Richposlim is not happy. Staring directly into my eyes, the tall, lanky, red-black-and gold-dreadlock-clad MC has a snarling look on his face. “Can you name every motherfucker in this room right now?! Well, I’m Richposlim—that’s all one word.” We’re standing by a ping-pong table in the basement of GAHM’s parents house in Jonesboro, Georgia, roughly 18 miles and nearly 30 minutes south of Atlanta. There’s about 20 people spread out between the cellar’s video game room, and the ping-pong/studio area in an adjacent space. There’s an endless flow of blunts and joints being simultaneously rolled, smoked, and rolled again.
Sitting in front a laptop monitor, KeithCharlesSpacebar stares forward entranced by a beat he’s just whipped up. To his right, LuiDiamonds looks on while tickling the digital ivories of a small keyboard nestled in his lap. In the background, Micah Freeman strums a guitar connected to an amp and KCSB’s computer. Lounging on an assorted row of couches, futons, and La-Z-Boy chairs, Stalin Majesty, Archibald SLIM, and Pyramid Quince look on as Richposlim continues ranting about music blogs like Pigeons & Planes being “pretentious,” and journalists not doing their homework and being more consumed with flexing their opinions than sticking to the simple, who, what, why, when, and where of reporting. To be fair, that’s a lot to ask upon first meeting the 14-member collective that comprises Awful Records.
Here’s a breakdown in no particular order:
There’s the Mississippi-bred ringleader, Father (Young Hot Ebony)
Self-proclaimed Damon Dash of Awful, Richposlim (HUBRIS EP)
Crooner Micah Freeman (Heartspace Vol. 1)
Nasty-girl femcee Lord Narf (For The Funky)
Eccentric white kid Slug Christ (I Feel the Sadness in my Legs…)
Greg and His Mew aka GAHM (The House That GAHM Built)
Wheelchair-bound Ethereal aka Obie (Blackli$t)
Production whiz KeithCharlesSpacebar (KEEP[COUNT])
Songstress Abra (“Diamonds & Gold”)
The NYC transplant Stalin Majesty (AR w/Archibald SLIM)
Web designer/musician Dexter
Archibald SLIM (Better Off Dead), arguably the collective’s best rapper
Pyramid Quince, who along with beatmaker LuiDiamonds makes up Freeza Mode
On paper, the Awful model looks like a clusterfuck of personalities and egos bound to drive each other crazy, but their members hardly see it that way. “The whole Awful name is an aesthetic,” Ethereal says. “There’s a big ass group of fucking misfits from the country. A white boy from suburbia, a nigga from Mississippi (Father), a dude in a wheelchair, a nerdy ass girl—I think that’s what everybody is so attracted to.”
For the past three or four years, the Awful line-up has climbed to their current roster of 14, with Father more or less functioning as the de facto general manager. The 24-year-old some have referred to as “the star” admits—Richposlim’s annoyance aside—it could be hard to keep track of Awful’s growing squad of artists. “The numbers are constantly changing, so that’s what people get wrong,” Father says. “Fourteen is the current number, and it’s gonna stay that way for a hot little second. There haven’t been any other people on my mind exactly to add on.”
What distinguishes Awful from more recent hip-hop super conglomerates like Two-9, Odd Future, and A$AP Mob, is that on paper, none of these 14 individuals would be caught dead together. For instance, it doesn’t make sense that GAHM’s trippy, lo-fi R&B ethos would vibe with Archibald SLIM’s Southern rap bounce meets everyman demeanor, but on the latter’s “Same ‘Ol Shit” from Better Off Dead, the two artists sound more than comfortable and complement each other well.
Likewise, Slug Christ’s droopy, slowed-down sing-song delivery would sound like it had no place next to bars from Stalin Majesty (“On It”) who like most New Yorkers grew up on a heavy dose of Notorious B.I.G. Then again, it’s in working together, different poles/ends of the spectrum coming to some middle ground, where the Awful artists succeed with convincing results. “I used to be real heavy into hip-hop and didn’t understand the obsession with Gucci Mane,” says Stalin Majesty. “Fast forward to today, he’s actually one of my favorite rappers, but that type of rap had to grow on me. I realized that rap is not always about bars. Bars are really important, but a lot goes into hip-hop.”
Yes, in today’s world of hip-hop, writing lyrics and formulating verses is a part of the process, but it’s nowhere near the full picture. With every mixtape, EP, and album release, there’s a slew of variables, from making videos and selling merchandise on down to branding and website design, that need to be brought into consideration just as much as song choices. Probably more than collectives that came before them, Awful prides themselves at taking matters into their own hands.
“That’s the spirit of the whole team though—everyone is self-sufficient and self-taught at what they do,” Micah Freeman says. “They get inspired by something and they’ll just start learning things from Photoshop to production to video.”
By the most recent count on their official YouTube page, Awful’s released 32 videos, ranging in quality from high (KCSB’s “ABERNATHY ROSS,” over 4,000 views) to low (Slug Christ’s “Don’t Feel,” over 10,000 views). The varying degrees of quality are a product of young kids—no one in Awful is over 26—using the Internet to learn as they go, whether that is music or video production. Everyone from Father to Richposlim can shoot and edit to some extent. On the drive out to GAHM’s house, Father drop-pins three different locations in a group text with everyone in Awful suggesting spaces for potential videos. An empty farm here, an unfinished school there. Like almost everything Awful does—making videos, making songs—is done on the fly. And there’s no one task an Awful artist won’t at least try to accomplish.
“I produce, rap, engineer, mix, master—that’s five to six different venues for me to get money, and that’s just music,” Ethereal says. “You learn how to do some Photoshop, edit a video, take pictures for somebody… You can become a rocket scientist on YouTube, if you really wanted to. That’s what people don’t think about. You could be anything, man.”
We all teach each other different shit, you know? Leave no man behind. We figured out how we want to do this and we’re doing it how we want to, on nobody else’s terms.
Richposlim, now calm, echoes Ethereal’s sentiment. “Back in the day you had to have a trade to survive, but we were taught that we had to learn about computers,” he says. “We all grew up with this, and everyone’s on their phones with so many apps, there’s just so many avenues you can take. We all teach each other different shit, you know? Leave no man behind. We figured out how we want to do this and we’re doing it how we want to, on nobody else’s terms.”
Being and doing just about anything is what Awful’s all about. Contrary to popular belief, what Awful isn’t, is a band of brawling brothers making lo-fi music in drug-induced hazes. “They think we’re just a bunch of drug addicts and cult members and shit like that,” Father says. “You can’t make that assumption off the music. Like ‘everybody is on the Xan!’ No, everybody’s definitely not on the Xan.”
In fact, sitting in GAHM’s basement watching six different artists collaborate on and freestyle over one beat, there are no pills present. At most, everyone seems stoned and more than drunk. Toward the end of our interview, Stalin Majesty will walk away, throw up in a bush, and come right back to finish answering a question. Behind him, Slug Christ is pacing back and forth as he contemplates my inquiry into how most folks outside Awful’s roster of 14 view the musical misfits and their ragtag record label on the rise.
“The thing is, people keep comparing us to past groups like Odd future and A$AP, and they even go as far as to say that Fat [Father] is the Tyler [the Creator] of Awful, and Archie [Archibald SLIM] is the Earl Sweatshirt, and that I’m Jasper Dolphin,” says Slug Christ, who like Richposlim is known for his bold claims. “No disrespect, I think he’s hilarious, but I talk about some real shit and I make all my own beats; I’m a fucking artist, philosopher, genius dude and they’re calling me Jasper Dolphin. We’re not Odd Future, we’re Awful.”