Flohio: Who’s This Girl?
Flohio is excited today. As she enters an East London studio, the MC is eager to watch a live session of hers which has just dropped on YouTube. She scrambles for the Wi-Fi code, releasing a wave of emotions as she bounces up and down, squealing in jubilation.
I pull up the video on my phone for us to watch together. The session – which sees her rap along to her new track Bands for the increasingly popular Colors platform – is quickly attracting praise. “I’ve always battled thoughts in my head that people don’t fuck with me, so to see the responses be so positive…” She smiles in disbelief.
Hype is not something the down-to-earth 25-year-old, born Funmi Ohio, really subscribes to. But on mic Flohio is the brazen, unapologetic MC and fierce representative of South London, whose intense energy leaves an instant impression. Her music is difficult to categorise; to label her a grime artistis inaccurate given her taste for unusual beats and the sprawlingnature of her music. At the same time, Flohio combines lyrical punches with frantic, urgent double-time flows that would make even the most technical MCs nervous.
After debuting in 2016 with her Nowhere Near EP – a record of sparse, crackling hip-hop beats and gripping self-discovery – Flohio has selective been with her output, only appearing on the L-Vis 1990’s collab Yeah Yeah and her track Fights with London production duo God Colony in 2017. The latter is a call of action for whoever wants to engage in lyrical warfare, boasting the razor sharp hook: “They reminisce like this, but bodies that I’m dropping always sound like hits”.
Intense, fearless and grounded are words that instantly come to mind when hearing Flohio’s work, but what has inspired this aspect of her arsenal? “What I write about is where I was in the past, where I am now and where I see myself in the future,” she tells me. “So, in my future, I’ll rap about what I want for myself, my friends, my family. And the present is the bullshit and happiness I’m going through at the moment. I can’t rap about cars because I don’t have one, I don’t bust guns. I’m from south London so I rap a lot about my community. I’m true to who I am and writing about what I’m living.”
Her childhood memories are of her family settling in Bermondsey, south east London, after migrating from Nigeria. With her pilot father rarely around, her mother always working and her older sister in boarding school, the then nine-year-old Flohio was left to her own devices. She developed a passion for watching music videos from the golden era of Channel U and her idol, Lil Wayne. “When I came here I was in the background adjusting, and I just wanted to fit in,” she reflects. “So, it was a phase of me trying to figure out what my life was at the time, when I was 10-12.”
Music was the perfect escape from the daily toils of this transition period, and she began writing lyrics at the age of 13. Until recently, she had a job as a graphic designer at record label Ninja Tune, which she left last year. “I just wanted to be happy making music, it allows me to be so free,” she says. “Plus, I hate waking up early; after performing abroad one night, I can’t be going back to work the next morning!”
Both solo and with God Colony, live performance has given Flohio an opportunity to thrive, and she’s shared stages with the likes of GAIKA and Princess Nokia. While she continues to adjust to her frequent inner conflicts, delivering her lyrics onstage has installed in her an enduring self-assurance. “Music has forced me to be confident, even from being in front of an audience,” she says. “You don’t really prepare for it and if you’re not confident [the crowd] will sense it. It’s like being thrown into shark-infested waters when you have a cut – they can smell that blood from miles away.”
Having found her happiness through her music, Flohio is ready for what the future holds, with clear definitions of what the word ‘achievement’ means to her. “I want my music to take me all around the world – end of,” she concludes. “I want to get paid to make people happy and love each other. I want to be a promoter of peace and love, that’s the only thing we can give, man. I don’t want my nephew to grow up in a messed-up world where it’s all hate. I get a big buzz off making people happy and giving. That’s the shit I live for.”
Photography: Lillie Eiger
Styling: Holly Macdonald