Fem Fel decodes lyrics from his Left of Centre EP
The South London MC decoded lyrics covering a wide range of topics, from the harsh life of growing up on a council estate and his time in jail, to tongue-in-cheek wordplay and his neighbour locking up their daughter.
A few years ago - quite a few years ago now - I was on trial and it's about the jury just leaving me hanging. Like, you know when the jury goes out for the verdict and you're sitting around, hanging around for ages.
"Felt like a slaughter house" that's just me using double meaning for that.
Told mum I'm going to behave myself and not go back to prison and then the money started coming in, I started making money and then I started getting takeaways, basically, rather than having home cooked meals all the time.
I stared ordering out, going out for meals and stuff and using the money that I was making.
It's basically about me and my business acumen.
If I see something, everyone wants something - I become the provider, basically. Like, everyone was into the gangsta rap, kind of stuff at the time - so I made myself the provider. "I bought the cow" so I became the cow - so everybody wanted those lyrics or that kind of music, so I gave it to them.
It's basically just...that line's more about my business acumen and buying what...becoming what everybody wants.
No, that's just, basically, me being a bit of a Jack-the-lad and the next-door-neighbour noticing it and trying to keep his daughter away from me.
It's like, that lyric is more about being popular for the short term or the long term.
So, with "man of the match" it's just for one match, whereas "man of the game" is like being popular for good, being that guy for good - and I worked to become that guy that was known and was a success...was becoming a success.
"Nobody callin my name now, they all calling me babes" where nobody mentioned me before when they talk about the best rappers, or the most talented rappers, the most gifted and "now they all calling me babes" referring to women calling me babe because now they fancy me, now I'm doing well, when I became what I wanted to become.
Over was written about...it wasn't about somebody. A lot of people assume that it was about a specific person. It's more about me being over with my previous life and starting my new life.
So, it's like "we are over" I'm talking about my struggles and things I went through and things I had to do to get to where I am now and then like...yeah, so when I'm singing "we are over" it sounds like a break-up song, but really it's about me and that old life were over.
So it's me breaking away from my old life.
"Chatting up the girls in the canteen” is basically me, just a flashback into college. Days when everybody was studying in their class and I just chilled in the canteen playing cards and chatting up every girl that came in.
That's a wicked one because I honestly...when I wrote that to myself, there's some lines I make in my music where I know I'm the only person that's going to understand what I mean.
So, when I saw that you guys were going to ask me that question, I was very surprised because I honest...the producer, PBJ, who actually produced the track with me, I had to explain that lyric to him, for him to get it. I know 99% of people that heard the song won't get it.
I'm really proud of this one - as you can tell. It's like "Money man in the party, Fel the exchequer..." so the guy who looks after the money in a political party is the Chancellor Exchequer - so "money man in the party" was me. But, again, me talking about being in the club, being the money guy.
But it's a triple, actually, it's not a double because it means - that's a double meaning, whether me being in a political party or me being in a party with my... But then the "exchequer" part is basically me making...because, at the end of that line, I say "says she's yours, suggest you go check her."
So, basically, it means me making somebody's girlfriend their ex-girlfriend because I'm now involved and I'm now checking their "ex" or the ex-checker. So it's like three meanings in one go.
I "flow a little cold..." so you've got to keep on top of it, as in, you've got to get what I'm saying.
But then it also means because I'm cold, I've got to keep my top on - keep my jumper on, keep my jacket on because it's cold.
That's, basically, what it meant.
That lyric there it's more about my subliminal talking to me when I’m writing lyrics in the studio and where I want to go with my music, at the time, where I want to blow. But when I mean blow I mean, like, become as big as I need...become as big as I aspire to be and knowing that if I swear and use the word - the ‘n’ word or the other words - they can only…there are only certain people that will relate to them.
Whereas, if I stop swearing, and using some profanity - something that I had to do myself, it wasn’t a manager that told me to that or a label. It was more me realising that if I want to go where I really want to go I’ve got to make sure I know exactly what I’m saying when I say it.
That lyric it's a bit of an unfair shot to my dad. Again, it’s a double entendre with "making it" as him being late or "making it" as making it as an artist - and my dad, basically, was a no show.
My dad wasn’t around growing up and, yeah, that’s how…it was just a play on words where my dad wasn’t around and I made it and my dad didn’t show up.
One of my favourite lines.
