Interview: UFO Fev and Statik Selektah speak on new album ‘Fresh Air’

Photo: Jeffrey Chambers for GRUNGECAKE

Statik Selektah, one of Hip-Hop’s coveted producers, has made a name doing collaborations with some of the better rappers Hip-Hop has to offer. His production has been the tone ground, on the canvas of life for many rappers looking to create stories through their art. For this reason, the pairing of Statik Selektah and rapper UFO Fev makes a whole lot of sense. Gifted, inspirational, determined and self-aware, are just a few words that can be used to describe UFO Fev, qualities accurately depicted in his music. Whether through his tactful lyrics, smooth flow, of his shared stories through Rap, we have the opportunity to witness a man, full of endurance, fighting his way up the ladder of success and not conforming to what anyone else has to say. Something that Hip-Hop legend, Fat Joe, may have seen when he made the choice to sign him and be a mentor to him.

The pairing of Statik Selektah and UFO Fev, has led to the curation of their latest project, ‘Fresh Air’. The project, produced by Statik Selektah, features Jose Santiago, Haile Supreme, Termanology, Ransom, and Eto. We had the chance to stop by Statik Selektah’s studio to have a conversation with UFO Fev and Statik Selektah to learn more about them, and ‘Fresh Air’. Check it out below!

You’re signed to Hip-Hop legend Fat Joe–how has that changed your life? What are some of the key things you’ve learned that helped you succeed in the music industry?

UFO Fev: My situation with Joe has allowed me to grow and see things I probably would have never seen on a different scale. Musically, just having him on the phone where I can just call and ask him questions. Other than that it’s still an independent grind because Joe is independent. My situation with Joe is more like a consigliere, if I need him. I get to see how he stays relevant and successful as an independent artist for so long, and apply it to what we doing and move how we like to move but try to level up to those iconic levels. It’s all about the music and a hit record can change your life. Joe has the science so being able to study and learn has been very very very beneficial. He’s a great friend of mine too, good dude. It’s all love, bulletproof love.

So, you say you travel a lot with him. How do you find the balance between going around and having these glorious experiences with some of the artists you are blessed enough to rub shoulders with, and the patience required as you’re still going through the process of getting where you want to be?

UFO Fev: Yeah, I don’t know! I’m still doing it. It’s weird. You gotta have that balance between being somebody and coming back to who you are. You might be gone for a few days and you could be doing the biggest of things in life, but when you return home to your kids, you’re just Dad. It don’t matter where you came from or what you was just doing, you gotta turn back into Dad. For me, it helps my ego. It helps suppress my ego when I’m around bigger acts and then I get to come back and do Fev stuff and move through the city like Fev and I ain’t tryna keep up with these other acts. I know who I am and I keep it balanced. Life is about a balance so I try to balance it. It’s crazy though, don’t get it twisted! I’m still soaking it up. It’s happening fast.

Spirituality seems to have a heavy influence on your music. Why is it so important for you to add those elements into your music?

UFO Fev: Because I’m indebted. With the kind of stuff I survived, to be able to do music and make money off of music is a blessing. God bless Pop Smoke, I’m not a twenty-year-old kid running into a lot of money. I’ve been through the ringer, so to be able to experience the things I’ve experienced, I gotta give all praise due because I asked to be where I am. I ain’t ask for more I literally asked to be where I am so as I proceed to get higher on the totem pole in life, it’s only because of one energy, one person, one thing I have a relationship. It’s everything I asked for so everything that come with it I’m prepared. I know what level we on and I don’t try to skip no steps. That’s why in my music you hear it a lot because I asked for it! I told him I would spread the word if he provided me with the things that I need, and since he provided I gotta do what I gotta do. That’s why it’s always in the music, I gotta keep it true.

You’ve been releasing collaborations with some of music’s better lyricists for over a decade now. What drives your passion to keep giving a platform to artists, especially with the reemergence of excitement for lyrical rappers?

Statik Selektah: It’s what I’ve been doin the whole time. I take pride in working with so many cats that become stars before they are on the rest of the “industry” radar. It’s good for Hip-Hop too.

How did you meet UFO Fev and what drew you to want to collaborate with him?

Statik Selektah: Met him through Termanology. We went to a show they did together in queens. We got right in the Stu after that. On his birthday!

What have you learned about yourself as a person throughout your journey making this project?

