Jace likes to pull from his surroundings. Whether it's his family, his friends, or the city he lives in, everyone and everything in close vicinity to the rapper shows up somewhere in his music. This collaborative approach is what has made his crew, Two-9, such a special collective in Atlanta's ecosystem -- a group of kids who have formed a strong musical bond through their genuine friendship, and as a result, it's a hard one to break.

The rising rapper has just released his new project, Jace Tape, which from title alone, finds him stepping into his own lane. Luckily, it's just another offshoot of the complex network of musical bridges he's built so far. These interlocking paths span not only his relationships with artists like Curtis Williams, CEEJ, Key!, and more recently, Mike WiLL Made-It, but also his two homes -- Atlanta and New York. With family in both cities, Jace has the sounds of two of rap's most important scenes embedded in his DNA, and those influences have never coexisted more naturally than on his new project.

We talked to the rapper about coming up with his best friends, the genius of Mike WiLL, and what he owes to the cities he's called home. Read our conversation below.

When did you move from New York to Atlanta?

I was a dumb young, so it was a pretty easy transition, and I still went back and forth a lot. That shit happened when I was 4 or 5. Only my nuclear family moved to Atlanta. My mom and dad’s family all stayed. Only my dad and my sister live in Atlanta right now. My mom moved back, my grandparents, everyone’s in New York.

Would you say New York still has a pretty heavy influence on your music?

There’s a LOT of New York in my sound, because especially at the time that we moved and what my dad was listening to, and my younger associations with music are all New York-based. I didn’t even hear what was coming out of the south at the time, even after we moved. I never heard 2 Live Crew or Miami Bass or anything. I just heard what my pops was listening to and what my uncles and cousins were listening to when I went back up to New York. Those were my major influences at a very young age. There’s definitely hella New York in my shit [laughs].

When did you first get into Southern rap?

Whenever you start listening to your own music. Whenever that was. Whenever Lil Jon and The Eastside Boys got popping is when I got exposed to Southern music, so I want to say between the age of 9 and 11. Somewhere around there that’s when I started listening to the radio and listening to what my friends listened to. Even then it was either New York hip-hop or like Green Day, Blink-182 or the Ramones and shit. I listened to rock and NY hip-hop for the majority of my youth, and then I started listening to what my friends at school were listening to which was Lil Jon and Lil Scrappy.

Do you make an effort to represent both cities in your songs?

It kind of comes naturally, that’s just my make-up musically. You’re always gonna hear some sample shit and some other shit, because that’s what I’m predisposed to, but you’re also going to hear where I grew up and where I matured musically, which is in Atlanta and in the south. I think it’s a good balance. I think it helps me in terms of my versatility and the range of artists I can work with.

Where do you feel you fit into the current scene in Atlanta?

I don’t know. I feel like I fit in as far as -- I feel like because of the music culture, the stuff that comes out of Atlanta -- some people try to demean the talent that’s out here, lyrically. Even when I listen to people like Peewee Longway or Future, or even to a Skippa Da Flippa, you know what I’m saying? People will try to play or slight their talents because it’s more club-oriented or because it’s more of a -- for lack of a better term -- “turnt” kind of sound, where from my perspective, they’re lyrically snapping their asses off. I feel like I can become like a missing link between the people that kind of slight and demean people like the Longways and the Skippas and certain people’s talents.  I can become like that happy medium -- that kind of missing link that shows it can kind of all make sense. That those two things are already coexisting and already right there. I feel like that’s kind of where I fit in within the puzzle. 

I can make that turnt up kind of Atlanta shit, but at the same time I can make some shit where people are more predisposed to be like, “Oh! He’s really lyrically rapping”. I might look at myself snapping in the same way as a Longway or a Future but they’re not going to look at it like that because of the view that they’re looking at it. I feel like if people hear me and understand like, “Damn! He’s from Atlanta too? He’s coming out of Atlanta?” It will provide a new light to even artists like that who already have a light on them. I feel like it will add to the revere that some of these already talented artists out here are already kicking. People that I know.

So, you're kind of the perfect entry point for New York rap fans to get into Atlanta stuff.

Yeah, yeah. I feel like Atlanta’s just what everyone likes. It’s good fucking music. Just ‘cause its geared to a certain audience or has a certain skew to it doesn’t mean that it’s like not good and credible art and music. I feel like it’s a lot of artists that get viewed in that way, especially when they’re coming up out of Atlanta. I think that’s trash. I feel like me as well as some other artists, but definitely myself, can come and add to that
link so it makes more sense to a general audience when they hear me. It’ll make sense when you hear an artist like me and then Future or someone else.

What’s your relationship with Mike WiLL Made-It?

He’s the homie. I never know how to answer this question. It’s like someone asking -- ‘so how’s your relationship with one of your closest friends?’ That’s my nigga, that’s my friend. As far as our working relationship goes, it’s very open, it’s very creatively free. He doesn’t lord over me or try to make my music sound a certain way. He just hears what I be on, which he already likes, and tries to extrapolate on that. He’s smart as fuck, and it’s really tight to work with someone who’s on that kind of a level, as far as planning things out and hearing shit sonically and seeing if it makes sense.

Will you be appearing on his Ransom 2 project?

