Atlanta’s Ola Runt talks recently signing to Gucci Mane, his debut mixtape “Mama Tried,” and coining the term “ZaZa”

The current climate of rap has been hurting for years thanks to a generation of copy-cat artists and “type” songs, and while there is no inherent problem with this and its categorical nature has helped canonize many of rap’s under-publicized sub-genres, the issue at hand is how sparce innovation has become, and when artists do attempt to go outside of the box to try something new their attempts often come off as generally facetious or attempt to pass it off merely as trolling when it is not well received. It is quite rare for an artist to be able to simultaneously experiment while holding the increasingly short attention spans of their audiences, and this is, at least in my opinion, one of the main hallmarks of great artists in the digital world.

Atlanta’s Ola Runt has been able to do this masterfully, pushing the envelope by further warping and developing the trap sound that his city has polished for over a decade now. The Edgewood native is no stranger to criticism and comparison, as he was recently thrust into the public eye after inking a deal with Gucci Mane that made him the new face of 1017 alongside fellow Atlantan Foogiano, but many were skeptical of Ola’s no-holds-barred flows and animated vocals. These characteristics earned him a slew of comparisons to Young Thug, asserting that his wild rapping style was only comparable to an artist who is pretty much uniformly regarded as being a musical mastermind for our generation. Although many rappers have turned to alternating different cliche lines that have been recycled by hundreds of their peers, Ola almost never spits a lyric that I recognized from another artist and this is perhaps the most obvious manner to determine just how original and unique a rapper is. It is also important to note that Ola is not only employing left-field melodies, but also is proving to have a particularly grimy lyrical prowess that draws people to see parallels to Bankroll Fresh and obviously the Zone 6 emperor himself, Gucci Mane, and ironically enough it was his fiery and exuberant visual for his song “Feelin’ Like Guwop” that first exposed him to the city of Atlanta on a major scale.

Ola, which stands for Only Love Ammunition, is meshing all of the beloved qualities from nearly every Atlanta legend, but all the while maintaining a magnetic genuineness and a refusal to sell out. Staying true to this form, Ola has also been forcing the issue on coining new slang as “ZaZa” is now etching itself into the vernaculars of thousands all over the south who exchanged the terms “gas” and “pressure” to this new idiom for exotic weed. Songs like “Osbourne Flow” best exhibit his boundary-pushing tendencies, as this Yung Lando produced track is one of the more bellicose and avant-garde electric guitar beats I have heard recently. Ola Runt remains unapologetically himself and that is not only refreshing but quite honorable considering he is a part of a genre that has seen clout chasing rise to new heights in the past few years. I am eager to see where Ola Runt goes for here and am excited to hear all of the groundbreaking new music that he has in store.

Recently I had the privilege of catching up with Ola over the phone.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

It’s no secret that Atlanta is one of the hottest breeding grounds of rap talent, and there are so many artists there doing something interesting or innovative with their sound, but you have easily managed to continue to stay unique amidst all of this. What is it that sets you apart from the other artists in the city?

Just originality. I’m authentic. I’m not trying so hard or looking for an image, I just do me really and that stands out to people. 

Your sound is unquestionably influenced by a lot of Atlanta legends and already you’re drawing comparisons to the city’s brightest stars. Who are some of the people that helped shape your musical style early on?

One of the people that I looked up to as far as musically, I used to listen to Rocco, Alley Boy, and Yung Scooter. They were just real original to me and I can tell that they’re being themselves and not faking it. They weren’t trying too hard to be someone their fans didn’t know. I don’t ever want to change my personality, I seen fame change folk’s personalities. I had a lot of people that wanted in on my success and they were trying to come in early. It made me realize its real every man for himself in this game, I can’t trust nobody really because at the end of the day everybody wants some money.

Jail is a very prevalent topic in your music and it seems that it had a big impact on your time growing up. How did this impact you personally?

I just grew up in jail, type shit. I did all my teenage years locked up. I got out when I was 21 and I was in and out of juvenile since I was about 13 and I got locked up at 16 and got out at 21.

Is that where you first got serious about rapping or were those seeds planted beforehand?

Nah that’s really when I got serious about it in like 2014 when I got locked up. I really started to rap when I was in jail and I didn’t do it as much on the street.

Recently you just released your debut project, “Mama Tried” and it is already being met with quite a bit of support from all over. What does this tape mean to you?

I never wrote a song since I’ve been out of jail, every song I got out is a freestyle. I just punch in and punch in the whole song and it only takes me about fifteen to thirty minutes. I love all the songs and I wanted to make sure to put all of my favorites on my first release. Its been like two years since I first decide to put together a tape and people been asking it for a long time. I felt like this was the time for the tape, it really was able to touch people across the US. Every state at least knows of me now, its a blessing. I just be thanking God but I always knew it would happen one day, I just didn’t know when. I didn’t know when id get that push so I just kept shooting videos every week hoping one of them would go viral. I used to just shoot with whatever I got on, I’m not gonna get no haircut or nothing, I just shoot.

Being an East Atlanta artist it has to be pretty special to get signed by a Zone Six legend like Gucci Mane. How did all of this come about and what can we expect from you next?

Gucci is like a partner of mine, he basically has been helping me launch my career on some executive producing shit. That’s gonna be his role for me because I could’ve signed to him but I didn’t have to, basically. He gave me a name the same way he gave Young Thug and Lil Baby one, which is a blessing. I got my next tape coming out in May called “Begging for a Body” and I have a couple of features on there with Nephew, Young Scooter, VL Deck, and Gucci Mane. We got “So Icy Gang” coming out Memorial Day and my next tape will come after that. 

So how exactly did the term “ZaZa” first come about?

That started like a year and a half ago and me and my homies are always smoking and love to buy zips of “exotic” and we shortened it to “ZaZa” from there and my whole crew just started running with it. There was even a girl at the time who changed her name to Zaza. I had made the song and then a few more artists from Atlanta started saying it too and now that shit has gone global, I’m hearing it overseas now, but I have my own plan to use with the word ZaZa. I set trends so none of that pisses me off though. 

What else do you want the people to know?

Whenever I drop my tape called “Super Trendy” I’m going to take over the whole world. Just tell them that. Also check out my artists 40Henxhmen, 24LeftEye, and Woo Da Savage.