Photo by Gunner Stahl, courtesy of Jace
Rap collective Two-9 has long since established a reputation for itself as one of the standard-bearers for the contemporary wave of Atlanta alternative rap. And, increasingly, the rest of the world is being forced to pay attention: In 2014, the group signed a joint deal under Mike WiLL Made-It’s Interscope imprint Eardrummers. Music has been sneaking out in various forms—from mixtapes to loose cuts to a series of monthly EPs—ever since.
Yet in spite of Two-9’s vast catalog of releases and projects—or, more realistically, perhaps, because of it—it can be a little hard to get a handle on the group. Jace Tape, the forthcoming solo debut tape from member Jace (who, in case you’re not confused enough by the sub-headings, is also one-half of the duo RetroSushi), should help change that. Jace has established himself as kind of, in his words, the "rapper's rapper" of Two-9, and he's been perhaps the most reliable presence on their various releases. You may also remember hearing him on a little song from last year called “Unlock the Swag” by Rae Sremmurd.
His project is out February 29, and Noisey is excited to share a first taste of its sound via the promo track “Eastside Jace.” Produced by Chuck Inglish, it's a chaotic, high-energy spazz-out of track inspired by Jace’s fellow East Siders of the crunk era. Although “Eastside Jace” is not slated for the final tape, it’s a good lens for what to expect from Jace Tape, which will be light on features and will have production from a murderer’s row of sonic innovaters, including Ducko McFli, Childish Major, Sonny Digital, and Mike WiLL Made-It. In anticipation, I gave Jace a call to find out more about his creative partners and the Atlanta scene that inspired this song.
Tell me a little bit about the project.
A lot of it’s about conversations I’ve had at different points in my life with myself or with friends or with girls, and I’m extrapolating on that. One of the conversations was me and my friend Johnny, of FatKidsBrotha, we used to live together. And a little bit before we started talking with Mike WiLL, and a little bit before we started going on the road to being signed, we got evicted from our apartment just because we were broke at the time. And around that time my manager—our collective manager at the time—had just hit us up like ‘yo, Mike’s here, I’ve been hyping y’all up, come through.’ And we ended up going to Tree Sounds either within that week or that next night, and we started working with Mike. I felt like it was such a type of weird moment to be getting evicted but then going to the studio to work with this platinum-selling producer. And then there’s other conversations like calling your drug dealer, calling your parents, calling a girl to come over.
You live in Atlanta, but aren’t you from New York originally?
I’m from New York, but I grew up out here. My dad used to work at I think the Daily News in New York, and then he got a job with the AJC, so we moved out here. He would hate to hear me say it, but I’m from Atlanta. He would be pissed. My dad and my sister live out here, but my mom and my grandparents on both sides, everyone else, lives in New York. I was just in New York for Christmas.
That’s probably good for music stuff, too, going back and forth.
Yeah, definitely. I didn’t listen to a lot of the radio until later in my life, so my dad had me raised on more of like different stuff than your average Atlanta teenager. Like I was on Brand Nubian heavy, and I was on Rakim, Das EFX, all the stuff that other people might not have been listening when we moved out here. But then I would turn on the radio and hear like crunk shit like Lil Jon, Ying Yang Twins.
What are things like with Two-9 these days?
This is something kind of needs to be said. I guess it’s kind of weird from the outside looking in, but we’re not just like a music group. We are, but we’re friends. We’re like brothers. We’re like best friends. I’m with some member of Two-9 in some form, shape, or fashion every day of my life. These are my day one, every day kind of friends. There never really is separation, whether musically or outside of the studio. We’re always together, we’re always working, whether I go a few days, a week or so not seeing one member. We’re always plotting on how we’re going to take over and do shit, and we all kind of came together and decided that it was time for me to contribute to the takeover, to our overall mission and plan of taking over the world. They’re all behind me, and they’re all supporting me on this one effort.
A lot of people ask, or a lot of people are like ‘I’ve seen you’re coming out with this, are you still with them? Are you still good?’ Yeah. Everything that comes out, it’s always Two-9 above and beyond everything, whether it’s me by myself, or whether it’s Curt by himself or whatever. I’ve never answered that question in an interview, but everyone always asks me on the street and shit. So I’m glad it’s on record.
You had a big moment with the Rae Sremmurd album. What’s it like working with them and Mike Will?
Working with Mike is, I don’t want to say like working with an evil genius, but like a plotting kind of mastermind. He has a vision for everything. That’s really cool, especially within the confines of Two-9. Because we have a vision, but we’re more so like an anarchy kind of vision, like fuck everything up and burn shit and bring attention over here. But Mike can kind of fine tune shit and focus the chaos. And that’s what he does with Rae to a degree too because they’re kind of just like us. But working with them is fun as shit.
What would say at this point is your main tip for unlocking the swag?
The biggest thing, the most integral thing when you’re trying to unlock the swag is not listening to anyone else but what’s going on in your head. ‘Cause then you’re truly you. You truly unlocked the swag just staying you completely to you. And you don’t need anyone else’s input or decisions, and then you’ve unlocked, you’ve ascended to your purest form because you are now looking into you. And then there you go, it’s unlocked.
What is the song “Eastside Jace” with Chuck about?
When we moved from New York to Atlanta, we moved to the East Side. My family’s Jamaican, and the East Side has a very large Jamaican immigrant—almost specifically New York Jamaican immigrant—population. And it was very different, but it influenced me a lot. I’m East Side ‘til I die, and that’s a very big part of me. And the record kind of hearkens back to East Side house parties when crunk was just coming out and Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz were just like running everything. They were all over the radio. And other shit.
In Atlanta there were a lot of teen clubs, like when I was younger—I think there still are but I’m not a teenager. It was like right in the era when DIY rap was first coming around, like kids were disovering Fruity Loops, and there was just a lot of artists and a lot of groups that came out of that era, groups that influenced me a lot. Like I said when I was talking about Atlanta earlier, there were people like Travis Porter who were part of that, from the same side of town, and that influenced me as well as the stuff that my dad was playing for me. That song kind of hearkens back to that and the influence those times had on me and just being in like sweaty-ass warehouse clubs with a whole bunch of people with just like baggy-ass Girbaud jeans and long-ass white tees and dreads and golds just jumping around and just going crazy.
So we decided to call it “Eastside Jace” because that’s kind of who I am. Like if you were going to talk to Jace, you’d be like “Jace from the East Side?” And then that song kind of solidifies that that’s it.
That’s cool, the teen club scene.
A lot of stuff came out of that. DJs: DJ Spinz, DJ Pretty Boy Tank. Tank especially. I’ve known Tank since I was 15. Ceej, who’s in RetroSushi with me, he used to host the teen clubs. I used to help promote them, and a lot of stuff, a lot of relationships that are with me to this day came out of stuff like that. Just kids turning up and going crazy and to see how that has evolved into where we are now is kind of what the song is representing. When Crime Mob was out and Lil Scrappy first hit. During that era, when shit was just wild, and that’s when a lot of attention—or more mainstream attention—came to Atlanta. And a lot of it came out of the East Side. A lot of the dancing stuff was on the West Side, but the East Side was very crunk and very turnt up and very ‘you need to get security ‘cause these little kids is about to go crazy.’
Kyle Kramer is an editor at Noisey. Follow him on Twitter.