For femdot., 2023 Means A Lot More Than Just Music
Written by Vocalo Radio on April 5, 2023
Chicago native femdot. came back to the city last week after recently relocating to Los Angeles. He sat down with Vocalo mornings host Bekoe and his old friend, WBEZ’s Taylor Faye Nazon, to break down his March 21 “Pelle Pelle,” which was produced by Sango.
Listeners haven’t had much new music from femdot. since the release of his last studio album Not for Sale in 2021, but he has kept his fans entertained with a few singles sprinkled throughout 2022. According to femdot., the release of “Pelle Pelle,” his second single this year, serves as a sign of more music to come — but said his next album is not coming this year.
“We tryna feed the people this year, I wanna make sure people have music to listen to, and it just gotta get off my hard drive,” femdot. said.
In addition to making music, femdot. is the creator of Delacreme Scholars, an organization he founded back in 2018 to offer scholarships to help Black and Brown college students at his alma mater, DePaul University. The program has since expanded to offer scholarships to ten students a year, and now accepts any students attending a two or four-year college or university in Chicago, or any students originally from Chicago but attending college elsewhere. He hopes, through the program, he’s able to help change the city in his own way.
“It’s giving out scholarships to Black and Brown students in the middle of the year and then trying to help with civic engagement in any way we can,” femdot. explained. “Just trying to make sure the crib will look better when I leave than when I got here.”
femdot. filled in Bekoe and Taylor on what he’s been up to since moving across the country, new music in the works, the Delacreme scholarship program, what it’s like being a full-time rapper and more.
femdot. is also about to hit the road opening for Redveil’s Water 2 Fire tour, which kicks off April 11 and is set to stop at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall for a sold out show on April 20. Find more information on the tour on femdot.’s website.
Bekoe: It’s Vocalo Radio 91.1 FM, Chicago’s only NPR Music station. I’m your host Bekoe, alongside my favorite homegirl, [WBEZ’s] Taylor Faye [Nazon] is in the building. How you feeling?
Taylor Nazon: I’m feeling good. I’m feeling good.
B: And as promised, Chicago, we got a very special guest, man. I played a joint from femdot. It was called “94 Camry Music,” and that brother is here today with us. How you feeling, Fem?
Femdot: (Laughs) I feel good. How y’all feeling?
B: Gotta make some noise for you one time! [Cheering sound effect] It feels good to have you back, my brother. You know… I didn’t even know you transitioned to L.A. I didn’t know! You did it so, like, secretly.
F: I mean, because I’m back and forth, for real. I’m really out there just working on the next album… So, you know, I’ll be back and forth. I’ll be here all the time.
B: How has the transition to L.A. been for you?
F: It’s been interesting. It’s different. It’s a different way, especially… I was traveling, I was going out there a lot. I travel — everyone who knows me, knows I’m pretty much never home anyway,
F: [Laughs] So I was traveling a lot anyway. I’d be there for a month at a time or something. So now, being there for [an] extended amount of time and… coming back to Chicago, it’s different… And it’s been raining, so it’s like, I really live in Seattle. It’s been raining like crazy …
B: Has the weather been at least warm?
F: No. But for me, I just thought of it like a change of the season… Because it’s like, “Alright, cool, it’s the wintertime.” But they are built for earthquakes… Like, the world can move, but don’t let it rain for more than 45 minutes. Like, streetlights is out, it’s crazy. It’s a crazy phenomenon.
B: I mean, being over on the West Coast, do you feel like that it’s amplified your sound at all?
F: I mean, my sound is pretty much my sound and it’s very much rooted in the crib. I don’t think L.A. changes that. I think, if anything, I’m just working with different people.
B: A little more sources.
F: Yeah, yeah, just a little more resources in terms of access, because so many people are already there. You just never know what rooms you walk into, and etc. But as for the sound, my ear’s rooted in Chicago.
TN: Well, before I get too deep into this — to be fully transparent, I have known Femi for a very long time. Femi, do you want to the audience how we — our first interaction? How we met?
B: You know it’s real, you call him Femi!
TN: That’s true, my bad! femdot. I apologize.
