You may not know the name Fki 1st, but you definitely know his sound. The Atlanta producer’s credits are insane. ‘White Iverson’ by Post Malone, ‘Watch Out’ by 2 Chainz, ‘Weekend’ by Mac Miller, and loads more. His sound switches between trap and pop fluidly, but there’s always a distinctive 808 pattern and detailed drums that let you know he’s the man behind the boards. He’s even become a force to reckon with on the mic, releasing popular singles like ‘The Meaning’. But after almost a decade, 1st is approaching the game in a different manner, with bigger ambitions.
Since the start of 2018, 1st has been busy curating ‘Good Gas’—his playlist that shines a light on new artists loop, and is a platform he uses to promote his own music as well. He released the first two volumes last year, with Vol. 2 featuring his sleeper hit collaboration with Madeintyo and Unotheactivist ‘Live A Lil’—an effortless anthem bound to get you shoulder rolling.
In celebration for Vol. 3, which is out now, I got on the phone with 1st. It was an early morning for me and an early evening for him, and he was in the studio doing what he does best: making beats. We talked about his relationship with Travis Scott, the importance of record labels, and a peculiar studio session with Kash Doll.
Sup 1st! First off, can you talk us through how you started ‘Good Gas’?
I’m a music head man. I’ve always wanted a way to put out music with brand new artists on a platform where people are going to see it. I started ‘Good Gas’ as a way to put people on to the dope music that’s out right now because sometimes people need help finding that good shit. I’ve always got my ears to the streets, so I know what’s going on. You always need ‘Good Gas’, whether it be in your car, or in your ears. [Laughs] It keeps you moving.
Why are playlists important for artists coming up today?
A playlist is like a DJ in your car, or in your house. It puts you on to new good music. It’s like a chef, serving good food. I’m the chef of ‘Good Gas’, I’m trying to feed everyone man. It’s all about collaboration and giving the world some good shit to listen to.
We hear a lot of talk about industry plants these days. As someone who produces and runs a playlist like ‘Good Gas’, how do you tell whether something is authentic and organic?
I can tell if something is organic by a person’s words. Even things as simple as the slang they use, or the way they talk about their day. The way a person carries themselves says more about them than they think. But, with things like this, there’s no way you can stop a few from slipping through the cracks.
For sure man. I’ve heard you say that moods are a big part of how you create music. What is your ideal mood for creating music?
There are two different types of moods I like. Day and night. Night-time is when the after 12 music happens, the stuff you can ride to after midnight. But the daytime vibes are completely different. I feel like I’m way more positive when the sun is out. But at night, I be drinking, so the vampire vibes come out. [Laughs]
I feel it! I’ve also heard that conversations are a big part of your studio sessions. Are there any particular conversations you remember that spawned big songs for you?
There’s so many, man. So many new ones as well for tracks that haven’t been released yet. ‘Live A Lil’ with Madeintyo and UnoTheActivist is one that stands out. I think it’s because we were all artists from Atlanta, making a song in LA And when you visit LA whether it’s short term or long term, you feel like you’ve made it. It feels like you’re doing something right. And we were all in that room excited, and we were just talking shit, grateful for where we were.
Another one, man this is one is crazy, was this studio session I had with Kash Doll. We were working and went outside to get Postmates. And there were these people having sex behind a dumpster. Kash goes “Hey, what are you doing?” And the lady screams out “You don’t know what I’ve been through!” And after that, we legitimately made a song called ‘You Don’t Know What I’ve Been Through’, dedicated to that lady. [Laughs]
That’s crazy! [Laughs] Something I love about you as a producer is that you don’t limit yourself. You’ve worked with everyone from Gucci Mane to Diplo. Do you change anything when traversing genres?I always try to keep the same process when making music. But when you’re collaborating, you do have to adapt to the way other people create art. You have to give and take, and work out what you can sacrifice to make the best song with someone. But if I had it my way, I’d just do it how I do myself. Every time I pull up to the studio, I play some Gucci Mane or Bankroll Fresh, because it gets me in that vibe. Those 808s uplift me. But there’s been times where I’ve done that with artists and they’ve been like “Why is he playing Gucci Mane when we about to make an R&B song?” [Laughs] But that hard, Atlanta shit from older producers Zaytoven and Shawty Red gets me going. I gotta’ hear that shit loud. Even if I’m making a slow song, I gotta’ bang out first.
