F.Y.I.: ameriBLACKKK

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Magaña

From Mid-City, Los Angeles comes an emcee named F.Y.I. After starting out as a member of the group Those Chosen, F.Y.I. went solo. He released a couple of solo projects independently, collaborated with the likes of Ab-Soul and watched his career blossom.

F.Y.I.’s most recent release is a politically charged full-length album called ‘ameriBLACKKK.’ The album is produced by Sir Jon Lee, 2One2, and Rich Kidd. ameriBLACKKK features appearances by Sir Jon Lee, Demont Crawford, Front Page, and Kaye Fox.

F.Y.I. spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about making the transition from a group dynamic to a solo career, why we should all be proud to pay for music, and his new album, ameriBLACKKK.

TRHH: What’s the meaning behind the title of your album ameriBLACKKK?

F.Y.I.: Well it all kind of started from my first solo tape called, “Yo the Places You’ll Go. I had a song on there called “King Technology” which was like a remake of a James Brown song called “King Heroin.” It was a spoken word kind of style. On the song I said, “Ameriblacks” and when I said I thought it was dope. I just liked that word. As time progressed and I was putting out other projects that word just kind of stuck with me and I knew when I started on this particular record that I wanted to call it that. From there I just kind of based the whole concept around it.

Low key, I’m trying to push that as maybe a new word that people in my community refer to each other as. We have a lot of names and the concept behind ameriBLACKKK in general is pushing the restart button and claiming some ownership on what we want to identify ourselves as, as black people in America. It’s been a lot of names that’s been given to us and a lot of names that have been tagged, but ameriBLACKKK is something new and something different.

TRHH: The artwork for the album is very interesting. What story is being told on the cover of ameriBLACKKK?

F.Y.I.: I definitely wanted it to be a conversation starter. A lot of people that have seen the artwork have their own interpretation. Any artwork, which I really wanted to put out as a piece of art to a certain extent, is open to interpretation. My interpretation of it when I see it is it has a darkness to it on purpose. It’s really an indictment of this American society. Not even that, just really saying what it is, since the inception of America that’s what it’s been for people of color and minorities. It’s been oppression, it’s been a struggle, and it’s been a fight. It’s kind of challenging the establishment in a sense that there is high honor and praise given to George Washington and some of the founding fathers, but on the backs of black people especially these things were created. It’s a little boy too, which is whole ‘nother layer. You see this boy who clearly has African features but has that crazy skin color, so it’s a crazy contrast there artistically. He’s also dressed like one of the founding fathers like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or whoever and he it has that noose going on.

It’s all these different elements historically as well as kind of making an artistic statement that since the beginning this is what it is and we can’t ever forget that. That’s why on ameriBLACKKK I spelled it with a triple K at the end. Anybody who has ever looked at Hip-Hop covers we’ve always seen America spelled with a triple K, but I put the triple K in the word “black” instead because we can’t really speak on the black experience in America without that struggle and oppression component. It doesn’t define black people totally and it’s not something that black people should dwell on because we have achieved regardless, but it’s definitely part of the narrative of the story, so that’s why the triple K is in the “black” of ameriBLACKKK.

TRHH: What do you say to those who say that black people in America are better off now than they’ve ever been so why are you complaining?

F.Y.I.: I understand, I understand. I won’t say nothing to those people because those arguments are futile to a certain extent. I’m not going to change anybody’s mind that remotely thinks like that. Obviously we can get on CNN and debate forever and ever. It is what it is. Unfortunately that’s where white privilege and all these things come into play. It’s just a skewed lens that people are even seeing this through. Obviously there’s been examples of progression and a lot of things that have happened for the community that have been positive. The overall thing that we’re talking about is a historical legacy. We’re talking about never forgetting. That’s like saying to a certain extent why do Jewish people keep talking about the holocaust? Because there’s something to talk about! We should never forget about it from a historical aspect and obviously from their cultural aspect.

Once again, it doesn’t define a community and it’s not supposed to paralyze a community but at the same time, even in 2017, it’s not something that should just be forgotten. Obviously when push comes to shove, whether it’s a 12 year old boy getting shot in the back of his head for no reason, or something else happening that’s racially motivated, or the prison industrial complex, all these things that people are very much woke about now, it really just goes back to that foundation. It goes back to what was instituted in 1690, 1774, and all this crazy stuff. Like I said before, I’m not talking to those people. I’m talking to my community and those that are allies to my community, especially if they listen to Hip-Hop they should never be offended by those subject matters. Hip-Hop is a microcosm of these communities that talk about these things. For anybody else outside of that it’s probably not made for them anyway [laughs].

TRHH: What inspired the single ‘These The Times’?

F.Y.I.: Shout out to Sir Jon Lee, he’s the producer of the track. He’s an up and coming producer/rapper from Compton. He’s real dope. When I heard the track it had a soul feel to it. It definitely has a “feel good” feel to a certain extent. I’m really big on contrast so I can take a beat that sound kind of happy and talk about something somber. Or I can take something somber and I might talk about something lighter. I like contrast when it comes to music from an artistic standpoint. When I heard the beat it just evoked emotion. It’s a real emotion. I think it’s a real emotion that most everyday people can identify with whether you’re a man, woman, black, white, old or young. It’s just a reflective thing.