F: [Laughs] I am crying.
TN: femdot, do you want to tell the folks how we first met?
F: I met Tay in 20… 12?
F: 2012. We did a journalism internship at Columbia College over the summer. That is where — actually, she was the first person to speak to me at the internship, because I was in there… Because I was really using it as a cover-up to do all the things I later started rapping about. So… But yeah, and that’s been my dog ever since. She met me at lunch, she was like, “We gon’ be friends.” And we’ve been friends ever since.
TN: And we’ve been friends ever since.
F: If you locked in, ain’t no switching up.
TN: Ain’t no switching up. And what’s crazy is like, you were doing other things, but also one of the things you were doing was working on your very first EP that dropped in 2012, Chapter 16.
F: Yeah, what a time.
TN: I can really say I’m a day one. You know, I was there from the very beginning.
F: That’s right, she was there.
TN: But I re-listened to Chapter 16 last night. “Straight A Failures,” still one of my — the first track on that — still one of my favorites. Still hits
F: I’m not gone lie, it’s kinda crazy! My voice kinda high, but it’s kinda crazy, though.
TN: Still hits.
B: What memory comes back… when you was listening to Chapter 16, what came to mind?
TN: I mean… I was gonna kick that to Femi. I mean, I think what I really appreciate about Femi’s work — I mean, I thought about my own time being 16, because… Femi, I really got to grow up with your projects because everywhere, from Chapter 16 to Not For Sale, you really take us through kind of chronologically where you were at a particular time in your life. And so… obviously, over this decade you have grown as an artist, but also we literally got to hear how you’ve grown as a person.
TN: And so I know that you are dropping a brand new EP, and so I love to… Just tell me a little bit about that, and also where you were when you were writing that, like what we can sort of expect from it.
F: I think the music very much is like just time capsules of where I’m at. So working on a new EP — and actually like a series of them, funny enough, they’ll be entitled Free Samples. Everything is all pretty much tied together to a larger idea that I started years ago. Y’all know, I’m super big in details. I remember we went through the whole 2020 Hour thing.
F: Yeah. So that’s pretty much just filling in gaps in between Not for Sale and the next album. So it’s just, I like to set a world that kind of fills people in. Also, to not only just where I’m at in the world mentally, but also how my creative process has changed. Like, what sounds have I been working with? So it’s like giving people “free samples” of, like, a larger idea of what I’ve been doing. Because I just have so much. This is the first time ever in life I have this much music… I was in school, I was working, I was doing etc. So after 94 Camry Music… that was my first year being a full-time rapper.
So now, instead of me having to get up and go to class or get up and go to work and all the other stuff that I was doing, I’m just rapping, and trying to fill in the gaps from there. So I’m recording way more, so I have so much more music where I’m exploring these sounds and I’m like, “Okay, like, we should probably also share that with people as well.”
B: So speaking of music… coming up after the break, we’re going to talk about how Not for Sale almost didn’t make it! It almost didn’t make it, Chicago.
F: Almost didn’t make it!
B: We’re going to talk about that right after the break. But I’m going to take us into Delacreme, too. You know, you dropped “Red Marlboros.” It taught me how to say it properly! Break down this single for everybody before we get into it.
F: Still one of my favorite stories that I ever told. It’s pretty much just speaking on how we don’t know why people use what they use to cope. And yeah, I think that’s the best way I can describe it.
B: What side of the city you repping?
F: I was born on the North Side, so I grew up on the North Side and the south ‘burbs. So north side, and then a south ‘burb called Glenwood.
B: Got you. And that’s why… I’m like, “North Side? Fem from the north.” West Side ‘til I D-I-E, but that’s another conversation.
F: Y’all cool. We can get in there. I rock with y’all.
B: Glad to hear it.
F: Y’all my homies, on God.
TN: Nah, I’m a South Sider, but I was on the West Side for a while. Respect.
B: Before the break, we were talking about how, of course, how you and Taylor met. And, Femi, I love the name. I love it, I love it, I love it. We were also talking about lost files. ‘Cause you was talking about, like, you had a lot of music on the hard drive, you were writing a lot of music and then, off-air, you broke down how you almost did not come out with Not for Sale because you lost about 300 songs.
