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JUNE 9, 2020 | By: Shirley Ju
Victoria Kimani and FKI 1$T linking on an entire project is the collaboration we always wanted. With the first being one of Kenya’s biggest names and the latter being one of the most well-respected producers in hip-hop, this link up was so necessary in bridging the cultures of East Africa and America together.
Hailing from Atlanta, FKI 1$t is an artist in his own right. His endless catalog of hits include Post Malone’s “White Iverson,” 2 Chainz’ “Watch Out,” Travis Scott’s “R.I.P. Screw,” Travis Porter’s “Make It Rain,” and many more. With his unwavering love for music and effortless ability to make bangers, real name Trocon Roberts, Jr. keeps his fans fed with his own Good Gas series, enlisting some of music’s hottest artists.
The joint project is aptly titled Afreaka, where 1$t is able to return to his West African roots while Kimani steps outside of her comfort zone of traditional Afropop. The dynamic duo would record the project at his studio in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, a lucrative creative process that was much more of a vibe than work. The crazy part is, Kimani actually was born and raised in Torrance. Together, they inject the very familiar strip club culture in the A into African sounds and dialect.
The album’s lead single “Talk To Me” arrives with a cinematic visual featuring the hilarious Michael Blackson. Flaunt caught up with both Kimani and 1$t via Instagram Live to discuss the collaboration process and the impact Afreaka has on not only their own lives, but the world.
INTERVIEW WITH VICTORIA KIMANI:
How is it over there in Kenya?
It’s 1am here but it’s okay, I’m awake. I literally don’t sleep. In Kenya, we have a curfew. Everyone needs to be in the house by 7pm. A lot of people can’t really afford to not work. There’s a lot of hand to mouth situations. If they were to shut us down, I don’t know what would happen. There’d be a lot of hunger, a lot of poverty, so that’s their way of trying to gauge it. It’s crazy man, it’s hectic.
Someone said your English is hella good. You were actually born and raised in LA!
I was born in Torrance, a first generation American. My parents are both originally from Kenya, my whole family’s from Kenya born and raised. I was the first person born outside of Kenya. I moved back to the continent in 2013, some time in my 20’s.
What made you move back?
Honestly at the time, we’re in this weird family transition. My parents initially thought they’d be raising this American kid, we’re never going back to Africa. They ended up moving back, opening a church and an orphanage. I thought “okay I can stay in America, or I can come back on this side and pursue my music..” I had an opportunity, actually had a little record deal with Nigeria. I ended up signing and relocating here, on the opposite side of the world.
How was taking all your shit and moving so far away?
Hectic, I moved all the way across the world. I still very much go back and forth, but there’s cultural differences. Growing up in the States, there’s no school uniform. You can wear what you want, you can look how you want aesthetically. Here, there’s a lot of things that come into play before you can outwardly express yourself. Religion, what people think is decency, there’s a lot of transition. It’s crazy.
Do you miss LA?
I do, I was just there. Last year, I stayed in LA for about four months. I didn’t want to come back, I was done. I do miss LA.
How did you & Fki 1st first meet each other?
I met him through a mutual friend almost 2 years ago. On this trip, he said “yo pull up to the studio.” I went to the studio, we did one song, then 2 songs. He’s like “fuck it, let’s make a project.” It’s cool because I never went in there intending to do a whole album. The idea was “let’s see if we have a vibe, try one or two songs.” Now, we got a whole album.
What was the first song you guys made?
The first one was called “Anywhere.” It’s on the album as well, you can check it out.
I love the first song “Afreaka,” it’s the perfect intro.
Thank you, that’s one of my favorites. It;s very easy to work with him. He’s a very chill guy. Smokes hella weed, always has people over. I thought “shit this is cool, it’s a cool vibe.: I was able to bring my friends over, it’s very much a party studio type of vibe.
Do you smoke or no?
A little here and there. I stopped because I started getting paranoid. I don’t know this whole Coronavirus thing or maybe it’s the strand we have in Kenya, I stopped for about a week and a half. [laughs] I’m talking shit, but I did stop for a minute.
