One of the most exciting young artists coming out of Atlanta, 22-year-old Lil Keed is destined to become a superstar.
Steadily working on his craft for the last few years, Keed’s improvement as an artist has been a joy to witness. During the early days, and even at the time he dropped Keed Talk To ‘Em with the gold-certified “Nameless,” there was still room for improvement. Now, with another successful album under his name, the Atlanta native is ready to go platinum.
He grew up with his brother Lil Gotit, and, as children, he was always the more extroverted of the two. A class clown, Keed always had a desire to entertain those around him. These days, he gets paid to entertain, crafting some of the most eccentric trap bangers out of anybody in Atlanta.
Lil Keed is fresh off the release of Trapped On Cleveland 3, which includes the booming “Fox 5” with Gunna, the infectious “Grandparents”, and the viral “Hibachi” with Young Thug. He is one day away from the release of the deluxe edition, which boasts features from Chris Brown, Quavo, and O.T. Genasis. Of course, he’s also got more heat with Young Thug, Gunna, Lil Gotit, and others on the reloaded version of TOC3.
Watch the latest episode of On The Come Up with Lil Keed, and read the unabridged editorial version of the interview below.
HotNewHipHop: What’s up, man?
Lil Keed: I’m chilling man, how you feeling?
I’m feeling amazing, how are you?
I’m doing alright, man. Trying to figure out [this quarantine].
Absolutely. I spoke to you last year so it’s nice to be able to talk to you again. I wanted to ask how you got started in rap. Can you give us the rundown?
That’s at home, just, like, just rapping. Me and my brother [Lil] Gotit were just rapping to each other and shit. I was in, like, tenth grade, eleventh grade when I got to my first real studio. I did some little covers, some little songs or whatever. So I started liking it, but I wasn’t pressed about it, I was just knowing how to rap a little bit. So, then I started to go over to Cleveland [Avenue]. I went over, I met Mooktoven. That’s who made “Fetish” and “Blicky Blicky” and all, he made all them beats. So, I locked in for like a year. That’s before [Young] Stoner [Life Records] signed me, like Stoner didn’t know nothing ‘bout me then. So I be working, I was getting better and better so like, damn, this shit really works, you feel me? So we put out my first tape, which was called Trapped on Cleveland. After I did that, Mooktoven started just gravitating to me a little bit. I did the second Trapped on Cleveland then I did Slime Avenue, then I did Keed Talk To ‘Em. That’s when Stoner had finally come and signed me. “Nameless” was on that project.
I see the gold plaque for “Nameless” right behind you! How does it feel to get your first plaque?
It feels great. They surprised me with it. I used to always see plaques inside the studios and thought like, ‘damn’, and I always saw Gunna, [Lil] Baby, and them getting them and shit. I was like ‘damn I want all that shit.’ Now I know, I got one.
Credit: Shane McCauley
What were your parents like growing up? They separated while you were still young, right?
Yeah. They were still married, but they separated. I used to live with my dad and Gotit used to live with our mom. Gotit, he a mama’s boy. I used to live with my dad all the time back then. They ended up getting back together when I was in, like, fifth grade until I was in twelfth grade, then they split back up again. So that wasn’t, you know what I’m saying, the typical shit. As far as punishments went, we would do something wrong and they really didn’t [punish us]. We used to get whoopings all the time but it would mostly be my dad whooping us. My mom let us slide with a lot of stuff. So we– we just like my mom, you know what I’m saying? I would go to my mom’s house because I knew she’d let me do anything. My dad was like ‘hell nah, you ain’t finna do that.’ He used to cut our hair at home and shit. Yeah, it used to be crooked hairlines. I’d have to put my hand over my head in school and shit. But he taught me how to be consistent because he went to his job for a long time, he ain’t never missed a day. He never missed a day of work, so that’s where I get my work ethic from, my dad.
“I used to live with my dad and [Lil] Gotit used to live with our mom. Gotit, he a mama’s boy. I used to live with my dad all the time back then. They ended up getting back together when I was in, like, fifth grade until I was in twelfth grade, then they split back up again.”
What kinda student were you? Were you a good student?
I used to skip, but I ain’t start skipping classes until like high school, but I used to always. I’ve always been the class clown. I used to play in class, be talking while my teacher talking, but I’ve always been smart. I had Honors ELA from sixth-grade all the way to my twelfth-grade year. I always been smart in like, English and Math. But I always just used to play in the class all the time, like, I get bored fast so I just start doing shit. Talking ’bout, it could be taking a pencil and just hitting it on the desk. [The teacher would ask], ‘Mr. Render, will you stop doing that?’ Yeah I got you. Then I’d start back doing it again. I used to just get on fool’s nerves. But they love me though. I wasn’t no disrespectful student though, you hear me? I didn’t cuss the teacher out and do all that.
