Lancey Foux is one of London’s best-kept secrets. Despite being five albums deep and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kanye West, Playboi Carti and Skepta, he’s arguably never got his dues as a stand-out rap talent. Once a model – the star could be seen performing on the Telfar runway back in 2019 – he made music his main pursuit several years back. He returns this week with ‘LIVE.EVIL’, a mixtape that will advance his standing beyond simply being a cult figure in the scene.
The night before we meet, Foux’s show at London’s Village Underground – which featured a futuristic stage set – demonstrated that the size of his audience is already growing beyond cult proportions. It was a momentous occasion and one worth celebrating – and explains why he’s a bit worse for wear when we meet the next day at Metropolis Studios in the capital. He stumbles into the bright studio, and curls his six-foot-four body into a tiny chair. He’s somewhat guarded at first: at his first post-lockdown gig, two kids entered his dressing room claiming to be NME journalists. But a child-like grin soon appears: he is now finally getting his NME interview.
“Don’t get me wrong, all the rap outlets and traditional rap voices, I still love them,” Foux says. “But NME is that one like, if you ask me what do you want to be on the cover of, it’s NME, then Rolling Stone, GQ. They are like the Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United of it all. The top guns.”
Lancey Foux is your classic rockstar: looks, sound, aura – the guy has it all. Asked if he’s consciously trying to be a rockstar – while he rolls a joint – he’s coy: “I get put in situations that you can’t imagine, and you just have to get on with it. That’s why it comes out in my music and in my clothes. All those experiences you’ve been through, that’s what it’s for. People will ask, ‘Why are you wearing that?’, but they haven’t been where I’ve been, seen what I’ve seen. If you did, you would probably be the same way”.
Foux was born in Plaistow, east London to a working-class family with a religious mother and an assertive father – they offered him a cocksure foundation.
“My mum grew up in a convent in Italy,” he explains. “She’s religious and she’s to the book. My dad, on the other hand, is very much a hustler; didn’t go to university, started his own business. So all my life I’ve seen how to keep faith, but also be relentless. My dad is that guy. If he says something is going to happen, it happens. I’ve never heard that man say, ‘I don’t know’. He’ll always come up with something – that’s just how my dad is. Now that I’m an adult, I feel like I’m becoming a different version of him.”
The 26-year-old grew up in the very birthplace of UK grime, a subgenre-turned-movement where MCs fought for the respect of being considered ‘proper’ artists in the mainstream. Foux, real name Lance Omal, has long mixed grime with the Americanised trap sound, all while fighting his own battle of being a trap artist in a drill world. On ‘DONT TALK’, taken from his recent fifth album ‘FIRST DEGREE’, Foux raps: “I am an alien, I’m not an artist / They invite me, I lock off the party.” Does he still feel like an outsider in music?
“That’s how I feel here in the UK. In America, there’s loads of characters and people who are really siked out, and I’m just happy that I’m a London ‘yout from the ends’. But in London, I feel like I’m not that. What an artist means to people here is not what an artist is to me. I’m gonna do it my way and I’ll go broke about this shit. Every fucking pound in my pocket is used to make sure I execute my vision. I got that mentality because that’s what will make me last.”
Comparisons between Foux and Playboi Carti or Young Thug are understandable, but simplistic – Lancey Foux isn’t a follower. “Me and Carti were in Atlanta laughing. We were just chopping it up and we are two strong men. Social media can’t separate guys like us,” he says of the assumptions. “For me, I won’t let people disrespect my art for the sake of comparison. Don’t do that.”
Foux shows his softer side on ‘LIVE.EVIL’. He still hits us with heavy bangers – like the distorted ‘b€Zerk’ and ‘RESPECT’ – but there are tracks where Foux showcases his vocal pipes that, he says, reflect the project’s palindromic title: “‘Live’ means to live in the purest form and ‘Evil’ is the other side of it. Not everything’s perfect and sometimes, in living, you’re going to be a bad person and can’t avoid that. I believe in having both good and bad.
“It’s all good to be a rockstar and shit, but life is very real,” he adds. “I’ve always been one to make mistakes and take it on the chin. Losing my grandma in the middle of doing all the Kanye [West] shit, there were certain disagreements with people I knew, and I didn’t feel like I was there for my mum. There was a lot of shit to think about. Making music and being in America felt so good, but those events were also so bad. Fuck it, that’s what it is.”
A constant source of inspiration for Foux is his love of punk rock’s greatest outcasts, who showcased the full gamut of emotions in their music. “There are punk icons like Sid Vicious and Alice Cooper, but that’s not influenced me as much as the whole movement has. I remember listening to ‘Damaged Goods’ by Gang Of Four every day, but it wasn’t because of them – it was the emotion and the energy in the song.”
Foux sees rap and punk to be one and the same: “I wish people in the UK acknowledged rap the same way they do punk. There are so many parts of punk in rap, but people don’t really see it. I don’t understand how someone can’t listen to Central Cee, then listen to Master Peace, then listen to me, then Skepta, then NSG, then PinkPantheress.”
And then there’s Kanye West, who Foux counts as an ardent fan. “I’ve met like 60 per cent of the most popular artists, and they genuinely want to understand what I’ve seen and my thoughts behind my music and stuff. So when Kanye called me, it was nearly an hour-long conversation. We planned so many things, and it wasn’t all about music. It was all about the work I put in fashion, all the work I put in making sure my imagery is right, which makes me proud of myself – although we still gotta go harder.”
So what’s next for Foux? “I’m building a team, and it’s going to be a mixture between music, fashion, videography: just the arts. It’s not going to be like one of those labels that has 10 rappers, I don’t think I’m destined to do that. I think my hands have to be in more things. We’re doing a lot of scouting right now.
“I don’t want to put my name to it. I want to be an invisible ghost and open the door and give someone the resources to thrive. Everyone who does something should deserve to stand out on their own too: not that they have to, but they deserve to. If an artist doesn’t think like that, then I think they’re selfish or have a warped sense of what life is. It’s about collaboration.”
Lancey Foux’s ‘LIVE.EVIL’ mixtape is out now