Your EDM and TrapandBass have teamed up to throw a weekly bass music series every Thursday in Atlanta, Georgia and to kick off the inaugural THRIVE, we caught up with HPNTK, the first local headliner. As a thoughtful, and well spoken artist, HPNTK took he opportunity to educate us on the what trap music really is, it’s foundation and how the rhythm of Atlanta set the groundwork for the international musical phenomenon.
What does the Atlanta scene/culture provide that you can’t find anywhere else?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about Atlanta that makes it stand at the forefront of a lot of cultural movements, but I feel like it has something to do with all the major artists that have risen from the city to worldwide prominence. In a way I think it gives people a lot of hope that they can “make it out” of the city – it’s really easy these days to lose sight of anything outside of Atlanta when you’re in the mix because of all the stuff going on. It can get kind of discouraging for artists and the people in general become jaded pretty quickly when there are similar events every night of the week that boast some pretty similar DJs. But on the converse there is SO much opportunity here. The fact I could go to another country and play stuff like Future or Migos and everyone goes nuts when it comes on and starts singing along – that’s the craziest part to me, cuz those guys are so close to home. I was talking about something similar with some friends in Philly one time (shout out DJ A Dub, Drew, John and the whole Future Thugs crew), about the difference between the two cities. They all mentioned that all the upcoming guys in Atlanta seemed to be working together, helping each other out, just supporting across the board. And that seemed to be something that was missing from other places. In reality, sometimes it can feel pretty competitive, and there are some egos that need to kept in check from time to time, but honestly we’re all just grinding. With all the major hip hop artists that have come out, including what I would argue are the “founders” of Trap music, and the ones that continue to come out, coupled with the explosion of EDM a few years ago and the subsequent adoption by a large group portion of the 18-24s, you get a very unique juxtaposition between the two very different worlds. But it worked. And now look at the biggest tunes coming out – they’re rap samples on a club beat. I feel like we had a huge hand in that.
How has trap music evolved since you got into the scene? What was the early trap music scene like in Atlanta?
To be perfectly honest, I have a hard time calling an 808 with laser sounds on top of it “Trap” music. Trap music is stuff that’s played in the trap (seems obvious). And trying to imagine some of this stuff being blasted on Boulevard just makes for an awkward mental picture honestly. I’m not saying all the stuff that’s geared toward the club isn’t Trap, you just kind of know it when you hear it. I do want to say though I think there needs to be a distinction between what real Trap music is, i’m talking Jeezy / Dolph / Zaytoven / Thugger / Southside kind of stuff, and the EDM variant. Not sure what to call it though, or how to make that distinction exactly. I think people label me a “Trap” DJ and i’m okay with that because I actually play it. If you asked some of these guys for some TM101 they would scratch their heads. I digress.When stuff first started crossing over a few years back, it was a shock to me. There were all these tunes people were going crazy over and I’m just thinking to myself “these are rap instrumentals”. For years before that I had been mashing rap acapellas over dubstep tunes and calling it Thugstep (shouts to Nappy & Cable – RIP Hoodlum Music). And it was just out of necessity really. Dubstep is what popped in the clubs but we all came from a hip hop background and that’s what we wanted to hear. People went crazy for it. I think we kind of primed everyone for the whole transition. But I think Daniel Pollard (Hereoes & Villains) really helped catapult the whole movement forward. He was fucking with our mashups though before anyone else.
In what direction do you see trap music going, both globally and locally?
Locally, I don’t see much changing, nothing drastic anyway. It’s been slowly evolving over the years as far as the beats getting more complex, but then something drops that is so simple but is the hottest tune of the year, so in those respects I think the only thing really changing are the names that are at the forefront. We’re going to see more and more collaborations between hip hop artists and the EDM producers though, and the lines are going to get blurry. You have Chris Brown with stuff on his new album that sounds very much like what guys are playing in the raves right now. So what happens when the underground sounds become mainstream on that level? The major labels win because they’re progressive, and all the producers get labeled “pop” artists and shunned. Or nah? I don’t know. But if that does happen then the lane is open for a new style to spread through the streets, keeping the cycle going you know? And I like that. If you know your sound and it’s coming from your heart none of that should scare you. It’s the guys riding trendwaves that are terrified. You already have a lot of majors scooping up EDM producers, fucking Brillz getting a Katy Perry remix, it may sound like i’m making wild assumptions but the wheels are already kind of in motion.
Who were some of the OG guys that you looked up to when you started DJing and what made them respectable?