F: Oh, yeah. So I was moving in 2020, just in apartments in Chicago, and one of my hard drives ended up getting lost. And that hard drive — so I record myself, I’m able to, like, engineer, record myself, and then I send things out to get finally mixed or whatever. So like 94 Camry Music, Not for Sale, parts of Delacreme I’ve recorded myself, but what ended up happening is that I lost the hard drive with all of those files on it.
All the original Not for Sale files, and a bunch of other songs that I enjoyed and now the world will never hear. But thank God that I was already in the mixing stages, so my engineer had the files already. But I have none of those original files, they’re all gone. And then a bunch of other songs that I was working on for the next album, I either had to recreate or I lost those. But yeah, I lost about 300 and some songs and like a thousand sessions.
RELATED: Femdot Finds True Freedom On ‘Not For Sale’
B: Did that kind of kill your mode to even want to record, at all? Like when that first happened, what did that do for you mentally? Did it strain you?
F: No, because also — so I be fasting. I’m Muslim, so it was Ramadan. During Ramadan, I don’t stress nothing. So like, it happened during Ramadan, so I was like, “I wasn’t meant to have them.” And I was able to keep… Not for Sale still was saved, so I’m like, “Alright, cool.” So I wasn’t stressed. I was like, “Alright, that means I gotta make more music.” So I did.
TN: Which you are always doing. I think, since I met you, you have been a prolific writer. Obviously, you’ve had the pencil. I think people just think the mechanical pencil is just part of the aesthetic. But like, they don’t realize: you be writing. I, like, read this interview you did a whole bunch of years ago where you said that you used to write like four songs a day.
F: Yeah. Yeah.
TN: Four songs a day. Which is crazy. And I, like, even when the pandemic shut down, you’re one the hardest working people I know. When everything shut down in the pandemic, you and Pivot Gang went on the streaming service Twitch and were hosting regular writing sessions and… you know, I follow you on Twitter. You’ll just drop… on a random Tuesday night, a verse that you did over Drake’s “Madonna,” just for the fun of it. And… you talked about how 94 Camry was the first time you really got to dedicate all your time to being a full time rapper. I mean, what does it look like now that you have more space to really hone in on your craft, to really do that writing? You found time to do that through all of this, but what was that look like now, having all this space?
F: Is interesting now, too, because at first I was like, “Alright, I’m writing like crazy.” And then it got to the point where now I just write to refine. So I’m like, “Alright, I know my niche. I know what I’m good at. I know… what things… makes a femdot. record.” So I was like, “Alright, now let me refine those.” I know what I like to go to for rap. I don’t write four song ideas a day now…
TN: Yeah. [Laughs]
F: Also because… I finished school, I finished working and then I fill that time with… other stuff outside of music. So yeah, but when I write it’s just simple. I write really fast, so it’s kind of just easy when the idea comes to put it in, because I put in my 10,000 hours 10,000 hours ago.
So at this point… it’s like, I can write in my sleep, because I’ve been writing for literally 20 years, at this point. But yeah, I still… I’ll just challenge myself to do a random verse or something, or try to talk about something, or sometimes I just write for sport, just to… make sure I’m still sharp.
Like, if you look at a basketball player who I couldn’t shoot threes over… his last season, [but] they could shoot threes now, you never see how many shots he took in the gym. You just see that his shot got better. So with me it’s like, same thing. Like, I’m working on melodies or hooks or… storytelling, which I always feel I get better about, it’s like art. It’s gotten sharper because I’ve obviously been working on a specific element over in the off-season, I guess.
B: You’ve definitely sharpened your tool, my brother. Like Tay said, your lyric game is off the chain. When you get to twirling that pencil, you know you finna go in! As far as the music, I got to know, too — because you just released a single, which we’ll play a little bit later. But I’ve kind of noticed, when tours come around, you give people a taste of some new music or a new project. So is there something new in the works, after the release of “Pelle Pelle”?
