FFiume, like Darkseid, IS. He transcends labels because, before being “a sound”, he is a personality, a rapper that you recognize regardless of which rhythm is riding. Let them be his own recipes (as in the fulminating #OREEORE ) or beats by others (like much of the rest released from 2012 to date), in the last decade Mr River has delighted us with his funk flavour in intelligent sauce that in Italy has few comparisons in terms of thickness (and execution).
Despite being around for quite a while and having lived and known the history, it is in particular in these last years that he has overwhelmed us with beats and rhymes that are highly slamming both with the much-flaunted evolution from those who only know how to follow the fashions of the moment, and of the empty intellectualism of the fake employees who use rap for convenience, except to let it go when it’s more comfortable.
Always committed to cohesiveness, it is perhaps with his latest album, UNDERLIFE, that FF has reached the quadrature of the circle thanks to the excellent Clas K , who sewed him a “severe but jazzy” sound which enhances the more melancholy and expressive veins of the Calabria rapper. We heard him for a chat that, starting from the new album, makes the point about his “under-philosophy” of the moment. Enjoy the reading!
“I belong to the Hip Hop culture, it has raised me and has given me so much, I try to give back the voucher to whoever wants it. And then, if I don’t do it the way I want it, this fucking rap, nobody will do it for me, and since I like it a lot, and I think I’m still able to say a couple of things, I’ll tell you.”
In this last period, we have seen an increased prolificacy in your production compared to some time ago. How come this renewed desire to do?
Because I think I should do it. And I owe it to those who have always supported me. It is a creative need and a position. I lost too much time thinking about it, now I’m recovering. The hip hop culture belongs to me, it has raised me and has given me so much, I try to give back the good to those who want it.
And then, if I don’t do it the way I want it, this fuckin’ rap thing, nobody will do it for me. I like it so much, and I think I’m still able to say a couple of things, I’ll tell you. If I didn’t do it, I would leave space even to what I don’t like, because if there are things that do not represent you around, the only thing is to say “OH, THIS IS NOT ME”, take a position and keep it. And you do this by proposing yours, if you can, or by spreading something that represents you.
How was the association with Clas K born?
Music has done everything. The vibrations. He liked my stuff, I liked his. I recognized the seeds of the same “disease” and research, from content and musical point of view. Different paths, but similar taste, we met in person, and the good that was expected was confirmed. Then it went further. Clas is a serious dude, period.
Tell us a little about the genesis of the record.
After various “internet meetings” and various certificates of esteem from Clas and his team, the Fool Effect crew, in particular, P-Zo sent me remixes for The Irhu Experience project, and the stuff Clas made particularly impressed me. Both for the choice of the piece and for the expressed atmospheres. After some time, chatting online, it was said to do something together from scratch.
I had just closed the recordings of a project with Herrera, who could come out soon, and I was so satisfied but also hungry for something else. I wanted more. I love to produce, and many have known me as a producer more than a rapper, but I was born as a radio speaker and emcee. I like writing, telling stories, creating images, entertaining people. For a while now I have found my size and voice at the microphone, and I don’t want to waste any more time, as I was saying.
In the last few years, since after #Oreeore, I have been a bit detached from production, due to force majeure, between journeys and moves, travels and very full schedules, and I have started writing a lot to release some tensions. Notes, ideas, subjects. Anywhere, anyway. London and its hectic pace stimulate me a lot in this regard.
How did you work, first at the level of creating the harmony, then at the level of choosing the beats?
We did not “work“, strictly speaking, to create harmony, the music did everything spontaneously. We let ourselves go, slowly, to honour each other’s work. After talking briefly, giving us a time horizon, Clas went into the studio, production mode, disappearing from my radar for a while, and re-emerged with a batch of beats designed and composed for me, with no solicitation on my part.
