The South London MC delivering turbo-charged tracks with her distinctive, disruptive flow.
Come on, man. Flippin’ Giggs! Giggs is the guy. But even before him, there was just always this vibe in south.” Having been raised in Bermondsey, south London has always served as an inspiration for electric MC Flohio, the quotidian richness of narratives in the area a constant inspiration for the rapper making some of the UK’s most urgent, intelligent music right now. “You can’t leave your house without seeing some shit that’s going to inspire you in south,” she muses.
Her last release, 2019’s “WAY2” — an ice-cold, take-no-prisoners offering that serves as a statement of intent for her upcoming mixtape — vocalises this appreciation for her hometown, the line “all in Vogue and I still rep south” a perfect microcosm for the rapper’s insistence that, however far her star rises, her roots will never be forgotten. And it’s not difficult to believe her. Flohio is unafraid of introspection; she is somebody willing to assess and examine her own position, always with the aim of improvement. “That’s what anybody should be doing in whatever craft they’re doing,” she says frankly. “Just aim to do more, and be more.”
The notion of self-reflection also characterises her (as yet nameless) upcoming mixtape. “It’s mainly about revealing some things that I’ve been questioning, or trying to ask myself,” she explains: “How to do things the way I believe things should be done. Which [means] not being too overprotective at times, or not caring too much. Being free within my space and being true to myself in terms of how I work. […These] questions I’ve been stuck on — they just seem so much clearer to me as of late. So it’s about unravelling this thing that I know I’ve got, but [asking myself] how I present it.” I suggest the artistic process of creating the mixtape facilitates this journey of self-discovery, but the rapper is quick to assert that she isn’t there yet. “I wouldn’t fully say self-discovery; I’m still on the way to that,” she reflects. “Maybe by the time the album is old, it will be like some ‘self-discovery.’”
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Musically, the project is packed with versatility, nowhere more so than Flohio’s trademark asset: her devastating deployment of flow. “I’m Flohio, man! I’ve gotta have flows,” she exclaims jovially, before assuming a more serious tone. The distance rap, and flow in particular, has come from the safe, on-beat rhymes of early groups like the Sugarhill Gang cannot be overstated, with modern-day lyricists like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and, in the UK, Kano and Little Simz serving as proof of the fascinating place that artists’ interaction with flow has arrived at.
Metre, cadence and timing dance together to shape and construct a sound that is unique to each rapper and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Flohio revels in being the next to pick up this lyrical baton. “It’s what makes you, you,” she says frankly. “I think it’s key for a rapper to have their own flow, because that’s their signature. Without [it], they basically just sound like anybody else. It’s very important for me to have my flow; really and truly, it’s what holds me up. Some people have mad wordplay, and they go crazy with their metaphors and things like that. But I think I smash it with my flow.”
The very fact that the likes of Flohio and Little Simz are now justifiably spotlighted in the conversation is testament to how far the landscape of rap and hiphop, once essentially reserved for males, has shifted when it comes to gender inclusivity, and this is not lost on the young rapper. “People are appreciating the talent, what’s coming out of these ladies’ minds. And it’s not just about, ‘Oh look. She’s a girl. She can rap.’ It’s about, ‘Oh shit. This chick can rap.’ And people are listening more. Showing more respect.” This said, she hopes to arrive at a place where people look beyond who is delivering the art, and instead just focus on the art itself.
“There’s more to me than just me,” she says after some thought. “There’s more to me than what you just see, or what you perceive of me […] If I tried to be fake, then it wouldn’t work. I don’t believe I’d be accepted. For real. I love rap. Fuck everything else. I just love rap. I get about putting out good music, that’s got good rap in it […] The focus is not on me. The focus is on my art.” 2020 promises to be an exciting year for Flohio. Towards the end of last year, she was named on the BBC’s illustrious Sound of 2019 longlist, though there will be no resting on any laurels. “It’s extra,” she explains. However, she also signals the virtue of appreciating how far she’s come. “I don’t feel like anything comes too early […] It’s very overwhelming at the time. It’s like ‘oh my god, I can’t believe it.’ Then, after a couple of days, it’s just like ‘hold on, wait. I remember the times when I was crying over this, [when] it was blood, sweat and tears. So why am I all in disbelief now?’ Just hold your own and own it. That’s something I’m trying to practice this year, as well: believing in your own and just owning it.”
Ayodele Majid Ogunkoya.