I’m talking to FowL, raw rap talent, trying to take in his serious businessman, yet cool and collected college kid vibe, yet all I can think of is a line from Jay-Z’s book, Decoded. “Beat the system before it beats you,” a motto Jay-Z and FowL alike seem to be living by. But talking to FowL was nothing like seeing him on stage, he’s raw, he’s real, he’s from Detroit, and yeah, he’s FowL.
As early as seventh grade, FowL was paving his path for a career in music but it wasn’t until his eighth grade year that he released his first mix tape, marking the official kick-off of his career. Growing up in various neighborhoods of Detroit, FowL had little interest in education and saw his music as a means of escape from the ghetto.
“Growing up in Detroit is difficult because it feels like you won’t get anywhere else. You can watch television and see people from everywhere, but never really from Detroit. So for a person with my kind of goals, it gets discouraging,” said FowL.
But FowL has proved he is far from discouraged. After long entertaining the notion of dropping out of school, FowL realized a new purpose for his education and being surrounded by a school setting; he could use his peers to build an audience for his music. Diving head first into the art of performing, Fowl made his debut performance at an inner city youth center called Youthville. Mentored by Alvin Hill, the music director at the youth center, FowL was introduced to popular underground artist Invincible, a Detroit rapper running the worldwide underground scene since the 90s.
To make it in the music industry, Fowl knew his connections with people who could promote his career were important and he began with a solid foundation of supporters in Detroit. However, the young starlet knew he needed to broaden his horizons if he planned to make it big in the industry and while keeping his career making rhymes his number one priority, Fowl gained a new perspective on how being in school could help him define his image and promote his music.
Early in his career, Fowl performed at various venues around the metropolitan area and his name and reputation were on the rise. Performances at the Neutral Zone and the Power Center in Ann Arbor put Fowl’s name on the map for upcoming youth talent. FowL began to see his dreams becoming a reality at a young age, giving him the ambition to propel his career years down the road.
“It was real hype, you know? Being young and on such a big stage, it was like a look into the future for like, five minutes (laughs),” FowL said.
MSU sophomore and business major Brooks Swanson believes FowL’s raw ambition will elevate him to the top of the game quickly.
“I think college is a good place to gain popularity and on a college campus where a majority of the people listen to the kind of music he makes, it’s wise to utilize the campus setting,” said Swanson. “He’s on a path that’s going to lead him toward success.”
I first saw FowL perform at Breaking Curfew in May 2009. As the old saying goes, “save the best for last,” and that is just what the directors of Breaking Curfew did. FowL, accompanied by other Detroit youth rappers and musicians took the stage by storm making the grand finale to the talent show just that, grand.
David Galant, a political theory sophomore, considers himself lucky to have seen FowL perform.
“Fowl is unique as an artist because he can rap about a wide variety of topics. He’s the most talented person I’ve ever seen up close in person,” Galant said.
The most distinct part of FowL’s performance that still resonates with me today is his sheer ability to capture energy and create a vibe that leaves people with no choice but to pay attention. Fowl raps with hard-hitting tones and a no nonsense style representing just how serious this up and comer is about making it in the rap game. I left the Power Center that night, picked up a mix tape from the table outside, and thought, “This kid is the truth.”
A few months later, FowL graduated from Martin Luther King Junior High School with scholarships to MSU, and to FowL, this campus is nothing more than another stage waiting for a performer. The young rapper saw advantages in a university setting, such as additional venues and opportunities to perform, but also a wider online audience to appeal to.
“In 2009 I started getting attention for my mix tapes. I released “The Commencement” in late 2009 and “For The Love ” in 2010. Everyone in college is online so it was only right to put my music out there for everyone to see,” FowL said.
“He’s gotten the opportunity to perform around campus. People that saw him on campus, lived with him and had classes with him will recognize him other places so regionally, he’ll start to gain popularity. I think his best asset right now is being on a college campus,” said Galant.
Swanson and Galant agree, after being so privileged as to witness a personal free style show in FowL’s producer, VIPete aka Peter Raymond’s dorm room last year, that “his flow was consistent. He went really hard the whole song, which I thought was impressive, and you can tell he’s smart with words,” said Swanson. “Pete threw a beat on and he would just keep going. Pete would change the beat and he would listen to it for a few seconds and come up with a completely different flow. That was the coolest free style I’ve ever seen or heard, that’s the coolest rap experience I’ve had,” Galant said.
Word of mouth has proven FowL is a name to be reckoned with and as his popularity grows around campus, he is also catching the ear of some well-known names in the rap game such as Wiz Khalifa, Wale, and Chip Tha Ripper. With FowL’s upcoming rise to stardom, the young talent sees music as his main focus.
“I have no plans to graduate. I want to leave school as soon as possible and dive to the top of the industry,” FowL said. And with performances with the likes of Chip Tha Ripper and Big Sean under his hat, FowL’s rise to the top should be anything but slow.
A producer of FowL’s, V.I.Pete says his inside track on the artist seems to point to imminent stardom.
“FowL’s success has only just begun. His name is all over the news and blogs lately. FowL has unmatched talent and ambition and it’s only a matter of time before he blows up,” V.I.Pete said.
Set up by managers, Brandon Washington and Rodney James, and producer V.I.Pete, FowL’s performance deck is stacked. But performing isn’t what keeps his pen to the paper; FowL says it’s all about his music content.
“In my music I try to stick to honesty and my goal is to touch people,” FowL said. “The most important thing is my thoughts. My music tries to cover everything I think about because people’s thoughts are valuable. My songs wouldn’t make it to the finishing stages if I didn’t feel it was as good or better than the last song you heard. I want to make something new and interesting, let the people judge,” said FowL.
FowL’s mission to stick to his “honest Abe” persona has proved popular with fans nationwide. June 11, 2010, FowL was named one of the best rap battlers in the country when he was crowned the winner of the Redbull EmSee: The Road to 8 Mile competition by none other than the king of 8 Mile himself, Eminem. The competition, featuring up and coming artists and big name judges, is just one of the many notches FowL has on his belt as a nineteen year old.
“If I can get one person to say ‘I felt that’ about my music, that’s cool,” said FowL.
Full of hunger and passion for the music industry, FowL is in no position to disappear from the rap game anytime soon. His most recent and highly anticipated mix tape, “Live From The D” was released January 7, 2011 and was receiving over 1,000 downloads per day.
Despite the opinions of FowL’s formerly fellow students at MSU believing the college setting was perfect for FowL to build his audience, FowL has since officially dropped out of MSU to pursue his dream. It’s plain to see this kid means business. “I just didn’t think school was necessary anymore,” said FowL.
Look for FowL to be a top player in the rap game in the next few years pending his career remains as successful as it has been thus far, because as FowL says, “this is what I feel I was put on this Earth to do.”