F: Yeah… so “Pelle Pelle” is out now, which is fire. Then we have some more singles and stuff coming, and then, yeah, we dropped the first installment of this EP series, the Free Samples EP series that we’re working on. So yeah, we trying to feed the people this year, man. I want to make sure people have music to listen to. And it’s just got to get off my hard drive, so everybody wins.
B: You got to free up some space!
F: Yeah, a terabyte will fill up quick!
TN: I mean, okay, so since we’re talking about feeding the people and you also sort of alluded to the other things that you did outside of rap, I’d love for you to talk about your scholarship program.
F: Yeah. So we have just gone into year five of the Delacreme Scholars. So shoutout to that… I’m actually going to be able to meet some of our scholars today, which I’m really excited about, from our new class. It’s giving out scholarships to Black and Brown students in the middle of the year and then trying to help with civic engagement in any way we can. Just trying to make sure the crib will look better when I leave than when I got here.
RELATED: Femdot Gives Back With Delacreme Scholarship Program
B: If I’m not mistaken, the scholarship program started off with… it was like one to four scholars?
F: So it was supposed to be one, but there were extra donations so it was two scholars. And now we give out ten scholars a year.
B: Wow. Because I remember when you first started things, and it was a blessing to be able to do that. And now you went from one to ten.
F: Yeah, so we do ten now. So we’re up to like 40-something scholars, as of now. Yeah.
F: So my plan is to hopefully… just continue to grow… monetary stuff that we can give them, the resources that we can give them. And now… because, at this point, we’ve been doing it for five years, it’s something that is established.
So now it’s like, “Alright, we want to create a real incubator for these students and these artists, to be able to watch them grow and give them tools to develop.” So it’s not just a one time, “Oh, you get bread.” It’s like, “Alright, how do we… what do you need so we can support you with our program, and how can we put you in spaces to succeed?” So I feel like that’s where we can really help and grow people.
B: And before we get into this music break, my brother, I got one of my favorite joints loaded up. It’s going to take us into this next topic, too, but how can people donate and support Delacreme Scholars?
F: You can donate and support our IG and all of our like social handles are Delacreme Scholars or D-E-L-A-C-R-E-M-E, S-C-H-O-L-A-R-S. Come on, you feel me? Real spelling bee king.
But yeah, that’s on all platforms, and the same thing over at Delacremescholars.org. We always are accepting donations, we are tax exempt, so you can write that off, you feel me? So come rock with ya boy.
TN: One thing I wanted to ask you — I mean, as somebody who’s been in the game for a while now, you’re not quite an O.G. yet! But you know, you’ve been in the game for a minute.
TN: I mean, as someone who has performed at Lolla, headlined his own shows, been on tours, has had billboards around the city.
F: Oh yeah, that was a thing.
TN: And I know, for your scholarship, you have built the group Fellowship for Artists. What are — as you think about artists who are coming up and young people, what is some advice that you would give folks who are really trying to hone in on their craft and are really working towards where you are right now?
F: None of us know what we’re doing.
B: Say that again!
F: So like, people be making stuff up, trying to tell you these are the rules… But there ain’t none. None of us know what we’re doing. Everything I’ve been able to do at this point has been unconventional. Every step I’ve taken is something that people said that we weren’t supposed to do. So ain’t no rules to this, for real, because you get in these rooms with these people and you realize that don’t nobody know what they’re doing, people just… are prepared for when the luck hit them, that’s all.
TN: Yeah. I mean, I think one thing that you’ve always been very good with is being yourself. Like recognizing that, yeah, there aren’t any rules and yeah, you can follow this blueprint that people have set forth to be like, “This is conventionally what you should do to be successful.” Or you could just be you.
F: Yeah, that works the best every time. Because that’s the only thing you can’t teach somebody else to do, is be you. You can’t be somebody else to be like you, it just won’t work. You can live in the same house, you could be twins, y’all won’t be the exact same… Authenticity works every time. All the things that I thought was flaws or the things that, like, I was the most insecure about, when it came to my artistry, are the things that’s propelled me the most.
