“This album is going platinum,” Lil Keed confidently tells Complex.
The 22-year-old Atlanta rapper is talking about his forthcoming project, Trapped on Cleveland 3, which arrives this Friday. It’s not unusual for a rapper to bet on himself, but for Keed, this album is extra personal. He reveals this will be the final chapter of the Trapped on Cleveland series, and he’s hoping to go out with a bang.
It’s been two years since Keed dropped the first Trapped on Cleveland mixtape, and a lot has changed since then. He says this album, which was recorded in his home studio, afforded him enough time and space to tap into his own sound. He insists there is a song for every type of fan and vibe. But the real takeaway is that this project will show his growth as an artist and as a man.
“Back then, I was talking about stuff like typical rappers: shooting, killing, just saying shit because that’s what everybody wanted to hear,” he explains. “Now that I done grew from all that and I done moved myself out of that situation, I’m just letting folks know why I was so trapped on Cleveland, as far as me going to the hood everyday and all the shootouts.”
Accompanying the album is a short film, which Lil Keed instructs fans to watch prior to listening to the music. The film will give more insight into the rapper’s lifestyle behind the scenes: how he spends his mornings, activities he enjoys with his daughter, and more.
The YSL signee has been picking up game from Young Thug for years—his mentor has specifically given tips about the importance of saving money—but now he’s establishing himself as a fully-formed star in his own right. Keed speaks highly of his loyal fanbase, with whom he has developed a close relationship with over the years—he recently hung out with a group of them by the lake—but it’s his daughter who he dedicates all of his hard work to.
At the time of the interview, Keed is waiting to pick her up from school. But before he leaves, he tells Complex all about his upcoming project and more. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
You dropped Trapped On Cleveland 2 in 2018. Why the two-year gap between projects?
If you was to go listen to all my Trapped on Cleveland albums, they each show my growth. But what was so crazy, is them [first] two was mixtapes. This is going to be an album. So around them times, I wasn't big like I am now. I was just putting out music and going for what I know. Like I said, if you go back and just listen to them, you see the growth and how my bars got better and my wordplay got better. This is going to be the last I do the Trapped on Cleveland anyway, so I wanted to make sure this was big. I dig deep into my story and let everybody see what I went through, how I came up, and give them an insight on my life.
Can you go into more detail about how you’ve grown over the last few years?
Back then, I was talking about stuff like typical rappers: shooting, killing, just saying shit because that's what everybody wanted to hear. I was just talking about the stuff that happened in the streets and stuff around me. Now that I done grew from all that and I done moved myself out of that situation, I’m letting folks know why I was so trapped on Cleveland, as far as me going to the hood every day and all the shootouts. I just had to move myself out of the situation to better myself and my family.
What were your goals going into this project?
To get my first platinum album and get it early. This album is going platinum. I already said it.
What was the writing and recording process like?
The recording process is crazy. I would still rap, but I got a home studio, so I wasn’t in no big studio recording none of these songs. I recorded all these songs at my house. I was more comfortable just being at home and not having to watch my back at other studios. A lot of stuff be going on in Atlanta studios anyway, so I was in a better environment. I was in a safer environment. I felt comfortable. I can record, go next door to my room, and go to sleep. I could drink and won't have to be all drunk in public and shit. I was comfortable at home in my space, in my zone. That played a big part in this album, Trapped on Cleveland 3.
What was your recording style like? Did you record a lot of music for this album?
It depends on how the day goes. If I feel good and I'm in a great mood, I might do about five or six songs in one night. And then I might take a day off and not record the next day. I'll just listen to the six songs I did the day before. I got a big collection of songs. And then with these songs, it's going to tell a story, telling why I was trapped on Cleveland. So all these songs, they was hand-picked personally. Me and G-O [Geoff Ogunlesi] from 300, we sat down and we picked all these songs personally, to make sure that it told a story that followed a sequence and that flows good. It's great.
Is there any particular song that you think everyone will flock to?
All of them. I can't pick through any one of them. I love all my songs. All my songs are great. The fans are going to have to pick it. I know one that will catch lots of attention, though. “Heartbreaker.” I was calling myself a heartbreak kid. You know how you just be doing stuff, and you might break a girl's heart. It talks about breaking a girl's heart and all that, because I know I can do it. I'm not supposed to be doing it, but I just do it anyway. So this is going to be the song that everybody’s going to like. Girls, dudes, everybody, they’re going to be able to feel it. They probably got their heart broke by somebody, so it's going to be impacting and touching.
What do you want your fans to take away from this album?
I want everybody to take away that no matter what you do or what type of situation you’re in, you'll make it through it as long as you just stay consistent. Whatever you're doing, I don't care what it is, as long as you keep at it, keep your mind and your heart, and give all your time to it, it's going to happen. Can't nobody stop you from doing what you’re going to do, or what God got planned for you. Just keep doing you and don't worry about what nobody got to say. Just be yourself. So on this album, it’s just me being myself. I don't give a fuck what nobody say. I don't give a damn. You’re going to listen to it or you are not going to listen to it. That's how it's going to go.
YSL is having a great run at the moment. Who do you have the most chemistry with?
He’s just a great person at heart. He’s real pure-hearted. He teaches you stuff. He gives you game. He tells you some shit folks won't tell you. I know a lot of folks, they say they’re big dogs and all that shit, but they don't really help their people. He helps his people. That's why I love him so much. Every time we’re with him is a great time.
What game has he given you recently?
