A curated journey of vulnerability with The Pop up Shop’s Figga Da Kid

FLINT, Michigan — A sense of sadness coats the carefully chosen words that escape Figga Da Kid’s mouth. “People think I’m weird,” he says in a lowered tone as if speaking that out loud means admitting to something deep within. That statement and the words of feeling “very unique” and “like I stand out” hint at an inner vulnerability buried away inside the heart and mind of one of the city’s notable music artists and sometimes controversial podcast hosts.

It’s a rare glimpse into Figga’s world — one reminiscent of a curated art museum that houses as many music lyrics and beats as it does life experiences. But the moment is at odds with his smooth-talking and playful social media persona. And even further detached from the class clown moniker he portrays on his popular podcast: The Laid Back Ass Podcast. Yet he reluctantly admits while enjoying a burger with fries, drinking a cocktail, and smoking a blunt outside in Soggy Bottom Bar’s gazebo that “for lack of a better word, I feel alone.”

So alone in a city — in an industry — that at the time appears to be opening up for him and his network of industry friends: Ace Gabbana, G-S the DreaM, Jeff Skigh, Cameron Tyler, and others. Nevertheless, his acknowledgment lingers in the air, intermixes with the weed smoke, and for a second, gives way for all of us seated to pause.

“I’ve been growing with vulnerability. If you listen to songs like "Hello Alana," I can be vulnerable on a metaphoric level. I can show pain and insight into heartbreak and s*** that I been through,” he says with a calm expression. “If I can face those things for myself, I can put [them] in a less metaphoric way that people can see what I’m going through.”

Without directly saying it, Figga is in the midst of a transformation — one that started over ten years ago. He is not only an artist seeking to discover “what my niche is” but a man trying to figure out “what my lane is.”

This dichotomy illustrates itself throughout his recently released sophomore album, The Pop up Shop, a continued storyline created through his first album, 2016’s The Leaf Campaign. Excitedly, he explains to me how The Leaf Campaign breaks down into an “art museum, going into different rooms to look at galleries” broken up into three acts.
"It’s a 24/7 thing, so I can’t take time off right now [because] all the time I have, I’ve dedicated it to my dreams.” - Figga Da KidThe Pop up Shop “separated throughout the exhibit” tells a bigger story of his range of eclectic tastes and influences through movie-like skits, groovy beats, hardcore rap lyrics, and small pockets of introspection. However, the album left me curious about who he was and if or when he intended to let listeners into the intimate burrows of his life. He recognizes the growth given between the five-year gap between albums that highlight a time of change, prompting Figga to take better care to release the type of music he wanted to make and feel comfortable making.   

“I’m trying to get to a place where I can find all of myself in my music, feel comfortable with it and still make the music I feel happy [with] making. I’m hoping that I can be as comfortable with that me as I am this me,” Figga says, taking a quick pause to bite into his burger and fries covered in ketchup. “I think the best part about me is my funny side, but I didn’t get a chance to showcase that. I pride myself on metaphors and s*** that gets you thinking. [But] I’m going to have to tap into that creativity to do it in a way that I feel comfortable.”

A comfortability that wasn’t always there as he was growing up on Flint’s south side, surrounded by family members and as a graduate of Southwestern Academy. Through an after-school program hosted by Bang Town Productions, he became invested in music playing around “pretty much from [seventh grade] up until my senior year of high school.” It didn’t satiate his creative thirst until a performance by Flint artist BamStarr inspired him.
The Pop up Shop tells a bigger story of his range of eclectic tastes and influences.
The performance and watching how “happy and the satisfaction being on stage brought him” took hold of Figga, prompting him to buy a laptop to produce a seven-track mixtape he sold at school and along with its successor. Music became such a prominent role in Figga’s life that he tailored his senior exit presentation around becoming a rap artist. It led to him presenting it in front of the school administration and staff.

Despite graduating high school and attending the University of Michigan-Flint, he began working at his father’s electrician company, Harris Boys Electrical Services. While a source of income since he was a teenager, the balance between working, his podcast, and music is a constant conflict.

“It’s my responsibility. If I don’t do it, nobody’s going to, and I would rather work for myself and the family. I’ve never been the type of person who could punch somebody else’s time card,” Figga explains as I listen intently. “I work six days a week, sometimes seven. When I’m not, I’m working on music and my podcast. It’s a 24/7 thing, so I can’t take time off right now [because] all the time I have, I’ve dedicated it to my dreams.”

Dreams include continuing the Marvel-like storytelling with his music and the trend of diving deeper to extract the elements of himself that were missing from The Pop up Shop. Themes like “my comedic side,” wanting to “open up and showing myself to the listeners,” and opening up “in a vulnerable way.”

The end goal is to create an album that guides people through the different facets and extend that outward across social media and his podcast. In the interim, Figga is urging listeners of his music to “believe in yourself, do what you love, and find your calling,” something he maintains to do every day.

“I’m in a different space, and The Pop up Shop afforded me the room to be creative and jump into different genres. So the nature of this [next] project is going to be introspective and intentional writing these songs.” 

You can find Figga Da Kid on Facebook and Instagram. Check out his website to learn more about him and listen to his music, including his latest album, The Pop up Shop, streaming on all platforms.

Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.