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Flohio’s track by track guide to her new mixtape, No Panic No Pain

‘I’m dropping all the fear out and just unravelling what it is I have to offer’ – The South London rapper talks through her full-throttle, long-awaited release with collaborators including Cadenza and Jimmy Edgar

Flohio, born in Nigeria and raised in Bermondsey, south east London, is a rapper known for intelligent rhymes, natural flow, and pure energy – on her latest mixtape No Panic No Pain she brings all three in abundance. At just eight-years-old, Flohio (a portmanteau of her real name Funmi Ohiosumah) moved from Nigeria to London, where she was introduced to fresh sounds and new perspectives. “When I came to the UK, I was exposed to a different genre of music and I just fell in love,” she says. Since her 2016 debut EP, Nowhere Near, she has been consistently releasing energetic, quick-witted rap that’s not easily placed in any particular genre. 

At 10 tracks, her latest offering, No Panic No Pain, is her longest release to date, giving her the space to fully express herself and to “unravel new energies and new sides” to her work. Once a self-described introvert, the artist sees this as a defining moment in her development as an individual as well as in her career: “I’m coming out of this mode I used to be in, I’m breaking out of this and I’m seeing the light,” she tells Dazed. “I’m dropping all the fear out and just unravelling what it is I have to offer. It’s all under one umbrella, no panic no pain.” Here, Flohio provides a track-by-track guide to the mixtape, with additional insight from some of her collaborators.

01. “FLOFLO!”

Flohio: ‘FLOFLO!’ starts with me having a conversation with a friend on the phone. I was getting these calls when I was in the booth and I just kept airing them, but eventually I pick up, and the mic’s still recording when my friend says ‘I need you and it felt like you dismissed me’. It’s hard because I’m not dismissing them, but I’m just in my own world trying to focus. And so the title ‘FLOFLO!’ is kind of like a shout out to myself, in the sense of like, wake up, knock knock, time to open up. 

HLMNSRA: The intro was started at RedBull Studios in London. We were kinda jamming and, at the time, I was a lot into short 808’s and organic sounds. After lying up the first loop, Flo jumped in the booth and started singing about what we needed that early morning ‘ENERGY ENERGY ENERGY’.

02. “UNVEILED”

Flohio: With the leading line, ‘No panic, no pain’, which is also the title of the mixtape, I feel I have a bad habit of getting nervous just when I’m about to do something. I love movies, and in horror movies when you start panicking, when you’re being tortured or whatever... the more you panic, you’re showing signs that you’re afraid and the outcome will be worse. I want to remind myself I have no fear, that I’m not afraid. That’s what I’m going through today as well. We can’t perform and can’t work because of what we’re in. Just don’t panic, you know, find other ways.

Take A Daytrip (David Birrel and Denzel Baptiste) David Birrel: We made that beat maybe two years ago? One of the main sounds we used was on this keyboard by Arturia called the Matrixbrute. I remember when we started playing that arpeggiated lead line that’s going through the whole record, it felt like this displaced world. It felt very chaotic.

Denzel Baptiste: It was definitely a dystopian synth lead. Sometimes we get sent things by our managers to check out and we’ll like it but not be sure what we’ll do with it, but Flohio was definitely one that stuck out as there being something special.

03. “ACTIVE”

Flohio: The line ‘Well dressed I’m relentless’ refers to when I’m doing something and I look good, it automatically just becomes 100 times better. It’s just who I am as a package, man. I love how I look and cater to how I look, and how I see myself. I love to dress nice. I’ve always loved clothes, I’ve always loved fashion, like it’s just easy, man. Just my shit. I draw on Prince, Beyoncé, Tyler, the Creator, Pharrell, A$AP Rocky, man there’s so much, Master P with no limit as well. 

04. “FLASH” 

Flohio: This is mainly referring to my live shows, you know? ‘In and out quick’, get the job done. That’s ‘Flash’. I’ve had so many touring highlights, but Mexico is definitely one that stands out. I’ve been to Mexico City twice and, you know, it was the biggest audience I’ve ever had, and both times the energy and reaction was the same, like, big love. I can’t wait to go back again next year. The kids there, they love the art man, they love the music. 

HLMNSRA: When I made ‘Flash’ I was looking for a futuristic type of sound, layered synths and explosive sounds effects. At the same time I was forcing myself to play some happy chords which I rarely put into tracks.

05. “WITH EASE” (FEAT KASIEN)

Flohio: I did my part of the song, but it felt like something was missing, and we happened to ping it to Kasien, who I have mutuals with, and he was feeling it, quickly dropped a chorus on it and then we went back and forth on it. Kasien came about and it was like ‘Good, that’s what was missing!’

