HEROINE 18 cover story

FLOHIO and Eve in conversation – musical lineage in action
By Alex James Taylor | Music | 28 March 2023

jacket and shirt both by 16ARLINGTON SS23; sunglasses by BURBERRY SS23; jewellery, worn throughout, FLOHIO’S own

On the cover of her debut record, Out of Heart, South London rapper FLOHIO stands in a room illuminated by a grand chandelier. The scene represents a living room from her past, one where memories and experiences were shaped. Sure, the chandelier was somewhat smaller, but with this body of work FLOHIO is placing herself under the spotlight. This penchant for world-building extends into the vinyl grooves. Designed to be played loud, Flohio pushes against the boundaries of hip-hop, articulating her story through elaborate layers of industrial beats, stirring arrangements and flows that bite. Following a steady drip of acclaimed mixtapes and EPs, Out of Heart is FLOHIO’s story to now: a position of confidence, clarity and clout.

“I call you Queen,” says FLOHIO, bestowing the rightful title to legendary Grammy Award-winning musician Eve. In conversation here, this is a bucket list moment for FLOHIO, who spent her formative years reciting, studying and writing down Eve’s lyrics – learning through listening. Different generations riding the same track – this is musical lineage in action.

jacket and shirt by PRADA SS23; balaclava stylist’s own

Eve: Nice to meet you!
FLOHIO: Likewise, it’s mind-blowing.

E: [laughs] Let’s start from the top, what first made you enjoy making music?
F: I’m the youngest out of two, and me and my older sister are very different, but when it comes to certain things like fashion, music, food, we click. So I’d sneak into her bedroom like, “I wonder what’s happening in here?” And she had CDs, and posters from Young Voices, this magazine we had back in the day. It was discovering these little Easter eggs – I was on the hunt. What my parents listened to, my sister, and just the environment I was exposed to, there were a lot of marks that got my brain going and I just stuck to it. I was like, “I like this, this does something to me.” Basically it happened from there, these things moulding and shaping you. I’ve never looked elsewhere, I’ve always been on this journey.

E: I love the Easter egg hunt analogy, because it is like that, we collect so much. For me, it was a similar journey. I didn’t have a sister but I had an aunt who was like my big sister and she loved hip-hop, like she loved LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa. But also the area I lived in – the projects – which [in the UK] you call a council estate?
F: Yeah, the ends.

E: Exactly. In the summer we’d have block parties and there would be tons of DJs out playing music, breakdancing, people battling, all kinds of stuff. So I’ve always seen hip-hop. I didn’t know I wanted to rap though until I was probably fifteen. That’s when I was like, “I want this to be my life, this is it.” When I was younger I sang in a choir, I did anything [related to] entertainment – I just liked attention basically [both laugh]. Then I started rapping and I loved it because I used to write poems as well, so it felt like a perfect transition. Then at fifteen I told my mum, “I hope you’re not mad at me, but I’m not going to go to college, I’m going to pursue music, my career.” And, knock on wood, thankfully it all worked out [laughs].
F: I’m glad you were able to tell your mum at such a young age, I wish I could’ve been like that. You know, like making sure you don’t disappoint. Also, my sisters had graduated, but I didn’t want to go down that route. I kind of had a plan, I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I had a clear idea. Imagine I had the courage to be like, “I wanna do this” earlier on? But anyway, we live and learn.

E: Trust me, I was definitely scared. I’m the first born, I have a brother who is fourteen years younger than me, so I was definitely scared to tell my mum, but just like you said, you have that clear vision. I was like, I’d rather tell my mum now than upset her later [laughs]. It was something in me. Weirdly, when I think back on it, it was almost like a declaration to myself, saying it out loud, “This is going to be my life.” It’s funny, I was having a conversation the other day about how parents obviously have expectations, but all they really want is for their kid to be OK. I want to know you can make a living, feed yourself, take care of yourself. I think once they see the progression and that you can make a life from it, then they have to support you.
F: I know, I was like, “What was I so worried about in the first place!” [both laugh] “You should’ve said something earlier!”

E: Exactly. When did you feel like you could turn the hobby into a career?
F: After a while the questions are bugging in your head, like, “How long can I actually do this as a hobby for?” You look to your left or right and see your peers doing their own thing and they’re like, “How’s that little music thing going?” [both laugh] When you have a connection in your heart, like you said, a vision, a clairvoyance almost, some people just know what they want to do. I call you Queen – like you said, Queen, it was just something I knew I wanted to do. The hobby was such a big part of my life. I’d be at the youth club, open mics, house parties, like, “Hey, you lot, the music room, take me there.” I was always pushed towards it organically, and there were times when I couldn’t even be bothered but the music still managed to find me and push me somewhere. So I just kept going. I didn’t even do a CV and hand it out because I just knew that wasn’t my world.

