Image via Ari Skin
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Olivier Lafontant recently added 5 years of his life by eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes.
As soon as KEY! arrives at Two Hands, a plush cafe in Williamsburg, he vicariously orders an iced coffee via his publicist, Kevin. Meeting the soft, muted gaze of the 32-year-old Atlanta rap anchor, it seems he’s half-tethered to the loose ephemera tickling the back of his mind.
Nearly 15 years into a fruitful, peculiar, and idiomatic rap career, KEY! remains eager to reinvent himself. A track record that’s outlasted late-aughts Blog Era rap cliques, mythological SoundCloud medleys of the mid-2010s, and post-COVID postmodern swag music is not easy to find. By way of his uninhibited, larger-than-life vocal gymnastics, he’s drunk from the same glasses as pop culture’s most consequential cross-bearers: A$AP Rocky and AWGE well before the Cozy Tapes, J. Cole and Dreamville for ROTD III, Playboi Carti through shared roots in Atlanta––even Post Malone when he cosplayed as a rapper. Where cursory emcees have been chewed up and spat out, KEY! has mutated and doubled his shelf life.
Marquis, his new project released in August, is an exercise in putting your hometown on a pedestal. KEY! acts as a bridge between underground Atlanta’s past and present, creating a space where ManMan Savage’s sludgy drawl can coexist with Bear1boss’ raw, acid-washed buoyancy. KEY! himself is characteristically expressive, but more poignant, polished, and premeditated in front of production from DJ Marc B. Standout “Legit” sounds like it would make the most sense flooding out of TV speakers after beating your brother in a game of NFL Street, and I mean this in the most endearing way possible. This whole record is rooted in the charisma and clarity of a tenured veteran high-stepping into the end zone.
Dudes posturing themselves as hip-hop purists will try to tell you the genre is dying––KEY! is reminding us to look further inwards. Every regional pocket is a crown jewel.