INTERVIEW: Lil Keed has superstar potential and, with the release of "Long Live Mexico," he's ready for his spotlight.
Lil Keed burst onto the scene with his single "Fetish," which was later remixed by Young Thug. At that point, he had already become familiar with the Slime General and it was only a matter of time before he joined the family. YSL Records boasts an extremely tight-knit roster of talent alongside Lil Keed including Gunna, T-Shyne and Strick. Atlanta boasts so many artists these days, on top of OGs and mainstays like T.I, Gucci Mane and OutKast-- yet even with such fierce competition, Lil Keed has already become a household name in ATL, and he's about to make a huge impact on the rest of the world, too.
With his new album Long Live Mexico out now, Keed has introduced us to twenty new songs with the likes of YNW Melly, Nav, Moneybagg Yo, Gunna, Roddy Ricch and, of course, Young Thug. For many, this is an opportunity to hear Keed come into his own. The three singles he released ahead of time were all solid and gave a good idea of what we could expect on Long Live Mexico. We managed to speak to Lil Keed in the days prior to the project's release, getting an eye into his process, his upbringing, and the importance of camaraderie on YSL Records.
Read our full interview below, edited for clarity and length.
Lil Keed: Hey, what's up? How you doing?
HNHH: Hey Keed, I’m excited to be talking to you man. I’ve been bumping your music for a minute now so I’m excited that we’re able to speak.
I’m glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
You're releasing your album Long Live Mexico this week so I wanted to start off by asking if you could tell us more about Mexico. Why are you dedicating the album to him and what did he mean to you?
Mexico is my brother. He did a lot for me. I used to have to walk up and down the street to the studio but he bought me three cars off love. He has seen my vision too. We just did so much together. He took me to this club called Blaze in Atlanta that I go to every day. There’s a lot of stuff that he got me doing that I never did before. We used to be together every day. We’d go to the mall and he’d be like “I got these shoes for you. What size you want?” He’d treat me like a real little brother so that’s why I dedicated the whole album to him after he passed away.
I can imagine that being hard, growing up with somebody and losing them suddenly like that. Were you young when you met him?
I met him like last year but it felt like we knew each other our whole lives. My older siblings already knew him which was crazy. They went to school with him but I didn’t get to know him until last year. We got so close it felt like I knew him my whole life. I dedicated my whole album to him, that's my brother.
Growing up, did you always want to do music? What was the plan for you?
Nah, I didn’t always want to do music because I was playing basketball from recreation all the way up until my ninth grade year. I played football in middle school but not in high school. My little brother, Lil Gotit as y’all know him, was rapping before me. He been wanted to rap. He knew how to write books and all that. I got onto it by watching him rap. I started taking it seriously about two years ago and this is where we are at right now.
Is there anything you can tell us about Lil Gotit? What was it like growing up with him? What’s he like in the studio?
I used to be hard on Gotit in the studio. Now when I come he always wants me to hear a song, “Keed listen to this. Listen to this song.” He doesn’t care what anybody else thinks of his music, as long as I like it. I remember one time we came from the studio and we made an emotional song. We were walking up the street thinking “They gonna like this one,” so we went to this store we used to hang out at and let everybody hear. My little partner said “This song lame as hell,” and Lil Gotit slapped him right then and there. We really put our all into the song and when our partner said they didn’t like the song, it really hurt him. Everything I do he looks up to so I try to do the right thing. We both have kids so I’m trying to guide him in the right way.
I know you have a good relationship with your baby momma and your daughter Naychur. Could you tell us more about your girl and Naychur?
I met my girl when I was in eleventh grade. She was gonna graduate in 2015 but we were in touch when she graduated. She ended up seeing me and Gotit live so we ended up meeting up. We’d go to the studio and stuff. We ended up having a baby who is baby Naychur, our beautiful daughter. She’s getting big, fat and eating everything.
The chemistry when we’re in the studio. He took me on my first trip to LA, my first time in a jet, my first tour when he and J. Cole had the KOD Tour, Thug took me to do all that. I remember they had a studio on the tour bus. While everybody was asleep, he’d be recording. I could tell, “Dang, he really puts in work,” so I wanted to do the same thing. There’s no excuse not to work. He’s successful and he’s always in the studio working so I look up to that. I want to be like him so he called me his son. He’s not saying “He’s my son because he sounds like me” because I really don’t sound like him. I have my own sound and he’d tell you that. There might be similarities but overall, I got my own sound. We don’t even talk about music half the time. We just talk about life and stuff that he’s been through that could help me out. We talk about mistakes he’s made so I won't have to go through those things. That’s why I call him “pops.” He’s shown me different things in the industry that help with my career.
I feel like Young Thug is a mentor to a lot of people. He’s always working with Strick and T-Shyne and all these people. He just wants everybody to succeed and I love that about him.
For sure. He just wants to see everybody get the money. He doesn’t care if you make more money than him. He’ll say “I don’t care if my brothers make more money than me, I just want them to make the money and do what they gotta do with it.” You don’t have to be like him but just handle your business and you’re family.