I mentioned Daniel (HXV), his branding was really what I learned the most from I think. I respect anyone who doesn’t just take on the audible aspects of art. Someone who has a true vision for the aesthetic they’re trying to create has to be aware of the entire plane they’re creating in. Visuals are so important. The message you’re sending to someone else through music gets amplified ten fold when there’s some sort of visual accompaniment. So it’s surprising to me a lot of guys don’t take that into account. You have guys like Daniel, Brillz, Flosstradamus – they’re taking the brand aspect to an entirely new level and doing it very right. And that takes vision, and I think that’s what I most respect, when you can see someone’s art go past just the music. It’s a lifestyle for them.On a more local level though, the dude Ployd is that guy we all look up to and have the utmost respect for. I don’t know a single person in the city who speaks ill of this dude – there’s no reason to. He’s paid dues and consistently rocks shows and remains a humble dude, things I think everyone should strive for. Anthony Rotella (Mayhem) is another guy you have to mention, his involvement with the city still amazes me as he’s knocking out worldwide tours and shit. Him and the ATLDUB crew were the guys bringing A1 dubstep acts through (N-Type like what) and all doing it for the love, and properly. On top of that he’s been a down to earth dude who has given me solid advice in crucial moments, and is one of the few guys that will actually listen to my tunes (haha), and he’s been super supportive of our new label which has been really cool.
Tell us a little about the Block Society. What was the inspiration behind it, what are the goals for the future and what is your involvement?
So Block Society arose out of necessity sort of. I saw a lot of guys with serious talent, but they just didn’t have the right avenues or abilities to get it out there the way it should have been. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that you get a hell of a lot further by working as a team than on your own, so the rationale was that if we put all these guys together, we’re essentially combining networks to form something that can actually get stuff done. Both Greg, Tad & myself were all kind of thinking the same thing, it just took the timing to be right for us to finally get a solid gameplan together and launch. But essentially we’re a beat collective who specialize in the electronic side of things. We’re plugging our hip hop oriented artists in with the bass music labels and the bass music guys with the hip hop artists. The crossover, like I mentioned earlier, is something we’ve been doing for years but still no one has a grip on the game. It’s an open market. As far as involvement, Greg, Tad & myself all head it up and make decisions together, but we also have our specializations. I handle packaging releases, graphic design, mixing/mastering and website maintenance. Greg is our A&R and kicks ass at what he does, he’s built a ton of solid relationships with everyone he comes into contact with and has the vision and drive to make a lot of things happen. Tad is the plug to a ton of major moves we’ve been making around the city and is the ultimate can-do guy. If we need something done the dude makes it happen, 110%.We’re going to keep releasing dope artists and have some cool merch collabs coming up this year. We’re in the process of getting some tours set up and locking in major artist collaborations. We’re thinking about launching a night in Atlanta, just waiting for the right moment. You will definitely be hearing about some our artists by the end of the year, there are some really cool things about to happen.
What should we expect from a HPNTK set?
Music. lol. I don’t really know. I play rap and beats I like, recently I’ve been playing a couple dubstep tunes I’ve been feeling. Lots of unreleased stuff from me and my friends. I try and keep the sound darker while still maintaining energy. The last few shows there were people at were like continuous twerk-offs / mosh pits. It was pretty tight.
What have you been working on in the studio?
Man. Been all over the place recently. A LOT of collabs coming from 8Er$, Kick Raux, Ash Riser, Gameface, Hush, Levitate and myself, especially with 8Er$. I think we’ve got 2 EPs in the works and a single that’s wrapped up with KUSTOM (“Matelo”), and all the tunes so far i am SUPER stoked about, literally the most excited I’ve ever been about tunes, they’re going to do really well I feel. I’ve got an EP dropping next week on the Canadian label Capital Boom, it’s a 3-track entitled Bulletproof that i’m excited for. There are also some remixes in the works for various labels but I can’t really talk specifics on those at this point. Also been working on some darker, different stuff. Thinking about putting it out under another alias, so there’s that.
Within production, what is your strongest skill and what would you like to improve on?
My strongest skill set is probably my drumming background and a solid knowledge of beat patterns and timing. Drums are arguably the most important element in dance music, so you have to pay particular attention to them. But it’s not just writing, the way you treat, mix & process your drums (and everything else) plays a huge role in how the finished product translates to the listener. And that’s what I most want to improve upon, the technical aspects of mixing. You never stop learning in this, and if you think you know everything your career is over. If you think you’ve perfected something, you can’t be afraid to keep experimenting, because chances are you haven’t. I wish I would have taken my own advice earlier, for some reason I thought things would just get better on their own (they didn’t). If you really want to be taken seriously as a producer, you have to get serious with yourself. Buckle down and learn AS MUCH as you possibly can. And then learn some more. Every day. It really is a full time job.
What, outside of music, inspires you to make and/or perform music?
Probably the biggest motivation for me to make music is what I see going on around the world every day. This shit is crazy. Throughout history music has been an integral method of conveying social ideas. I think it’s important to say something with your music, no matter what the message is, just say SOMETHING. And to me the most important thing to say is the things that others can’t, whether because of suppression, oppression, or just because they’re not loud enough to be heard over all the TV static in the US. It should go without saying there is suffering and injustice in this world, but I don’t see anyone in the public light (in EDM/club culture) saying anything about it. When you’re standing in front of ten, twenty thousand people, what are you using that platform for? Yourself? Imagine how many people you could educate at one time. The awareness YOU could bring about. Imagine the change that could create. It’s wild.