Off the Cuff with F. Stokes
Every year there seems to be a great influx of new talent in the hip hop world. Some artists come bearing messages others just come hoping to have a good time, make us dance and have the summer anthem. Then there are those talents who come into the game with some of everything. The artists we all know are here for a reason greater than a Billboard Hot 100 single. F Stokes is authentic, brutally honest about his stance as an artist and a promising talent whose music dares its listeners to look inside themselves for a truth. We caught up with the passionate lyricist to discuss his views on the purpose of hip hop, his responsibility to the community and the future of his music.
Edge: Tell our readers a little about you.
F Stokes: To keep it short my name is F. Stokes and I am international touring musician. I’m a man of value, strong sense of self. In my music people identify more so with my story than what they’re hearing. They come to one of my shows or buy the album or just interact wit me. I think my story is a bit more universal than the typical artists’ story. The story of being a poor Black man in America initially doing all I can to get the fuck out of that circumstances. Using music as an instrument to do so. A guy who’s willing to sacrifice the fashionable things and the material things for the bigger picture which is to inspire and influence and to start conversations regarding race, domestic abuse, insecurities and self-esteem issues and that’s me. Ultimately if I can inspire a thought or ignite a positive conversation through music my job was done. Even if it’s just one person in a sea of 1,000 people. I’m a bit more old school in thinking that we can change the world one person at a time. That’s how I’ve carried myself for the last couple of years. F. Stokes has allowed me to get my foot in certain doors that Rodney Lucas couldn’t. it’s my vehicle. Soon it’ll be time to destroy F. Stokes and create something else. Hopefully get my point across.
Edge: What’s been your musical journey?
F Stokes: I’ve always been a huge fan of words even when I was younger. Writing love letters and poetry was my thing. I’ve always been insanely intrigued by clever wordplay and that was my first introduction to poetry which ultimately falls into rapping. I was probably 9 or 10 when I decided that I just wanted to write. I had n o structure of course I was just basically trying to be cool. I knew at that moment I wanted to that for the rest of my life. Also a cousin of mine, he wasn’t a rapper but, he we was friends with a lot of them. He took me to an Ice Cube concert when I was 10 years old and got me backstage and everything and it was the most awesome experience ever. I’ve always admired my cousin as well as Ice Cube so a paprt of my younger years were me literally rapping to impress my cousin—so he’d like me. Ultimately I was able to grow and mature into an artist but at heart I’m still that 9 year old from the Southside of Chicago who’s trying to impress his older cousin to this day.
Edge: What would you say really sets you apart?
F Stokes: We all have something special by nature. Even if we all dressed alike, we all rapped abou the same shit or sang about the same shit. I think we have a sense of individuality. What’s a bit different about me than most artists or most rappers is that I am not afraid to be explorative and to be different and to embrace the side of that’s not always considered popular. If I go through a situation that’s not necessarily common to talk about like domestic abuse or my obstacles as a man when it comes to dealing with Black women—I’m not afraid to touch on those issues. Rap, for the most part, has been based on the cool factor. The rapper has always been the player, the flyest…that image is false and it’s played out. I’ve always been a fan of giving people as much of my heart as possible. There are a lot of rappers out there that I admire, 15% of them are on the same path as I am but the other 85% trying to be Young Jeezy or Wiz Khalifa.
Edge: What are your thoughts on the state of hip hop?
F Stokes: I’ve always though hip hop was a reflection of poor black people. The way I would take the question is what’s the state of poor black people. Regardless of how may records Eminem sells or how many albums Katy Perry drops with Snoop Dogg, hip hop will always be a reflection of African American culture and experience in America. You can hear it in the music in the 80s. the 80s were full of the crack epidemic: 16 year old crack millionaires, 30 year old Black grandmothers. EPMD and Rakim and KRS-One. The lyrics reflected that lifestyle and the things that were happening then. In the 90s it was a bit more Afrocentric. Black colleges and that whole movement, even in movies like Boyz in the Hood there was a focus on Black power…but it was still gangsta shit. There was a mixture of a message because that’s what Black people were going through. We were evolving and growing. And for the past 10-11 years, it’s been a mixture of gangsta shit and hippies and suburban boys from Silverlake. It’s now a representation of all of that.
Edge: Is there anything missing from hip hop?
F Stokes: There will always be something missing that’s what allows it to grow but what’s a bit more urgent is the need to continue to buld strong foundations with our families and get that in order and hip hop will reflect that. Getting the family back together creating and establishing a sense of morality in that will breed more Common’s, more Mos Def’s—more rap that’s progressive. You can be a Black man, you can be Prince AND Raekwon. You can be Little Richard and also be Mike Tyson. For so long we’ve always carried ourselves according to what the general perception of us has been for the last x amount of years. Im a bit more attracted to those guys who are willing to g out there and be different and be pioneers in how the speak and how they dress and how they carry themselves and how they perform.
Edge: Why are you an artist who deserves to be heard?
F Stokes: Because my mother likes my shit a whole lot, does that count? We all deserve to be heard. I think that if you were to take my stories and simply base it off a guy with a very strong work ethic. A guy with a passion to genuinely help people and to see people grow before even hearing my music I feel that message should be heard globally. From a music standpoint it’s the hard work, the intensity, the love the openness. I give my fans a one way ticket to my soul…no layovers. I make them feel part of the experience, my success is your success. Luckily, I’m at a place in my career now where I’m actually able to see my influence on a very grassroots level. I’m able to answer a great deal of emails personally and respond to a good amount of tweets that I get. Not many artists are able to identify with their fan base and also grow with their fan base. I thnk my movement is organically taking shape. One guy with a message conveying that message to thousands and thousands of people collectively learning from each other’s experiences and carrying that message over to the next generation as a whole—I’m very proud of it.
Edge: What’s up next for you?
F Stokes: I have an EP coming out with a guy out of Detroit, “Fearless Beauty”, either late this year or the top of next year. Ta-Roc is known for his work with Erykah Badu, Blu, Jay Dilla and a wonderful brevy of accomplished musicians. We’ve put together a 7-9 song EP. We’re both equally stoked for that to come out. We have a project coming out in about 3 months called “Love Always”. It’s going to be 4 or 5 songs simply based around love…my love for people, my love for family,etc…
Photos by: Jessica Franksen
Opening Image & top photo by: Fred Massiot