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If you've used the phrase "make it rain" in the past half-decade, you probably have Atlanta production duo FKi to thank: They're the ones who produced the song of the same title for Travis Porter. Maybe you have Jeremih's "Fuck You All the Time" on your sex playlist. Once again, you've basically invited FKi into your bedroom. Maybe you have dabbed to 2 Chainz's "Watch Out" some time this spring. That, too, you can thank FKi for.
Along with producers like Sonny Digital, Metro Boomin, and DJ Spinz, FKi have been some of the architects of the modern Atlanta sound, working with everyone from T.I. to Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug to iLoveMakonnen. They've also done an impressive job of crossing over into the electronic and pop worlds, collaborating with the likes of Flosstradamus and Iggy Azalea. But nothing has resonated quite like FKi's latest protegé, Post Malone, whose song "White Iverson" has gone super duper extra bananas viral, earning platinum plaques and spots touring with the likes of Fetty Wap and, currently, Justin Bieber. Perhaps Post's talent would have found a way out no matter what, but certainly much of the credit goes to FKi 1st, the half of the duo who became Post's close collaborator and is now his touring DJ.
Given his behind-the-scenes success, FKi 1st is ready to step out into the spotlight. He recently released his first solo EP, First Time for Everything, on Mad Decent, and now he's sharing the video for the single "Echoes," featuring Elkka, exclusively on Noisey. Much like his label head Diplo—he's dubbed himself the "black Diplo"—FKi 1st has a facility with pulling unique sounds out of anyone he works with, a talent he uses to great effect on the EP and throughout his other productions. He recently stopped by the VICE LA office to record an interview for Noisey on Beats1 (listen to that here). Read an extended version of that conversation below.
Noisey: When did you start making music?
FKi 1st: I was always making music out of my mom’s basement. Everybody from every part of Atlanta would come to my mom’s basement to see what we had going on. I feel like I had the only studio. It was a very bootleg, very not-top-quality studio. I finally ran into Travis Porter. The first day we made “Make It Rain” and “Bring it Back,” and then later on that week we made “Ay Ladies.” And shit just started going crazy. Everybody was like “yo, you made three fucking songs in a row!”
Then I started running into more people. I met Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan randomly walking to my studio. A lot of people share studios, and there will be like five studios in one big building, which is a good thing and a bad thing. But at this moment it was good. Rich Homie Quan, Young Thug would come through. DJ Spinz, Sonny Digital, Metro came through. This is when we had our studio on the East Side. It was just like my mom’s basement. Everybody was in one place, but we were just getting bigger. We were all hungry together, just working.
What song did you feel was a tipping point for you?
“White Iverson,” that’s the highest moving. It’s double platinum. But I feel like a turning point for me was Jeremih “Fuck You All the Time.” I don’t know if that’s true to everybody else, but when people find out they’re like, “oh shit you made ‘Fuck You All the Time?’” Because another thing is I hate R&B. It’s just so corny to me. I’m so happy Drake changed R&B. He made it more real. So I was like “I want to make a R&B song that’s not an R&B song.”
Did you write the original track too?
Yeah, you want to know something funny about “Fuck You All the Time”? I wrote that song as a joke with OB from OVO. He came to Atlanta, and then we made that song. It goes into another beat on the hook, but he’s actually still singing on it. Hopefully that doesn’t mess it up for ladies in their head because they thought Jeremih was singing to them on the hook. We just left him on there because it sounded dope. So that’s actually OB.
Where were you when you first met Post Malone?
We were in LA at Paramount. One of my friends is an engineer, and he was like, “you should meet this kid. He’s a rapper.” I’m like “all right, I’ve heard this before.” But he came in the studio, and his sauce is on point. He just came in with a brand new beat—because he produces too—dropped it, dropped a verse on it, all in the same day. He told me to move to LA. He was like “I’ll turn my closet into a studio.” Sure enough I moved to LA. I met his pops, and his pops told me he could sing. At first I brought Bankroll Fresh, Travis Porter—all my Atlanta homies—to Post’s house, so he just kept wanting to rap because that’s what he was seeing. But after his dad told me he could sing and does folk music, too, I was like, “bruh, what’re you doing? Why are you holding back? Fuck these other people. Do not hold back your talent because you think it’s going to be weird or corny.”
