Meet FKI 1st, One of The Hardest Working Men In Music
Atlanta native, FKI 1st may be one of the top upcoming names in the entertainment industry that you need to get familiar with. Funny thing is, you probably already are familiar with his work if you a true Hip-Hop aficionado. One half of the production team, FKI, which is short for Fuckin Kickin It, FKI 1st, also known as 1st Down has been cementing his name as a producer, DJ and artist for well over 5 years. He’s worked with Travis Porter, Diplo, Iggy Azalea, 2 Chainz, Travis $cott, Tyga, Natasha Mosley and he discovered Post Malone. But his story begins way before that.
FKI 1st grew up in a house where music was a big part of his upbringing, as they regularly listened to vinyls and records. All types of music! No wonder he names George Clinton and The Parliament as one of his early influences. While his parents weren’t musicians themselves, 1st recalls trying to play music for them from an early age. “I tried to DJ their parties when I was like five,” he insists. “I would always play The Parliament, this song called, “Flashlight” actually.”
Committed to perfecting the craft, 1st and partner Sauce Lord Rich decided to attend Full Sail University to work on their skills and legitimize themselves as producers. After that, it was officially on.
FKI 1st admits to sleeping in studios and offering up free engineering services just to have an opportunity to stay in the studio to mix and perfect his own work. Those connections and that dedication eventually opened doors for the producers that would lead to Billboard Magazine naming them one of the Top 5 Producers shifting the sound of Atlant Rap, while BET named them one of the best young rapper/producer tandems. The producers have several songs that have jumped to the tops of the charts along with several gold and platinum plaques to show off. FKI 1st has created a lane for himself as well, producing tracks on his own and making one of his biggest contributions to date in discovering an artist by the name of Post Malone. Malone’s breakout hit, “White Iverson” is also produced by 1st.
1st is also a successful DJ, having hit the stage at several festivals including Fools Gold, Made In America and the Mad Decent Block Party. He’s currently on a 23-City tour with Fetty Wap and Post Malone as part of the Monster Energy Outbreak Tour. 1st performs his own DJ set and backs up the Post Malone set.
In addition to all that, FKI 1st recently signed to Diplo’s Mad Decent label. His debut album, First Time For Everything will be released this Spring. “It’s just really a compilation of music I been making with my friends,” 1st shares. “This just the first time it’s coming together as a project, that’s why it’s called First Time For Everything.”
We caught up with FKI 1st in NYC when the Monster Outbreak Tour touched down for the second of two shows. He opened up about the journey to success, discovering Post Malone and much more. Check out his insight on the industry and his work ethic below…
Parlé Mag: Who inspired you to make music early on in your career?
FKI 1st: I would definitely say George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic and probably Timbaland in my early days. The way they made music, I just never heard anything like that before. I was like, you could do anything you want bro. You can literally do anything you want. They taught me there was no rules. Once you realize there’s no rules in music, you’re free to do whatever you want. Cause the rules just fuck you up. The rules take over. Just stay original.
George Clinton, Timbaland, N.E.R.D., people like that, they are just teachers of different grades. I love Daft Punk too. They taught me a lot coming up. I just always wanted to infuse those together and make something new.
Parlé Mag: You DJ, produce and you’re an artist. A lot of people can’t do one well, much less all of them—
1st: Really, I DJ, but I don’t feel like “I’m a DJ.” I just play what I like and if people happen to like it then good. I know that IS a DJ, but really, I can just make music. I just like playing stuff for people, making them happy. I know that’s a DJ but I just like playing music like I would do at home on my Soundcloud.
For the artist part, making a song is all the same, whether you’re an artist or a producer, it’s all art. You just drawing it differently. I’ve always rapped, always sung, always played music. But it’s the first time everybody is going to hear it all in one piece together. All the different jobs together.
Parlé Mag: For FKI as a production team, when did you feel like things were really coming together and really becoming official for you?
1st: For me, it was when we got a song on the Billboard charts and like seeing it really move, like this is happening. For my parents, my parents didn’t believe shit til R. Kelly got on a song. Until I met R. Kelly and he got on the Travis Porter “Make It Rain Remix.” Really for me it was the charts and the first two songs I produced went Gold. It was crazy, Travis Porter songs. [“Bring It Back” & “Ayyy Ladies”]
Parlé Mag: I always like to spotlight the journey, because for people who hear that you produced “Work” for Iggy or “Watch Out” for 2 Chainz, they might not understand the grind that came with that. What was the journey like before you actually found that success?
1st: Being broke. I used to sleep in people’s studios. I used to tell Drumma Boi and older producers like that, ‘yo I’ll mix your songs for free, I’ll mix it tonight.’ But I used to just say that so I could stay in the studio over night and make my own songs. My back hurts now because of sleeping in motherfucking studios, but I was always saying I’m not staying home, I gotta make stuff happen. I was working at Sam’s Club mad as fuck. Looking at everybody like, “this ain’t it!”
Parlé Mag: You discovered Post Malone, talk to me about how you two met.
1st: Randomly we were in L.A. and this kid came in with a yellow Yankees jersey. And he started playing music and it was amazing. I was like, I don’t know if he know it yet, but this kid got it bruh. I always feel like with music, especially with producers, there’s two types of producers. There are producers who can make shit and it’s just amazing. Then you have producers who can spot shit. I feel like I’m one who can spot shit. I kinda see it like I’m a visionary.
Parlé Mag: What’s something about Post that you knew could take him to the next level?
1st: I found out he can sing. His pops played me a song. [Post Malone was in the room preparing for their show that night] I don’t even think you knew that. I moved out to L.A and we started cooking and shit. I believed in his shit. Then his pops came through one day and he was like, ‘you know Post can sing right?’ He showed me a video of him performing at some carnival or some country place. I was like bruh can sing. Right after that we made the song called, “40 Funk” and it showcased him singing a little bit. Post produces too so we would send each other stuff back and forth and bounce ideas off each other. I actually sent him that “Sloppy Toppy” [Travis $cott ft. Migos & Peeway Longway] song first.
Parlé Mag: How would Post describe you?
1st: I’m just an irresponsible older brother. [Post laughs]
Parlé Mag: Switching gears a bit, tell me about your upcoming album, First Time For Everything.
1st: It’s really just a compilation of music I made with my friends. Cause there’s no better music than when you’re making it with your friends. So all my friends are on it. Mackonnnen, Post, Mac Miller, it’s just a lot of artists and producers on it. Working with Diplo of course.
Parlé Mag: What would you want to tell someone before they listen to it?
1st: People need to stop having that producer/rapper connection for the negative. Some people do it wrong, you gotta do it right. This is something new and fresh though. Go into it with an open mind. Enjoy it.
Parlé Mag: What advice would you have for anyone trying to break into the entertainment industry as an artist, producer, DJ, anything?
1st: Fuck everybody. Just have a select few people that you do listen to and just stay in your lane and do what you do. Sometimes you’ll make a song that may sound weird because it doesn’t sound like anything else. But don’t let something that sounds weird make you feel like you doing something bad. And at the beginning, make sure your stuff is always mixed right. Listen to the radio and ask yourself if it sounds the same. Mixed sonically wise. You know, you know if that’s something that sounds right and something you would listen to.