Save your money. Don't be just tripping with the money. It's going to be times when you buy shit like everybody do—buy shit and you really don't even need it, but you buy it anyway just because you know you got the money. He said just slow down on that, because that's what he used to do all the time. He's telling me don't be doing all that shit. That shit don't really mean nothing for real. Stack your money up because it'll save you later on.
How does the short film fit into the rollout for this album? What should people know about it?
You have to watch the short film before you listen to the music, because it makes sense. It's all a package. You watch what I do all day. I'm showing you how I wake up. It shows you what I go do before I go to my studio sessions. I go shoot pool at a strip club. I throw money. It just shows you a day in the life of me. So now, when you go listen to the songs, it's like damn, that's what he was talking about. I'm giving them a visual. This shows what I be doing when I wake up in the morning. He plays with his daughter and then walks straight to the studio room and starts recording. I just give them insight. I had a photo shoot on there with my daughter and stuff. It's crazy.
And you filmed this during the pandemic?
I did it all in two days.
How has the pandemic affected the way you wanted to shoot?
We still doing what we doing. I've been doing a lot in studios. Instead of being around a lot of people, we might get a little studio, a photo studio or whatever, and just have a green screen. But they still be having props. They might set the background up a certain type of way or the green screen. Might have a car in there. I been using one photo studio for a lot of my videos that I've been putting out. So we’re probably going to use that for the rest of the videos. Unless I go to L.A. or a desert or some shit. But other than that, I be throwing little house parties. We check temperatures and make sure everybody's safe. Hand sanitizer, masks, and stuff. If you on set, you got to have a mask on. Nothing’s changed, really.
What may surprise fans about this project?
Probably the type of vibes I’m going to give off as far as the music. It’s different. Like I said, it's different shit for everybody on there. I'm just doing me. I love doing this. This what I've got a passion for. I'm just doing me, so they’re going to gravitate to it anyway. They love me just for being myself and I don't act. These other rappers, they be acting all bougie and shit. I don't do that. I interact with my fans a lot. I listen to them.
Have you already started planning for your next album?
Yeah, I'm already working on my next one. I started that yesterday. Work smarter, not harder, man. What was so crazy, I did a song that we picked originally for Trapped on Cleveland. Do you know I did the whole album all over again? These new songs. I did the whole album all over again. But that song's not even on this album. I just did all them songs for the two or three months of quarantine.
In June, you showed on Instagram that you met Drake. What was that interaction like?
Yeah, that was my first time being in L.A., and he came to my show.
How did that go?
He had commented on some stuff on my Instagram. That's when we first started chopping it up with each other.
Did you talk about potentially collaborating on music?
Yeah, we talked about it, but it wasn't no long conversation. We were like, “We’re going to do something. All right, boom.” But then we went back to partying. We was having a regular conversation. It wasn't really too much about music.
You teased a possible joint project with Lil Gotit on Twitter. Is that really in the works?
Me and my little brother got to do a joint project. We got to do it. It makes sense.
Have you already started working on that joint project?
We’ve been working on it. We got songs from two, three years ago. We just aren’t going to put them on there. We’re going to go through them. We’re probably going to keep a couple of them out there, but we want to give them new music. The new us.
Not many people realize that you’re real brothers.
They really think we’re lying. But same mom and dad. I be sharing old baby pictures, and they still say we’re lying. I be like, “So what else you all want to see?”
How is it having your brother in the industry with you? What have you all learned from having each other to lean on?
Gotit, he one of them dudes. He don't give a fuck what nobody say. He don't care. So I get that from him a lot. I used to be like, “Man, I'm not going to do that because I don't want nobody to think…” And he be like, “Man, fuck them folks. Go do what the fuck you want to do, bro.” He'll be like, “Shit they'll do the same thing in our predicament, so do what you want to do.” He’s not worried about what somebody’s going to think. Because I might be the smart one like, “I don't do that shit.” And he be like, “So what? That's the point. You got to keep them guessing.” So I got a lot of that from him, just being more confident.
As far as stage presence, like performances, I got him. He didn't really have too many shows like that. See, I used to be doing open mic since I was young. So, I was so good onstage, performing and controlling the crowd and stuff. He got to get to that point. Once these shows open back up, he'll be able to do big shows. He did a couple Rolling Louds and stuff, but he's still trying to get comfortable with the stage. Me, I'm more comfortable. I'm more of a people person than he is. He rather hang around his own. He stay to himself. He don't really like hanging around a lot of folks. I be out there. I be having fun. I be vibed out.
What’s the most important thing you want fans to know about you right now?
The most important thing I want my fans to know is that I'm doing all this shit for my fucking daughter. They know this. I have my daughter on my page every day, all day long. I spend all my time with my daughter. She is getting ready to get out of school in a couple more minutes. I'm about to go get her in a minute. Then of course, my mom and my family. I hang with my family. I don't go hang with everybody. And then my fans. I was just hanging with some of my fans at the lake a couple of days ago. I go to the lake all the time. I had some friends over there that came and met me. New friends I just met. They live on the lake or whatever. So we was just chilling and shit.
Is there anything else people should know?
Oh, when the album drops, I'm going to do an album release party. I'm going to pick probably about 20 to 30 fans to personally come listen to the album with me and watch the mini movie. I'm going to pick. This before the album drop, too. I'm going to talk to my label about that. Doing a little contest with fans, 15 boys and 15 girls to come listen to the album with me and just have fun, eat, and sip.