Inside the World of F1LTHY: ‘Working on Dying 2’ Premiere

In giving some context for the artist behind Working on Dying 2, premiering today, I wish I could give you the story of meeting the artist on his home turf. Having him take me around his city, showing me each memorable location that had a special significance in his music career up until this point. Seeing how he interacted with a crew, watching the recording process. Heartfelt talks, opening up, finally seeing him rock a show. But what actually happened seems more appropriate for the kind of artist Philadelphia’s F1LTHY actually is. We connected via Facetime.

Prior to 2012, F1LTHY, who asked his government name be redacted, had never so much as picked up an instrument. He’d also never given a half-hearted attempt at being a rapper himself, as so many other producers have professed. “I didn’t make music at all before, but I was always interested in music, always had a great ear. I grew up listening to rap. My dad was always putting me on to all the hottest shit; he was always really into it, from OutKast to all the old-school shit,” he says to me, voice crackling over a connection that leaves something to be desired. But now, at just 23, F1LTHY is one of the foremost producers for a community that one might loosely associate with rappers like Bones, Pouya, Goth Money Records, and innumerable other post-Lil B artists merging darker aesthetics with a cosmopolitan ear for ambient beats and obscure sample sources. While it’s reductive to label this as ‘Internet rap,’ it is a scene that seems to thrive off anonymous producers connecting with rappers via Twitter DMs, official releases coming solely through much-retweeted SoundCloud playlists. Amidst this legion of dudes holed up in their bedroom Googling the “Hot 808 Drum Pack Free DL,” F1LTHY’s production cuts through like a knife. His signature drop, the nostalgia of a Nextel chirp with a girl’s voice luridly saying “Wake up, Filthy…” alerts the listener to the presence of something of a higher standard. Check the instrumental cut and brand-new visual below for a taste of what I mean.

F1LTHY got into beatmaking inspired by the underground of the time, the likes of SpaceghostPurrp’s psychedelic phonk and Metro Zu’s more ethereal take on the trap sound. After our initial correspondence, he makes sure to hit me up again, noting “Space ambient artist Robert Schroeder,” who he’d catch on late-night Philly radio. Though definitely an off-the-wall pick (and one this writer had to look up), it’s easy to see how Schroeder’s space age, modular synth compositions contribute to F1LTHY’s sound, and set it apart. Though he freely admits he was “terrible” when he started, he picked up the craft quickly and began working with local Philly artists Dizzy Santana and Lil Zubin. Along with his younger brother OOGIE MANE and fellow producer Loosie Man (who co-produced Working on Dying 2), they would come to form a close-knit group of collaborators that he could count on IRL.

“First time I started talkin’ to F1LTHY was after he saw the band I was playing in live,” says Lil Zubin. “After that he hit us up on SoundCloud and messaged us this beat, and that shit was crazy. I was the only one interested in definitely branching out and collabing, and it was right when I started working on my solo music, so eventually we linked up to do a track for Working On Dying 2.”

F1LTHY’s real breakthrough came in early 2014, when Snob Mobb, a group of two female emcees/singers got stranded in Philly. “We had hit up some of our fans, like, ‘Does anyone know someone in Philly that could pick us up from the airport?’” says member Bootychaaain. “It just so happens that his little brother, Oogie Man, hit us up, saying his brother could come get us. At like 3 a.m., we went and met up with him and went to the studio. We didn’t record, but we ended up freestyling all night long pretty much.” The coincidental meeting proved fateful: Snob Mobb put F1LTHY’s music in the hands of two of his highest profile to date, Black Kray and Lofty305.

With these two, F1LTHY had entrée to the larger independent rap community. Lofty305 was an original member of Metro Zu and one of the artists responsible for putting the artsier cloud rap sound on the map. After hearing F1LTHY’s beats via Bootychaaain, the two would go on to produce the Elise mixtape together. Black Kray is the de facto head of Goth Money Records, a 5-man collective that takes a darkly ironic spin on the iconography of early Cash Money to create emotional, ambient trap jammers. They’ve also just released an album, Trillionaires, lead single by none other than F1LTHY.

While to outsiders these names might not seem like much, both Kray and Lofty have been able to leverage online success into genuine, flesh-and-blood fanbases that have allowed them to tour the country, and in Lofty’s case, produce art shows internationally. “I think F1LTHY got one of the hardest basslines in the game,” Kray says, recalling what drew him to the producers sound upon hearing the initial barrage of beats that F1LTHY had sent over, back in 2014. Within a few months, F1LTHY was trekking up from Philly to NY to link in-person and record with all the artists he’d been communicating with online. Talking to Bootychaaain and Kray, they make it clear that their bond with F1LTHY goes deeper than music, and has blossomed into genuine friendship. In regards to meeting up in person, Lofty notes, “It was basically like I already knew him,” and adds “We’re all raised on the Internet. I bet in 10 years, I’m not gonna remember I met F1LTHY online. He’s just gonna be my homie.”

Collabs with the forefront of the underground under his belt, F1LTHY is looking expand his own sound as an artist, rather than as a backing producer. By billing Working on Dying 2 with himself as the lead artist, he makes it clear that this is his own aesthetic, choosing and curating rappers that fit in to complete his sound rather than the opposite. It may also be a statement in order to prove to skeptics he’s not limited to the ambient trap sound. “He can make anything,” is a phrase that every single collaborator I interviewed uttered in describing F1LTHY’s sonic aesthetic. “His more popular stuff has that trap feel, but he’s sent me some shit that’s beautiful, sounds like the soundtrack to Ever After,” says Lofty.

Working on Dying 2 is an exploration of that multifaceted aesthetic, showcasing F1LTHY’s ability to step outside infectiously looped samples laced over 32nd note hihats. Tracks like “Red Cups” span on for nearly 10 minutes, extending a sample and modulating the melody, ranging from a fist-pumping trap anthem to a subdued dreamscape. “Nothin’ Last” shows the strength of collabing with Lil Zubin, who comes out sounding like the Weeknd filtered through F1LTHY’s grimier and less pop-ready mixes. And, of course, there’s still plenty of room for straight bangers, like the Black Kray-featuring “Prada Walkin'” full of braggadocio and stuttering kicks.

For now, F1LTHY’s not stressing. When I ask for potential collabs, his immediate answer is, “Of course, Lil B. 21 Savage, he’s hot. Soulja Boy would be tight. But I feel like I don’t even have to reach out, too much. It’s moving forward with everyone I’m working with at the moment.” He’s referring to the many upcoming tapes on his agenda: SHITTYSICKBOY, a project with Black Kray, and an untitled tape with Lil Zubin. Between all that, he’s got his work cut out for him. But as everyone I talked to noted, F1LTHY’s got an insane work ethic, the kind that makes it seem natural to drive back and forth from Philly to NY on a weekly basis to collab with internet rappers. He’s perfectly poised to inspire the next generation of underground producers, in the same way people like Purp and Lofty did for him. F1LTHY doesn’t need to wake up. He’s already woke.

Cop the tape via Bandcamp, and pick up one of those sick Working on Dying jackets here.

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