(Left) femdot. in the Vocalo studio, on-air with Bekoe and Taylor Nazon. (Right) Bekoe, femdot. and Taylor Nazon in front of the mural outside Vocalo’s studio. Morgan Ciocca/Vocalo Radio
B: It’s going to keep propelling you, too. Your authenticity is key, My brother.
F: Yeah. Appreciate that.
B: Because, you know, some people look at, “How can I stay afloat and do something for clout?” You’ve never been that type. You’ve always been authentic and true to yourself.
F: No, I appreciate that. I’m just also not rapping to be cool. [Laughs]
B: Lot of that going on! [Laughs]
F: You feel me? I’m not like, “Oh, if I don’t rap, I won’t be cool no more.” Like… I’m not really. I’m rapping because it’s what I need to do, and what I feel is right.
B: And that’s a career. That’s a straight career for you. And touring-wise, this is not your first rodeo.
F: Nah, we’re going on our third U.S. tour — or North American tour, ‘cause we do U.S. and Canada.
B: Do you feel a difference at all, joining this tour [with Redveil]?
F: Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, granted, no one knows what they doing. But with tour… [All laugh] Logistically, we’ve got a bit of a better idea. And the last tour we got, which was a blessing, with Saba, we got that like three weeks before, so we didn’t have really much time to prepare. But now we’ve had time to prepare, and we’ve done tours before… So I kind of know what’s going on. I know… like, I know the venues, right? Or I know… what to anticipate for merch, or just how to perform and stuff like that. So it’s a little different this time.
B: And then you independent!
B: At that… What’s something you would share with artists that are independent, like you, in your own lane, and then also being able to tour… what’s something you can share with them that at least they’ll understand how to get to that level of performance?
F: I mean, one, people are always looking. I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities with people who I didn’t expect to be looking at what I was doing, were looking at what I was doing. Because even then, my first three tours were without an agent, either. So it’s just relationships with people who either see me and respect me as a person and as a musician and want to bring me on the road with them. And two, just the idea of reinvesting. So when the opportunity presents itself, you have the money. Because tour is expensive… If you’re the artist, you’re paying for driver, or food, hotel stay, flights… they don’t tell you about that… I don’t have nobody else fronting that bread, unless you get like brand partnerships.
B: So as an artist, being on tour, how do you get a return?
F: Usually through merch and stuff, and if you do like pop-ups or whatever. But a lot of people come back from tour in the red. A lot of times. Because it’s just the idea of being able to expose yourself in front of so many people, so if you come back in the black, that’s a win. If you come back breaking even, that’s a win. We’ve been blessed enough to usually come back well, because we do a lot of brand relationships and stuff like that, and sponsorships. But yeah, most people — like, a tour bus is $100,000. If you want an actual tour bus, like an actual, legitimate tour bus, that costs at least $100,000.
B: Man, I’m gonna go grab me a little — what do they call them? Them vans.
F: Yeah, like a little sprinter or whatever.
TN: Those are expensive too!
F: If you renting those, them like five, six, seven bands, too. If you renting them for a month… People don’t think about that. And you got to swap out cars, they’re not meant to last. Nothing’s meant to last the whole tour, so you got to swap stuff out. You got people staying. You still got to pay for hotels. How many people you got with us? You’ve got video people. People don’t think about that. You got to be really, like, one, willing to reinvest into your career and knowing that your money is going back into something bigger than yourself. And yeah… in terms of getting on tour, it’s just, I feel like, being good to people and just, in my case, rapping better than most people.
B: Talk about it! You ain’t got to shy away from being honest, my brother!
F: Tends to put me in a position where I need to be. [Laughs]
B: Them bars got you right!
F: Appreciate that.
B: So you’re going on tour with Redveil, and you all will actually be touching Lincoln Hall 4/20. That’s a special date right there.
F: It is a very special day, indeed.
B: When does things kick off for you, when you will be back on that road?
F: We head out April 11. So in like, what, two and a half weeks or something like that. Then we’re gone for like a month and a half. So yeah… I think we start off in Philly. It’s going to be lit. I love Philly.