We did not coordinate with each other, at least not me. I gave way to his creativity. He, a connoisseur of my repertoire, wanted to listen to me on a certain kind of sound, a little different than my usual. As Herrera says, I’m funk fellow, Clas is more of the jazz kind. He had something dark in mind, in noir colours. We are both big lovers of that “nocturnal” vibe, of the darker and hardcore boom-bap, and if in my productions little has always come out, in my deejay sets and the mixes there is always some…
In short, I listened to the beats and immediately liked them, boom! I interpreted them, I put myself at the service of the whole, immersed myself in it. I didn’t discard one beat. I wrote straight away, kidnapped by the atmospheres. I ended my part in a month of work, a creative frenzy to wrap it all, between writing, file exchanges, recordings, almost always good within the third vocal take at most, fiery.
I sent the first auditions to Clas to ask his opinion, a bit shy on my side, honestly. I was curious to learn if my shit was going well, being very respectful of his work and his point of view, and he accepted it all very well, saying he was happy. Having known him a little then, he was really very fuckin’ happy, otherwise, he wouldn’t have said it. We added another couple of beats to the very first batch, to modulate a cohesive sound set, like atmospheres and speed, and so on, we’ve done our magic, trusting each other, in crescendo.
Clas has finished and worked all the material in his studio, in another couple of months, and voilà. We did some of our closest listening tests, and we had positive feedback. We worked fine-tuning in the mastering phase, it was a great challenge. A close friend of mine, Ciccio Sentenza, heard everything first, and one day he told me: “Fam, this is UNDERLIFE “. I told Clas, he said, “ Wow, okay, I like it “. We stuck with it.
What were the difficulties to overcome, if there were any, in the long-distance collaboration with a producer you started to know recently?
Honestly, for me no kind of impasse. During the writing as much as during the finishing and the promotion: few words, artistic and human understanding. Seriousness.
(…) I follow the feeling, I go by ear, I try to create enjoyable sound cards, as a listener and genre lover, even before being assigned to the work.
You are also a producer and above all an artist who has clear ideas about the final “product” he wants to put out. How much did this factor weigh in the work together with Clas K? How did the sound of the record come out?
True, I am manic, fussy, I have ideas too clear, sometimes, about my music. I’ll have you reopen a mix for minimal stuff, or I’ll send you back the full vocal take if a syllable doesn’t sound clear to me, or we review the arrangement if some parts don’t turn me around.
I follow the feeling, I go by ear, I try to create enjoyable sound cards, as a listener and genre lover myself, even before being assigned to the work. Clas K is a like-minded manic. He’s keen on details as I am, plus he’s a sound engineer, as well as a deejay and producer. The sound came out organically, perhaps thanks to that common taste, I gave him just a couple of references, made some requests, suggested certain readings for the arrangements and the sound colours. He listened to my inputs, he kept them in mind, expanding on his side, adding up his soluting, confronting me and giving birth to something of our own.
We work in an open way that respects differences, that was our unwritten agreement since the beginning. 9 times out of 10 was an amazing thing, we agreed on everything without even telling each other, but each left room for the other, and everyone put so much of his own. His compositional versatility, combined with the experience on the mixing board, was the centrepiece of it all. This is FF and Clas K, and we are satisfied with it. I miss only an autotune, but thanks Clas for stopping me …( laughter …)
Do you want to explain, if needed, the concept of Underlife ?
It’s a multi-level journey. First of all, it’s me and Clas, in our way. It is the pulsating life beneath the surface, it is personal, it is the inner strength from each one of us, the one that flows under the appearances of the quiet life, and is hidden from the eye of the passerby, in a broad sense.
Underlife is the visions and emotions that you have, you carry inside and they are only yours, and they are not always shared or to be shared. It is a tangle of private and public, it is psychological resistance, it is a testimony from another dimension, which perhaps nobody values, or wants to evaluate, and we are there to tell you that there is such a dimension, and how. And it’s not a problem if you’re under or over, it’s life, whether you like it or not.
It’s a way of writing, of delivering your content. And a way to make your stuff sound, too. It is doing something else in other ways and saying that there is also something else, precisely, compared to what you find in abundance around. Underlife is pride. It’s what you are, without filters or masks, and you have to stand strong to be yourself.
