Long before the introduction of the gritty, spitfire rhymes and hustler anthems of trap pioneers Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy (ahem, Jeezy) of the early 2000s, Atlanta birthed its own sound, and as of late, has evolved into a thriving music hub with talent emerging from every crack and crevasse within the inner city.
Nestled in the pool of up-and-coming artists is YFN Lucci, who dove into the rap scene with his debut mixtape Wish Me Well under the Atlanta imprint Think It's A Game Records (Rich Homie Quan). With just two tapes in his repertoire, the 25-year-old has already aligned himself with some of hip-hop's top tier artists from 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne to Migos' Quavo, who was featured on his Hot 100 chart debut "Keys to the Streets."
Billboard caught up with the southern rhymer to discuss the hit single, his writing process, and his "keys" for navigating through Atlanta.
You dropped Wish Me Well 2 earlier this year and led with "Keys to the Streets" as a single. What was it about the track that made you lead with that?
We already knew it was a banger once we dropped it, basically from the vibe we were getting and the crowd's response during my shows. It gave the crowd so much energy and was a heartfelt track that everybody was responding well to.
Describe the main message of "Key to the Streets."
Where you come from isn't always where you're going to end up. Dream big, because there are more things out there. We're showing that we're young n---as from the street and we still made it out.
How did you connect with Quavo from Migos for the track?
Basically I pulled up on Quavo at Quality Control studios [in Atlanta] to get some work in. When I got there, he was working with Ty Dolla $ign and I started pulling up some beats and the first beat I pulled up was the "Key to the Streets" beat by John James. Quavo walked in the booth and jumped on it.
What is a typical session like for you?
I don't really write anymore. We'll play a couple of beats, just me and my brothers in the studio. We'll be vibing, smoking. Might have some females, might not - all depends on how the mood is. As soon as I hear a beat I like, I go into the booth and start playing with the track until I put it together. So I'm not necessarily writing - instead I'm just thinking over the tracks.
You mentioned Wale's in the studio with you. Is this something for your new project or his?
Ain't no telling, mine or his, maybe both. I'm putting together a EP to drop next month Dec. 15, and then I'm gonna drop my YFNBC project, with me and my brothers in February. My DJ just released a song with me and my brother YFN Trae Pound called "Call Log," so you know I've just been working.
What are your keys to success in a competitive music city like Atlanta?
It's not about keeping it "South" - I try not to get caught up. I do my own music and stay in my own lane. I don't rap with everybody, just a few rappers: the ones who I get along with, who I can relate to. We can just get in the studio, and everything stays smooth. Right now I'm focusing on me.
A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 26 issue of Billboard.