London rapper on his new mixtape and grasping independence...

These are pivotal times for UK rappers.

Get is right, and the world could be yours. Get it wrong, and about 99 other artists will be occupying that space.

Fekky is aware of the consequences, and that's precisely why he's doing it his own way.

Grasping independence, new mixtape '4Life' drops on September 27th, released on his own F Music imprint in collaboration with Caroline International.

Laid down at his own studio, it's preceded by epic new single 'All The Smoke' - it's clear, then, that Fekky has some grand plans.

Clash caught up with the rapper to see what's what.

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Is the mixtape completely new material?

Brand new. Everything’s brand new. It’s getting to the point where cutting it down to 16 is so hard. We spent four, five weeks even go back and forth on that.

Where did you make it?

I’ve got my own studio. It’s in Central. And I opened it. I did it all down there. I’ve got a home set up as well, so I cut between those two places, just getting it done.

How did you approach it? Do you collect potential beats first?

I feel like having a break this time made everything so much easier as it cleared everything out of my mind. When I first came out I literally didn’t have no breaks for about five years, I was just battling. Doing shows. Living that rock star life. This time, my mind was so clear – I was hearing music, getting the energy immediately. I was making certain songs in 40 minutes!

Wow!

Yeah. That’s from hearing it to standing at the mic and spitting it out. I would get it done, and I would go back and move it around, think about who I would like to hear on it. Everything was so natural this time. It felt like how it did when I first started. I wasn’t thinking too much.

When you get into the music game I feel like sometimes you get into this space where you overthink. You get a lot of opinions thrown at you, and you end up overthinking too much – and that’s not a good thing.

Does this new mixtape mark a break from your previous work?

100%. I loved ‘El Classico’ and I put a lot into it, but I can still feel like I was in a certain space when I made it, and I feel like ‘El Classico’ was me trying to prove something that I didn’t have to prove. When it came to production I was really, really thinking about it so much, and I feel like with this one it’s so fresh, so natural, and the sonics as well… it’s like the old Fekky, mixed with the new.

What defines the old Fekky, then? Is it working without expectations?

Yeah! You don’t have no expectations. It’s just a natural energy. And I feel like that’s what it was with me – when I first came out I was on tag, so I couldn’t leave my house after 7pm, so I literally sat there, put the mic on, put a beat on, and say how I felt.

That’s what people used to point out – like Wiley or Skepta when they came round, they’d be like: you sound like you just say what you want! I feel like I lot that a bit, when I signed my deal. I started thinking, I can’t say this, I can’t say that. Feeling like I was muted.

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And the new project is a lot rawer than that.

Completely. I feel like I’ve done a 360. A lot of artists get to that point where they don’t know what to do next, and it’s because they’re overthinking what to do next. You can never call it.

As an example, Michael Dapaah putting out a freestyle on BBC and going viral – you could never call that, or plan it. I just feel like these days with social media you should never put so much pressure on one song.

It must be difficult with a larger team around you, as well.

If you had Picasso or someone, trying to paint a picture but with five people around him, all going: don’t paint that! Change that bit there! I’m sure he wouldn’t have expressed himself in the way he did. And that’s a problem some of us have – when you’ve got so many people to speak to, and so many opinions around you, half the stuff you’re putting out – without you even knowing – isn’t 100% natural to you.

You’ve fought for that independence.

100%. It’s like: if you don’t love yourself, people ain’t gonna love you. I know it’s a banger, I’m telling the world it’s a banger, and if you come into my studio then by the time you leave you’ll know it’s a banger! If I feel like if I kept asking people: should I change this? Then it’s not necessarily your art.

There’s a huge amount going on in London at the moment, what’s been inspiring you?

D’you know? No disrespect to anyone but I wouldn’t say I’m inspired. I think that is where a lot of people were going wrong. You have to write sometimes just looking straight forward. And think time I really locked myself away, just to make sure that I wasn’t being influenced by what’s going on around me.

But I would say I’m happy with what’s going on. To see Stormzy on Glastonbury, to see people hitting the charts, our brothers and sisters from the scene doing well. I’m happy. But as far as influence or inspiration, I’ve been trying to really channel that towards myself.

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Where does that approach take you?

I just want to be free. And that’s how I feel with the studio. I’ve got a five year, 10 year plan of building a movement and a label throughout this time. But I want it to be on the basis of me empowering them to free themselves. Making them not make the same mistakes I made coming up in the game.

Everyone who comes to the studio, if I see anyone asking lots of questions I say: you don’t need to ask me. You need to know what you’re doing! I want to empower new artists coming up.

You’ve worked with people like Rick Ross and The Game – that must inspire you to take things further.

Exactly. And when you meet them you realise that everyone is human. Drake, me and him talk all the time. We’re the same people in a different part of the world. And I feel like that gives you confidence, to be you, to have no mercy and just go for it.

‘All The Smoke’ was an impressive introduction, can you remember writing it?

Yeah, that one was quick. I always thought that song was like a feeling. I’ve got other songs where you get to know me more, and I speak a lot deeper about certain things. Having kids, life issues.

But ‘All The Smoke’ is a vibe, it’s just fun. Hear it in a club and get down to it.

That’s an importance audience to be fair.

Completely. I’ve always had that edge. If you look at my releases, they’ve all been songs where if you see it onstage or in a club then the energy is just crazy. I feel like when I had ‘No Smoke’ I knew I could pull it out and let everybody feel good.

The feedback from fans messaging is great because it puts me back in that space, and I feel like I didn’t have that space for a long time.

What do you have planned for the label?

At the moment I’m on the lookout for artists around me. If it was down to me I would be doing it now, as there are a few people around me, but I’ve got a team, everyone around me is putting their work and ethic into it, so it’s only fair that I put 100% of myself into the mixtape. And when that’s done I can broaden my horizons and work with other artists.

Will the studio in Central London be a base for that?

Yeah! It is a base already. Now that I’ve stopped recording there are people in there everyday. And on Sundays we do free sessions for colleges and youth centres, they can use it for free.

Is that element of reinvestment in culture important to you?

100%. I’ve got a son and he’s my A&R. He’s a better A&R than anyone I’ve met at a major label and he’s 10 years old! It’s priceless. The youth are exposed to so much now, that their brains are a lot more advanced than we were at their age.

The mixtape is coming up, will you be focussing on an album next?

Like I said, I recorded so many songs, and an album would be nothing for me to put together right now. I just feel like… I want to have fun, man. I could put out another mixtape after, maybe an album. You never know! For now I want to put this out, and not put myself under pressure.

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Fekky's new mixtape '4Life' drops on September 24th.

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