Lil’ Weavah: Southwest Rider

It’s no secret that the independent spirit is not only alive, but it’s quite fruitful in the South. That said, why is the best selling underground ATL artist rhyming about his car breaking down? Lil’ Weavah is cut from a cloth that has not been publicly seen in some time. Having sold over 20,000 units […]

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It’s no secret that the independent spirit is not only alive, but it’s quite fruitful in the South. That said, why is the best selling underground ATL artist rhyming about his car breaking down? Lil’ Weavah is cut from a cloth that has not been publicly seen in some time. Having sold over 20,000 units of his self-released albums, the Southwest Atlanta representative could easily partake in bragging rites. Instead, he’s out to change the way his city appears in music.

While Weavah has rapped with the “rubberband man” and the Grand Hustle team for several years, the 22 year old affirms that he refuses to rhyme about selling crack cocaine ever again. He’s most interested in easing the load of the struggle than celebrating it. Weavah is completely independent, and the artist has recently won the attention of Kay Slay, Whoo Kid, and DJ Envy. With major labels fast approaching, Weavah’s “underground” status may soon change, but the rapper believes that his morals and messages don’t have to. You’re the “Top Selling Underground Artist in Atlanta” according to Soundscan. How would you define “underground” because that term can be quite vague?

Lil’ Weavah: How I do it, “underground” is: you’re not a major artist and you’ve never been affiliated with a major or independent label – basically, you out doin’ your stuff in the street – whether through mixtapes or street albums. I wouldn’t say “underground” and “independent” are the same thing, because you’ve got independent labels who go through major distribution. Me, I got that street audience. When I say that, I don’t want people to think I’m just talkin’ ‘bout the hood – just consumers in general. Underground is having the consumer without Clear Channel, Radio One, MTV, BET, and so on. I know you’ve been doing the mixtape thing as well. But you use albums instead like, Underground Music. What’s the benefit there?

Lil’ Weavah: Most of things I do are not done in the spurt of the moment. I live in a major market, and I didn’t know anybody with any connections. All I had was the people in my neighborhood sayin’, “Okay, we like your music. When you gonna drop somethin’?” So without any connections, I just had to come out with my own tapes. I didn’t know how to get on a mixtape down here. I’m not payin’ money to get a mixtape, ‘cause I don’t know what that’s gonna do – I ain’t even got that much anyway. So I started with 20 dollars and would go to the studio. I’d hustle up some more money and go again – they was sorry beats, boo boo beats. Everybody in the hood loved it; they didn’t care. It kinda popped off. It gave me some more money so I could come with the Home Team CD, which is the first thing, industry-wise, that got my name out there. By then, I had a fan base in my hood, which allowed me to do some collabs with Grand Hustle. This was right around Trap Muzik, which was the hottest thing in the streets of Atlanta. Bohagon and T-Rock, who is from Three-6-Mafia got on [too]. After that, it really opened up some eyes. So now, I didn’t have to worry about how I was gonna get on these mixtapes, ‘cause they started reachin’ out. On the album, you’ve got a record called “Street Talk,” which deals with the misrepresentation of Atlanta is a whole. What’s being misconstrued?

Lil’ Weavah: I’ll say that it’s just things of Atlanta that they may be leavin’ out. For instance, the way you see it now, either everybody’s sellin’ drugs or everybody’s crunk at the club. If that’s gonna sell for you, that’s cool. Where is the struggle at? Everybody already done had every car, why ain’t people talkin’ ‘bout the bus system? I’m in the hood that everybody raps out, right now. You got people who work to take care of they kids. I just feel like there’s more to be shown. But it’s not always the artists’ fault, it’s the labels too. Southern rap is so dominating right now. In the North, there’s this perception that any rapper who’s remotely making a name for themselves selling CDs can make millions, easy. You rap about not having money. Why?

Lil’ Weavah: Right here in my hood, everybody knows me – I can’t come out and play a gangsta. I can’t lie ‘bout nothin’! This is rap – everybody lookin’ for a [reason to disprove you]. The way I beat that is by tellin’ the truth. My car [breaks down] sometimes. It’s got the wheels that people be talkin’ ‘bout, but it stops – and I rap about it. People come up to me and say, “Eh, that’s real talk when you rap ‘bout your car breakin’ down.” Then again, I always feel like you can’t rap ‘bout what everybody else is, ‘cause then you ain’t talkin’ ‘bout nothin’. I know the majors are on the verge of hollering if they aren’t already. When you get that advance money, does it worry you that you’ll have nothing to rhyme about?

