"I feel like art is education, you know?"

Funmi Ohiosumah’s body language is doing the talking for her. When we meet, the rapper known as Flohio talks quietly with her eyes lowered, but leaps up onto her seat to elaborate on a point, punches a wasp that’s buzzing next to my face with a sharp right hook, and excitedly grabs my diary when she sees the Ninja Tune sticker on it (she used to work at the label as a graphic designer). On stage, she’s an equally powerful presence. At Lovebox festival this year, a throng of fans were kicking up clouds of dust, yelling her lyrics bar for bar.

“Stage is like my bedroom,” she smiles. “I feel comfortable there. It’s nice, it’s like my friends coming to visit me in my bedroom.” For someone with so few tracks out, Flohio’s ascent has been remarkably sharp. Collaborations with Gods Colony and L-Vis 1990 quickly followed after the Nigeria-born MC dropped her debut EP, ‘Nowhere Near’, in 2016. Add to that a life-affirming COLORS session and the fact that she was just selected by Naomi Campbell for Vogue as one of ‘10 women changing our future’ and she’s someone for whom the term ‘blowing up’ was invented.

Born in Lagos and relocating to Bermondsey as an eight-year-old, Flohio grew up on a diet of Lil Wayne and Eve - before getting into rapping herself via 50p-per-day youth clubs. Now wrapping her tight, punctuated lyrics around a variety of beats, she throws genre categories out of the window, favouring economic, spacey beats where there’s room for her flow to really get to work.

“My brain’s never locked down,” she says, “So I just write. I write, I write, I write. In my bedroom, bus, train, wherever. It’s like a memory bank.”

But Flohio’s sights are set higher than simply bringing out a banging new track. Though she doesn’t get overtly political on record as she doesn’t “give [the government] my energy,” she wants to “be an ambassador for art and culture, in places where there isn’t that much. I feel like art is education, you know?”

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Words: Felicity Martin
Photography: Vicky Grout

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