1K Phew embodies authenticity, his life and his music are a showcase for the culture that forged him wherever he goes.
Crossover appeal is a buzzy phrase that means more to the marketers trying to sell a record than the artist trying to make it. Yet hip hop, well, hip hop done right and true bridges every gap. Even the gap between Faith and Culture. Not by abandoning the culture it’s born from, but illuminating that culture for the world to see. 1K Phew embodies authenticity, his life and his music are a showcase for the culture that forged him wherever he goes. Listen once, and you can’t help but hear the shine.
1K Phew exudes that authenticity in his music and lifestyle, all the way down to the name. “My mission is to keep it 1,000. That’s where the 1K comes from,” says the 25-year-old rapper. His latest project, What’s Understood 2 is pure, unfiltered trap, not designed in a lab, but shaped by his East Atlanta home.
“Everybody that’s around me, I want them to feel love. It’s just my vibe, and I want y’all to feel it.”
They do. As evidenced by his mixtapes Sunday Night (2015) and Life (2016) and his last album, What’s Understood, Phew’s got plenty of swag with the wisdom to match, a package that has brought him an incredible platform, including the 2019 season-anthem for his hometown Atlanta Falcons. The young artist was instrumental in connecting contemporary trap legend Zaytoven with Reach Records co-founder Lecrae, leading to their critically acclaimed collaboration, Let the Trap Say Amen.
There’s a sense of transparency that comes through in his music, a refined rawness only be gained through experience and honing your craft, leading up WU2.
“I feel like the streets respect that. If you’re somebody you not, they won’t. And that’s why I keep it 1K.”
The project is strapped with explosive features, from emerging trap star the 2-Chainz signed Skooly, who shines on the contemplative, atmospheric, string-laden standout track “Heatwave,” to labelmate Lecrae on their head-bopping “Wild N Out.” WHATUPRG, Jamie Grace, Foggie Raw and more lend their talents to WU2’s packed roster, wrapped together by a young artist maturing by leaps and bounds.
“I found myself as an artist, and more importantly as a man through, WU2,” says Phew. “Making this music helped me discover a whole new world in myself.”
He’s got a word for the church, too, because “sometimes I’m preaching to the choir, but everybody in the choir ain’t all the way there.” Phew himself was that kid — always on time for Sunday service, but caught up trying to chase the approval of a crowd on a destructive path.
As he crept into adulthood, the young rapper still flirted with disaster. A weed deal intended to score extra money for college quickly went south, forcing Phew and his crew to flee the scene, speeding down city streets and dodging oncoming traffic as gunshots trailed in the distance. One bullet connected with the car mirror. Soon, the whole crew ducked their heads as shots whirred past their vehicle. Phew made it out in one piece, but once he stepped out the car he dropped to his knees.
“Something came over me that day,” says Phew. “My whole body was numb. I told God, ‘I’m done. I’m done, I’m done, I’m done.’ If I kept going, I’d be dead or in jail.”
He credits the goodness of God for making it out alive, and the love of his parents with getting his mind right and keeping his heart pure.
It’s why he wants everybody, from the choir to the club, to hear the true Phew throughout WU2 and see his comfort in his own skin. “I’m tryna show my people,” adding, “you don’t need nobody’s approval for your dopeness.”For those that haven’t heard, or just need the reminder, WU2 is here for you.