Photo: Al Pham
Childish Major On George Floyd, The Essence Of Atlanta Hip-Hop & His New Project 'Thank You, God. For It All.'
Every member of the COVID generation probably remembers the first day they stepped outside, met up with a friend and was finally seen by someone else—not their partner or pet. Childish Major is acutely aware of this. The Atlanta MC wanted to drop new music throughout the first wave of the pandemic, but it never felt right given its extroverted, block-party energy.
Especially after the murder of George Floyd, which left him—a Black man himself—devastated.
"It was pretty dark," he tells GRAMMY.com over Zoom from his parked ride. "It put me in a position where I was like, 'What do I do? What do I need to do? How can I help?'" While he briefly considered making some music in response, the idea felt flimsy. Instead, Major opted to band together with his friends, family and colleagues in the rap game to commiserate, vent and heal.
One year after George Floyd, the world is opening up in fits and starts amid the Delta variant setback. After a period of sitting back, thinking and listening, it feels like the perfect time for Thank you, God. For it all. Brief, incisive and fat-free, the EP, which dropped July 23, features potent collaborations with Yung Baby Tate ("Check"), ScHoolboy Q ("Disrespectful") and other modern greats.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Childish Major about Thank you, God. For it all. and why it's a soundtrack to feeling yourself—in his words, "fly," "hot," and like "poppin' s***"—while cruising around the ATL.
How does it feel to have Thank you, God. For it all. dropping soon?
Man, we've been waiting for a minute to drop this project. I feel like I've made three projects, maybe, since COVID hit. We've been itching to drop something in general. This seemed like perfect timing. The music is for outside, and outside is kind of opening back up now. So, that's the energy.
Was it delayed due to the virus?
No, it wasn't pushed back due to the virus, really. In the beginning, it was more like I had music that was ready to drop. Then, COVID hit, and it was like, "OK, what do we do?" Then it's like, "OK, I'm ready to drop!" and then George Floyd happens. I'm messed up about that. I'm like, "I can't self-promote during this time." Then, I get past that to a certain extent and it's like, "Alright, now I'm ready." It just so happened to be the time that everything's opening up. It's the perfect time.
What went through your head when you saw the news about Floyd?
Ah, man. I mean, it was the news, it was conversations, it was my grandparents, family. It was pretty dark. It put me in a position where I was like, "What do I do? What do I need to do? How can I help?"
Did you feel like you wanted to respond with music in some way? Or, perhaps, with silence?
I felt like I wanted to respond with music initially, but then I felt like, "Maybe a musical response is kind of corny right now. Maybe my silence is a little bit better." Yeah, man. I just remember having a lot of conversations during that time. It was very heavy.
After all, there were already a lot of songs with titles like "Say Their Names" out there.
Yeah, you don't want to play with moments like that. It's a very serious thing. Even right now, I'm thinking about it, and that's taking me to a place where I definitely don't want to go back to.
I mean, there are people like Anderson .Paak. [He] dropped his song ["Lockdown"] and seeing the visual, man, he executed it very well and in a very respectful way. For me, it wasn't important to be seen at that moment. I was just filling it with people, honestly.
Now, we're in a different space in time. What did you want to say with this project that differed from past ones?
Well, the title itself is Thank you, God. For it all. Before thinking about the title, when I was in the music process, having conversations with Don Cannon, who was the executive producer, I was sending him what I was working on prior to this project. It's more vibey, it's moodier. It's a storyline; it's strings and poetry. It's this world that I created.
He's like, "This is dope, but I feel like we need to cut through. You make music that cuts through and grabs the attention, and then you start taking people into a world." So, that was his mindset while coaching me through this project. He started sending me production. I don't know if you've ever been to Atlanta, but it's Atlanta energy. You've got to come down one time.
When we talk about Atlanta energy, it's young. It's hot. It's being in the streets. It's being at the strip clubs. It's fly. It's riding with your top down. It's that type of energy. That's what I feel people are going to take from it. These are records people are going to listen to on the weekends. "F Yah Job," that's going to be out on Friday. Everybody's Friday is like, "Man, I'm not trying to be here right now. I'm out of the office!" You know what I'm saying?
Childish Major. Photo: Al Pham
That's the vibe of the project, but the title itself—Thank you, God. For it all.—especially from all of us coming off of COVID and the George Floyd thing, that's been my mindset and my personal mantra as far as what could get me to whatever this next step is in my life. I know a lot of people who are trying to figure out work or their living situations due to what COVID did.
Thank you, God. For it all. is like an agreement ahead of time. I'm grateful for where this is going to go, because I know it'll lead me somewhere I need to be.
Musically, what separates Atlanta hip-hop from other scenes?
Well, for one, Atlanta is a young city. It's a young Black city. And when I say "young Black city," I don't even just mean age. I feel like even older people in the city, we all talk alike. We all talk the same. There's a language. It's very Southern. It's very gritty. It's very raw.
It's suave, for lack of a better word. It's poppin' shit. When you put on a fly outfit and you look in the mirror and you're feeling yourself, that's the energy. But that's the energy of an average person in Atlanta, you know what I'm saying? Everybody is feeling themselves to a certain degree.
Especially with Instagram and all that, which usually gets a negative connotation as far as being narcissistic or conceited. But in real life, we all need confidence because that's what's going to get you to the next day.
What do you appreciate about your collaborators on this project?
Ah, man. Everybody has their own little niches, but Hollywood Cole is super diverse. He had the single "F Yah Job," which is probably the most top-down record we've got on here. But he also produced the title track, which is more boom-bap. That's what I love about Cole: That he has a lot of diversity.
Cannon is a coach, but he can play, too. You know what I'm saying? He oversaw the whole project, but then came through and gave us the record "Down South." Wavy Wallace, man, he has a lot of different styles, too, but he gave us a bop on here. DJ Mark B, well, he's a DJ, so he knows what needs to happen. He knows what's going on, so he gives us bangers every time.
I feel like some rap fans view boom-bap as being a little backward or antiquated, although it's the style I gravitate to the most.
You've got to have it. It's necessary. Even Drake without his boom-bap records, I feel like he doesn't become exactly who he is right now. I feel like it's necessary.
Sounds like it's the equivalent of the 12-bar blues in rock music. You can't stray too far from it.
Yeah, it's the core! You've got to feed the core.
"I'm grateful for where this is going to go, because I know it'll lead me somewhere I need to be."
What's the state of the rap game? Is it straying from sing-rap or mumble rap into a more traditional territory or the opposite?
Nah, it's always going to be a mixture. I feel like you always need diversity. It's necessary. Sometimes, it doesn't feel like [the deal], like "Damn, I don't like this." You just have s*** you don't like; excuse my language. But it's a necessary evil. You have to have that gauge or that range from super amazingly talented people to people who are just trying s*** and it just goes.
There are flukes all the time, but are you going to turn it into what they call 15 minutes of fame, or are you going to stretch it? And the people who want to stretch it, they'll home in on their craft a little bit more and be like, "Oh, wow! I did that on a fluke! Well, let me try to get better!" Sometimes, they turn that 15 minutes into five years.
I'm primarily in the jazz world these days, but I feel like it's the same as all scenes: There are humble, talented people and then there are opportunists. Is the rap world like that, too?
Man, the rap world is completely like that. I'd say it's more like that than in jazz. In the rap world, I've got friends whose four-year-old daughters make rap songs. And they sound good! Or good to the extent of what kids are going for, especially with TikTok and all that stuff going on right now. It's the people's music.