Evanston rapper Femdot embraces opportunity playing Lollapalooza
Lollapalooza has long been home to an array of diverse artists with suburban ties.
Recently, the Chicago festival has also become a launchpad for socially aware local rap artists including Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa who've weathered less-than-choice slots early in the day on smaller stages before breaking through nationally and coming back as headliners.
Chance's brother Taylor Bennett performs this year as do local rap and hip-hop artists such as G Herbo, DJ Taye, Supa Bwe and Femdot.
Femdot performs Saturday, Aug. 4, at 12:50 p.m. on the American Eagle stage.
"It's pretty crazy, honestly. I think for me to not even be able to afford tickets to go, or wanting to go and see some of my favorite artists, to now be in a situation where people are coming to see me is kind of surreal," said the rapper. "It didn't really sink in at first. But as time's gone along it's like, 'OK. This is kind of a big deal.'"
Born Femi Adigun, the Evanston native is the son of Nigerian immigrants. Immigration has become a polarizing issue and it's a life experience that's had a drastic impact on the music Adigun makes as rapper Femdot.
"It's very critical to how I think. It's literally two different worlds from when I step on my porch to when I step in my house," said Femdot. "Most immigrants who move here, some of their biggest struggles are understanding the experience here holistically. Especially as I've gotten older, I've learned more about my parents as people my age growing up. You're able to try to empathize more on both culture sides. And I feel like that's how I look at music too."
Adigun grew up in a musical household, exposed to different sounds at an early age by his father, a massive fan of Nigerian music legend and human rights activist Fela Kuti. But it was his older brother who, despite a 12-year age gap, exposed him to rap music through artists such as Jay-Z and Nas.
"Even then, I would still predominantly be listening to like A Tribe Called Quest or Mobb Deep or Twista," said Femdot of discovering rap's more Afrocentric sounds. "Watching Kanye become Kanye from like 2003 on, that was kind of crazy. Common. Do or Die. It was a pretty broad range in retrospect but there was a lot of music around and I had a lot of catching up to do."
Femdot earned his Bachelor's Degree this past spring from DePaul University. The 23-year old majored in health science with a biological science concentration and a minor in peace conflict and social justice.
In turbulent times, Femdot says there's a connection to be drawn between the logical manner of thinking that defines the scientific method and music, particularly in terms of the stereotypes and societal misconceptions that often accompany rap.
The desire to address the world in song and apply a socially conscious attitude to music connects a lot of the rap artists breaking through to the mainstream out of the Chicago area right now.
Social awareness defines Femdot's first full-length album "Delacreme 2." Issues pertinent to a 23-year old -- racial bias, student loans, school shooters and more -- are all addressed on an album that features the rapper's experimentation with live instruments and a choir.
"That's the most difficult thing -- to get your message across without sounding like you're preaching to anybody. Even gospel music doesn't preach to you. It uplifts you. So that's the main thing," said Femdot. "It was a four- or five-year process, honestly. For me, personally, it was a self-discovery thing. Every song helped me and that's why it's on there. Whether it's the good, the bad, the flaws or whatever, each song kind of gives a glimpse into how I, at the moment, view myself."
In 2013, as Chance the Rapper's "Acid Rap" mixtape was beginning to break out, shining a light on a number of city and suburban artists in the process, Femdot was a student at Penn State University afraid he might be missing his moment. That's why he transferred to DePaul.
"If I come home and do what I'm supposed to do, I think another moment will come and it may be even bigger," the rapper said of his mindset. "And that's kind of what's happening now."
As tempting as it was to put school on hold and chase success in the music industry, Femdot says it was critical to finish what he started.
"If I'm only known at the end of my career for being a rapper, than I haven't done enough and it's a waste of the gifts that I have," Femdot explained. "Earning this degree helps solidify that idea and just shows people that they can do whatever they want. There's a bunch of reasons but the overall idea is just to be more than a rapper, you know?"
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When: Runs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, through Sunday, Aug. 5
Where: Grant Park, 601 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, lollapalooza.com
Admission: Most packages are sold out. General admission for Sunday, Aug. 5, is $120.