What are your conversations like making songs?
If you live with a person the music you make is going to be even better. When you see a producer falling in love with an artist at a point, you’re going to be able to feel it and see it. When you live with a certain artist the shit will build because you can tell each other stuff that you can’t tell anybody else. You can just be more straight up with a person you know.
What was it like going on the road with Bieber and Fetty Wap?
The tours with Bieber and Fetty Wap were definitely two completely different things because Bieber’s crowd ranges from five year olds to 40 year olds. It’s the wildest thing. I also learned that he’s one of the hardest working people fucking ever. He works hard. He deserves that shit. I can’t take anything away. You’re on stage for an hour and a half, two hours dancing on stage every single night, and I think his tour lasted for two years. And you still have to do other shit, other award shows and everything. I’m like yo man I am working hard, but there’s levels to this, bruh. It’s fucking levels, and he’s on a whole other level. I’m right here, I’m still successful, I’m still going, I’m still rising, but he’s taking it to another level.
The Fetty Wap tour was some classic rap shit. That’s the shit I’m used to, being from Atlanta, being around the hip-hop. It’s lit parties backstage, all of that. That’s exactly what that was. Bieber was more controlled, security A-1. But there’s so many women, the age range is crazy. He’ll go on stage and start at eight and go all the way up to like 50. I’m like what the fuck. I need to get in your arena, what you’re doing. You are very lit out here. These tours have been very fun. I’ve had my own sets. I just like playing good trap music in front of different crowds, man. Some people haven’t experienced good trap music, so I have to be there to let them know what’s going on with Atlanta.
Would you say you’ve converted fans on the Purpose tour?
Oh yeah. Seriously, these kinds of tours, the songs that you play can change the status of them when there’s 20,000 or 25,000 people crowds every single night. And I’m playing original music and sounds from Atlanta, so I know people are hearing for the first time.
Kanye came to both of the LA shows, and the first show I didn’t play his music. He checked me with the “you ain’t got no Yeezy in your Serato” in person. He was like “yo I just saw your set, it was cool and all, but you act like I didn’t just drop an album.” I was like “oh, shit.” We had just left his house, too. We went over there with Post, and he checked me. He was like “I’m coming to the show tonight. Put some of that Pablo in there.” I definitely did, though. It’s definitely in the set now.
Let’s talk about First Time for Everything. This is your first solo offering?
I mean first and foremost, what’s better than your first? Actually, let me take that back because my first time having sex wasn’t even that amazing. My first time having sex the girl had the condom. It was a black tuxedo condom. I didn’t even know they made tuxedo condoms. It was weird as hell. But other than that moment, what’s better than the first time?
Really it’s my first chance to release some dope original music with me and my friends. Making music with your friends is the best thing, and I have my best friends on it: Makonnen, Post, Danny Seth, Njomza. We really all just got together and just made each song its own project. There’s like three to four people working on every song. We really treated each song like its own project. We borrowed from different genres and put them all together, but we still have that 808 Atlanta sound because that’s where I’m from. The knock is always going to be there. That’s what I live. That’s what I breathe.
Tell us about your decision to put Bankroll on the record for Mad Decent.
First and foremost, that’s like one of my favorite rappers from Atlanta, bruh. He’s one of the people who told me to do this shit for real. There’s two people who told me that, and I will always remember. There’s A$AP Rocky in New York and Bankroll. And those are people who I liked their music, too, so it meant a lot coming from them. But they were like “bro, you can’t hold back. I see you’re humble and everything, but in this game that’s not what this is for. Everything you make, make it 100 percent. Don’t do half ass shit. A lot of bad stuff can fucking happen in music. You have to be kind of selfish and kind of in your own zone.” I definitely learned that from those two guys.
