It’s been 10 months since the death of Lil Keed, born Raqhid Jevon Render, but the people who knew him best—his family and music team—still feel his spirit daily. His mother, Tonnie Woods-Reed, says Keed’s 4-year-old daughter Naychur speaks with her dad often: “When she comes to my house, she’ll say, ‘Nana, my daddy told me to tell you something: He misses you and he loves you.’” His manager Zoe Dupree says the late rapper plays little tricks on them. “One day, I came home and everything’s on the floor—obituary, records, everything of his was on the floor,” Dupree recalls, smiling. “It was like, ‘All right, Keed, you want attention.’ Don’t nobody live with me, so why is it on the ground?” And now, Woods-Reed says her son was with them as they prepped the release of his first posthumous project, Keed Talk to ‘Em 2. “Yeah, I feel like he’s still here,” adds Woods-Reed. “He still got me running around.”
The album debuted on March 17, the day after what would have been Keed’s 25th birthday. There are plans to follow it up with a documentary and a posthumous mixtape, but for now, the focus is on this release, which Dupree says is a result of “his blood, sweat, and tears,” and though he won’t be here for its release, those closest to him take some comfort in knowing the final product was exactly as he had envisioned it.
Before he died of eosinophilia, a rare white blood cell complication, Keed outlined the plan for his album on a sticky note that his mom later found in the pockets of a pair of jeans. It detailed everything from the tracklist to the cover art. “He left us specific instructions. All the stuff that you’re seeing is stuff that he already had set for it,” she says. In addition to the album blueprint, Keed left behind the music itself on phones and hard drives that were labeled by year from 2018 to 2022.
Then came the hard part. Shortly after he passed, members of his teams, including Woods-Reed, his managers Dupree and Charles Baker, and producer DJ Sidereal convened for six hours a day to review every song and take notes to forward to his label, 300 Entertainment. After taking some time to grieve, they went back to work. The team quickly grew from an initial six to a larger, rotating hub of creative minds. “Everybody played a part—from the label, family, friends, producers, DJs,” Dupree confirms.
“Jeffrey, Young Thug, is still involved in his own way. This is an important thing for him.”
The one person who wasn’t in the room during the final stages of the album was Young Thug. The Young Stoner Life Records founder and CEO who signed Keed is currently behind bars in Atlanta awaiting trial on RICO charges, but that hasn’t stopped the rapper from assisting with Keed’s album in any way he could. Both Ventura and Deneil Mullings, Keed’s publicist, confirm that Thug shared notes with the team about everything. After three months of working on the album’s cover art, which depicts an illustration of Keed’s heading blooming from the center of a rose, Ventura says a majority of the team was “98 percent” comfortable with it. Then, Young Thug sent it back with notes on that, and other parts of the creation process.
“Jeffrey, Young Thug, is still involved in his own way. This is an important thing for him,” Mullings asserts. “And when you consider everything that was happening at the time—and then having to deal with that loss and not being able to go to the funeral—he’s still very omnipresent in this as a CEO and as a mentor.”
The team was in constant communication, whether over FaceTime or conference calls or group chats. “I probably got a thousand missed texts on my phone just about this alone,” says DJ Sidereal, Keed’s DJ and producer on the album reveals. Naturally, when there is a think tank with so many opinions, ideas, and egos, things got a little heated. Charles Baker, another of Keed’s managers says that, “it was tough sitting on the phone for hours trying to figure out what we like. I’m pulling up old songs from what he sent me. [Sidereal] put up old songs that Keed sent him. We wanted 1,000 songs on this album, but we only can pick 20. So it was definitely an obstacle to overcome.”
Split between those 20 tracks are 11 features, including Offset, Big Sean, and Cordae. (Out of all the feature requests Keed and his team sent out, the only one that didn’t make it was Drake. “It was the timing,” Dupree says. “Before he passed, he emailed a couple of songs over for [Drake] to get on. That’s one of the songs he absolutely wanted, but God willing, we can probably get the feature at a later date.”) But what fans will notice about this album is that most of the features are made up of his family, both his blood-related and extended Young Stoner Life Records family.
Young Thug appears on two songs and Keed’s labelmates Dolly White and Karlae make appearances. His biological brothers Lil Gotit and Stickbaby also play a role—all three brothers worked together on “Kick Back.” Regarding getting the chance to work side by side in the music industry together, Stickbaby says, “It helps seeing one of your brothers doing this. They’re always going to come to me and be like, ‘Hey, bruh, you need to change that around. Make sure this is that.’ They’re not going to let me just put anything out.” One song, “SRT,” a collaboration with Lil Gotit, Keed’s “twin,” almost didn’t happen: “When he told me to get on it, I ain’t get on it right then,” Gotit says. “I probably did that shit two or three weeks later after he sent it to me. I did it right before he died.”
“He wasn’t just a rapper, he was a rockstar, a pop icon. He crossed over.”
Though it was tough to not have Keed present through some of the more tedious and stressful days, Tashana Ventura, Keed’s product manager at 300 Entertainment, says the team would often recenter their focus and energy by referring back to conversations they’d had with the rapper when he was still alive.
“At the top of the [last] year, we sat with him in a room and went through all the songs that he wanted to go through,” Ventura explains. “Obviously, there were new records that he was recording, but if someone was to come in and be like, ‘I’m not really feeling this,’ we would go back to the conversation and we know for a fact that this is what he wanted.”
Even amidst the chaos, the one point of unanimous agreement was making Keed’s daughter Naychur the executive producer of the album. Her grandmother jokes that she tells people she’s famous now that she’s an EP at just 4 years old.
DJ Sidereal says KTTE2’s eclectic sound, which he says shows the “upward trend of evolution” from his 2018 tape Trapped In Cleveland to 2020’s studio album Trapped In Cleveland 3, is reflective of Keed’s willingness to try everything. “He was so open to ideas,” he says. “As long as the bass was hitting and the kick was kicking, he’s with it. No two songs on the project sound alike. “Love Me Again,” everyone on his team’s favorite song, is a romantic record that finds Keed delivering his distinctive high-pitched screech over a tender and melodic beat. “Off Land” featuring Lil Jairmy switches up the tone. Anchored by a hard-hitting trap beat, Lil Keed has a more punchy and fun delivery. Then, on “Go See,” the rapper incorporates trap with a soulful sample on the beat.
“It’s still hard for me. It feels like he’s still here, like he’s off working, and I just be waiting on the phone for him to call me, but he doesn’t.”
Dupree also notes that’s what made him transcend the confines of staying with one genre. “He wasn’t just a rapper, he was a rockstar, a pop icon. He crossed over,” he describes. “He had different sounds for different occasions. A lot of people wanted to do features with him because he matched anyone’s energy on the track.”
Although his team laughs about how every time Lil Keed came to 300’s New York office, he would be ready to party and shoot pool or joke (“Our whole relationship revolves around us laughing,” Gotit says), the excitement of rallying to put his work into the world doesn’t erase the fact that they are still grieving his tremendous loss.
“It’s still hard for me,” Woods-Reed says tearfully. “It feels like he’s still here, like he’s off working, and I just be waiting on the phone for him to call me, but he doesn’t.”