- Words Hamda Isa-Salwe
- Photography Dean Dùmarè
- Styling Symone Keisha
- Grooming Margherita Lascala using Mac Cosmetics
- Production Studio Notion
After his rapid rise from trap house king to major label star, South London MC Fekky is reclaiming his independence, taking control of his future and going back to his roots, as he launches his F Music label and '4Life' mixtape.
“With this new project I’m free”, grins Fekky flashing a full mouth of shiny gold grills. He’s referring to 4Life — the mixtape that marks the first release under his own F Music label venture (post parting ways with Island Records). “There’s fewer chefs in the kitchen”, he continues, “Working with the label was like me coming here and putting a cake on the table — everyone tries the cake, you might not like it, another person might think you need to put more sauce on it”.
The Fekky flavour — mainly high-energy “bu bu bang”-ers — was first cooked up on his home turf borough of Lewisham. Born to Nigerian parents, every Sunday his dad would fill up the house with music, from Gospel to Country, Reggae and Fella Kuti — Fekky had his ears open to everything. “My music’s always been very bass-heavy — when I was a kid, all I’d hear through the house was the bass going boom boom boom! That same energy will always stay with me”, says Fekky, his fist landing on the table with each “boom”.
Fekky’s journey from growing up in a house filled with music to actually making his own, plays out like the rags to riches story of every hood hero. Neighbourhood beef and run-ins with the law, lead to life-changing twists and character-building turns. “The route I took made me a better man”, he explains, fully embracing the rocky road of his past, “I was always in trouble, by the time I was 18 I was on tag and had two cases ongoing. I didn’t even wanna go out ‘cos I felt like every time I come outside I’m causing trouble”.
Whilst under semi-house arrest with a curfew and ankle monitor, a chance visit from a mate kicked off his entire musical career, as the pair decided to drive into central London on a spontaneous shopping spree to buy a Mac computer and musical equipment.
“I spent weeks and weeks at home playing around with music, slowly I started rapping, then, one day, the mandem came round and I showed them something. I said ‘look, I made this’ and everyone was like ‘you can really rap!’”. The MP3 found its way onto BlackBerry Messenger and was soon pinging around from phone-to-phone and hood-to-hood, going viral at a period that was post-physical mixtapes but pre-social media.
Fekky’s eyes light up as he talks through tales of the early days, making his name with street anthems like “Ring Ring Trap” — his breakout track that went on to earn a remix from UK Rap mainstays Blade Brown and Youngs Teflon. “People started asking ‘who’s the Fekky guy?’, people were hitting me up and I was getting booking for shows”, Fekky reminisces.
His very first show away from home was up in Leicester in front of 3000 people, on a line-up that also featured Krept and Konan. Fekky strode onto the stage, said one word and the entire building was suddenly shouting his tunes back to him. Fekky had arrived.
Since then, there’s been collabs with Dizzee Rascal, Giggs and Skepta, his debut album ‘El Classico’, performances at Glastonbury, Wireless, Reading and Leeds, plus tours with The Game and Rick Ross. Tour life came with the ups of expensive hotels, VIP sections and poppin’ bottles in a new city every night— it also came with its downs.
“I was literally drunk seven days a week going from show to show,” says Fekky explaining that as well as being drunk on the electricity of success, he was quite literally hammered too. “At certain times I felt like I was so tired I needed to drink to get myself bubbly enough to do a show. Some of the memories you won’t even remember because you’re always smashed… I got lost in the sauce a bit. I was going from hotel to hotel, show to show and flight to flight”.
The high life took its toll and Fekky describes how after six years of living hardcore, the adrenaline wore off. “I had to rejuvenate myself. Get in the gym, eat better, spend more time around family. Get myself in a better place mentally. Now that I’ve experienced years and years of it, I know to eat better, have a nutritionist around, train a lot and look after myself”. says Fekky of his newfound coping mechanisms and cleaner living routine.
“Less negativity, more positivity. You need to take yourself away from everything and remember who you are,” he vents. “You have to offload the stuff that’s on your mind. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it than through music”.
The conversation flows through well-being, self-care and onto grounding oneself — both mentally and physically — in the sanctuary of his new recording space F Studios; the hub where Fekky recorded the entirety of his new project ‘4Life’ (the title came from a moment of realisation that he would be in this game “for life”).
Mapping out his vision for the new creative base, Fekky’s blueprint follows in the footsteps of other rappers turned music moguls like Diddy and Dr. Dre. The studio also goes hand-in-hand with an imprint label, F Music, under Caroline International. Acting as an incubator for raw talent, doubling down with F Studios and F Music, Fekky is trying to create something that’ll go down in history.
“The studio is all about working with artists who are still in the development stage, there’s so much talent out there. I needed to find a space to harness that and pull everyone in”, Fekky says. “I’m building a legacy that’s bigger than everything I’ve already done. I hope people remember me as someone who empowered the youth to be their own bosses. That’s my aim”.
“The Windrush-era didn’t know the legacy they’d leave for us: Saxon Sound, Dennis Row and all those people,” says Fekky circling back to the very influences that he grew up listening to; like the 1980s sound systems that came out of a pre-gentrified Brixton and left a legacy that moved onto Jungle, So-Solid, Grime and onto Drill. Entering a new era in his own musical career, “legacy” is a key topic of conversation.
“I was always confident in what I was doing and I always knew my sound but with the label, I started questioning that a lot”, Fekky says of his experience being signed to a major label and pressure he found himself under to toe the line and create music to target specific platforms and demographics. “When I made songs like ‘My Size’ these were what I call aiming songs”, he details, “You make songs where you’re like, let’s aim for the radio but aiming is bad, music should be a natural thing. I’ll be in the studio, say one lyric then tell myself ‘you shouldn’t be saying that’. I’d be limiting myself… I can’t live like that. I never came in the game like that”.
Fortunately, Fekky’s newly reclaimed independence comes with freedom from self-censorship. These days, it’s all about being true to self and letting the music do the talking. “They’ll talk about my swag, my chain, the car I’m driving or the girl I’m seeing or whatever but they’re all distractions from the main thing” — that, of course, being the music.
“That’s why I love ‘All The Smoke’” he says of the first single from ‘4Life’. “I’m just saying whatever I want. Just being Fekky”.