Kansas emcee Stik Figa has been around for a minute and has worked with some of the best in music. Telling his stories of growing up in Topeka, Kansas while also constantly showcasing his lyrical and technical ability to me, Stik is one of the more versatile and consistent emcees we have these days. After being a fan for many, many years I was able to sit down with Stik and big his brain a bit about his journey in music.
Dead End Hip Hop: For those who still don’t know who is Stik Figa?
Stik Figa: Stik Figa was born John Westbrook, Jr. to two great parents from the rural south, who ended up raising me in the Midwest, Topeka, KS specifically. It’s a mid-size city about 70 miles outside of Kansas City, MO. I’m a MC’s MC, a story teller of sorts, and a man indulges in fine cognacs.
DEHH: Let’s talk about how you got started in this. I respect your journey because you’ve been through a lot of the ups and downs in this industry and have continued to put out great consistent work.
SF: I want to thank you for recognizing the work, I never know who’s listening so that means a lot. I mostly started locally doing talent shows, open mics, battles and things like that when I was high school age. Later I met a guy from New Jersey, Miles Bonny who was in college at nearby Kansas University and he recorded me for the first time I wanna say. Fast Forward 2009 Mike Waxx shared my first mixtape on illroots, and that’s kinda how the blog love started. And from that and MySpace, Oddisee heard about me, who connected me to Mello Music Group and the rest is history as they say. At least to this point.
DEHH: Now you dropped “Central Standard Time” in January, I felt this was a proper reintroduction to you the artist. Tell me about the motivation behind “CST”.
SF: You kinda hit it on the head. I wanted to make a record that was more of a Stik Figa record, everything else had been a collab record at that point. I kind of had a formula at that point that I would only worked with one producer at a time, for the course of a project, unless it was a mixtape. So, this time I wanted to kind of show my different tastes as they range all over the place, and attempt to make cohesive project. And do records with some of my influences and share that with people. To try to give a fuller picture of who I am as an artist while trying to raise the profile a little.
DEHH: You linked up with some powerhouses on this project, Exile, L’Orange, Homeboy Sandman and many more. How were you able to make all these collabs happen and what was it like working with them?
SF: Well, working with a brand like Mello Music Group gives you a little more access than I had on my own. Some of them were more organic that I expected them to be, even when they were just ideas in my head. L’Orange and I have built a cool relationship since The City Under the City. I got to chop with some personal heroes of mine like Elzhi, who has surprisingly said he’d already heard some of my music. And just connections being made through the label, really.
DEHH: I know you and probably every other artist gets this question, about how you feel about the culture of hip-hop but I feel this question is extremely important now. But not just the Lil Yachty’s or the Future’s but also the Kendrick Lamar’s and Lando Chills.
SF: I feel like in this day and age you can literally hear anything you’re looking for if you have access to wifi and can sign up for a free streaming service. Needless to say however, there are drawbacks to this new open platform, which is that, I don’t there is any real quality control. People aren’t really that discerning anymore, which is why it appears that more underdeveloped artist are making such an impact. But ultimately, the power is in the people. If you’re truly a fan of Stik Figa you gotta tell your friends, spread the word. Being labelled a “struggle rapper” or “backpacker” isn’t easy, were working from a defecit and being considered old gaurd and often viewed as less vaulable in most current conversations. So vote with your dollar, cause were working with smaller budgets than some of these guys.
DEHH: You’re currently signed to Mello Music Group, tell me about working with Michael Tolle and your experience making music with MMG.
SF: It’s been a great experience, Tolle has always been fair and supportive of my ideas, and that is really all I can really ask for these days. He trust me with my vision for my art, and I trust him with how the business should go. I’ve also learned that you got to believe in yourself before anyone is gonna believe in you. So, everyone is putting their name and reputation on the line with each of these releases. I am fortunate he believes in some random rapper from Kansas to deliver good music to him.
DEHH: The other thing I’ve noticed is that you’ve released some of your solo work through MMG, but you’ve also released a good portion of your music independently. What are some of the differences between releasing on these two mediums?
SF: When I am doing something independently it is just direct to the people who support what I do. Usually that is more local/regional, the net I cast alone is quite that wide yet. But with MMG you have people who are gonna check it out sometimes out of loyalty to that brand, willing to discover what this brand has to offer. As a result they cast a much wider net than I do on my own.
DEHH: Like I’ve mentioned you’ve been through a lot as an artist what are some pieces of advice you can give to other artists looking to get where you’re at?
SF: First I would simply say take your time, I know the way we consume music now is different now since we have such routine access to it, but, just make sure you’re taking time to create what you want and are getting across you willing to get across. Be prepared to lose money, and be ok with losing money, cause it is gonna happen. And more than anything just be yourself, man. One thing that will never change is people are connecting with you in them songs, in them videos etc.
DEHH: When are we getting your next LP? Will we be seeing you on tour this year? What’s next for Stik Figa?
SF: I don’t know if you will get another LP in the super near future. I hope to play some shows this fall however, so if you wanna book me I am on all the socials lol
What’s next for me is always in the air man, I wait on the inspiration to hit me, whenever it does, I will share it with ya’ll.