OG Maco is an Atlanta-based rapper, known for his aggressive sound that mixes modern trap and hardcore punk. While his music makes him stand out in Atlanta’s always crowded community of young hip-hop artists, he wants more people to realize that he’s the CEO of his own company, OGG. It’s become standard for rappers to represent a clique, set, or collective that they keep around. It’s also become commonplace for those nebulous groups to turn into record label imprints, like Drake’s OVO Sound, or full-blown independent labels, like Father’s Awful Records. But in the flurry of success and viral-Vining that came in the wake of Maco’s breakout 2014 hit “U Guessed It,” OGG got lost in the sauce. When Maco says it on the track, people either assume it’s an adlib or that it’s a pseudonym for Maco himself.

This conundrum is one faced by many of OG Maco’s counterparts. How do you define yourself as an artist when a huge number of people only know you for one song? Two years after the public first heard his name, Maco has an album waiting in the wings, as well as a thriving independent label that represents artists like Doja Cat and Ash Riser, who recently won a Grammy for his contribution to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Here he talks about how he’s transcending “U Guessed It” and defining his identity as an artist.

I wanted to ask you about one of your lines on the “30 Hours” freestyle.

Is it, “A hypocrite in every hero”?

Yeah.

I was in the pussy when that line came to me. Swear to god. I really had a moment of clarity, like damn, it’s real. When I’m doing this shit, I’m a hero until the public decides I’m supposed to be the villain. Now I’m at my villain stage, fucking bad guy. The thing is, what do you think I have to do to combat that? To still be the hero I know I have to be I’m probably gonna have to do some fucked up shit that I really don’t agree with. But at the same time, the hero has to exist.

It’s like America selling the guns to Mexico. They run them shits down there through the CIA—not to spread the guns, but to find out who’s buying the fucking guns. But the fallout is people still fucking die. But you find out where the guns are so less people die. I can’t speak on all the shit we’ve got to do in the dark, but it’s a reason we’re still in the light.

That’s what [the line] is about. You have dudes, they’ll preach a whole seminar to you, and then as soon as they leave, [snaps finger] back to the bullshit. Cause the bullshit is necessary.

It’s like politicians saying one thing in public and doing something else behind closed doors.

Right. It’s America right now. If you look at the actual spirit of America, Trump is actually the real president. If you look at what America really is—not what we want it to be, not what we act like it is, but what it really is—it’s racist as fuck, it’s capitalist as fuck, it doesn’t give a fuck about anybody’s feelings or emotions. It’s fucking Donald Trump! The problem is we just don’t accept that this guy, this fucking guy, who’s saying all the shit that we actually do, is the guy who has to be the hero. Nobody wants to hear that shit. I don’t want Trump to president. Fuck Trump. But at the end of the day, they’re going to paint the villain as something else. Not necessarily a villain, not necessarily a hero, but something acceptable.

How would you categorize the music you make?

If my music would go to the forefront, it wouldn’t even be a point that you could put a genre on it. People would realize that I can do everybody’s shit, and I can do it better than them, too. I’ve proven it, I’ve done that shit. I’m really better than you. But the hate is outweighing my actual skill at what I’m doing.

I keep myself genreless on purpose. I make shit like “Champions” from Lord of Rage, which was a Queen reference. A lot of black kids don’t know who the fuck Freddie Mercury is, but they can sing “We Are the Champions.” And then I go make a real rappity-rap ass song, for all these rappity-rap ass hip-hop heads, old ass niggas, that swear if you’re not rapping 85 words in a fucking sentence it’s not real rap. I keep myself genreless on purpose because I want people to realize music is not based on genres, music is based on feelings. I create feelings I don’t really create rap. Fuck rap.

OG Maco

Speaking of mixing genres, you’ve also talked about how you have multiple identities, and that OG Maco is done after this album. Is that still true?

OG Maco gone. The only reason it came back is because the album got pushed back. Now there’s more like four sides. You got OG Maco, and that’s forever. But that’s forever in people’s hearts. I want Maco Mattox [one of his alter egos] to be on your mind. But now I’ve got Tax Free. Me and Pablo [Dylan] actually made a group now, and I can finally tell people who I’ve been talking to for the rock band. Everybody keeps asking me, “We heard you were in a hardcore band? Are you ever gonna do that again?” Yeah I’m gonna do it again. I’ve been talking to Johnny Craig and Craig Owens. I’m gonna try to like remake Isles & Glaciers just with me instead. No shade.

Is there something about Atlanta specifically that creates the right environment for a lot of artists to become successful at once?

