It took Felly fives years to continue the story he started on the 2016 release of Young Fel. Its sequel, Young Fel 2 is elevated by feelings of youth, the reality of now, and some darker, solitary realizations. “It’s a nighttime album,” says Felly, “one you listen to driving at night in the car.”
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Throughout the 14 tracks of Young Fel 2, Felly walks through different musical landscapes, of hip-hop bent around a mixed media of indie and soulful arrangements opening on the drifter “Fresh Water” and reggae-risen “Pot Of Gold.” Produced by Felly and co-written with Jesse St. John (Britney Spears, Lizzo, Camila Cabello), Young Fel 2 is more than hip-hip, covering everywhere Felly has discovered since Young Fel, from the folkier ”Open Door” and rap-riddled “Fire Out Black,” Still Young,“ to the indie rock of “Bones,” co-produced with Midi Jones (Demi Lovator) and Todd Pritchard (G-Eazy, Tory Lanez), and a slower close of reflections on “Black Van.”
Debuting with Waking Up to Sirens in 2014, Felly has continued to step into different comfort zones, releasing “Heartstrings,” featuring Santana in 2019. On Young Fel 2 Felly has moved on from all the naivete of Young Fel and comes full circle as a stronger lyricist and storyteller.
“It really was like a journey to discover what the word ‘Young’ really means and what innocence and purity really means,” Felly, who featured a photo of himself at 3 years old on the album cover, shares with American Songwriter. “I was investigating why I’m this way now and what that comes from which includes the 3-year-old me, the 19-year-old me that made ‘Young Fel’ and the me now—’Young Fel 2’—is a culmination of my hip-hop roots with new sounds and abilities I’ve picked up along the way working with legends like Santana and having a band…the next evolution of Felly.”
Felly spoke to American Songwriter about closing the Young Fel saga, working around older songs, and (hopefully) finding more love by the next album.
American Songwriter: You wanted to continue on from Young Fel, from five years earlier. How did the pieces of Young Fel 2 (YF2) start piecing together for you from the time you released Mariposa in 2020?
Felly: After Mariposa, I felt like I had intentionally diverted from my previous sound and matured in a way that I felt would be my “future” sound, and that felt really good. But time went on and I still couldn’t deny the youthful, bedroom-rap-styled energy that was still in me, so I wanted to tip my hat to that, to the roots. Knowing that, I’ll probably keep evolving my sound further and further, because I don’t like to repeat myself, but I felt like I had left some stones unturned in the world of hip hop. I wanted to incorporate that youthful, hip-hop energy with all the new shit that I had learned on the way, like guitar and vocal stacks and better production. Young Fel 2 was sort of an attempt to authentically blend the old and the new, to give that nostalgia but also allude to the future.
AS: Some songs were older, held over from previous albums, while others were new. Why were these older tracks still resonating with you now?
F: “Nightride,” one of my favorites off the album, was actually supposed to go on Mariposa but it didn’t fit. When I added it to Young Fel 2 it made the project so much more diverse. Songs like “Bones,” “Nightride,” “Open Door”—those aren’t rap songs. They are this dark, folkish sound that I’ve been low-key evolving. Adding those to the rap-heavy parts of YF2 felt so refreshing. “Bones” was the most recent song of the album, and it probably shows more of the direction I’ll continue to go in, rather than stuff like, “Fire out Back,” which is more of a hat-tip to the past. “Nightride” and “Bones” resonates more with me now because as much as I wanna revive a past sound, to be blunt, I’m more excited about the future, about the unknown, about the shit that I haven’t done yet. Young Fel 2 has literally every vibe that is a part of me. It’s like this big smoothie—totally not cohesive but works at the same time.
AS: You don’t fail to enter personal spaces, but what were some of the other threads that unraveled around the 14 tracks as you began working on the album?
F: I think I relieved a lot of the brokenness that I held within me during this album. For a while, I was concerned with how dark it was. It felt so beat-down. There’s only a couple of songs that are truly uplifting. I had a problem with that until I sort of accepted that that was the place I was coming from. You have this idea of an album, but then the album sort of shows you what it is. The common thread linking them all together is rising from that brokenness by accepting the brokenness. I don’t know if I’m getting too far out here, but it’s sort of like unconditional forgiveness. I had to accept where I was at times… so I guess the maturing or growing up is the accepting of that. Now that I’ve accepted those parts, I don’t have to keep lamenting on them, and can go forward to a brighter place.
AS: How do songs typically come together for you?
F: I usually have a phrase or a guitar lick or a beat made, and I involve people I love and respect on a personal and musical level. It’s gotta be both. I’m sharing ideas that come from my heart and their hearts take it somewhere new. Hopefully, when we’re done with a song we all see truth in it. We are just seekers, you know. Sometimes I’ll have a hook idea, a fragment, and then when people inspire new parts it just evolves in front of your eyes. It’s honestly the best part about all of this.
AS: Musically/sonically, what did you want to capture with this album that you didn’t with Mariposa or even Surf Trap (2018)?
F: [There’s] more honesty in this one, but it’s also less specific in some sort of way. It’s less journal-entry based, like some of my stuff, more simplified and to the point. On the production end, we wanted to keep our sounds updated and keep the sonics sounding strong. I wanted it to feel like a “new” album, not something from 2015, which is what the first draft sounded like, so subject matter, sound choices, everything, I just had to keep a tab on if it felt fresh. We kept playing things back and if they didn’t continue to sound fresh, like fresh fruit, we scrapped them.
AS: What kind of stories do you want to tell now?
F: Man, I want to get into love. there wasn’t all too much love on this album. It’s probably because of where I was at, and where the world was at in all honesty—quarantine, separating from relationships, not seeing people, being in your head. I want to come home to that warm feeling and not be bitter at anything. Getting caught up in feeling cold, hard, unlovable—it’s a trap. Everything has its place and time though, rest assured.
AS: What kind of imprint do you hope your music, and Young Fel 2, leaves behind?
F: If I knew the reason why I probably wouldn’t still be making music. I think the mystery is the whole intrigue of it. We’re dealing with something invisible here that affects us incredibly, in all sorts of ways. Listening to the wrong music can destroy your vibe and vice versa. My main goal is to inspire and lift others, and that starts with honesty. I can’t fake a feeling, even if I want to. Even if I don’t want to show a low vibrational feeling I have, if it has taken me over, I’m going to express it. But I’ll always keep an eye on lifting up others, making sure what I make is helpful in some way, to me and to others.
Photos: Nick Corradi