Shout out to Kaye Fox, she’s just basically singing a thought that this is the present days that I’m in, these are the days and times that we’re living in, the circumstances that I’m in aren’t necessarily the best or I just want them to improve, and I’m feeling sometimes that I need to take the short cut. Just like I see the next man or the next woman out there doing things not necessarily the right way but they seem to be getting further ahead in life than I am. That’s where that’s coming from, since it’s at least conveyed from a media standpoint that every time you look at TV niggas is drug dealing, they got all the money in the world, strippers are making all the money in the world, house wives, everybody is balling out and not doing anything that’s edifying themselves or are really in a good light. It’s like, “Damn do I need to do that too?” or do I need to do the right thing, go to school, improve my education, and stay with my dream? It’s definitely a theme song for the everyday person that’s trying to better themselves, but do the right thing.

TRHH: What’s the meaning behind the name ‘F.Y.I.’?

F.Y.I.: In short my rap name used to be Foreshadow when I was in a group called Those Chosen. I’m coming from an underground super-lyrical scene so as the time I was like, “Foreshadow, that shit is ill!” When I say my rhymes I want it to be something that I’m speaking, so that’s kind of where that came from. Some people from that era knew me as that. As time progressed and I stepped out on the solo tip I knew that wasn’t going to work strictly on a branding side of things on some industry rap shit. I just decided to shorten it to “F.Y.I.” and it stands for “Foreshadow, Yahweh, Included.” Yahweh is Hebrew for “God” so I’m just basically saying that God is with me. Foreshadow is a moniker that I had before so I just shortened it and went from there. Every now and then I’ll say it’s “for your inspiration” but it’s not “for your information,” that’s what it doesn’t stand for.

TRHH: Was it difficult for you to become a solo artist after being in a group dynamic with Those Chosen?

F.Y.I.: Yeah, because to be completely honest with you I never envisioned myself being a solo artist. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I was happy being in the group and not to throw salt on the group, my boys, and musical partners, I was doing a lot of the heavy lifting conceptually. It was very much my baby. A lot of it was my own vision. It really wasn’t no thing to me. We are in a group but I was very much involved 85% of the time with everything. I had no aspirations to be solo. It wasn’t like, “I’m going solo to get away from these niggas,” it really wasn’t like that. Unfortunately from their standpoint they weren’t really sure if they wanted to do music. The game is a funny thing when you start doing a little bit more and there is money involved. Even though we were very much on the upswing of things and not at a level where we could go solo, people just get weird. That’s kind of what happened.

Going into the solo thing it was like, “Alright I’m here, I got a lot that I want to share, I got a lot of stories and concepts,” and I kept pushing. The main difference between being a soloist and being in a group for me is 90% of it is a lot more pen pimping. You gotta really push the pen. When you’re in a group all you have to contribute is an 8 bar or 16 bar verse. When you’re solo you gotta really step it up and come with verses, re-write verses, and bring character to all the songs. Unless it’s just me and you on one verse and everybody’s like, “Oh, he really spazzed on that verse. The other two are just okay.” It’s definitely been a challenge but in a good way. ameriBLACKKK is my fourth project that I’ve put out independently so the group thing has been behind me now for a minute. I’m pretty used to being solo and now I probably wouldn’t go back to being in a group unless I’m linked with Common, Nas or Joey Bada$$ or something. It would have to be a super-group [laughs].

TRHH: What’s your favorite song on ameriBLACKKK?

F.Y.I.: My favorite joint besides all of them? It really depends, man. Every day it changes. ‘These The Times’ has been growing on me a little more even though it’s a single. It’s a great little appetizer for the average listener but I really like it. I think it’s really rich as a song instrumentation wise. I like ‘Don’t Be Afraid (Yatty Tickler),’ I like ‘Spend Godly,’ I like ‘Blame Me,’ I like a lot of joints. Spend Godly is my joint right now. A lot of people like Blame Me and I can’t blame them.

TRHH: Why should fans cop ameriBLACKKK?

F.Y.I.: I think when they get this album they’re going to get a complete body of work. If they’re fans of bars, if they like beats, if they like to hear edutainment, something with substance but they can vibe out to it, these are all good reasons to get it. Be proud to pay, that’s what I tell people. The reality is the most expensive form of the tape that they can get is $9.99 on iTunes. You gon’ spend $9.99 at Subway. I honestly feel that in general we’re going into a new era where people are proud to pay and people don’t mind purchasing music again. I know we were in a situation for a while where everyone was throwing out free music.

For me personally, right now as an artist if I was to put out something for free even if I had whoever on it I don’t know if people would value it as much. It’s about putting value back into the art, and it is art. It takes time to make music and as an independent artist I would say it’s even more sacrifices to make music than whoever you may think of on a bigger mainstream level that has a big budget or whatever. It’s $9.99 and I think it’s a good album. People will definitely enjoy it and it’s for the community. If you’re into the community and what’s going on with black folks and what’s going on in Hip-Hop in a real way you gotta pick this up and just vibe to it — bump it.

Purchase: F.Y.I. – ameriBLACKKK

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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