Its no secret that the independent spirit is not only alive, but its 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, hes 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, Weavahs underground status may soon change, but the rapper believes that his morals and messages dont have to.
AllHipHop.com: Youre 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: youre not a major artist and youve 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 wouldnt say underground and independent are the same thing, because youve got independent labels who go through major distribution. Me, I got that street audience. When I say that, I dont want people to think Im just talkin bout the hood just consumers in general. Underground is having the consumer without Clear Channel, Radio One, MTV, BET, and so on.
AllHipHop.com: I know youve been doing the mixtape thing as well. But you use albums instead like, Underground Music. Whats 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 didnt 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 didnt know how to get on a mixtape down here. Im not payin money to get a mixtape, cause I dont know what thats gonna do I aint even got that much anyway. So I started with 20 dollars and would go to the studio. Id hustle up some more money and go again they was sorry beats, boo boo beats. Everybody in the hood loved it; they didnt 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 didnt have to worry about how I was gonna get on these mixtapes, cause they started reachin out.
AllHipHop.com: On the album, youve got a record called Street Talk, which deals with the misrepresentation of Atlanta is a whole. Whats being misconstrued?
Lil Weavah: Ill say that its just things of Atlanta that they may be leavin out. For instance, the way you see it now, either everybodys sellin drugs or everybodys crunk at the club. If thats gonna sell for you, thats cool. Where is the struggle at? Everybody already done had every car, why aint people talkin bout the bus system? Im in the hood that everybody raps out, right now. You got people who work to take care of they kids. I just feel like theres more to be shown. But its not always the artists fault, its the labels too.
AllHipHop.com: Southern rap is so dominating right now. In the North, theres this perception that any rapper whos 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 cant come out and play a gangsta. I cant 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. Its got the wheels that people be talkin bout, but it stops and I rap about it. People come up to me and say, Eh, thats real talk when you rap bout your car breakin down. Then again, I always feel like you cant rap bout what everybody else is, cause then you aint talkin bout nothin.
AllHipHop.com: I know the majors are on the verge of hollering if they arent already. When you get that advance money, does it worry you that youll have nothing to rhyme about?
Lil Weavah: No. One thing Ive learned is that rappers do not have a lot of money. Ill 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 dont think you ever run out of content.
AllHipHop.com: 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 dont really have many slots on the shelf, I dont know. That was the first time. I went back again like, Everybodys 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, thats 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. Thats 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, its a whole other ballgame. It means a lot to me! I can do well on Amazon.com, and I can do well in suburban Atlanta. But for them to buy up everything, it meant a lot for me.
AllHipHop.com: Are you ever worried that youre thinking too locally?
Lil Weavah: No. With every product I do, Im expanding the markets. I dont see how anybody outside of Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama couldve got the Home Team CD. Then on the mixtapes boom, we hit MixUnit and others. Were getting a bigger audience. With Underground Music, weve got national distribution on an underground title. Now, when Im looking at the sales sheets, Im 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, theyve always had my back and helped. Now you see me workin with DJ Envy, DJ Whoo Kid, and Kay Slay. Thats how you expand the market. I would never sit back like, Everybody in Southwest Atlanta loves my music, Im straight. Even this, this is how you take it to a national and worldly level with AllHipHop.com probably being the number one Hip-Hop site on the planet.
AllHipHop.com: Is it hard to get noticed by the New York heavyweights?
Lil Weavah: If its a freestyle you hittin em with, it needs to be lyrical. It needs to be Im not what you think the South is. I travel back and forth to Harlem every summer. You gotta know your markets.
AllHipHop.com: I read that you knew Tupacs 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. Its 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.
AllHipHop.com: As far as keeping your head above water?
Lil Weavah: As a kid, you already know This is Tupacs sister. Some things your parents or teachers say, youre not gonna just say, Youre right. But when you got Tupacs sister, to any kid, when she speaks you listen. When she talked about bettering your life, you listen!
AllHipHop.com: 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 didnt 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. Im not gonna brag on that right there. Thats somebodys momma. Thats somebodys momma whos probably a classmate of mine.
AllHipHop.com: So whats your plan of attack? Are the majors reaching out yet?
Lil Weavah: Even this week, Im 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 dont want to be put on the shelf. I dont need development. I want the marketing. I know how to get money. Im not trying to get jewelry and that. I need a marketing campaign. I need someone who knows whats going on.
AllHipHop.com: You say you dont 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: Im 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.