I am. I am on Ransom 2, that’s confirmed. That’s going to be a proper album. Proper. The sequel is going to be the album. It’s going to be crazy.

Swae Lee recently showed up as a writer on Beyonce's "Formation". Has Mike got you working on anyone else's songs?

He’s definitely called me in for my writing. But he does that with everyone. He’s very big on the collaborative process. He’s big on having people that he likes creatively around. If you fit the vibe or whatever is going on creatively, he’s going to hit you up like, “Hey bro. Hey bro, slide over here real quick. I’m over here catching a wave with so and so,” He might call me, or he might call like Swae Lee, he might call Curt, you never know. He’s just really big on that creative energy and that rubs off. That’s how I’m starting my sessions now. It's more open. Not for everybody, but for the vibe. We gonna call you through and you gonna kick it. Even if you don’t add anything creatively, we just like to have that creative vibe for people that understand that shit. They just need to be around it.

Mike recently nominated you for the XXL Freshmen list on Twitter. Does this mean you're the next artist to get a major push from him?

I don’t know if I’m the next one to get a push, but I hope that Mike – I know that Mike is an evil genius and I think nothing that he is doing or saying isn’t a part of his end game. If you pay attention to even the past year and a half, and you’ve seen what me and Mike have done and what I’ve been a part of with Mike leading up to now, like he’s telling you everything we’re about to do. You just gotta pay attention. If you pay attention to the plan and follow the breadcrumbs from last year a little bit, you’ll see what’s going on. That’s what I can say about that. 

So you may be the first rapper to incorporate "Damn Daniel" into a song on "Midas". How does it feel?

Oh yeah [laughs]. That’s cool. That wasn’t my doing, that was Banks' doing. Robb Banks. Robb Banks just went in there and did his damn shit and he came out with that. And the only thing was, was that we had just been talking about it. I didn’t know he was going to do it, like it wasn’t planned. We had talked about it earlier in the studio session and we were talking about my other homeboy and we was making a joke about it. And then, this is like three hours later mind you, like he just ended up going in there when we was working on this song. We had already worked on like two or three others, and then we was just working on that one. He was just in there freestyling and that shit came out. I was like, “God Damn!” From that punch line, we decided to add it in. We were just fucking around with the track and it sounded tight on some feel like with “Niggas in Paris” like ‘Ye did with that Blades of Glory shit. That shit sounded kind of hard. Banks came back in last night and heard it. He fucked with it so we kept it in there.

One thing I noticed about your tape is how many different flows you're using. Are you always trying to come up with new patterns?

Yeah, I love flows. I love finding new flows. I love finding -- not necessarily like new flows -- but like flows that I haven’t used or haven’t used a lot. Or a flow that I kind of heard and wanted to tweak cause I thought it was underutilized by someone else. I love it. It’s like a rush. That’s why I do it. Like finding that new flow in that new pocket and then coming out hard. It’s like “Sheeesh!” So I try to especially cause I know myself artistically and I’ll start getting repetitive. If I found a flow I like, I’ll start using it a lot and I just try to switch it up as much as I can. Just so I can challenge myself and keep listeners interested in wanting to hear what I got to say.

What's the dynamic of Two-9 at this point in your career?

Me and Johnny of Fat Kid’s Brotha always say it’s like real life Entourage. This is just the come up with your best fucking friends. It gets crazy, it gets hectic.There’s cool shit and there’s dumb shit. The dynamic all comes from that – from the music and the fact that we all collaborate and create together as a unit. Always. At some point, like even last night – and Key! doesn’t have anything on Jace Tape – even last night he just pulled up on us. That’s just our dynamic. Like we’re somewhere, it don’t matter if we’re doing nothing or not, we’re going to pull up on somebody. And that’s not even necessarily out of a music bond at all, that’s just out of some friendship shit. And that dynamic is why I’m still Two-9 and will always be Two-9 because that dynamic, especially in the music world, in the industry it’s so rare for it to be genuine. Even for like I said 19 years old, 2009 is 7 years ago now and I’m still here. I’ve still kind of reached certain plateaus with these same people and I feel a majority of it has been fueled by that kind of brotherly friendship, kind of come up dynamic that we’ve had for already so long. It's cool man, that shit’s amazing. 

On top of Jace Tape, you're planning to drop the Two-9 album this year. Have those both been a long time in the making?

Yeah. We’ve been working. The Two-9 album and JaceTape have both more than a year compiling and going in different directions. It’s been like movies, like how movies are shot. I don’t know if its just because I have a strong affinity to movies and shit, but that’s what it feels like. Or maybe like writing a script or some shit, like you’ll go in this direction, then you’ll do the rewrites., and then you’re in development, then you get greenlit. We’re definitely greenlit now. The Two-9 album... I almost gave the name away (laughs). The Two-9 album is dropping and that’s greenlit. That’s on the go. That’s in production.

It seems like you guys put a lot of thought into direction on your projects, rather than just choosing the best songs.

I definitely feel like it's really good that we work with Mike just because he’s really great at picking and hearing overall vibes and directions. It more of -- "Where are we trying to go with it? What are we trying to say?" Even if its not a statement, what are we trying to say through the vibe of this collection or body of work? I think that's why our process is so tight. Even if it's backwards as fuck.