How long were you locked in the lab till you’re like “alright, this is a whole project”?
Over the course of those 4 months. In 2019, I went to LA twice. I went in March, we did the first record in March. When I came back in June, we finished it. Right before I was supposed to leave LA, he’s like “let’s shoot a bunch of videos.” We shot 3 of the videos from the project. It’s honestly one of the most chill projects I’ve ever done.
You say he has the smoothest bars, what do you admire about him? It’s so fire he produces, and he can rap.
It’s so fire. What impressed me most is that he understands music completely. Global music. Obviously hip-hop, but I was very impressed to see his Afrobeat music collection. He had a bunch of vinyl records, I thought “wow that’s pretty dope.” That’s very reflective of what he was listening to around the house. He’s Liberian, but he’s never been out here. His connection to African music I’m assuming came from what he was listening to around the house. Also, he can rap. His whole perspective to music and how he puts everything together, he keeps adding things until the last minute. That’s definitely something I noticed. “We need bass here. We need something else here, let’s add something here.” He’s a continuous producer, shout out to FKI 1$T.
Who’s genius idea was it to name the project Afreaka?
That was my idea. I remember we were thinking of a name. I was saying a bunch of random stuff, he’s like “yo that’s dope.” Literally that was it. I can’t think of any parts of that creative process that were stalling or difficult. Everything flowed very smoothly, even down to coming up with the title.
How do you exactly put the “freak” in Afreaka?
You know! When I think of freak, it’s not only the whole sexual part. It’s “look at that freak over there, don’t talk to that person.” I’ve always felt like an outcast in my own space. I’m in Kenya, I don’t speak Swahili. That’s a very freak-ish thing for a lot of people. I spent a lot of time in different African countries, I’ve always been the one there who doesn’t really belong. When I think of freaking something, I think of Pimp My Ride. Taking something and perfecting it, go tweak it. Afreaka really describes me, but also describes what was done to the music.
How was shooting “Talk To Me” w/ Michael Blackson?
That dude’s crazy. [chuckles] He’s funny as hell. He’s the coolest dude ever. I remember being over at his house, he always had a bunch of parties. “Hey what’re you guys doing? Come over, let’s have a little cookout.” This was all in the same trip. I was actually hosting a party in LA, he came. From there, we all became friends. I’m playing my music around the house, he’s like “who’s that? That shit’s dope.” I said “oh that’s me.” He’s like “shit, when are you doing the video? Let’s do it.” I’m like “are you joking or are you serious?” Because sometimes you really can’t tell. Especially people in LA, are you being serious or what’s the deal? But he was.
The day we shot it, I had to check out of my Airbnb on time. I had 5 hours before I had to catch my flight. I said “if I show up with a camera crew, can we shoot this video right now in your house?” He’s like “yeah, come through!” That’s what happened. I went through, no hair, no makeup. We shot something really cool. He’s very good at improv, coming up with stuff last minute on the spot. It was a vibe.
What was the best memory from shooting? I can only imagine how funny he is on set.
He said something so retarded at one point, it actually aided the acting we’re trying to put in the video. In the scene where I had to pretend to seduce him in the bed (but I wasn’t giving him any at the same time), he’s like “hmm, so this is what I’ve been missing.” [laughs] CRINGE, it was funny. The director was also female, so it was freaking funny. Generally, he does have a big bro effect. I can tell he really wants to be instrumental in the African and Afrobeats community, doing his part to push the culture. Shout out to Micheal Blackson.
Talk about wanting a positive push for the culture with your own platform.
For so many years, I’ve been talking about having more creative freedom. I’ve always felt when I come back home, it’s like going back in time. Arts and music aren’t at the top of the list. What people are concerned about most in my country are politics. After politics, it’s comedy. In other African countries, music and entertainment are first on the list. By continuously creating art and without even knowing it, we’re building a culture that hasn’t ever fully existed. My art is my contribution, not having to draw within the lines and sound like everybody else out here. I’m very vocal about ending rape culture. Africa has lots of child marriages, lots of very young arranged marriages. We try to use our platform to speak against things like that but again, it’s culture.