Lil’ Weavah: No. One thing I’ve learned is that rappers do not have a lot of money. I’ll be the first one to come out and say it – some rappers. Plus, my content is about the struggle – the common struggle. I do a lot of female tracks too. I don’t think you ever run out of content. So there was a store in your town that at one point did not want to carry your CDs, but later sold out?

Lil’ Weavah: Peppermint Music in Southwest Atlanta in one of the only black malls in [the area]. This area is in between Bankhead and College Park. Rico Books, who [is now with] Bad Boy South, he ran the stores. This was in 2003, when I was just sellin’ CDs in my hood. He was like, “We don’t really have many slots on the shelf, I don’t know.” That was the first time. I went back again like, “Everybody’s buyin’.” [He told me] “Not now.” The third I went, I saw a Grand Hustle mixtape, and I was on it. I was like, “Rico! Rico, look! This says ‘Lil’ Weavah,’ that’s me!” So I grabbed the next three people who were walkin’ by – who luckily, I knew – and was like, “If my CD was in the store, would you buy it?” All three said yes. He bought some. Within a week, they were gone. That’s what got it started ‘cause you can always sell in the street, but if you on that retail, you good. When people see it in the malls, it’s a whole other ballgame. It means a lot to me! I can do well on, and I can do well in suburban Atlanta. But for them to buy up everything, it meant a lot for me. Are you ever worried that you’re thinking too locally?

Lil’ Weavah: No. With every product I do, I’m expanding the markets. I don’t see how anybody outside of Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama could’ve got the Home Team CD. Then on the mixtapes – boom, we hit MixUnit and others. We’re getting a bigger audience. With Underground Music, we’ve got national distribution on an underground title. Now, when I’m looking at the sales sheets, I’m seeing Idaho, Montana, Rochester, New York. Atlanta DJs have always been my backbone. DJ Drama, Burn One, DJ Scream & MLK, The Black Bill Gates and so on, they’ve always had my back and helped. Now you see me workin’ with DJ Envy, DJ Whoo Kid, and Kay Slay. That’s how you expand the market. I would never sit back like, “Everybody in Southwest Atlanta loves my music, I’m straight.” Even this, this is how you take it to a national and worldly level with probably being the number one Hip-Hop site on the planet. Is it hard to get noticed by the New York heavyweights?

Lil’ Weavah: If it’s a freestyle you hittin’ ‘em with, it needs to be lyrical. It needs to be “I’m not what you think the South is.” I travel back and forth to Harlem every summer. You gotta know your markets. I read that you knew Tupac’s sister very closely, and consider her a mentor?

Lil’ Weavah: One of the schools I went to, Washington High School, in downtown Atlanta is a historical high school: the same one that Dr. Martin Luther King went to. It’s the first black school in Georgia. [Sekyiwa Shakur] had an after-school program called “Teens on the Rise,” something I was in. We talked in groups about everyday life situations and how to cope with daily struggles. She played a big part in all of us – everybody in the school. As far as keeping your head above water?

Lil’ Weavah: As a kid, you already know “This is Tupac’s sister.” Some things your parents or teachers say, you’re not gonna just say, “You’re right.” But when you got Tupac’s sister, to any kid, when she speaks you listen. When she talked about bettering your life, you listen! What do you do to better your community now as figure kids might know or look up to?

Lil’ Weavah: Two years ago, I was driving down Simpson Road which is in Bankhead. I saw two crackheads who looked like they didn’t even have faces. At that point, something hit me and I said, “I will never talk about sellin’ crack in a song no more. I will not talk about anybody else capitalizing off crack in a song.” It hit me like…this is my community. I’m not gonna brag on that right there. That’s somebody’s momma. That’s somebody’s momma who’s probably a classmate of mine. So what’s your plan of attack? Are the majors reaching out yet?

Lil’ Weavah: Even this week, I’m in meetings. I look at the situations – I gotta be very careful. I just want the best situation for me to succeed. I want to be a priority. I don’t want to be put on the shelf. I don’t need development. I want the marketing. I know how to get money. I’m not trying to get jewelry and that. I need a marketing campaign. I need someone who knows what’s going on. You say you don’t need development. Do you think with a major label machine behind it, Underground Music is an album that would be in the mix like Yung Joc, Young Dro and so on?

Lil’ Weavah: I’m already 18 songs deep on a major album. On Underground Music, maybe “Drugs, Sex, and Violence” and maybe “Freaky Things,”…other than that, no other track would make it. For a major release, you always have to realize who your audience. We talkin’ ‘bout different beats, and some things maybe not as local.