The last time that we spoke, you told me a little bit about your football and basketball background. Which position did you play?
In middle school, I played quarterback and we had like the a-back, the b-back. I played them, and then in my eighth-grade year, I played starting corner. I always played point guard in basketball. Always, since I been playing in recreation. I’ve always been a point guard.
Did you ever think you could go pro in sports?
I really think I’d be balling in college or something. Like, I was good, I just started rapping. Well, I had been stopped playing because I got kicked off the team because of my grades. They got fucked up, they don’t let you play with your grades messed up. So I was just like, fuck this shit, and started rapping.
I read somewhere that before rap, you worked at Subway and at McDonald’s. What was the better job out of those two?
Because I ain’t do nothing but stand around. I don’t even eat Subway. You didn’t have to do shit, so it was just free money. It was like, preparing the food, go get it out the thing… They’d run out of food and I’d go get it, put it back right there. The only thing I hated, at the end, I had to close down. Bruh, washing all them damn dishes and shit… I left everything, make sure all the bread– I used to hate that shit, bro.
I feel that. Back in February 2018, you released the first Trapped On Cleveland tape. What was your life like back then and how has it changed?
Psh. I can do what I want now. I’ve got money and I can buy what I– I don’t gotta ask nobody, ‘aye can you let me borrow’… I don’t gotta ask that because I got my own money coming in, you feel me? But I ain’t never been that type of person anyway, you know? I always find a way to get something, some type of money. Now, I ain’t gotta. Now I don’t do all that. Asking for shit, I just got to get out on my own, you feel me? And then, far as like, walking to the studio… I don’t gotta walk, I got my own studio down here. In my house, I got my own studio. I was leveling up, slowly but surely.
It’s nice that you’ve got your own studio now. Especially with the quarantine and everything. Have you just been making a lot of music during lockdown?
A lot of music. I done made over 200 songs.
Whew, that’s crazy.
Listen, you know when it started, everybody gotta stay in the house. A week after, me and YSL done flew in, and the shows, they had canceled all the shows. And I guess when I got back, they had the studio put up for me. They surprised me with it, my label. They paid for it. This was right before quarantine hit. So I’m glad they got that studio installed before the quarantine because all the studios are closed. Couldn’t go to no studios when it first started. I would’ve been so mad, bro.
For real. As an artist, you always have those two constants, performing and recording. So when one of those things is taken away… You don’t want both of things gone, you know.
Yeah, if both of them was gone, I’d be like, ‘fuck that’ and get into trouble. This kept me out of trouble. I just made song after song, listened to my old songs and just vibed. Watching videos and shit.
Credit: Shane McCauley
At what point did Young Thug come into your career?
When I dropped Keed Talk to ‘Em. They helped me put that out.
What was the difference between working as an independent artist and working with YSL?
It’s more help. They be with the shit that you never knew that you needed, you feel what I’m saying? If I’m like talking on a radio interview, like, see I got an interview with you, see what I’m saying? It’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know I needed. Because I’m thinking, you rap good and then they give you money, and you just live. That’s how it looks, but I ain’t know all the process involved. That’s just how it looks. Off Instagram, you got photos doing shows and having fun and shit. Nobody ever posts the work shit. Like what I’m doing right now, I’m supposed to be asleep somewhere, but I’m working. You feel me?
I feel you. It’s obvious that you’re influenced by Thug. Do you have any other big musical influences?
Peewee Longway. I like Peewee Longway. I like the way he plays with words. He got good wordplay. Who else? That’s really it, in terms of who I used to grow up listening to. When Peewee Longway first started rapping and shit, I heard him grow and saw how far he got with his rapping. You know them two, Thug and Peewee Longway. They from the same hood.
Every time I go on TikTok, I always see people dancing to “Snake” and “HBS.” Are you surprised that, one year later, those songs are still picking up traction?
Nah, I’m not surprised. Think about it, this was around the time I dropped a song with Baby and Gunna, we had the duo. They was dropping all types of shit. So it’s like, they caught on that, them songs. I had to get in where I fit in, you feel me? They already had 2019. It was already theirs. The whole 2019. We see them going platinum. Goddamn, they going platinum like every day. I said, that’s where I will be. That’s where I wanted to be, or that’s how I’m gonna be. Nowadays, everybody going back and listening to the old songs and now I’m finna drop new shit. It don’t even make sense no more, like, bro. I been dropping. You weren’t listening when I dropped it the first time? Now, everybody I see is gravitating to it.
I was a fan of “Snake” when that first dropped. “HBS” had to grow on me.
Yeah, they gotta grow. Like you say, they gotta grow.