UFO Fev: Statik taught me a lot! Statik don’t allow you to take beats home or nothing like that. When he plays a beat in the studio if you got something for it you gotta have something for it. A lot of times I was fronting, I ain’t really have nothing for the beat I just would like the beat, so like, Terminology is in the room, he would know, you gotta go in there and lay a verse or come up with a hook right on the spot for Statik to give you the beat, otherwise if you try to write like you normally would, however you approach it he’s like, we off this, on to the next one. He makes a beat so fast and he jumps in and out when he’s working, that’s how the sessions work. He was actually working and I would be sitting right where we at right now and if I heard something then I’d speak up and it gotta get laid there, right there. Most of the records it taught me to work faster. Most of those records were freestyled, or the idea came like, Static gave me an idea like this, and I’d write something like this. So, I’d wait till I heard the right joints and that’s how I approached it. Like, hard work, but in a vacuum.

You mentioned that Termanology is in the room. He’s also on the project. How has he pushed you musically?

UFO Fev: I wouldn’t be next to Statik if it wasn’t for Term. Statik gave me the album a certain way and Term wasn’t on it, so the record that was in place of Hard Rock got replaced cuz originally Term was with me on the joint, so I turned it into a posse cut to make it fill the void of what the original record was doing. The original record wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t–Hard Rock is perfect for the project. I’m grateful for Term and outside of music he’s been just a solid individual. He hasn’t moved on no funny shit for me so I just keep it solid back. That’s one of the best records on the project, people been really feeling it especially his verse! Crack loves his verse! Crack called me the other day talking about his verse. He was like, “Yo, how you let Term go off on you like that, you supposed to body that shit”. I’m blessed, Ransom is a favorite of mine Eto is one of the nicest out, they all provided spectacular performances, flawless verses. I’m just happy man, I got a joint with some nice MCs. Ransom ain’t have to answer me, he don’t even rap no more so for him to answer me and be like I got you, and Eto he’s so busy killing em on his own, and Term, you know, it is what it is.

Why did you guys choose to name this project, ‘Fresh Air’?

UFO Fev: We were in here one night, Statik and I, and I said “Fresh air is what I sell playboy, you could tell by the streams”, so when I came out the booth I was so happy with the line I was like, “Damn that’s a ill line!” I was like “Oh Statik we could call this shit ‘Fresh Air’. He stopped the mix, he looked at me, and he was like *nods*, and he kept recording and I was like yeah, it’s Fresh Air.

How did you feel when Fev came up with the name of this project, ‘Fresh Air’?

Statik Selektah:It’s the perfect name for it. Something different.

What do you want the listeners to grasp from the project?

UFO Fev: My future projects don’t sound like ‘Fresh Air’, so I wanted to get Fresh Air out and provide life for it so that people could understand the level of MC you’re hearing with the level of production. That’s Static Selector with me having provided some of my sharpest thoughts without hitting the paper. It’s a hard project but it’s still soft enough to listen to with your lady or your kids, cuz the next joint I’m coming with is straight like, dark. You gotta put the women and the kids to bed for the next one, and a few after that. I got a couple joints that’s coming that’s just dark, and hard. I got music with Term that’s not as dark but more like, drug-dealer chic, more of the like, timespan of my life when I was getting it in the street. I want the listener to enjoy Fresh Air, listen to it with your kids and your significant other. It’s Statik, so it’s one of the all time greatest DJs/producers, and I’m the only person in my neighborhood that ever made an album with Statik Selektah! Everything came out perfect and I hope the people enjoy it and what comes out next I hope they enjoy that and we gonna drop some hit records too.

Statik Selektah: As long as they nodding their heads & feel the energy we brought I’m happy.

The journey will never be easy, being someone who has been very supportive of UFO Fev, I’m sure you guys have had long conversations in the studio. What is some of the advice you share with him in regards to enduring the ups and downs of this journey in Hip-Hop?

Statik Selektah: Just to stay yourself and remember why you started in the first place. Not to reach ever or make anything seem forced.

For those who may still be wondering, who is UFO Fev, what do you have to say to them?

UFO Fev: My name fits my character. A lot of people know I exist, a lot of people heard of me. I’ve introduced myself to some people that I was starstruck by and they knew who I was. The kid in me turns into like, “Damn, oh shit, I’m really here!” You gotta know what you want to be a fan of UFO Fev. You know you coming for a certain sound, a certain person. I’m not a character, I’m a dad. You gonna see a lot of myself. I try to show a lot of everyday stuff because I go through my neighborhood and there’s a lot of young cats I see that come up to me and we not taught how to communicate so I try to make myself as approachable as I can so that when one of these kids wanna come up to me and talk to me and somebody wanna do business, it’s not like that thug time, I’m not really on it. When you coming to UFO Fev, you coming to hear some real street, project, gangsta rap but, from a man, not no cooked up artist. Follow me UFO Fev and figure it out! You see what you wanna see!

How would you describe him?

Statik Selektah: Lots of jokes. Good times. Good energy. ‘Fresh Air’ out now everywhere!

Be sure to listen to UFO Fev’s ‘Fresh Air’ produced by Statik Selektah:

Written by Manny King John


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