Bu Bu Bang! How Fekky Went from the Roads to the Fast Lane in Just Two Years
As grime expands, so too do the careers of its MCs. But how is Fekky and the new generation going to sustain this longevity?
When we finally get hold of Fekky over the phone, he lets out a small sigh of relief before even saying hello. It’s the first time he’s sat down all day. “I’ve just finished in the studio and I’ve got a show tonight. Til the end of the year it’s going to be so crazy, but it’s what I want to do. It’s what I signed up for.” I've never heard a man so happy about being shattered.
The world of grime is moving fast. The summer has seen an unprecedented cultural takeover in the UK. MCs are making the top 20, festival main-stage appearances are abundant, and freestyles and music videos are jumping to hundreds of thousands of views in the blink of an eye. In the past two years, Fekky has encapsulated the perfect climb, and just how quickly it can happen. He’s had tracks with Dizzee (“Sittin Here”) and Skepta (“Way Too Much”), toured the UK with Migos, and is currently setting up to play his first headline UK show. This is fast lane business.
If you search Fekky online, there's little in the way of extensive interviews about his past. When we touch on it - as a way of taking things back to where they first began for the South London rapper - he begins with an explanation, perhaps favouring a version of his story that is light on the details. “I was always a bit scared to talk about my earlier days before. When I came into the game and I started doing interviews, I always thought talking about the past would hinder what I was doing. I’d just act like a goody-two-shoes, you know? But at the same time, I understand that people want to know...”
One of the most important things in the beginning for Fekky, was meeting likeminded people. He explains, “I’ve always been very good at networking, even before music, I’d go meet people from North London, or Birmingham, and we’d rave together.” Basically, he didn't care about no postcodes.
“I feel like that’s always helped me have more of a general understanding. Sometimes, when people are so focused on their area, they can end up with tunnel vision.” By looking beyond his locale, and the more insular tendencies of grime communities, he's given himself the space to focus on his personal story, coming through with bars that are both straightforward and ruthlessly real. “I don’t rely on metaphors. I don’t need them," says Fekky, "if I say something you can walk out your door and find a hundred people who will tell you that it’s true.”
To be real, and to promote what you’re pushing as real, takes trust. Trust in your audience to believe it, trust in the people around you to qualify it, but most of all, trust in yourself to stand by it. “When I first started saying ‘Bu bu bang!’ - do you know how many calls I was getting saying, ‘What is he doing?’ People were saying, ‘Have you seen what Fekky’s doing?’ But I know myself, I trusted myself to sell it. Within six months everyone had clocked what was going on.” Walk into a Fekky show now and you'll hear a solid few hundreds yelling "BU BU BANG!" back at him.
That all said, it’s hard to imagine the man ever really doubted his own capabilities. Everything he says is qualified by the state of unaffected pride in what he’s done so far, and what he’s going to do next. “I’m getting booked so much, I think I’ve got another 20 bookings before the end of the year, at good money, so I can’t complain. The demand is there. And I’ve managed to turn it into a living for the people around me. My friend wanted to open a cleaning company for example, so I sat down with him and made a business plan. I’m appreciating the money more.” Grime funded cleaning companies. Welcome to 2015.
Typical of grime, Fekky first entered the scene putting his music on YouTube, taking his innate networking skills to a new platform. “YouTube was crazy important," he reasons. "Even down on the streets. Back in the day you would hear a name but you couldn’t put a face to it. You would hear someone say, ‘This guy is the craziest guy in North London’ for example, but you wouldn’t have a clue who they were without the Internet. So with me, the Internet made everything go so fast. People could put a face to what I was doing.”
It’s a culture, and aesthetic even, that’s central to grime. From Risky Roadz, through to Stormzy’s “Shut Up” freestyle, the game is played out on a strictly low-budget, high intensity dynamic. “The first track I ever released was called 'Do You'. If you watch that video, it’s the rawest film. Everything I’m saying is so raw, but that’s what helped me. If you look at the way music is now, and you look at the videos being put out, someone could shoot an £80 video, and it will blow a £20,000 video out of the water, because it’s the rawest form.”
This chat about videos, however, does bring us on to one video — and one track — in particular. “Sittin Here” — the Fekky remix of a Boy In Da Corner cut which Dizzee himself heard and eventually, and unexpectedly, agreed to jump on. “His initial reaction was that he loved it and wanted me to release, but was like ‘I can’t jump on it right now.’ Then a month, maybe a month and a half later, he sent me this verse out of nowhere. I had to look at my phone over and over again to check it was real. I thought, ‘no way has this guy sent me a verse out of the blue’, but he had.”
Which brings us to longevity - when Fekky looks at Dizzee or Skepta, how does he see his own future panning out? “It’s hard for me to say right now. I feel like I’ve got a strong album, musically, very strong. I feel like I’m in a very good space. Dizzee, no-one saw him doing what he was doing, then he came out with it and it blew. Same thing with Skepta, he’s definitely not making ‘Shutdown’ for the charts. That’s music for people. I don’t think you should chase something in the hope it will blow up, because you can never know what that will be.”
It seems that is the ethos at the core of all grime right now. The mood is that no compromises need to be made, and Fekky is sticking to this - pursuing his own truly distinct sound, setting trap beats to grime BPMs and embracing American hip-hop is a much more direct route than many of his peers. With this he has found support Stateside, but this isn’t an attempt to crossover and leave the UK, leave London, or leave grime behind. Far from it. As Fekky assuredly adds, there is a need for grime now that there has never been before.
“There’s more poverty about than there was last time grime came through. Even I’m seeing it around me, nobody can make as much money. It’s hard but it brings everything down to its raw form. Grime is tracksuits, it’s not rolexes. You don’t have to buy a £200 outfit for a grime rave.” It’s recession raving, and as far as Fekky can see, the people can’t get enough of it. “It’s like everything is doing a 360. It’s like we’ve gone back ten years to when Chip and all those people were coming through.”
All this talk of growing crowds, and the spread of his music from the corners of YouTube into headline shows, brings us back to the pace of it all. Just how fast this has happened to Fekky and, in a way, grime as a whole. Before we end our phone call, there’s one last question - what if the bubble bursts?
“We need to make sure we stay in control of the scene, for it to remain what it is. Right now, it’s so easy to see grime as a cash cow, something people don’t know about but you can make a profit from. It can dilute the form. People like Skepta and myself, we need to make sure we are being pioneers.” With those words, and a grateful thanks for the conversation, Fekky has to go. Still running, but in the right direction.
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