PHOTO CREDIT: Hanna Moon
ALTHOUGH she is not brand-new on the block…
PHOTO CREDIT: Lol Pani
there is a lot of talk regarding Flohio right now. I have been watching her moves this year and it is clear that the South London artist is primed for big things. If you haven’t heard her perform How Long’s It Been with The Streets from Abbey Road Studios then make sure you do – it is quite a moment, I can tell you! With the incredible single, Hell Bent, out in the ether, it seems Flohio is gearing up for a new E.P. or album. Hell Bent has the same sort of intrigue and exciting undertones of Dizzee Rascal’s debut album, Boy in da Corner, but it is distinctly the work of Flohio. The sheer confidence and rawness of the track is incredible and, whilst it is hard to put the song on a lot of radio playlists (owing to the explicit language), it is a fantastic song that deserves to be heard. Ever since last year’s Wild Yout EP last year, there has been a lot of talk and focus put the way of Flohio. Publications such as The Guardian have already tipped her as one to watch:
“There is an urgent yet seemingly effortless vitality to south London MC Flohio’s output. The 25-year-old rapper, AKA Funmi Ohiosumah, is attracting attention with her exquisitely fiery, fast-paced delivery, intelligent lyricism and tantalising choice of genre-blending production: thumping industrial techno meets metallic grime with the occasional trill of more traditional, clubby hip-hop.
Bands, the first single from the British-Nigerian artist’s forthcoming second EP, quakes and squelches with experimental beats (courtesy of producer HLMNSRA), while she spits lines such as: “Grenfell Tower couldn’t burn me out/ and I send mad love to who’s mourning now”.
Speaking poetic, emotional truths is something that is key to Flohio’s sound – her appearance on production duo God Colony’s My World in 2016, for example, saw her addressing a close friend who had passed away: “And then hope we never have to bury our friends”.
It is a great time for British Rap and, whilst most people think it is male-dominated, that is not the case. Artists like Flohio and Little Simz are truly electric and thrilling and mark changes in Rap. I am not saying that the genre will be truly gender-balanced in the next couple of years but there are powerful and inspiring artists like Flohio who are tipping the tables and providing incredible firepower. The punch and rawness coming from SE16’s Flohio is turning heads and paving the way for a wave of new female artists. She is one of the smartest and most original lyricists around and is pairing her incredible words with epic spit and flow! I am not sure what comes next for Flohio but think about where she has come from and the incredible songs she has created. There is a determination and focus that is deeply impressive. It has not been an easy path for Flohio.
In this interview with CRACK we learn about Flohio’s (Funmi Ohio) early life and when music came into her life:
“Her childhood memories are of her family settling in Bermondsey, south east London, after migrating from Nigeria. With her pilot father rarely around, her mother always working and her older sister in boarding school, the then nine-year-old Flohio was left to her own devices. She developed a passion for watching music videos from the golden era of Channel U and her idol, Lil Wayne. “When I came here I was in the background adjusting, and I just wanted to fit in,” she reflects. “So, it was a phase of me trying to figure out what my life was at the time, when I was 10-12.”
Music was the perfect escape from the daily toils of this transition period, and she began writing lyrics at the age of 13. Until recently, she had a job as a graphic designer at record label Ninja Tune, which she left last year. “I just wanted to be happy making music, it allows me to be so free,” she says. “Plus, I hate waking up early; after performing abroad one night, I can’t be going back to work the next morning!”
Having found her happiness through her music, Flohio is ready for what the future holds, with clear definitions of what the word ‘achievement’ means to her. “I want my music to take me all around the world – end of,” she concludes. “I want to get paid to make people happy and love each other. I want to be a promoter of peace and love, that’s the only thing we can give, man. I don’t want my nephew to grow up in a messed-up world where it’s all hate. I get a big buzz off making people happy and giving. That’s the shit I live for”.
Before rapping things up, I want to bring in an interview Flohio gave to The Guardian earlier in the year. It is an illuminating piece that charts her progression from a promising MC to where she is now; the fact that she had to balance music and an office job and, happily, is earning enough money so she can fully dedicate herself to music:
“Heavy, bleak electronics form the foundations of her brutalist sound, which is confrontational in a way that female MCs rarely dare to be. Last year’s Wealth highlights her doomy bars, as she spits: “Put my life on the line ’cos I told myself I’ma do this shit ’til I’m dead,” over glitchy beats provided by Berlin’s Modeselektor.
“Rap isn’t meant to be too happy; there’s meant to be grit in there,” she explains. “It’s not about weed and lipstick. You’ve got to have that punk in there. It’s got to be radical. You’re here to make a statement.”
As driven as she is skilled, all that Flohio has achieved so far has been under her own steam, including releasing everything on her own label, Alpha. “My friend says this thing: ‘DIY or DIE,’” Flo says of her work philosophy. “There’s so much joy in getting your hands dirty, messing up and then succeeding. You gain knowledge that way.” Her reasons for not signing to a major label (yet) are wrapped up in this idea. “What I have is quite delicate. I can’t just place it in random hands because I don’t know how they’ll handle it. It scares me. I’m standing firm until I have all my foundations set, then they can come back and have that conversation.”
It’s a sensible decision, especially considering how the majors have treated British female rappers in the past. Take Birmingham MC Lady Leshurr, who revealed one offered her $250,000 to start a spurious beef with Nicki Minaj. Or Stefflon Don, whose first big single, Hurtin’ Me, made more of her singing than it did her furious wordplay. Likewise, Flo is still having to define and explain her sound. She is regularly – and wrongly – pigeonholed with grime artists whom she respects but certainly doesn’t consider herself one of. “I got frustrated with it – but you know what it is, I hear it, I’m influenced by it a lot,” she says, genially”.
This year has been dominated by female artists and I am excited to see how that translates next year in terms of festival bookings. This year’s Glastonbury saw strong artists like Little Simz and Lizzo rule and slay the crowds! I think Flohio has the same sort of energy and panache as contemporaries such as Little Simz and Stefflon Don but I think Flohio digs deeper and is even rawer – taking Rap to new levels and places; showing what variety there is in the genre. In a year when many people are gravitating towards urgent sounds and socially aware songs, Flohio has a vital role to play. As she says in her track, Bands: “Realistic goals/Man I hate that word!/No limit I...mastered it/Smash glass ceilings and I'll take my cut”. Flohio is riding high and I do think there are big things coming very soon. Many people will be hankering for a mixtape or album and, with some great tracks already out there, her fans will wait with baited breath. There are a lot of promising Rap and Hip-Hop artists coming through in the U.K. right now but, when it comes to the immense Flohio, she is very much…
A cut above.