So Long Live Mexico was your debut album. Trapped on Cleveland 3, would you describe that as your sophomore album, or is it a mixtape?
Album. Album. Ain’t dropping no tapes. No mixtapes.
How did you approach it differently from the last one?
I always have crazy intros for each one of my Trapped on Clevelands. I approach it with– I wanted to give it this sort of vibe, just chill, melodies, you feel me? This one, we just turned up. It’s trippy, it’s wavy. It’s one of them type of vibes, shit, you feel me?
How would you describe your flow?
I call it drip talk. That’s what it is. I talk about real-life shit and I be mixing it with how I be dressing and shit. I just put it together, mixing it with a little melanin. Stirring up all that shit, then different shit. Just different shit. Ad-libs. Crazy ad-libs and stuff. I’m inspired by Thug because of ad-libs. He got the best ad-libs you ever wanna hear. And he knows where to put ’em in the right place. Future too, he got crazy ad-libs. I had to learn how to construct a song. I ain’t know how to construct a song, I was just rapping. Now I’m constructing music, my music. Now I know, maybe if I take this bar, add it at the end, then say something else right there, see how that sounds. Or maybe if I bring it in like this, make the beat lower, sound like it’s some underwater type of shit there. Hit it back with a lot, the airwaves, they be knocking, you feel me, so now I know how to do all that shit. But I’m still learning. I don’t even know how to record myself. I know how to point, I know what it is, I just don’t know how to record myself. That’s what I’m trying to learn too, how to record myself, it’s a– I’m still learning. You feel me?
“I’m inspired by Thug because of ad-libs. He got the best ad-libs you ever wanna hear. And he knows where to put ’em in the right place. Future too, he got crazy ad-libs. I had to learn how to construct a song. I ain’t know how to construct a song, I was just rapping. Now I’m constructing music, my music.”
As you continue to keep learning, you’re just gonna keep getting better and better. Did it take you a long time to develop your style?
I always had a crazy type of flow on rapping stuff. Now I’m just on some, I don’t know, this shit just got better over the years. It took like two, three years to get to how I rap now though. I rap way, way better than I used to. And I wasn’t using too many melodies and shit.
Once the pandemic is over, what’s the plan? Personally, I would love to see a tour with you, Thug, Gunna, Gotit, and everybody from the YSL team. Is that something you guys have ever talked about?
Oh yeah. Hell yeah. We talk about shit like that. When everybody ain’t gonna be so damn busy, like, when we’ll actually have it. I’m just focusing on this album, you feel me? I’ll be ready to do my shows and turn up.
Drake is always shouting you out on Instagram. He’s a fan. Do you have anything in the works with him?
No. As far as I know, no. He sent me this hard-ass beat that I did and I sent it back to him. He probably did something with it, I just ain’t hear it. You know how that shit goes.
“[Drake] sent me this hard-ass beat that I did and I sent it back to him. He probably did something with it, I just ain’t hear it. You know how that shit goes.”
He’s got the album coming out soon, you might be on that. Who knows?
That’s what I said, I ain’t gonna speak to it really because I don’t know. Might do be on there.
What do you want to accomplish in 2020?
I wanna get a house first. Get a big house, boom. I wanna go platinum with this album. I wanna be the talk of 2020 and forever. But for right now, like I said, Baby and Gunna had their duo last year. But they gonna be saying ‘Keed, Keed. Keed just did, Keed just dropped that’. I want it to be like that. Make more money, make some more millions, you feel me? Just gotta stack that shit up, man. Have fun. That’s all I wanna do, man. And take care of my daughter.
How’s little Naychur doing?
She’s downstairs right now. She got her own way of doing shit, bruh. Like she smart.
What’s your connection to Cleveland Avenue?
I never lived on Cleveland. I used to go over there all the time. I just went over there. That’s all it was.
What’s something that you wish your fans knew about you?
I’m a real pool shooter. I’m a pool shark. I shoot pool every day.
What kind of advice would you give to your young fans?
Just work. Believe in yourself. Work hard and you’re gonna make it. Don’t let nobody tell you you ain’t gonna– tell them fools ‘beat it’. Just don’t be one of those people that don’t wanna take no advice, because you ain’t gonna make it like that.
I wanna thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I’m stoked to hear the deluxe. And I’m excited about what you’ve got coming up in the future.
Thank you for having us. I love you for that.
If you missed it, you can read (or watch) previous On The Come Up interviews with Mulatto, where she dives into Gucci Mane attempting to sign her, Fivio Foreign discussing why the ‘King of NY’ title is obsolete, D Smoke dives into Gang Culture during his interview, and finally, Flo Milli tell us about going viral on TikTok and how that changed her life.
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