Inside This Rising Rapper's Scientific Method - OZY | A Modern Media Company

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because he's arriving — at last — on Chicago's hip-hop scene.

By Joshua Eferighe

The presumption of potential can be just as problematic as doubt if you’re not grounded in purpose. And for 24-year-old rapper Femdot, the pressures of tomorrow have always hovered. 

Luckily, for someone who took the unusual route to the rap game via a biology degree, he understands that a music journey is a process of steps not unlike a science experiment. It means that a slower road to success than many of his peers is one he can bear.

In 2016, Pigeons & Planes declared Femdot the “new wave” after his well-received fo(u)r EP. In 2017, he got a look from Billboard, but was still described as someone “hoping to solidify his standing” among the flourishing Chicago rap scene. And in 2018 as the Chicago Tribune finally announced he’d joined the front ranks of the city’s hip-hop wave, Nylon magazine deemed him as a “new” rap sensation. This for someone who has been making and handing out music for 15 years and counting. 

“It’s kinda hard to be in a city, at least in Chicago, and say that you’ve never heard my name before,” Femdot says. “But it happens.” 

Still, Femdot relishes being perennially on the rise. “I thoroughly enjoy the whole ‘new guy breaking out’ or whatever [framing] cause it don’t matter when you find me, you’ve found me,” he says. 

If you haven’t heard of Femdot, there’s a good chance it’s because you didn’t know you were listening to him. Last year he signed a distribution deal with artist management and recording space Closed Sessions, dropped his debut album Delacreme 2, sold out Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on his own and rocked the stage at Lollapalooza. Today, he sits atop a monthly Spotify listenership of 56,000 and Apple streams of 1.1 million. He’s toured with established stars like Tobi Lou, graced the stage of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, collaborated with Grammy-nominated artists like Smino and Saba of Pivot Gang, and has landed on must-hear lists from XXL to streaming giant TIDAL. 

Femdot is no longer up and coming or en route; he’s here. 

There’s always room to be more descriptive — to be more open — and there’s always another pocket to find.

Femdot

We caught up with Femdot on a Wednesday afternoon when a lot of his rap peers and friends had just been announced as Grammy nominees. Dreamville’s compilation album, Revenge of the Dreamers III, had just been announced has a contender in multiple categories, meaning Saba, Smino and audio engineer Elton of Classick Studios were now not only his homies, but would soon grace the red carpet

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Femdot has been making music for 15 years.

“It’s so crazy to me,” he says in pure awe. “I understand the whole, ‘Grammys shouldn’t be your gauge of success’ and ‘It’s the White people award’ and all that shit is cool in theory, but these really are my friends.” 

They all came of age in the same competitive poetry circuit — other alumni include Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Noname and Jamila Woods — but Femdot’s time has been slower in coming.

Yet if you ask PJ Gordon, a 24-year-old playlist curator and artist liaison for Audiomack, Femdot’s arrival was right on time. “I don’t think Fem has ever wasted a moment,” Gordon says. “Fem is very much so a long-term artist. I don’t think he’s a flavor of the week, and that takes longer to brew.”

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Femdot was born of Nigerian immigrant parents and is the youngest of four children.

Born Femi Adigun to Nigerian immigrant parents in the northern Chicago suburbs of Evanston, Femdot has known he wanted to rap since the age of 6. Even as he got to middle school, the academically talented youngster was sold on his music career, peddling self-recorded mixtapes to his friends in the hallway by age 9. Being the youngest of four, his older siblings not only put him on to classics like Jay-Z, but nicknamed him Femdot after the Brooklyn rapper’s go-to moniker at the time: S-Dot Carter.

But school was still just important as music and he didn’t feel like he had to choose — so he didn’t. While working on a biological sciences degree from DePaul (he started at Penn State but transferred back closer to home), Femdot still managed to release a body of work each year except 2015, which was spent preparing his 2016 four-part series, the20/20hour.

And the two passions mesh better than you’d think. His logical mindset shines through in how he maps out his album concepts, setting up his storytelling, wordplay and flows. But what people really come for is the bars: The wordsmith looks to out-rap anyone he shares a track with, even himself.

“He creates the type of hip-hop I love the most,” says Alexander Fruchter, the co-founder of Closed Sessions. “His music is in the present and also rooted in some of the fundamentals and the legacy of the past and wants to be part of that conversation. That’s an overall aesthetic that brings people in.” 

Having just released his sophomore album, 94 Camry Music, and finished a tour, he laments that he still has room to improve as the biggest year of his professional life has just come to a close. “I can always be better at writing; I can get better with my pen; I think there’s always room to be more descriptive — to be more open — and there’s always another pocket to find,” he says. 

He is cryptic about his next steps, saying it will take two more projects to complete the sequence. The rest of us will just have to wait until he’s done tinkering in the lab.

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