It was crazy with Bankroll because it’s not really easy to live in Atlanta and be a rapper, and Gucci Mane, T.I., and Young Jeezy fuck with you. I don’t care who you are: Those three guys, that does not happen. Those are like the top three. Everybody fucked with him. It’s the most craziest thing that he’s dead right now. I never saw that coming. It was just wrong place, wrong time. Shit happens. I had to put him on a project. That’s one of my good friends. We have a lot of unreleased songs. He definitely inspired me a lot.
Have you been in the studio a lot with him over the years?
Yeah. The thing about Bankroll: I think I had bigger plans for him than he had. It goes back to me meeting young artists and new artists. When I first meet them I see everything before they fucking see it. Not to sound like an asshole, but even when I met Post I was like, “bruh, you’re about to go crazy.” I saw the same thing in Fresh: the way he handled himself, the way everybody else acted around him.
I wish he was with me to be going to these places to perform songs. It would’ve been the greatest shit ever. I had so many plans for him. So many big plans. We had this one song—of course Drake doesn’t even know yet—called “It’s Time.” He was like “bruh, Drake’s going to get on this shit even if I have to pay him.” That won’t be able to happen now. I’m going to try my best to keep him going, but it just sucks, man.
Where were you when you heard the news?
I remember exactly where I was. I was with a new artist in the Bay. We had just finished a show with Fetty Wap, and my homie Ezale came through. He had just come backstage, talking like “let’s go to the studio after this.” And then my engineer friend who linked me with Post got a call from some girl who worked at the studio, and she was just crying. And then he looked at me and shook his head and was like “yo bruh, Fresh is dead.” I was like, “Fresh who?” He was like, “They killed Fresh right at the studio. It was a crazy shoot out, and he’s not here, bruh.” And I just started crying. I didn’t even care who was in the room. I don’t give a fuck if they thought I was a pussy or not.
Was he targeted or was he in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Remember how I was telling you how it’s bittersweet how everybody is in the Atlanta studio at the same time? It’s a good and bad thing because it’s like you can be in one studio and somebody you got into a fight with three years ago but y’all never saw each other again is there. Now you see each other, and you just happen to be drunk, all your homeboys are there—it’s a recipe for disaster. Atlanta is pretty crazy right now. Motherfuckers are booking studios and robbing studios. How the fuck you book a studio then rob it, bruh?
It’s too wild, but that’s the bittersweet part about the studios there. Everybody is in the same place. I’ve walked in a session before I was bringing Post to the studio when he first came to Atlanta. Young Thug is in there, T.I. is in there, 21 Savage is in there, Fat Man Key is in there. And this is all in one studio, in one room. Then for those young producers, they’re in the perfect place right now. They’re with all the top artists. So it’s a good and bad thing. It’s bittersweet how the studio things in Atlanta work.
FKi 1st TOUR DATES:
6/21 - Lincoln, NE
6/22 - Des Moines, IA
6/24 - Cincinnati, OH
6/25 - Indianapolis, IN
6/27 - Nashville, TN
6/29 - Jacksonville, FL
6/30 - Orlando, FL
7/2 - Miami, FL
7/3 - Miami, FL
7/4 - Las Vegas
7/6 - Greensboro, NC
7/7 - Baltimore, MD
7/9 - Newark, NJ
7/10 - Hartford, CT
7/12 - Buffalo, NY
7/13 - Pittsburgh, PA
7/15 - Atlantic City, NJ
7/18 - New York, NY
7/19 - New York, NY
7/30 - Montreal, QC (Osheaga Music + Arts Festival)
7/31 - Toronto, Ontario (Veld Music Festival)
8/6 - Mad Decent Block Party Brooklyn
9/16 - Mad Decent Block Party Phoenix
10/1 - New York (Meadow's Music Festival)
Justin Staple is a producer for Noisey. Follow him on Twitter.
Kyle Kramer is an editor for Noisey. Follow him on Twitter.