What’s one thing you want fans to get from the project?
Man, I want people to anticipate something different from African artists. It doesn’t have to all sound exactly the same. Collaborating with 1$T, joining forces with his perspective of what African music is with mine, is very special. This is Africa to the world right now. I’m pushing the culture forward musically, visually. I want people to see the whole entire genre of music as something that’s not going anywhere. It’s very diverse.
INTERVIEW WITH FKI 1$T:
How you holding up during quarantine?
I just woke up [in Los Angeles]. I was about to go to the studio. I can’t just go to sleep, I have to go to sleep when I pass out. I have fear of missing out. I went to sleep at 8am.
How’d you and Victoria first meet?
She pulled up all the way from Kenya. She was in LA for a minute. I’ve always wanted to make that connection from Atlanta back to Africa. I’m Liberian too. Us doing a project together, we could make it happen. She starts coming to the US more, I’ll start going to Africa more. We made that jump with Afreaka.
How do you exactly put the “freak” in Afreaka?
Because I’m from Atlanta. Especially all the strip clubs, Atlanta music brings the freak out. What’s 2 things we could connect? Africa, Atlanta, and freak all together. Throw that all together. [chuckles]
How was it working with a female artist versus male?
The vibe was different in a good way. She’d bring all her other African friends too. While we’re making music, we’re damn near having a party listening to all types of African music. I always try to blend it in with hi-hats and claps, we turn it into a party every time. She’d bring her friends, they’d let us know if it was fire or not.
What was the highlight from recording the project?
We made a song “Anywhere,” it’s a real traditional West African beat. Her friends were like “oh shit, I haven’t heard this in a long time.” We’re bringing vibes back. The beat is nostalgia, especially if you’re African. Making that song, that’s when we knew “this is dope as fuck.’
Was that your beat?
Yeah, I was on shrooms one night. I was searching Youtube and hit some magical shit. I was listening to it literally for 48 hours, no lie. She happened to come the next week, I said “yo this the beat, we have to start out with this shit.”
How did it feel to not only produce, but record as an artist on the project?
I love this project because I finally got a chance (not that I didn’t have a chance before) where I get to produce and be an artist at the same time. I can get both out, that’s why I love this project so much. The rest of my projects if I collab with somebody, it’s going to be a duet.
Victoria posted on IG saying you have the smoothest bars.
Respect! I have to keep it cool. I have to keep it player man.
How was shooting the “Talk To Me” visual with Michael Blackson?
Micheal Blackson’s cool as fuck. The night before the video, he’s performing at the W. I didn’t even know what I walked into. I went to go meet Victoria somewhere, Micheal Blackson’s on stage performing. I met him as he’s getting off the stage performing “Wakonda” (him and Akon made a song). I put him on some Liberia. He either lived in Liberia or was born there, but his family moved to another part of Africa. He’s real cool. He told me where I’m from, had the African connection real quick. Bro funny as fuck, he’s too funny. He’s a damn fool.
Besides “Anywhere,” what songs mean the most to you and why?
I like “Escalator.” Especially right now, it’s so easy to feel stuck or stagnant. You need something to elevate you. That beat, the words we’re saying, it moves me. Hopefully it moves the listeners too. In a time like this, you need it man. You have go up. You can’t stay stagnant. Even though you’re in the same place, you can keep moving.
What else are you working on?
I’m about to open up an online strip club. I was in a strip club last night, it was crazy. We got our own with my dawg Pun. We got strip clubs going, they pop up and dip. [laughs]
You getting these girls paid?
Hell yeah, they have to go up too. They have to get it, nothing ha stopped. I have the Magic City Markous strip club night on Mondays. Pull up to either my Twitch or page, there’s going to be new music, ass shaking, every time.
Do you miss the real life strip club environment?
Yes, I do. At the end of this, what the fuck are we doing? I have to get to some real shit bruh, this is insane.
I can hear Afreaka at the strip club!
We got a twerk remix too at the end. We’re getting more African artists on it. Hopefully we can get Burna Boy, Stonebwoy, we’re trying to get as many people on the remix as possible.