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Flohio, 9 lives 10 rhymes

Lagos born, South London based MC, Flohio is ready to rage her way to the top of rap, passing by grime, metalcore, and electro along the way. 

Utrecht, Netherlands. We caught up with Flohio backstage after a big show full of hard bass and mosh pits that Flo didn’t hesitate to jump into. She was in the dressing room, sunglasses on with her stage mate and DJ. After her tour manager poured a round of rum and ciders, we got to talking about her life in music. Her laidback attitude in the quiet dressing room was a hollow contrast to the energetic rage that happened onstage moments earlier.

The conversation meanwhile was light and poised. Flohio would bounce from artistic nonchalance to animated hand movement from one subject to the next, always finding a way to work in her passion for music and steadfast belief in the power of positive thinking. 

Don’t think too hard about anything right now.” she said, “We’re here, this moment all together and I just want you to have fun. That’s what my whole thing is: fun.” Funmi Ohiosumah, aka Flohio, told me while noting that the first three letters of her given name are “f,u,n.” Fun, it seems, is an ethos to avoid overthinking. It’s a mindset that says, “do it” and it resonates to the beginnings of Flohio’s musical journey. 

It all started with my friends. Going to the youth clubs with my friends and we had a studio in the youth clubs and that was literally the hanging spot. I was in there. Sold. Couldn’t get me out. That was like 10 years ago.” She emphasizes, “I stumbled across it. Nobody sat me down. Then I found the people and we grew into it.

FLOHIO – Roundtown (Official Video)
Industrial grime and gritty raps

Since, Flohio has been pushing out her own breed of hip hop that is gritty and aggressive starting with her first single, “Bands” in 2018. “That’s just me. That’s my personality into music,” she says of her unique style. “It’s just what I like to hear. Not from anything else. What I like to hear, what I’m creating with my friends.”

Her appetite for sound is varied. We can hear down-tempo industrial electronics on the single “Wild Yout”, a sloppy techno vibe on “Wealth”, or the embrace of drill on “Booby Traps”. Then there’s the local grime sounds that infects her debut, an exploration into metalcore, all grounded in punkish hip-hop. It might sound hard to follow but it’s done “With Ease” the name of her 2020 single featured in her debut album No Panic No Pain where she raps, “Elegantly move, miss me, chin pop leave you toothless.” 

I love all types of genres. Not just hip-hop or rap or grime. I’m an open book when it comes to music.” Flohio continues, “I wanna try to make a rock album. I wanna make an electronic album just strictly electro, you know of course I’m not just gonna rap. Rap is the foundation. Hip hop is the foundation but I just wanna grow, I wanna come out of my comfort zone.

© Jelmer de Haas
Rage fucking rage

What’s more important than the sound is the conviction of her flows. Each bar is ripe with a “DIY or die” attitude. No line encapsulates this ethos better than the refrain on “Unveiled” where Flohio chants (or commands) “Rage fucking rage” a key moment during the show as the concert hall joined in to shout the one-liner back at her. 

That’s free man, be free. Don’t be shy. That’s literally what it is.” Flohio smacks her hands together for emphasis. “So don’t be shy man, nobody cares, that’s why my whole thing is ‘rage fucking rage’. I don’t just wanna perform, I want everyone to be involved.” 

A pulse from the middle of the mosh pit says mission accomplished, although Flo clarifies, “It’s not just mosh pit and all… Of course visually that’s what it looks like but internally it’s a whole different element.”

Raging is about being excited in your own skin. Flohio ignores the stereotypes, the pigeon holes, the expectations, and rides a feeling of rage to bring her music to life. “Big wins from losses. You took hits, I dodged it,” she sings on “Roundtown”. The energy has propelled the artist forward, collecting accolades from BBC, NME, Naomi Campbell shoutouts, and festival premiers. 

However, Flo insists none of that is about her. “Forget that I’m here,” she says, “It’s just about feeling the vibe. I wanna go home and still be on a hype. Excited to go to sleep, excited to wake up. Everyday should be like that.” 

FLOHIO – Whiplash (Official Lyric Video)
9 Lives 10 Rhymes 

Flo is also empowered. There’s no limits set on her ambitions, and she makes sure her listeners feel the same. “I don’t wanna sound too cliché but if you believe in something, literally go for it. Give it all your might. That’s my main thing,” she explains. 

Perhaps it’s due to a sense of mortal urgency. Flohio often addresses mortality and acknowledges friends lost along the way. Music has become a vehicle of homage and an outlet for her creative energy.

Music is literally my world. I feel like it saved me. I could be doing other stuff that’s not beneficial to my development. Music keeps me on the straight and narrow. I’ve lost friends and I wish they were here on this journey with me because they started with me.” 

There’s also the fact that most of Flohio’s last album was written in isolation during lockdown, something she emphasized to the crowd during her performance. A surprising tidbit considering the energy and live appeal that each song carried. It’s a testament to Flo’s projective imagination that lets her bounce between headspaces. 

We can go back and write about memories from the past, and we can go forward and write about memories that we’re yet to have. Memories that we’re yet to create but you can still have it in your mind, you can still see it. That’s why life is there and death is there. It’s from one life to another. I got 9 lives and 10 more rhymes. If you’re crazy about life, you must be crazy about death as well.”

She finishes, “It’s a story. It’s chapters upon chapters from one project to another.”

No panic no pain

We left Flohio with a dap and a nod after the show and wished her luck for the future. An unnecessary nicety that she surely didn’t need. She mentioned another album in the works, stressing the next few months she’ll be locked in the studio composing and writing her next iteration of rhymes. But that won’t stop her from dropping some singles, visuals, and remixes to keep the fans happy. 

No panic, there’s certainly a lot of music to come from the young and talented artist, and you can be sure it’ll be full of bravado and conviction, new sounds, and the masterful worldplay of Flo Flo. 

Listen to Flohio in our Pan African Rap playlist on Spotify and Deezer.

© Jelmer de Haas