It feels like surprise release drops have been the talk of major labels town ever since Beyoncé’s self-titled tornado tore through social media, towards that increasingly rare thing – actual album sales. Even though Beyoncé is hardly the first artist to have gone down that route (though she may have been the first to successfully keep such a massive secret), she did bring it to the forefront of the conversation in a world where CD sales are down whilst streaming and vinyl revenues are bubbling up. Perhaps it’s not so fair to suggest other artists are outright jacking her style; D’Angelo was prompted by the racist reality of America whereas Cash Money intervened with Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. On the flipside, the way young audiences engage with the music industry has changed; album cycles and press campaigns no longer trickle through channels, they shout, and shout, and shout. It can be fatiguing, to say the least. Atlanta’s Father, founder of Awful Records, feels the same way: “If I see it, I want it now,” he tells FACT TV at SXSW, “Why are you advertising this shit to me for like, two months? I don’t wanna see your cover!” Naturally, Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? was revealed pretty much out of nowhere, and we’ve had it on rotation since.
“Awful in this bitch, can’t beat us, can’t join us.” Awful Records feel more like family than collective – the type of family that pass down secret recipes to potent elixirs like Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? The key ingredient? Keeping it all in the family, of course. By and large, the album’s produced by Father, and most of the vocals come from the Awful crew. Typically minimal, bassy beats bear a framework to build on, from “Highway 101’”s paranoid xylophone rattles to the dank riffs on “Suicide Party”. Then there’s KCSB’s warped R’n’B underbelly on “Slow Dance (Interlude)” and the weighty low-end blasts of well, every other track. There’s enough variation to make sure things are always fresh enough to vibe with.
Still, most of the character comes through by way of Father’s incorrigibly sly storytelling raps and knack for hooks. You can almost hear him grinning and laughing as he drops Dragonball Z references before, “Everybody in the club gettin’ shot / Everybody gon’ twirl then drop,” as the track’s titled. It’s later followed by, “God damn, he was hit up in his chest / Wet t-shirt, he don’t want a contest / Ran off with his fuckin’ countess / Got her counting all my money, fuck my damn accountant.” Another irresistible hook comes in the form of, “Started out PG, but now it’s BET Uncut / Started you and me, but now it’s you and me and her.” The track also sees one of the record’s best crew features take centre-stage, as Richposlim enters with, “Wowser, it’s the Bowser of the hood Koopa Troop / Make a bitch ride the dick like a fucking hula-hoop / She ain’t got no panties on, on the dance flo’ / I say she’s sexually liberated, you call her ass a ho.” “Gurl” stands apart from the rest of the record, rolling in with a more upbeat instrumental than the rest as Abra – usually a singer – spits a monologue on “Gossip Folks”-style girl hate.
Keeping things all in the family can be hard to do, but there’s nothing like it (Vin Diesel will back us up here). Father shows that it’s an ingredient worth putting in the effort for on Who’s Gonna Get F***** First?, putting a twist on more easily obtainable flavours such as sex, drugs and violence, parties and attitude. When you have the freedom to pay your bills, play your shows, put out whatever you want to put out whenever you feel like it – the kind of autonomy that comes from a crew being on the same page – there’s less time waiting and more time to have fun pushing things forward. And the fact is, we don’t think we’d have anywhere near as much fun listening to Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? if Father didn’t sound like he had so much fun making it.
Father’s new album Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? is out now on Awful Records.