Cadenza: When I made the beat for ‘With Ease’ I was definitely trying to come up with an off kilter bounce which would keep the listener guessing. Flo totally picked up on the unconventional drum pattern and she accented it with her delivery which took the beat to a whole other level. The video is great too. I like the fact they put together this concept of Flo and Kas and their mates all posted up in the local boozer, because you never see that many black people in a pub normally. I feel like young Black kids don’t feel comfortable in that environment in our society, so it’s great that they flipped that on its head.

Kasien: This a special one for me, as I was already a fan of Flo Flo way before we had even met. When Cadenza had initially played me the instrumental I had that chorus melody instantly, when Flo layed down her vocals and we heard the finished track I knew it was gonna be a banger! By the time we shot the video and was ready to release me and Flo were on Cloud 9 – a shameless plug! – but then the SARS tragedies started to occur in Lagos, Nigeria. Me and Flo are both Nigerian and have family in Lagos so it was a serious shocker for us. After a couple phone calls we decided to push it back as it would be disrespectful to promote ourselves when there were bigger issues to talk about. We put a donation link in the link for the song, and made sure to spread awareness on the issue whenever we did promote it on socials. I’m happy we finally got it out in the and the feedback has been sick.

06. “ROUNDTOWN”

Flohio: ‘Roundtown’ was one of the first singles, I’ve been holding that off since the start of 2019. I wrote it the year earlier, when I just started getting my foot into the scene and also, just my journey for starting my music as a hobby to this stage here, I’m starting to enjoy it as a job I do every day. Like I’ve been around, I know how it works. 

The lyric ‘There’s some stars in my life, they call at midnight’, is like, the music life is mostly at nighttime, or the entertainment lifestyle, but the stars I see, they draw me closer. They talk to me, they give me good advice, and motivate me to do better.

FRED: Flo has the most beautiful energy on the mic – she was bouncing around as she was recording and you can hear that on the tune. She’s just bursting with the good vibes and those are always the best people to work with. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the bangers she’s gonna make

07. “BOOBY TRAPS” 

Flohio: I really want to do a video for this one. The hook, ‘Maximum swipe like I’m Blade’, is  a reference to the film, but also to the fact I’m working hard, and I’m going to wherever I want to go with my bank card – when he swipes his blade, it’s energy, that zombie or vampire is going down. I’m gonna have to get a jacket and glasses for the video, but that’s some future shit. It’s easy to make references to like, designer things and the cars and the money or whatever, but I’d rather find an alternative way to say things sometimes. 

HLMNSRA: ‘Booby Traps’ was the lockdown vibe innit. Back when social distancing was an unknown thing it was a lot of fun, freestyle, chats, smoke breaks and repeat. I don’t want to sound unprofessional here, but first and foremost we’re friends so nothing is forced, everything organic, natural. Sometimes we play beats and after 15 minutes the track is here, other days I make beats and she jumps around freestyling words inspiring each other vibe, or we sit down together and co-produce something.

08. “SWEET FLAWS”

Flohio: This wasn’t written in the studio, I wrote this by myself in my bedroom. People have flaws and they want to make them look pretty, or to cover up whatever scars they’re trying to hide, and this is just like ‘Forget all that, I’ve got sweet flaws on my features’. It’s about looking at myself in the mirror and loving what I’m seeing, straight up. I hope whoever listens to this gets that message. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you know? Give yourself a chance.

Cadenza: With ‘Sweet Flaws’, I went the total opposite to ‘With Ease’ and kept the drums super simple so you would pay more attention to the melody. I really like the balance of Flo’s verses being really aggressive and the chorus being kind of lazy. I think we just click sonically. I’ve always been interested in unsettling, dark soundscapes and Flo seems to resonate with that same palette of sounds.

09. “MEDICINE”

Flohio: I wrote this one with Jimmy Edgar and Machinedrum in the studio, somewhere in Kings Cross. That was a fun session man, a vibe. We were trying out things, and I heard Machinedrum starting to play the melody on guitar and I’m like ‘Boy, stop there’, jumped in the booth, then the song came about. 

Jimmy Edgar: Us three were in a London studio on a very wet and rainy day around midnight. It was a beautiful night and we were all so excited to be with one another, and the first time we met so the energy was so good! I felt it was all us on the same wave. It felt very personal.

10. “STUCK IN A DANCE”

Flohio: The sample at the start of this one in Kews Darko. He’s a producer. I love him wholeheartedly, I wanted him to be involved in some sort of way, you know, and what he’s saying in this message is like, it really made sense to me at the time. When I heard that message it really slapped me back. During quarantine, the first time, it was like ‘What the fuck is going on?’ So that message, ‘Just keep going’, resonated, and it kept replaying through my head the whole time I was mixing the tape. And I was just like ‘You know what? Slap this in there’, because I had it saved on my phone, and this shit makes so much sense now.