For Lagos-born, Bermondsey-raised lyricist Flohio, executing projects or songs half-heartedly is something that she simply refuses to do in her career. In fact, her inaugural 2018 release ‘Wild Yout’ EP served as something of spiritual-awakening. “Being a wild yout was about bringing 100% to the table, it had to be magical,” she tells NME. “I had to be in beast-mode and I gave every single bit of my energy doing it.”
The project birthed a transcendent rapper, unrestrained by genre or labels. “My first tape was like a party, but one where you’re going away with something, my listeners are saved after listening.” From the frantic introduction ‘Bop Thru’ and its cinematic, trap and hip-hop infused production to the braggadocious title-track, Flohio quickly became one of the most exciting acts in the UK’s underground scene. Soon after, she landed a spot in the on the NME 100 in 2019.
Battling through the pandemic, Flohio has remained tunnel-visioned while crafting her follow-up ‘No Panic No Pain’, which sheds even more of her skin for listeners across its ten songs. “There’s more to Flo – I’m unveiling pieces of me on this release. I’m evolving.” Led by its title-track number she builds on the momentum, acting every bit the renegade across the anthemic single. “I can’t complain / No panic, no pain,” she raps across super-producer duo TakeADaytrip’s backing.
The joy of embracing music came from an early age. As a child, Funmi Ohiosumah drew inspiration from music videos she’d watch on the TV – she constantly references grime, pop, hip-hop and R&B as genres that she particularly took an interest in. “I’d be there from start to finish, watching like 32 videos back to back.” Estelle’s ‘American Boy’ as one of her favourites – “when music videos like that came on, I’d be glued to the television.”
Gaining access to the internet during the latter years of her childhood led her to a fixation with Lil Wayne also became a constant fixation. “It’s his humour and wit and how clever he was able to be. He’s out of this world, he didn’t even try too hard,” she says. “He’s a mutant, a weirdo and I love that about him.” After her first performance at Salmon Youth Centre as a teen, where she received harsh feedback from the music mentors at the time – she ran home to study Lil Wayne videos, emulating his style and mannerisms on her next run. “His energy is just off the charts, that’s what I was able to really take from him,” she says.
But it was over a decade later, in recent years, that Flohio finally found her voice, channeling her distinct offering and learning to trust herself. “I’d say that I’m really coming into my own now. Before ‘Wild Yout’ I was just writing, I don’t really know. I think I was growing up and finding the best way of creating music for myself.”
Flohio shares that one of the lessons she discovered while cultivating her sound was that she enjoyed making music alone – “I just have to be in my own head.” Despite making headway with the unorthodox, 808-heavy ‘Bands’ she insists that ‘10 More Rounds’ is her first official single. “I had to give everyone the full package. When I can’t get a song out of my head that’s when I know it’s ready. ‘10 More Rounds’ is me saying ‘lets fucking go’. It’s powerful.”
The latter Cadenza-produced single arrived that summer and with its ominous-piano led foundations, Flohio pounces across the production, turning the number into her playground. “I give them more / Never less / Bring my fist up to my chest,” she boasts. An abundance of thrill fills the songs three minutes and eighteen seconds making it instantly infectious. As it stands, it’s one of her most popular singles on streaming platforms, nearing a million streams on Spotify. “Working with Cadenza is always a good time, he knows how to work with me,” she says.
“Electro-rap is where I want to go next – I have such a powerful voice, I need to exercise it more”
Releases like ‘10 More Bands’ and ‘Rounds’ emphasise Flohio’s robust appeal, and it’s this quality that she brought to collaborations with Mahalia and The Streets last year, particularly on the latter’s ‘How Long It’s Been’, she adds zest to the piano-led alt-hip-hop leaning release. On Flohio, Mike Skinner was quick to point out her “unpredictable” approach to the song, which he found refreshing.
New mixtape ‘No Panic No Pain’ ushers in an even more unhinged Flohio exploring her evolution and experimentation further. The strongest example of this is on ‘Active’ where she leans into her Nigerian ancestry. Produced by Genio Bambino (Cruel Santino), the alté, hip-hop crossover is ambient, with familiar British/American slang (like “tapped in’‘), helping to bridge the gap. “I wanted to create something that represented me in Lagos, I tried to go Afro in my own way, I wanna do more songs like that.”
There’s still nods to her enigmatic ‘Wild Yout’ beginnings in the distorted ‘Flash’. Standing as the most trap-leaning cut on the record, its intersection with electronica is welcomed, creating a colossal-number worthy of an imminent visual. Like the song’s name, she’s also rapping at pace, a skill she ironically learned when first experimenting with electronic beats. “Electronic instrumentals are crazy bro. They go off on 200 BPM and it keeps me on my feet. It’s my exercise to practice on them.”
Further afield, the likes of ‘Medicine’ that truly unearth brinks of Flohio’s vulnerability. Immersed in melodic guitar runs, she admits to her destructive coping mechanisms. “Took you off my mainline, broke off the arrangement, gone off the radar,” she raps. “It’s definitely a love song. It’s about when you know someone has bad vibes. I give people several chances and then I get upset when I should’ve learnt the other times. It’s about protecting myself, putting myself first.”
‘No Panic No Pain’ is unapologetic in its delivery, reigning as one of the most dynamic rap releases of the year. It also stands as a marker of Flohio’s future. A portal to be exact. “’No Panic No Pain’ is an example where I want to go next; electro-rap. I have such a powerful voice, I need to exercise it more. There are other ways to tell my story and I can’t wait to show the world more.”
At 28-years-old, Flohio is wholly embracing of timing and grateful for natural progression across her career. “Coming onto the scene for me happened a lot later, but I’m happy that it happened. If it happened earlier then I think it would be a mess. I’m still trying to find myself, figure out my writing style, even the beats that sound nice with my voice. It all continues to be a domino effect in terms of my growth.”
Flohio’s ‘No Panic No Pain’ is out now