E: I 100 percent get that. I was the same, like, this is my life so why should I divert? This is it. I would take small jobs just to pay for studio time – weed and studio, that was all I needed [both laugh].
F: Legit. I was doing internships and work experiences because I was like, “You’ll see me here for two days a week and that’s it. I know what I’m doing, thank you very much.” Basically I’d help my mum out and go to the studio, that was my life. I didn’t go out to purposely have a music-based career, I just followed my head – I’m strong-minded – then opportunities made their way to me and the doors never closed after that.

E: When you first started writing, to where you are now and where you want to go, do you still feel like you’re finding your voice, your craft, or do you feel like you’ve found it?
F: It’s an ongoing journey, I’m still finding my voice. Can I relate that question back to you?

E: I’m finding my voice in a different way. I have a foundation of who I am, what I’m about and what I want people to feel when I’m performing, when I’m rapping. But living life makes you find out more about yourself as you go along. So at this point, next time I go into a studio I can’t write about the shit I wrote about twenty years ago, but also my life is so different. I’m a mother now, I have a child. Those kinds of things will dictate what my voice will be, because now he’s going to hear it at some point. It’s ever-evolving. I’m such a sponge, I’m one of those people who wants to be here, and here. I never wanted to be OK with where I was, I always want to evolve.
F: We have to grow, we can’t be stagnant.

E: That actually really scares me if I can’t get past where I am, like, “OK, what am I going to do next?” It’s a very horrible feeling.
F: But what got you here might not get you there, so you have to be on the ball. I remember the first time I played Eve-Olution on my CD player, I’d press ‘play’, ‘stop’, ‘rewind’, and would write down all the lyrics. I heard so much rawness and vulnerability in your voice, but at the same time it felt so bold. That’s one of the first reasons I picked up a pen. I tried to take away some of that boldness while still being gentle with it.

“I didn’t go out to purposely have a music-based career, I just followed my head…”

vest and jeans both by GIVENCHY SS23

E: I love that. That’s definitely how I’ve always tried to be. Obviously when I was coming up it was so male-dominated. I had to be like, “You are going to respect me for my lyrics.” It’s not about me being in a short skirt, or whatever, it’s about lyrics. That was hugely important. But also being vulnerable, which I’m still learning about, more now that I’m older. Vulnerability is our strength as well. Also the hunger was real, because I was like, “I’m not going back home.” There’s no way.
F: I respect that highly. In the music life there’s a duality, but also it’s me all the time. This life can be like a party and getting used to silence is also important, picking up a pen and paper, Netflix, something chilled, I love to cook. Those are moments I withdraw myself.

E: Yeah, definitely.
F: Oh you like cheffing as well?

E: No please, girl, I’m not even going to pretend [laughs]. I love to eat. I need fifteen, twenty-minute recipes, that’s all my brain allows me. But I love what you’re saying about keeping to your energy, drawing back, and the duality. I’ve always said, the day you look at yourself in the mirror like your fans look at you, you’re in trouble. It’s different. We all throw on that personality, I call her a superhero, that’s my superhero, when I’m on stage that’s my cape. But you can’t keep that up all day, everyday, 24 hours, you will burn out and kill yourself. You also need those people who knew you before all this, because that’s your grounding. I’m still really into taking time for myself, I mean it’s a little harder now I’ve got a kid [laughs], but when I really was super busy I’d check myself into a hotel for a night or two, or take a vacation by myself. But it took me years to learn that. I was burned out, I definitely hit the wall, I was drinking and smoking and thinking that was how I kept up. You have to protect your energy and your peace at all costs.
F: Yes. I say it like I’m an advocate of this, but really and truly it’s something I’m just learning myself, taking time out and stuff. It’s needed. Balance is the key word in life.

“I remember the first time I played Eve-Olution on my CD player, I’d press ‘play’, ‘stop’, ‘rewind’, and would write down all the lyrics.”

E: Are there particular moments in your career that have defined or changed you in some way?
F: Doing shows. Going around performing and seeing how my lyrics, my music, impacts people. The conversations I have with my supporters, my listeners and them telling me how my song helped them, that still blows my mind. Money can’t buy that. In those moments I also have to look within, it’s healing for them and me. Those shows are quite defining.

E: It’s shared energy. It’s a humbling thing to think that you’re the voice of many, and you don’t think about it like that. You write something in the state you’re in at the time just hoping people like it, and then you’re like, “Oh wow, a lot of people feel like this.” It’s a big deal, it’s a beautiful, incredible thing. We’re very lucky.
F: Can I ask you the same question?

