Atlanta rising star Scotty isn't flaunting the telltale signs of a rapper on the rise: new car, jewelry, entourage, etc. However, he has adopted another new rapper habit that he plans on killing today. "My bad, man," says the 6-foot-3-inch rapper as he sits down for this interview, more than a few minutes late. "I've been on 'rapper time' all of a sudden, need to cut that out now."
The 28-year-old rapper has used his minutes wisely over the last three years, though. Instead of relying on social media or industry connections to get his name out, Scotty (who goes only by Scotty or Scotty ATL) went the indie rock route by touring, booking his own shows, and building direct connections with his fans. With his latest mixtape, F.A.I.T.H. (Forever Atlanta in the Heart), drawing acclaim from the blogs and the block, this rapper's time is approaching swiftly.
Scotty's beginning starts in Lithonia with an upbringing like that of anyone from the Atlanta suburb: single-parent home, lower-middle-class upbringing, slight ambition to rap. After graduating from Redan High School, he played basketball for a year at Savannah State University, until he was lured back home by a record deal with mom-and-pop store A to Z Records in Stone Mountain. Unsatisfied with the deal, he left and quit rapping altogether.
The six years that followed had Scotty bouncing between relatives' homes and peddling drugs on the side. In 2008, a concerned childhood friend convinced him to start rapping again. Fate and friends linked him with street-rap impresario Russell "Block" Spencer. Although he was never officially signed to Block's label, he did have a job at his studio. "I was pretty much cleaning up, washing dishes, writing raps in the studio hoping one day they will let me in the booth," he laughs.
His day eventually came, resulting in a couple verses on songs from Gorilla Zoe's infamous 28 mixtapes in 28 days campaign. At one point he almost had one song entered into regular rotation on V-103 (WVEE-FM) as the official theme song for the station's annual car and bike show. But that situation never materialized.
Frustrated and, to a point, desperate, Scotty parted ways with Block Entertainment and "stole" the music he recorded there. The songs appeared on his 2010 mixtape, Cooler Than a Polar Bear's Toenails. The reception was even cooler. "The music didn't resonate because it was all single driven," Scotty admits. "People want to hear your story and be vulnerable, so that's what I'm doing now."
Having met DJ Burn One through Zoe, Scotty reconnected with the respected DJ and producer to record. Their first song together, "Husslin," convinced both parties that their chemistry was worth honing for an entire project — 2011's Summer Dreams.
"Doing that tape taught me that in order to make it, I had to start investing in myself," Scotty says. Counting beats, studio time, and the videos that followed, he spent at least $3,500 of his own money — money he had to make back.
He approached Smith's Olde Bar about booking his own shows. Unsure, Smith's tested him out on a bill with other bands, challenging him to bring at least 30 people out to see him. He brought 50. Two shows later, 100 people came out. Impressed, Smith's let him book his own shows as the headliner.
As his fanbase was growing, Scotty started on a new project titled The Jiffy Cornbread Experience. Taking a fresh approach, he had street king DJ Scream host it and settled in Chicago to record with producers Prolyfic and Soundtrakk, who were responsible for Lupe Fiasco's first two albums. "If I didn't do that, I'd be put in a box and just be the new 'underground' rapper out of Atlanta," he says. "I wanted to show my versatility and that I could work with different producers."
That early risk bulked Scotty's confidence and voice, making F.A.I.T.H. his strongest effort yet. The tape reunites Scotty with Burn One, but this time he was more involved in the production, and throughout standout cuts, such as "Clarity," "Food for Thought," and "My Shoes," his presence on the mic swims over the beats. And with the city watching to see who the next "it" guy will be, Scotty's "rapper time" schedule may be getting a whole lot busier.