Ric Flo is a London based rapper and motion graphic designer. He came into prominence as part of an UK rap collective Jungle Brown. The collective combines jazz infused hip-hop beats and smooth flows like no other.
For Ric growing up in foster care, the creative arts became a therapeutic medium of introspection and self-expression. His debut project A Boy Called Ric is a reflective journey about his life in foster care and has resonated strongly with the undervalued community.
Hi, Ric, thanks for doing this with us! A lot of our readers will know you from Jungle Brown, so can you tell them a bit more about your solo work – who is Ric Flo and how did you come about focusing the music you create now on the topic of foster care (which you yourself experienced in your childhood)?
Rap music empowers the voice of the voiceless. Post university and on a quest for purpose, I wondered why I had never heard rap music from the perspective of someone who had the experience of living in foster care. Considering I had lived in foster care for most of my childhood, I took the opportunity to tell a story that's just felt real to me and, hopefully, [can] help someone who has felt similar.
What’s the key difference in sound between Ric Flo and Jungle Brown? If Jungle Brown is sort of “working class millennial” sound, to quote one of your earlier interviews, what about Ric Flo?
Haha, did I really say that?
My 2020 straight answer is the Jungle Brown sound was founded on being the UK version of The Roots - real samples/live hip-hop band feel. The sound is more open due to band changes but that is pretty much the core as people know it.
Ric Flo wasn't necessarily founded on a sound but just storytelling over dope beats. Being influenced by Lauryn Hill, 2pac and Nas gives you an idea of my direction, maybe consciously. But also being influenced by Soulection, Sbtrkt, UK Garage gives an interesting juxtaposition between past and present Future Sounds.
Currently, I’m in a chill wave zone and I think my next project will be very jazz sample influenced. Kinda like neo soul mixed with trap, something you can chill too but also get hype too. I never want to limit myself but this is my mood right now, and I think if done right will have a timeless feel. Oh and no autotune to differentiate myself even more from the current scene!
More so, I’m really taking the time to home into my voice to make sure I’m being poignant as possible with storytelling within the music.
What have you been able to do in your solo project that you haven’t been as part of the group?
Not compromise on my vision, work to my own timeline, get more personal, work with different producers.
The act of writing songs is a puzzle. The best puzzles will have an emotive reaction that lingers.
My Rap workshops were organically founded on my solo music. Rap was therapy for me so to be able to do songwriting workshops to young people all over the UK has been a blessing from my solo music.
You like to say your music is about telling stories – how important is the message of a song you create and produce over the form? What have been some of your favorite messages in your music so far?
The act of writing songs is a puzzle, you can have the intention of having a message but if forced sometimes it doesn't work sonically. You have to just create as a practise. Subsciously, life will inform the puzzle. The best puzzles will have an emotive reaction that lingers beyond the creation.
For me, it's Fam, Revolt and Therapy for different reasons.
I think personal messages to champion the underdog, the creative misfits are the best. But as I said you can’t force it, music is a reflection of your spirit. You just capture snapshots, one day at a time.
When during a creative process there’s a conflict between the two, is it beat or the lyric that wins for you?
It needs to be a marriage between the two. Before the message, our voice is an instrument first, if the vocal instrument ain’t working with beat change the beat or adapt lyrics. For me, the battle has been happening a lot lately but that's part of the puzzle.
Having been in the music industry for a number of years now, what are the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt?
“Focus on the art, everything else will take care of itself,” – Rick Rubin.
What are the biggest ways your fans have supported you through the years both as a solo artist and as a member of Jungle Brown?
Beyond buying our CDs, vinyls, merch... Hmm, looked after us at festivals! People sharing our music is a blessing so I never take that for granted. Seeing where people are streaming from around the world is wild. Collaborating with producers from around the world is wild.
Speaking of Jungle Brown, you are one third of a very successful trio, you guys played many shows and festivals specifically. What would you say is the biggest difference between a show and a festival for a performer and do you have a personal preference?
Biggest difference is the crowd, but we don't treat them differently, maximum vibes regardless of being in a small pub or Glastonbury festival! Although smaller gigs give you an opportunity to try new material and be more intimate.
I will never get used to the crowd saying ‘Jungle Brown’ or chanting ‘one more song!’
Festivals and shows especially abroad are something we could definitely get more used to.
Since a large chunk of our audience are musicians themselves, could you share some insider look into your experience performing at the Glastonbury with Jungle Brown? Any highlights? Was it everything you imagined? Were there any surprises?
Performing to 5,000 people was incredible! Adrenaline and nerves were on a 100, but as soon as the music plays and you open your mouth with positive energy and it gets reciprocated back, you enter a flowstate and time just flies.
I will never get used to the crowd saying ‘Jungle Brown’ or chanting ‘one more song!’ Or meeting some of our music idols but getting better at it.
As we were researching for this interview, we came across your chat with I Am Hip-Hop Magazine, where you mention Myspace. What a blast from the past! It was huge back in the day, what would you think could prompt another music platform to emerge and be as big as MySpace used to be? Would you say music and show monetization options would be integral to such a success? Do you personally feel the need for all the multiple ways to connect with your audience – social media, music distribution platforms, ticketing services, subscription-based places – to be united into just one .com address?
You’re packing a lot in these questions! Tik-Tok seems to be the new hype but personally I’m not super interested in memes or dance routines. I think every platform serves its purpose and you have to decide which one feels predominantly right for you.
My personal need as an artist is what Rubin said “Focus on the art, everything else will take care of itself”.
You will be a guest on our 10th Friday Quarantine Instagram Livestream this Friday, May 22, can you tell your fans and music lovers what they can expect from your online concert?
I’m here to uplift spirits so that's what's reflected in the music! Friday will give you more of an insight into my world, connect and ask more questions.