When I was younger and growing up in Peckham, we had these windows in a block of flats that we lived in. For some strange reason the windows had no purpose because the cold air would always get in. So, we’d have to fold up newspaper and stuff them in the cracks of the windows, in the edges of the windows to keep the heat in.
So, basically, that line is about me struggling and going through hardships and now I’m doing pretty well, I have the right to tell people and to boast a little bit about what I’m eating, what I’m drinking and what I’m going through now because I, kind of, paid the cost, basically.
With the "Roses are red" chorus in Closer, again, people always assume it’s about a woman.
But it’s…yeah, it is, but it’s not. It’s more about life as well where "Roses are red," where things go really well for you. Then you have nightmare and your nightmares come true - and then they go really bad for you. But, if you’ve got that significant person beside you, it makes things a little bit better.
That’s, basically, what that lyric is about.
I was in phase where I was rapping about stuff that I'm not really too proud of at the moment. But, it was just a bit of fun, to be honest, as well. Something catchy and fun and you can make it about anything you want - whether it be shopping or drugs or anything else.
Basically, the day I got sent to prison, I was in the Securicor van - which is the white van you see driving around London with the black windows so that nobody can see in - and I actually drove past my estate, literally, and I realised that day that I’m going to prison and I’m going to be there for a while.
It was very hard because normally when I’m like on a bus, driving away, and I know I’m going somewhere far, it’s going to be me going on a trip, camping or whatever, my youth club or my school.
But this time I knew it was going to be a while but it wasn’t going to be anything pleasant.
That’s basically what that line is about and the feeling I had at the time. I was like “wow, that’s it. I’m gone.”
I don’t like to talk too much about what I went to prison for, just because I don’t want to, kind of, glamourize it.
I know some people read stuff or hear stuff about me and take it, stuff that’s negative, and make it really positive and I don’t like to advocate that.
What I learnt from that experience, the biggest thing, is I learnt how to rap. Which is really good because without going to prison I would have never been a rapper - ever. Wouldn’t even have dreamt of it.
I also learnt how to be at one with myself in my own company - how to think. Because, before, I’d be on my own but I wouldn't be thinking…I’d just be watching TV or just occupying myself on the computer. Whereas, I learnt how to just sit there with nothing going on and just, kind of, meditate, think about my life, think about my future, think about what’s going through my past and whatnot.
I think being in prison helped me do that because a lot of times when you’re alone in prison - even if you’re sharing a cell with someone - deep down you’re still alone.
Yeah, I learnt how to get to know myself - which was good because I think everybody’s got to feel…everybody’s always finding themselves; it’s an ongoing process. But it was one of the most important times in my life - getting to know myself. That’s what prison helped me do.
Learning to rap in prison was a mad one. Basically, my best pal - still my best pal now, Julian, he loves rap. Probably more than I did at the time. Not now, anymore. But, we used to always, kind of, freestyle battle each other - just joking around when we had a song playing in the cell; in the jail cell.
What happened was I did something - I can’t remember. I did some sort of flow, some rap to a Cormega track - I can’t remember what it was. And he was like, “that’s actually sick! You can rap, can’t you?” I’m like “no, stop being silly.” I thought he was winding me up. He was like, “no, you’re good. You should keep at it, keep writing lyrics. You’re really good. We’ve got enough time here so you might as well do something.”
I was…it wasn’t even in the back of my mind. I would never have thought of doing something like that. Then I started rapping, rapped just in the cell.
You have exercise at the beginning of every day, or every other day, in prison. Everyone will be out there and everyone will be in the prison yard - just like the American films and rapping and clashing each other.
But I would never, ever get involved and I’d get back to the cell and Julian was like you should have went there, you would have been the best that day. You’d have been the best. He used to push me and push me - he still does. He’s still pushing me now, to be fair.
So, one day, I just done it. I just went to the exercise yard and I done some flows, just loads of metaphors - because at that time I actually just tried to be very clever with my lyrics. And everyone was like whoa! - like, they didn’t see it coming - like, “rah, you can actually rap!”
From that day I went back to my cell and I thought, do you know what, if I’m going to be rapper I’m going to be a very good rapper. I’m just not going to be mediocre at it. So I just wrote and wrote and wrote. I'd write…fill up a whole book of lyrics and then throw it away because it’s not good enough. Then start again and start again and start again. That’s what I’ve done throughout my whole prison sentence.
