With their debut full-length, Sons of Heaven, rising MC Rozewood TheGodsend (Ruben Johnson) and DJ/producer Mr. Enok (Rylan Kilgore), aka Ante Meridian, transcend underground hip-hop's affinity for boom-bap by crafting a dense, cinematic sound. Enok, a Montgomery, Ala., native, came to Atlanta in 2008, while Rozewood made his way south from Amityville, N.Y., in 2010. Through such songs as "Patrick's Theme," "Fool For Love," and "Street Cats" (featuring Phene), Sons of Heaven revels in slow, atmospheric G-funk filled with metaphysical undertones and tales of real-life experience. While preparing for the album's release, Enok and Roze recalled how they met and came to recognize the hand of God guiding their music.
How did you two meet and start recording together?
Enok: I was at the Kroger on Edgewood one night and I ran into DJ Werd Life. We were catching up when he told me about this cat named Rozewood. I Googled him later, and on the first joint I heard, "Prelude to a Funeral," I thought, "Not only is this guy dope, flow and all, he's actually saying something. I wanna work with this dude!" A week later, Werd Life and Solomon Grundy brought him over. I gave him some beats. He texted me two days later: "Yo, I'm ready to record." I'm like, "Cool, you wrote to some beats?" He says, "I wrote to them all." So I'm flabbergasted. I've been trying to work with local MCs for years — I give them a beat and it takes a year to get back to me. He came over, and, earlier that day, I had made another beat. He wrote to it on the spot. That became "Penthouse Godz" from the 3 a.m. Poltergeist EP. Chemistry was there.
Tell me about the song "Patrick's Theme" from the new album.
Rozewood: That's probably the most personal song on there. It's about my friends, my family, and my uncle and how he died. I was basically speaking about my childhood — 10 through 18 years old. That's the song that I feel has the strongest content on the record, but my favorite song is "Flowers in the Garden." It's cool, it's groovy, you can ride in a car to it on a nice day.
Do you feel akin to other Atlanta underground acts, such as Dillon, Boog Brown, Methuzulah, etc.?
Enok: Yeah, that's pretty much who's been putting us on shows, but we're trying to break out of any and all boxes. Anyone who fucks with us, cool. Ricky Raw from Mighty High Coup asked us to play this year's 808 Fest, which will put us in front of a whole different audience. That's what we need because with a lot of the scene we're involved with, we're mostly performing for other artists, producers, and DJs, rather than just lovers of music or fans.
What makes Ante Meridian stand apart?
Rozewood: A lot of artists in this scene stick to their [underground] regiment, which can be hard to expand upon. Because some of these artists really are all about what they're saying they're all about, it can close them off. Verbally, lyrically, and production-wise, if I hear that happening, I won't go there. I want people to mention us down the line, like Pete Rock and CL Smooth, and Gang Starr. I don't want it to be too politically driven, or anything where you can put your finger on what we're about. There's no typical subject that I speak on, or a song that resonates with a constant theme — nothing that you can say, "Damn, they always talking about this or that." That's what separates us. We try to be ourselves. I have influences sprinkled in there — maybe in the delivery, cadence, or lingo — but my voice is my own.
Enok: Sons of Heaven was going to be an EP and the album was going to come later — different title, different everything. In January we came across this Tangerine Dream sample — it was like 30 minutes long with multiple parts — and we were like, "That's a beat, that's a beat, that's a beat." We started adding more songs, and it turned into an album.
What's the title about?
Rozewood: This was the first time when I felt like I was able to say things that I wasn't capable of rapping about before. I didn't have the freedom, or the setting wasn't right. Suddenly, I saw the whole process: It went from figuring each other out, to coming up with songs. Then it started getting a spiritual feel, like another force was helping us make music. I can reference the songs and try to remember what I was living through when I wrote them, but at times I think God was working it out in both of our lives. We're just doing what we do and doors are opening up that weren't opening up for me three years ago.
Tell me more about this notion of God intervening.
Rozewood: I recognize that there are higher forces animating everything that we see and do. Life isn't laid out, and you don't have dominion over your decisions. But you reach a point where there are no surprises anymore. Life starts making sense, and the music makes sense. I couldn't figure it out before; it felt like a puzzle: "How can I get to their level? What am I doing wrong? Why can't I get past these barriers?" Suddenly, the barriers were never there. It's like God created this whole setting.
Enok: It's just a word that we use to reference the ultimate creator — the life source or the life force, as Afu-Ra of Gang Starr's fam called it. It's not like an old man sitting in the clouds, like the Western Christian image that a lot of people have. Roze mentioned the title, and it made sense as far as referencing how we came together. I always felt like that was also divinely orchestrated.