Does your sound change when you’re creating in different parts of the world?
Definitely. I’m actually planning on releasing an album called Tokyo. In Tokyo, you have to take off your shoes when you go into the studio. And I’m the type of dude who wears shoes 24/7—I even change pairs throughout the day. I followed those rules and took all my jewellery and drip off as well. I ain’t ever had to make music without the drip. [Laughs] But when figuring it out and adjusting to it, my music came out differently. I also love Europe and the music out there. House, garage, all of it. I always try and incorporate small parts of wherever I am into my music. And even looking at the US, you can see how areas have different sounds. West, south, east, it’s all different.
You’re one of those rare producers that’s managed to stay popular and active for almost a decade now. What’s the key to staying relevant?
You really gotta’ roll with the punches man. During my time I’ve learnt that melodies stay the same, but the drums change. That sums up everything to me. If you know what [that] means, you’ll be fine. But in terms of the public eye, look at the blueprints man, study the greats. Look at Snoop Dogg man, he has been the coolest forever.
Facts. You’ve worked with a wide range of artists. Who do you work best with?
I always love working with 2 Chainz. He really inspires me because he always keeps about 100 raps in his head. There’s no shortage. Travis Scott as well, I feel like we inspire each other musically. That can never be a negative thing.
Speaking of Travis Scott, you produced his song ‘R.I.P Screw’. To me, that song epitomizes the influence that places like Atlanta, Houston, and Memphis have had on trap music. Why do you think the South has remained prominent in hip-hop?
The South, in general, has inspired so much music not only in the US but in the whole world. There are just so many different styles. Slowed down music. Sped up, dance club music. Especially in Atlanta, it’s the heart of the south. Do you know how LA is like the place you go to make money? Well, Atlanta is like that but for dope music. There’s something special in the water, man. People today think the South has only just risen to the forefront of rap, but nah, it’s been this way for a long time. The same sounds you hear in rap music now is the same sounds used in southern rap in the 90s. There’s so many greats out here man. UK drill, Chicago drill, it’s all influenced by the South man.
You’ve got ‘Good Gas’, and you’ve also worked with the music creation platform Splice. It seems that you’re passionate about helping upcoming artists make it. With these types of resources available, do you think record labels are still needed?
Yeah man, labels are needed. This is a good thing to talk about because artists have to realise that it’s completely up to them whether they want to sign or not. You’re not forced, you need to dictate your own career and determine what you want out of this game. I look at labels like I look at credit cards. There’s a lot of different companies that do the same thing, but you just have to choose the one that suits you the best. You don’t have to get a credit card, but it can help. The main thing you need to know is how to manage yourself and how to move.
Joe Budden once said don’t sign to a label, get a bank loan instead.
Well, when it comes to a relationship with anything, whether it’s love or business, there are guidelines. You need to know what you’re jumping into before you actually jump in. You can go the independent way, just know it’s going to be a bit tougher. There are just so many different variables. Just think of what you want, and what you will want in the future.
What is next for you?
I predict a major glow up in ‘Good Gas’. I really just want to get good music into the hands of the people. I only care about the business shit because I have to. But what I love most is seeing the reactions of people when they hear the music. You can’t beat that. Shit is like a drug to me. I just want to continue making dope shit, whatever form that is.
Lastly, I’m going to need you to put out FKEYi2 with Key! ASAP.
It’s done, man! I’m happy you said that. I’m about to hit him right now letting him know. I appreciate you saying that.
Vol. 3 of FKI 1st’s ‘Good Gas’ playlist is out now. You can stream it here.