If you’ve got the work, and you’ve got the respect, as long as nobody stands in your way, you’ll be good, you’ll be up. It’s a matter of time. But some people don’t like to wait, I don’t like to wait too long. I feel like I had put in work in the city in another way for a number of years. I’m tired of risking my life, and my freedom, and shit. You get tired of seeing your momma cry.

It’s the smallest little things that matter. You might pick up somebody’s grandma’s trash, and that might be Mike Will’s grandma. It’s small shit like that that you don’t even realize. There are enough people in Atlanta that have enough connections amongst each other to be like, “Yo, bro, all that shit you did don’t matter. Just do this.” And then we all grouped together and we don’t stand in each other’s way.

Do you see that as the reason why so many artists popped off at the same time?

We grew up together, or we were in the streets together. There was no in between. All of us, I’m talking Awful Records, TWO-9, all the way down to Raury. When I was in college, some of my best friends that I was in college with ended up being the actual management team for Raury. They were like, “This kid he’s got talent, in a few years he’ll be lit.”

Rich Po Slim from Awful Records, we was locked up together for like three months. Cellmates. Archibald Slim was my producer before there was an Awful Records. So it’ll be shit like that.

Beyond just a bunch of Atlanta artists getting big at the same time, a lot of them, like yourself, are going with indie labels like QC, Awful, or even OGG. Do you see that as a shift in the industry?

I think it represents a shift in the mindset of the youth in the industry. The industry ain’t changed at all. The industry’s still full of fuck shit and bullshit and red tape. But the youth realize we don’t need you. Back in the day that was a nigga’s only shot. Nobody cares about getting dropped from a label now. You’ll recoup that shit, fuck it. Worst comes to worst, you know what you used to do, you go back and do that real quick.

OG Maco

Do you think that the way things are now, with so many artists going indie, is an improvement?

You have two sides to it. It’s really, really amazing for the average artist to be able to have the same impact as somebody they’ve been listening to for years. But the difference is most of these artists are part of a bigger plan. I always try to keep it real shady when I say that shit, but we all know there are interests in the music where if you stop rapping about certain shit, they’re gonna cut your funding. You feel me? Just like that. You rap about this, that’s what you do. And if you do anything else? Fuck you. We ain’t gonna support it.”

Social media and all of that shit plays into a much larger bowl of soup. It used to be separate bowls of soup. Either you was underground or you was a star. Now it’s all the same. You can be an underground star, and that’s very detrimental and very positive at the same time.

It does seem like your sound has gotten out there. People are definitely making music that sounds like OG Maco.

I’m aware of it, I just don’t speak on it because people try to act like I’m hating. Niggas be obviously biting the swag. But sometimes it’s not biting and you’ve got to differentiate between the two. If you take a kid who was in 10th grade when I started, he just graduated. Now he wants to be a rapper. He’s fucking bitches now, he can finally smoke some weed, he’s got the car, banging in the system. And what has he been banging for three years? OG Maco. So when he starts trying to rap, he’s gonna kinda sound like OG Maco because that’s what he’s been fucking with. He didn’t bite me, that’s influence.

It’s just like with Future thinking niggas bite him. You’ve got to realize who you are. You’re fucking Future, dog. If you want to be a rapper, the first thing you look at is like, “Alright bruh, let me look at Future real quick, cause bruh’s coming with ‘em. He’s been serving hits for years now!” That’s just him being the biggest influence. And now those kids you was waiting on to grow up did grow up, and now they want to sound like you. You that nigga, and now you’ve to go beat yourself.

I use Future because that fake-ass me and Future beef. Future’s one of my favorite artists in the world. When you come from Atlanta, all of us were waiting for this nigga to blow up three years ago. On top of everything else, he’s the last real Dungeon Family member. When you come from Atlanta and you look at some shit like that, there’s no way you don’t pull from it.

You’ve mentioned that hip-hop stars are the new rock stars. Given the amount of cultural appropriation that goes on, do you think that’s better overall for black people?

We just took it back. It’s not cultural appropriation it’s more like a refund. Hey man, y’all cashed out. Y’all got to enjoy it for a while, we need you to return it. Y’all rented the swag.

When rock was first really coming out, the Cadillac Records era, it was innovation. But when you started moving into the actual marketing and shit, it became more a presence and a look. But back then it was a little less flashy, it was more suave. And then what’d niggas do? Niggas was like, “Fuck that! The white man is telling me I don’t stunt hard enough, I’m gonna stunt so hard he know it’s my shit. Ain’t no white man ’round here got the shit on spokes and these rims, white people don’t drive cars like this. Ain’t no white man ’round here got this gold rope. They don’t even wear chains like that.”

But it took time. It took time for our art to become the dominant form again. And even if it’s not always the one that sells the most, we have more cultural impact than any other genre of music. By far. Just like rock did when it first popped off. So yeah, refund.