I’d like to welcome up-and-coming sophisticated MC, F. Stokes, to our PUMP Sessions Interview Series. This gentleman is making waves with his smokin hot EP, Love, Always, which features the smash hit single, “My Simple”. Big things are happening, so don’t sleep on this talented cat.
PS: Let’s kick this off with the question on everyone’s mind: Where did the name F. Stokes come from?
F.S: It derived from a guy named Flukey Stokes who was notorious in my old neighborhood on the South side of Chicago.
You’re now based in New York City, but I hear a lot of Midwest love in your music. Clearly that stems from your hometown of Chicago and spending your adolescent years in Madison, Wisconson. How did you go from the south side of Chi-Town to Madison?
My mother moved us when I was 13 yrs old. She was essentially escaping the ghetto, and stumble upon this charismatic town in Southern Wisconsin. It was a life changing move.
After growing up in Madison, where did you go?
Back to Chicago initially, then to New York.
My entire extended family is from the north side of Chicago and I’ve been through Madison a couple of times, so I know the pros and cons of both. Those two towns are definitely cultural Meccas of the Midwest. What pushed you to move east to the greatest city in the world? Or did I just answer my own question?
I think you did lol. New York allowed me the platform to completely stretch my creative wings. It's one of the few town in the world where artists of all walks are typically embraced. It provided solace, and comfort.
When did you finally move to New York and what neighborhood have you settled into? Did you know anyone here when you made the move? And what neighborhoods do you tend to hang out in?
I moved directly to Brooklyn, and I knew a few people, yes. One guy went to my high-school and graduated years before. His father was actually a friend of mine, and connected us.
I would call your style hipster-preppy. Who, what, when, and where inspires your fashion sense? And how do you feel it expresses who you are as an artist?
Hahah, thanks brother. My sense of fashion is inspired by the past, and here and there, the now. I have many pieces from thrift stores, some from friends fathers and uncles lol.
You’ve stated, “My music is how I breathe. I’m grateful, and humbled, that I make a living living out my ideas. There wasn’t a definitive moment in which I decided I would dedicate my life to music, it came naturally. Birds don’t learn to fly, they just do it, baby.” When did you first begin performing in front of people? And who were the most encouraging people in your life during your early years?
I've been performing in front of people my whole life. I was made for the stage ;-)
My mother, by leaps, has been the most encouraging person in my life.
When was your first official performance and how old were you?
Formally, my first show was when I was about 14.
Where was the first concert you attended as a fan? And who performed?
It was a Ice Cube show, and I was 9. My cousin took me, and it changed my life.
Let’s talk about the new record, Love, Always. Where was it recorded? Who produced? Who mixed?
It was recorded over a 4 year period, and is mainly a hybrid of pieces I've done over that time period, put together cohesively to form an EP. It was recorded in Madison, Paris, LA, New York, Minneapolis, and mixed in New York.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Some MCs write down their lyrics before they build the beats around them. Some create the music first and then improvise verses as the beats guide them. How does F. Stokes write and record music?
It depends on the mood... I'm always playing with melodies, so the writing process never really starts/ends, its more of a vortex. Recordings the same way, I wish there was some scientific way of answers this but its not - it's all part of me as a person sir.
I love the electro-chillwave groove behind your spoken word poetry of “Aspire and Inspire.” This song seems to be your most scathing commentary of inner-city life. To me, it seems both a cautionary tale and a warning of how to be better. What does this song mean to you?
Thanks man, its actually a story loosely based on my mother and father. My mothers move to Madison WI, and my father's possible release from prison in 25 years or so. That's what it means to me.
Do you listen to any electronic music yourself? Who are your favorite DJs and/or groups in the EDM scene?
“Beauty And The Beast” reminds me of a Nas or Talib Kweli anthem. Catchy as hell, but with a strong message behind it. The female vocalist adds a perfect marriage of harmony to the chorus. Who is she and where can I hear more of her work?
Honestly, I don't know much about her brother. I have to ask a friend who brought her in the studio. Her name is FrankieCatalano.
Speaking of those two hip hop legends, who are your favorite MCs of all time?
No top 10's here, I respect anyone with the balls to pick up a mic and demonstrate their work. Peace to all them cats. I mean some of the greatest rappers I know have never recorded in an actual studio before.
The hardest banger on the EP is most definitely “Blessings.” Who is the guest MC on this track? I love the collaboration and hope there are many more to come. You two make a good team.
His name is Mike Mictlan and he's from Doomtree, a prominent crew out of Minneapolis. Yep, that's my homie so we'll collab more for sure!
Who are your favorite producers in hip hop today? And with whom would you love to collaborate on the next F. Stokes record?
Aw man, Kanye for sure. I like to work with producers outside of Hip Hop more so, so Miiike Snow, Bastille, SBTRKT...
“Love Warriors” reminds me of old school DigablePlanets or US3 with the jazzy infusion. The French touch adds some serious sex appeal to that classy Blue Note vibe. How did this song come to fruition?
Aw, that's a great connection. I was actually going for that 80's flavor on that. It was produced by a cat I met at a show in Paris. Came together fairly quickly, as we went to the studio that night. That's his ex lady at the end of it.
I grew up with a mad fusion of musical influences; everything from classical music to classic rock, and from Motown to opera. What was the music of your childhood? What music is absolutely timeless to you?
Oh, mostly everything Motown as well! Miles [Davis] is timeless, Stevie [Wonder] of course, music is such a matter of perception, so a song may be timeless to you, and not to the next man - it's all in the receiver.
“My Simple” is one of the best hip hop songs I have heard in years… and quite a few people seem to agree. The premise behind the song is obvious, but what actually inspired you to write it? Was it a specific place, person, or experience?
Oh my, I appreciate that sir. Madison, WI inspired that song. My hometown. The people of that town. I wrote it there, and it seemed fitting.
You’ve now toured quite a bit of the US and more recently the UK and Europe. Your live performances are so intimate that I was initially taken aback by your sincere affection towards your audience. How did that crowd interaction and banter develop over time?
Well, I've always been a personal guy, so the show is just an extension of my personality. It's just a connection I've been fortunate enough to have with people.
I recently caught your Brooklyn Bowl performance in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You convinced 100+ hipsters to sit down on the dance floor with a command of just a few words. In my nearly decade-long career in this business, I have never seen anything like that. When did you become so confident in your performance?
Thanks man, I appreciate that! You have to be confident in whatever it is you do, and by that point in the show I believe they fully trusted me. They trusted my path, and allowed me to drive, and I'm fortunate to have such a receptive crowd.
What has been the reaction around the country, and now around the world to your live gigs? Do you alter your performance depending on the location of the show?
It's been awesome. Nothing but love. Song wise, I try to stay pretty consistent, but the way I deal with the crowd varies upon my first glance at them.
I understand you have another US tour about to kickoff in a couple weeks. Where can our readers find tour dates, F. updates, and merch to buy on the interweb?
Thank you so much for taking the time with PUMP Sessions. Be well, take care, talk soon, and safe travels, brother.
His next NYC gig is next Thursday, April 19th at Santos Party House. Details HERE.