleon stuff,” he laughs.

Sonny Digital for Puma x Complex August 2017
Image via Anthony Trevino

It’s no accident that a shoe which hearkens back to the 1990s would inspire such a reaction in Sonny. Though he was only born in '91, the imprints made in childhood are clear to this day: “I got two older brothers, so I learned a lot from them, they used to make their mistakes so I would just look up and see what they did, so I didn’t have to.” That focus, learned early, is what’s given Sonny the confidence to embark on the next phase of his career, one which puts his work as a solo artist front and center. If the past is any indication, his grit and determination should pave the way. “I feel like in the next ten years, bro, I might be somebody real iconic,” he says. And it isn’t hard to imagine.

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