B: How do you prep? Because… I got a chance to see Smino in New York, and I also got a chance to see him here in Chicago. And it got me thinking… Like I said, it’s not your first rodeo. Hitting the stage consistently, how do you prep for something like that? Keep your vocals right?
F: I mean, you rehearse and stuff, too. And then, after a couple of shows you make adjustments. You don’t find a perfect set until maybe like four or five, which is messed up, because if you’re the first stop on a tour, you’re getting a really good set, but also you’re getting like 80%, because they’re still working out kinks. You can rehearse all day and forever, but you don’t know how something gon’ hit until it’s in front of people. So you still may have to make a tweak or two.
But yeah, rehearse and stuff, and then we’re touring… If you start learning how to work with sound engineers, like the people at front of house, to make sure you’re not yelling all the time. Or what do you got in your green room, what are you drinking or what sleep you’re getting, stuff like that. Taking care of your body so your voice can last that long or you’re not sick is key. So it’s just little stuff that you figure out, in terms of a routine, work the best for you.
B: And and knowing, too, before we cap things off and get into this “Pelle Pelle,” I believe you’re under new management now.
F: Yeah, partially. It’s partially. I mean, Meeks is still with me. Most of the team is still with me…
B: So you added?
F: We just added, yeah. The team is getting bigger.
B: That’s what I wanted to know, if the team was getting bigger or if you kind of… pieced things apart a little bit.
F: No, it’s more or less the team is growing, because… I need help.
B: You growing!
F: Yeah, for sure
B: You growing. Man, It’s always a blessing to have you come through and chop it up with us and show love as always, my brother.
F: I appreciate y’all so much.
B: Well, this joint “Pelle Pelle.” Do you got a Pelle Pelle coat?
F: No, I need one. That’s why I want to get one. That’s the whole point. I couldn’t afford one as a youth. I couldn’t afford a Pelle Pelle. So that’s why I was like, “I might go to the Grammys in a Pelle Pelle,” because I couldn’t afford one, you feel me? I wasn’t able… who’s Mama was finna go buy… ?
TN: It’s like you dropped that, and then I went to the Masego concert on Friday and the person standing right in front of me had a Pelle Pelle on. I was like, “This is crazy. Old head! It was nice.”
F: Check it out though, had it not been that I got to reinvest… I would have been grabbed me a little Pelle. I love Pelle. I do. I actually, genuinely love Pelle Pelle.
TN: I mean, that’s real, because not only are you invested in yourself, I mean, you are taking money from your tours and performances, also putting it into your scholarship program, so you know, we get it.
B: The Bears, I remember you did something for the Bears. That money went to the Delacreme scholarships.
TN: Don’t bring that up. My father is still very upset that he did not get that Lyrical Lemonade Bears sweatshirt.
F: Hey, that don’t got nothing to do with me!
TN: He called me every month. He’s like, “Femi can’t get me that sweatshirt?” I was like, “Dad, that’s not how it works. It’s been sold out.”
F: Love you big dog, but that ain’t…
TN: I know he’s listening right now. When I told him I was interviewing you, he was like, “I got a question for Femi.” [All laugh]
B: “Where my swag at?”
TN: He found one on eBay, he good. He got his. [Laughs]
F: Hey, man, bless his heart. That ain’t got nothing to do with… my name is Bennett, and I am not in it. On my Mama.
B: Capping off the show, I don’t think you ever told us the album title that you’re releasing this year.
F: Oh, man. I mean, it’s not releasing this year, so I’m not going to gas people.
TN: Dang, not you putting him on the spot.
F: He tried, but I will give people this. I’ve been saying this album title for the past like six projects, so you just got to listen.
TN: Interesting. Okay.
B: I tried, Chicago.
F: It’s in every project I have done since 2016, the album title.
B: So y’all got to go back to 2016 and listen all the way through and you’ll get the album title.
F: You’ll figure it out. I’ve literally been mentioning this project for years.
Introduction written by Omi Salisbury
Interview and audio production by Bekoe
Transcription and editing for length and clarity by Joshua X. Miller and Morgan Ciocca
Video editing by Bekoe, filmed by Kristina Rodriguez
Photography by Morgan Ciocca
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