That’s again one of my…I think out of all my music…I always talk about my life but that might be my deepest hurt. That’s basically...there’s a guy...I was in Portland Prison HMYOI - which is Her Majesty’s Youth Offenders Institute - and it must have been 2003 maybe. There was a guy who got the same sentence as me - six years - and then one day he just killed himself. He honestly hung himself.
It was crazy because, a couple of days before we played football together in like...we had a football team and we used to play different wings and whatnot and he was totally cool.
One day I woke up, a few days late, and the wing was awfully quiet and I didn’t understand what was going on. Then we get opened up to get your breakfast at a certain time and nobody opened up the doors and nobody knew what was going on and everyone was really confused and everyone was shouting out the window what’s going on and whatnot.
I don’t know how but our wing’s windows were, kind of, next to each other and somehow you can pass a message from so far away, but it takes a while to get to you, of course, because it has to go across the whole wing. And, like, it turned out that someone had killed themselves - which was really strange and really shocking because you hear about stuff like that - in films, again. But it never happens to anyone close to you or even anybody on the same wing as you.
I think it was hours until we were let out and when we were let out the officers didn’t actually tell us. But I think the guy who was in the cell next door said, “yeah, he killed himself.” It was just like, “whoa!” It was crazy. It was like “wow! He actually killed himself.”
Then, I remember we had to wait and watch the guy’s stuff be dragged out - and in prison you have clear…like they’re clear bags they use to put people’s stuff in. I remember he had those Nike Shox - you know the Nike Shox with the springs at the back that people used to wear? I remember he used to always have them. He used to always wear them and I remember just…that’s the only image I remember seeing.
Out of the whole mass of about four clear bags of stuff they were taking out - because it’s obviously no longer needed - and I saw the trainer. I just thought bloody hell and he was going to be out the same month as me or something like that. It wasn’t like he had…it is a long time but I just didn’t understand.
I was angry, I was sad. It was just a really horrible experience to go through, at the time. I was only 20-years-old and it was just like…yeah, it was horrible. It was horrible.
Basically it’s me being…one of me being Gandhi, like, or even Nelson Mandela-ish kind of… I knew nobody, kind of, supported me or helped me out when I was away, sent me money or really came to visit me. I think, females…some females did and family did. But the friends that I thought I was closest to, they just disappear when you go to prison.
Like, it was just me saying nobody…everyone’s doing really well but it’s fine because nobody came to see me or even sent me anything. That’s okay because when I come home I’ll be understandable and let them know that it’s not…no biggie. I’m not going to hold any grudges. I’m just going to get on with life - and that’s what that lines about.
There’s a whole load of anxiousness that comes with being released from prison because, one of the main reasons is, one of the main reasons are when you’re in prison and people get released...like a month later you see them back on the wing.
It was like I was hoping that somebody can help me not follow that cycle. So, when I say, “I hope somebody saves me” that’s what it was about. Hoping somebody stopped me from going through that.
With that lyric it wasn’t really about me, per se. It was more about channelling different people’s energies and stories and merging them all into one.
So, some parts were definitely my experience, but, some parts were even my mum’s experiences that I’ve saw her go through with relationships and whatnot - and that’s what I like to do sometimes, is become that person. Kind of like an actor.
What do they call that when you’re that kind of actor? Thespian…? I don’t…I can’t remember. When you become a character, that’s what I do there and so it wasn’t totally about me.
I was in a very happy relationship at this stage and my - ex-girlfriend now - but, my girlfriend, at the time, was really peed off with the song. She was like “everybody’s going to think it’s about me…everyone is going to think it’s about me.” But I was like, don’t worry we’ll go about and I’ll show them it’s not about us.
There’s a, kind of, lost theory that guys are the strong ones and are supposed to take the reins and do stuff and, basically, the lady follows - kind of old-fashioned to be honest with you.
But, me being in a relationship myself, I think sometimes you need equal support from a lady to do it. You can’t do everything by yourself - even if you are “the man” and that’s what the lyric is about.
I mention my mum a lot just because she’s one of the - sounds, again, so corny - but she’s one of the most inspirational people in my life because she’s been there throughout the length, even with hard times.
I’ve just noticed, with most relationships I’ve had, that people in relationships are different characters when they’re alone with you and when they’re around your mother - which is probably a good thing because I don’t want you to be a bitch in front of my mum, because my mum will hate you and then it will be awkward.
But, yeah, that’s what that lyric is about, basically.