He made a series of prayer videos a couple of weeks back. He mentioned you and said that you are hiding your true talent, which is something that really stood out to me. He compared you to somebody like J. Cole, somebody that’s more lyrical. Will we ever see that side of you?
You’ll see it on the album. It’s so much different. The lyrics are crazy and I can’t wait for y’all to hear it. I wanna just skip straight to the album drop because I know it’s gonna be crazy. They’ll respect me after this album as far as me being twenty-one and what I’m saying. They’ll be like “Oh let’s leave him alone. He got his own lane. Nobody stand up to him. Let him do what he do.”
What are the advantages of working with such a close-knit family like YSL?
We all help each other. We all tell each other what we’re lacking on or if we’re tripping. The YSL family, we’re not scared to tell each other what we're doing wrong. We don’t hold our tongue. For example, if I’m doing a song and I let them listen, they might say, “Do more adlibs on this song. You might need to fix this little bit on the hook.” It’s all little stuff like that where we help each other in different ways. The bond is so strong we don’t take it like, “He hating on me,” we take it as criticism. It helps us get closer and closer. Y’all don’t understand how close we are, all of us, the whole YSL. It’s bigger than music.
What was your reaction when Drake shouted you out on his Instagram story? I was excited to see that.
It’s crazy. He been asked about me since this Thanksgiving that just passed. Thug showed me that Drake was asking about me like “Who’s this kid. I been listening to him. I like his music.” and Thug said “It’s Keed.” Drake didn’t hit me right then and there. He hit me later down the line in the DMs like “you the only person I listen to right now, you inspire me.” He shot me his number and we talked. He just texted me again when I dropped my album cover saying “Little bro, the cover’s hard.” So he texts me from time to time but he’s a busy man so I’m just glad he noticed me.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images -- Lil Keed attends Rolling Stone Live: Atlanta at The Goat Farm on February 02, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia
Drake’s co-sign means a lot these days. He’s one of the only rappers who will do that publicly. With someone as big as him, I imagine that must be crazy.
Folks don’t want to do that. They think they’re too big to do that. It’s not about being too big, it’s about really helping one another. You should want to help somebody else get on. You can still make all the money you want. There’s money for everybody. It’s not even about the money, it’s about helping your community. We’re not even from the same place but he still took the time to reach out to me and let me know, “I got my eyes on you. I see what you’re doing. You’re working. Keep going.”
If I'm spending one day in Atlanta, what do I need to do?
For food, you gotta go eat at Ray’s Southern Food. They got good soul food. Club Blaze is where I be at. That’s my favorite spot. We’ll go to Allure. It’s a strip club. All our strip clubs are lit. There’s so much to do, you gotta just come down and feel the vibe. You’re gonna feel so comfortable that you’ll feel like you’re at home. Everybody minds their business. Everybody is doing what they want to do. You’ll say “I don’t want to go back. I want to stay down here.”
Whenever people talk about the icons from Atlanta, they talk about Thug, they talk about Guwop but is there anybody that you think doesn’t get enough credit or respect from Atlanta?
I’m gonna go with some of the younger dudes who are around my age. Paper Lovee, my little partner Slimelife Shawty, these folks who have really been in the studio working, they get overlooked. Everybody isn’t taking the time to listen to their music. They really say a lot of stuff. I be like “How you know all this at this age?” That’s how you know they went through something. They do me the same way. I had to really work. Listen to my songs. A DJ who wouldn’t play my songs, now when they see me, they want me to do a drop for them. Hell nah, I’m not gonna do your drop if you didn’t play my song back then but that blocks my business so I’ll do the drops. I just hope they don’t forget that I remember how they used to treat me. I don’t want anyone else to be treated like that so when folks stop me and ask to rap for me I say “Yeah, go ahead and rap. You say you wanna rap, rap.” Folks wouldn’t do that for me.
You mentioned someone like Slimelife Shawty who just dropped his project last week. It’s a dope project.
He just dropped a mixtape called 100 Reasons. It’s crazy. Everybody go check that out.
After Long Live Mexico, is there anyone who you really want to collaborate with in the studio?
Of course, Drake. I want to do a song with Meek Mill. I’m ready to see how that would come about, how it would sound, what type of song would we make. That’s just a couple people who I would want to make a song with.
Any plans to tour?
I don’t have a name for it yet but I’m gonna go on tour in August with Lil Gotit.
Is there anything you want to tell the people that we haven’t covered?
For everybody who’s working and feel like they wanna give up, don’t give up. That’s when you're finna break through. Just keep working because I felt like “Fuck this shit. They’re not gonna listen to what I got to say,” but then I kept pushing. I’m at where I’m at because I kept pushing. There’s a lot of folks out there who can rap, you just haven’t heard them. Keep doing what y’all doing. Everything will be okay, just keep pushing.
That’s amazing, man. I’ve had an amazing time. I’m so happy to be able to witness your growth. You, your brother, and everybody else on YSL are killing it right now. Keep doing what you’re doing because you’re levelling up.
It’s an honor. Thank you for having me.
God bless you Keed.
"LONG LIVE MEXICO" is out now. Listen here.