After dropping back to back street tracks, he's made a name for himself as one of the front runners on the British hip-hop scene. Fem Fel's one of the biggest underground MC's in the UK right now and his laidback flow and raw edgy style has won him much respect amounts his peers.
If the last few years were all about the grime scene explosion, then 2011 and beyond is the time for UK rap to shine. Fem's debut album 'Eyes Closed' finally dropped this week and Vanessa Laker caught up with the south London rapper to talk new music, experimenting with different genres, why he'd like to work with Le Roux and how fellow Peckham rapper Giggs inspired him to stick with music.
Earmilk: Your debut album 'Eyes Closed' was released on Monday, how does this moment feel?
Fem Fel: It's such an amazing feeling. It's good to finally have people understand why I was so bang on being in the studio from dusk 'till dawn, always humming to myself and stressing when things didn't sound right. My music is very personal – plus, it being my first album, I feel [that] it's even more [important] than any other. I'm happy that people can finally listen to it and get to know me through it.
Earmilk: Like you mentioned, your music is very deep and personal. Is it sometimes hard to publicly express matters that are so personal to you?
Fem Fel: Nah, I actually think it's easier. The same way I've always thought lying is a harder task than telling the truth, 'cause you ain't really gotta think about it, you can just close your eyes and let it all naturally come out.
Earmilk: What's your favourite track on the album?
Fem Fel: WOW! That's a VERY hard question… I honestly think it depends on what mood I'm in. 'Hero' and 'Magnificent' are two of my favourites, but then so is 'Goin In', 'Put It In A Bag', 'Jail Tales' and 'Eyes Closed'. It's impossible to pick just one (laughs)… I really can't call it, but I guess that's a good thing ay?
Earmilk: It's definitely a good thing; it means there are too many good ones to choose from… Now, 'Eyes Closed' is a very music-lead genre mixing album, but you haven't compromised your core sound in the process. Tell us a bit about the record…
Fem Fel: You know it's funny you say that, [because] after the release of my second single ['Hero'], people assumed that I had gone "commercial", but it was more of me just growing up and touching on different aspects on my life. I love music – all genres and types. On this album I just done what came natural to me. I didn't ever plan to remain underground or go pop. I just made music that felt right at the time of making it. Admittedly, my music has matured a tad, but that's because I have. But I feel it has to be an organic thing. I feel I have proved that I can make both types of music on this album.
Earmilk: A lot of UK urban music is heavily watered down once it does become mainstream, do you feel under pressure to slightly adapt your sound in the future, in order to appeal to a wider audience?
Fem Fel: Like I said earlier, I feel I can make songs such as 'Hero' that can appeal to a wider audience, without having to water down or compromise the level of my music. If I was given a wicked pop beat that I thought I could make a big track out of, I'd do it.
Earmilk: And which non hiphop/non urban act would you like to duet with and why?
Fem Fel: It would have to be La Roux. I really like her music and for some weird reason I feel like it'll be fun to work together.
Earmilk: The UK rap scene is at a great stage right now, we've seen grime explode and now it seems like UK rap is next in line to blow. How does it feel to be one of the front runners of this movement?
Fem Fel: It feels good man. [It] feels like this is how it's supposed to be. GOOD music should rule no matter what genre it is. Grime artists such as Chipmunk, Skepta and Dizzy have proven that. I won't say I'm at the forefront yet, as I honestly believe I have so much more to do and prove, but I am definitely happy to be part of it.
Earmilk: Fellow south London MC Giggs has firmly put UK rap on the map. What's your affiliation with him?
Fem Fel: Giggs is an old skool close friend of mine. We grew up on the same estate with our families and he is actually one of the main reasons I kept rapping when I had doubts whether it was worth it. He was actually also the first person to give me a chance at studio.
Earmilk: Giggs has been heavily targeted by the authorities on many occasions and has had shows closed down without valid reasons. Why do you think they've unfairly targeted him?
Fem Fel: I honestly couldn't tell you. I just think it's stupid to stop people who have come from a negative background but are now doing positive things. It's very demotivating and makes no sense. But only the police can tell you why.
Earmilk: Tinie Tempah is currently flying the Union Jack in the States and his song with Wiz Khalifa is sure to introduce a lot of US hip-hop fans to UK rap/grime. If you could collaborate with any American MC, who would it be and why?
Fem Fel: It would be Kanye West without a shadow of a doubt. His productions evoke the deepest feelings somehow, and encourage you to experiment. I done the 'Christian Dior Denim Flow' cover a few months back and it's one of my favourite songs to date.
Earmilk: What was the last album that you bought?
Fem Fel: Wiley's 100% publishing.
Earmilk: In general, do you feel the quality of music is improving or could we learn from the past?
Fem Fel: It's most definitely improving, but we [musicians] must not get complacent and keep working on new sounds and styles.
Earmilk: And what does the rest of 2011 hold for Fem Fel?
Fem Fel: Well, just promo promo promo. I NEED everyone to listen to this album. That's my plan for the next few months. That and slowly putting together my next album.
Fel Fel's Debut Album 'Eyes Closed' Is Out Now. Click here to buy it on iTunes.