salomon faye is hip hop's new basquiat
Ratking's So it Goes has been a breakout success for the New Yorkers, but they're still firmly rooted in the streets they share with album guest star Salomon Faye. Living on free meals from friends in a squat, we discuss sex, mediation and ambition.
Salomon Faye by Barbara Anastacio
i-D found him looking totally incongruous in the middle of flashy Times Square where he's working in a free studio space finishing his next mixtape Stimulation, and his upcoming album Book of Salomon Faye. Over a ham, egg and cheese croissant he talks to us with serious stoner delivery (although he recently kicked the habit), but total clarity.
How did you end up working with Ratking?
I met them like four years ago. I thought Wiki was mad dope. Seeing him online at 16-years-old when I was 16 and convinced that I was the dopest in the city. Then I saw him and I was like, "Wow, this kid's amazing. I want to work with him." I thought, "Just some kid in the digital world I'll never meet", then I met him in the park.
What's so special about him?
It's raw energy. He's a real MC. He's not changing anything about himself trying to conform to industry standards. Like they say, "Real recognises real." Even before I met him, I thought, "I know that guy." My circle is a circle of conscious spitters and you can instantly recognise that. Conscious not in the sense of preaching conscious philosophy, but in the sense of being aware of your environment and being able to incorporate your different experiences in your craft or your raps.
Some guys are just into sex and fun and fucking. I explored that phase and it became pretty obvious that I value a genuine connection and I'm kind of disgusted about some random sex because it feels so strange and empty!
What's this squat you're living in in Bed Stuy?
We were trying to rent it out the normal way, but the landlords were shystie and there was lots not being provided. Then we found out they didn't have a certificate of occupancy and they were stealing gas from the city. Our neighbours were living there for free, and they were like, "You're not paying for this shit!" And we were like, "Word!" It's a big space, couple of rooms. Young artists trying to build careers around things we're passionate about. There are about seven or eight of us. It's a family vibe and a little messy, but we're more harmonised now. I've been there about a year. I'm ready for that penthouse in Manhattan now though - 54th floor, crazy view!
Me too! What have you got coming up with your music?
I'm working on Book of Salomon Faye, the album. Before that, we're going to have Stimulation, which is a mixtape. My engineer and producer Lionel came back from Paris and the stuff we're working on has more depth than what I was doing before. The other stuff was dope beats, but this stuff is really strong compositional music, with live instruments, so that will be Book of Salomon Faye.
You're quite a lover boy from what I can tell in your music.
That's what I'm all about. Some guys are just into sex and fun and fucking. I explored that phase and it became pretty obvious that I value a genuine connection and I'm kind of disgusted about some random sex because it feels so strange and empty! A little spark of chemistry is so much. It doesn't mean you have to commit your life to someone, but it makes it a much more fulfilling experience. I feel like people are confused. They want the love and they look for it in that place [sex] and get addicted to that habit.
And you're into meditation too?
I am. It's a very necessary practice. It's like resetting yourself. You wake up, you meditate, you release yourself of yesterday's thoughts and you're refreshed. You cut through the bullshit like a hot knife through butter.
Your Dad's a Senegalese drummer. Have you been to Senegal?
No, but before I do, I need to learn French. My Mum was a singer too. I got into rapping and writing for the appreciation of it and the enjoyment I got from it. I was more thinking basketball, career-wise. I've started fucking around with drums and I'm pretty decent right now.
Where can people see you perform?
I do shows in underground spaces in Manhattan or Brooklyn, or in our own space in Bed Stuy - The Dojo. They're word of mouth, or people could just find me on Facebook and say, "Yo, where are you performing?" It's that simple!
So you're not untouchably famous just yet. Can you imagine that?
Who wants to be untouchable? Not me! That would defeat the purpose. I'm out here to get close to people, to exchange the values of life.
Text Stuart Brumfitt
Photography Barbara Anastacio