In Italy the culture of rap and hip hop is still missing today, in a nutshell, in my opinion. Easy Come Easy Go. It’s an approach, a key to your reading, either you have it or you don’t.
The album symbol, a mouse, and the title, Underlife , in a way that is not too hidden, refer not only to the “underground/underdog” discourse but also to the difficulty of escaping cataloguing if you try to find yourself a lane of yours that is modern without being tied to the disgraced sound of the moment. Do you want to talk about this aspect?
Impossible to escape. Possible to react. In Italy, the culture of rap and hip hop is still missing today, in a nutshell, in my opinion. Easy Come Easy Go. Such an approach, a key to your reading, either you have it or you don’t. I will not dwell, but I tell you as a music lover and listener, even before being a rapper. Who knows me knows. People like to catalogue, give labels: it’s reassuring, we all do it to feel in control of situations that escape us, or that are not within our reach.
I’ll tell you one thing: once I was a guest in Faust-T’s studio, he’s one of the kings deejays of the club culture of central Italy. Scary record collection. Massive. Eclectic. He made me listen to different stuff, house, disco, tribal, lots of things, beautiful, most of them I didn’t really know, and partly I didn’t understand. I was looking for handholds, references, I tried and said to him “ Ah, come on, but this reminds me of that, yes, that sounds like that to me … “. After a while, Fausto stops everything, looks at me and says: “Francé, no, that’s enough, sod it, it’s not like that. Listen, don’t think. This is not that or that other one. That’s music. Listen…”. He’s great, Fausto, and that was a great yet simple lesson. I did not have the coordinates, I tried to help myself, to reassure myself, and to show myself to the height. Mistaken. You’re supposed to let the music take control, and abandon yourself to it.
I say it particularly to those who moan about old sound, new sound, beautiful ugly yellow-green red. Nope. It’s music. Mine has a root, that’s clear, but it’s here today and now. I don’t care about the pop stuff and “the sounds of the moment”, I do rap, a certain kind of rap, and I do it today, in my own way. I also believe in doing it well, without binding features, today or tomorrow. “Here today, gone tomorrow”, as Guru said.
That “pop vibe”, the disgraced sound of the moment, is at the antipodes of everything I have always believed in and interested me. Today is “yeh yeh”, tomorrow “yah yah”, but zero funk, zero grooves, zero of what I like. And then, the others already do it, playing all the same and copy-paste copycats: you also say that, even if you pump those sounds, I know …but then why me too? The difference is a value, not a minus. As my man David Nerattini said, in an interview right on this site: “our generation wanted to bugger the system”, today if you don’t have the same line on the side as everyone else’s it is a problem.
On the serious tip, now, rap is rap, nothing else. Do you want an evolution? Okay, let’s talk about evolution. You need to write interesting things, you must take care of the message, talk to the people, make nice stuff to listen to, interestingly tell stories, and don’t waste my time. Then let me also say another thing: people catalogue you to belittle you, too. The comparisons are a way to say “ yep but you understand, this or that one, blah blah blah… “. Sometimes it’s just out of envy, meanness, or whatnot…Getthefuckouttahere…You don’t like what you hear? Look beyond, and stay well. And the music, too. I thank my masters for life for showing me the way, for slapping me when I deserved it, and for encouraging me to go further, even hindering me, sometimes, when I was wrong. Everyone finds his keys to reading and a good trip.
Today the real difficulty, at all levels, consists in having to confront those who not only do not understand what you are talking about, but shoot them big and without construct, and not only do not want to listen but in fact, do not have the minimum means to understand.
As far as the Italian Hip Hop scene is concerned, for some time I have been creeping out on a sort of “anti-intellectualism” that I find dangerous as well as short-sighted. In this sense, what is the difficulty of carrying out a personal speech at the level of texts, which increasingly differentiates you from the rest?