E: Honestly, it’s the same. When I first started I was like, “I’m only going to do one album.” Because in my head I’d lived so much life. If you think about it, your first piece of music is everything you’ve lived up to that point. But I didn’t realise how contracts and shit worked back then [both laugh]. Songs I’d made that were so personal, I honestly thought nobody was going to care about them or be into them. That was a big deal [seeing people relate]. [A big] moment was Love is Blind, because that was a poem I wrote when I was about fifteen or sixteen about my friend, and then I decided to make it into a song.
F: That’s an amazing piece.

jacket and trousers by ACNE SS23; top and gloves stylist’s own; shoes by PRADA SS23

“As I’m evolving, there’s still going to be traces of my origin story throughout.”

E: Thank you. That’s how I realised how music and words can be impactful, and how you can help other people out of situations without even knowing. My favourite thing in the world is performing. I feel like I’m the most myself on stage. That clarity. Actually, any time I go on stage and I’m preoccupied I know it’s going to be a fucked up show.
F: For real. It’s like going into a boxing ring, your mind has to be like water.

E: Literally, it’s so true. Any time I’ve gone on stage thinking about this or that, or I just can’t fucking focus, or can’t disappear… because I feel like I disappear on stage, like me right here, I’m gone. When I can’t do that, it’s the worst. I feel the audience being there, I’m so appreciative and every show I take the time to say thank you for them being there, for giving me their energy. It’s crazy.
F: What’re your rituals before going on stage?

E: I get quiet. Right before going on stage I turn myself away, because I have my crew there, my management, someone might be fixing something, but I’ll take a minute to walk away from them because I need to be by myself. I’ll talk to my angels, my ancestors, my God, my universe, and I kind of do a prayer. Then I’ll jump up and down and scream as loud as I can [laughs]. Like the loudest, craziest screams, and then I’m ready.
F: I do the jumping up and down too, some form of exercise for sure. But I’m the same, I don’t want to see anybody, talk to anybody. It’s showtime.

E: That moment is you clearing everything. For me, I need this quietness. Like you said, and I’ve never thought about this, it’s literally like going into the boxing ring.
F: It is! You’ve got to have your stamina on point, your one-twos on point. You’ve got your coach in the corner.

E: Love that. Who do you look up to musically, and generally in life?
F: If you’d asked me this about ten years ago I’d name a bunch of artists. But I’ve been growing, and who inspires me now? I’d say my mum, my nephew, he’s seven but I’m learning so much from him [laughs]. I see a whole different side to life since he’s been introduced to mine. Also the people I have around me, if you have people you appreciate and respect how they move, eventually you move like them and adapt to the positive side of them.

E: Absolutely. As you grow, the people you surround yourself with becomes so much more important. Especially in this business, you have to be surrounded by people who are good for you. My mother has always been my rock and my biggest supporter, from day one. She was a single mum, she had me really young, and she’s always made sure I’m good. She definitely is my first. I have a great team of people, I’m very grateful. And now I’m a mum, I have some really cool mums I’ve met, and they’re also an inspiration, seeing how they work and move. I love what you said about your nephew, because children are amazing, how they see and think, their brains, it’s insane.
F: My nephew blows my mind all the time. I say, “But you’ve been here for seven years! What’s going on?” [both laugh] Did you have a plan for how your career would go from the start?

E: There definitely wasn’t ever a proper plan [laughs], with Ruff Ryders I was in the studio for basically 24 hours. The first album was like that, the ones after were a little bit more calculated because we had a proven hit. So it was like, “Who can we put on the single?” It became a little bit more calculated to take my career to a different place. But that wasn’t just Ruff Ryders, it was managers as well, it became a whole different machine.
F: Was this after the Grammy? [Eve won a Grammy in 2002 for her track Let Me Blow Ya Mind]

E: Pretty much, because that Grammy proved to them that my ideas worked, because I was the one who won it on that record, and they’d fought me the whole time. So of course, once the song became a hit they were like, “We knew it!” and I was like, “You didn’t know shit!” [both laugh] Now the label wanted to be behind me and it became a whole different thing.
F: It took a while for me to even want to do the album. It was about if I wanted to tell my stories and how truthful I wanted to be. I’m planning my music, creating a story through that, and artwork as well, creating a correlation down the line, ten years or whatever. People like Tyler [the Creator] do that so well, and OutKast, thinking about the whole package and making sure there’s a link. As I’m evolving, there’s still going to be traces of my origin story throughout.

HEROINE 18 is out now.

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