Apart from the scene, I think the situation is generalized. It also moves from music, but triumphs in all areas of society. The “single thought expression”, isn’t it? Is it trendy to say you’re ignorant? Let me be clear. Hip Pop-ulism? Yes, it is true, it exists. Extreme exemplification, cultural impoverishment? Everywhere, my friend.
As far as the scene itself, it makes one laugh (very bitter) than just hip hop, genetically fighting to affirm and validate positive values (net of the inevitable, clear contradictions and smears) such as anti-racism, the culture of openness to the difference, to a certain idea of respectful and progressive equality, today not only do you witness gender aberrations, but you also adapt to them, sometimes incorporating them. Sorry, maybe I’m not answering you in full…
Today the real difficulty, at all levels, consists in having to confront those who not only do not understand what you are talking about, but shoot them big and without construct, and not only do not want to listen but in fact, do not have the minimum means to understand. And they feel strong about their lack of culture and means. Oh well, we are simply too many, oi! We can’t all be wrong, can we? You an asshole if do you know who the hell Montale is, Antò, thefuckyoutalkingboutdude?!? (in my best populist’s voice).
The real difficulty lies in remaining calm, in self-motivating oneself, determining oneself, accepting external conditions and facing them, trying to remain faithful to one’s own line, giving it to oneself and to others, with what one wants and can say, taking responsibility for oneself when approaching the interlocutor, like the listener, like anyone. Nobody wants to take responsibility for the state of the world today, nobody wants to think, only trumpets and pool parties, and fingers pointed at others, the fault is always on someone else’s: the “different”, the non-compliant, the enemy.
This “anti-intellectualism” simplicity is pervasive and divisive, yes, because it creates sterile splits anyway, it is the triumph of ignorance and cosmic emptiness, all drifts that are light years away from hip hop as such, as “mindset “. Referring exclusively to music, listeners are less attentive (not all, of course, I’m generalizing, but on the average…), differently receptive, volatile. You have to fight for your space, in a sense. Worse than twenty years ago … Try using your tools, and move on. In the end, it is impossible to please everyone, and it is also a bit of bullshit if you ask me.
Let’s talk about the graphic design of the album, I find it very centred and interesting. How did it come out?
From our visual godfather, Jacopo Tripodi, the same one that maybe the hip hop heads will remember as Jay Trivella, Mr. Palmi Pugniette Project himself, with L-Mare and Sentenza, among other things… He closed the project, bringing the visual to a higher level, and sealing the move. This whole direction represents us, explicitly and indirectly, together.
I am the mouse, in a sense. The aesthetic is deliberately jazzy, an iconic distortion in a hip hop key, semantic distortion of visual systems and meanings, we are playful as such, and it is a further vision of the album. The dynamic was simple: mood board put together by me and Clas, creative brief, internal discussion, listen to the record, two hints as an aftertaste, and…white paper to his brother.
Jacopo is a professional designer, he has great experience and hip hop background with a personal and original vision. He listened to the record, evaluated everything, including what our common friend Sentenza told me. He disappeared for a while in the mists that surround him, in his anonymity, and then he told me “ Look, I didn’t make the flip of the brand strategy coin and all those crap there. I listened to the record, and this is what came to me “.
Unexceptionable, love at first sight. Just love for Jay, go to the net to get back his productions and then we’ll talk about it. From there, we applied the same hand and aesthetics to all the visuals and video clips, which were edited by myself and Clas, in person, alternating each other with directing and editing the footage. We keep it all in the family.
What do you expect from Underlife soon?
First of all, and not least, to widen the female fanbase a lot, it is known that I do all this only for my female followers (laughter…) Running out of copies of the limited edition vinyl, as already happened for the cassettes bundle, playing loud in the stereo of those who appreciate our music, bring a positive message to those who are ready to accept it, and to question easy assumptions, perspectives and dogmas.
Give love to those who have ears for the tons of good vibes we put into them. Even in the darkest moments, it is love that moves everything, and we hope to positively inspire those who follow and follow us… maybe even live, who knows…