Filip Filipi, rap artist previously known as Sin is the owner of his own independent label, Sizzerb Inc. Selling over 50,000 units, Filipi’s approach to music is "using real life experiences, genuine passion and an artful approach to expression to connect to people on a deeper level."
An aspiring basketball player, Filipi was scouted for University teams but after a major injury, was forced to redirect his drive and ambition into a more creative medium. His debut, Sizzerb Volume I, presented by DJ Vlad was featured as a ‘Top Pick’ on MTV Mixtape Mondays. Filip also grasped the attention of 13.7 million households internationally when his single “Boom”, from album The Supreme Poet, was used for a dance routine on the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance. The twenty-three year old has more recently released a mixtape project If He’s King Then I’m God. Check out our interview!
For those of our audience, who don’t know you; tell us about yourself in a few sentences?
My name is Filip Filipi and I'm a rapper, producer and songwriter. I started doing music about 5 and half years ago and I have released 13 mix albums and I'm currently working on my debut album. I was born in Serbia but have spent the majority of my life living in Canada. I also think Colonel Gaddafi has an impeccable sense of style.
You spent your childhood years growing up in a small village in the former Yugoslavia, until I think you were eight, and then you immigrated to Canada to escape the civil war happening. Can you tell us anything that sticks out from that experience? How at that time did you feel and was it difficult to understand why there was war and the importance of leaving?
The first causalities of the war actually took place in my town. I remember it very well. It was winter and snowy. My father and I were taking our neighbour’s dog for a walk, I remember it was a German Shepard, when we heard automatic gunfire nearby and immediately headed back. I remember being mad we had to go home so soon. We lived in a rural area so I was pretty much around guns my whole life but that memory stands out to me because it was the first time I witnessed guns used to inflict death. I was much too young to understand the complexities of why the war was happening and my mom's side of the family all lived in Belgrade so it wasn't that unusual to leave and go stay with them. However, right before we left I remember the atmosphere was a lot more tense and there were columns of tanks and armoured vehicles all over our town and surrounding areas so I could sense a certain urgency to get out.
Prior to making music, you were an athlete and received multiple offers from universities to play basketball, but an injury sidelined those dreams. How hard was that and how, if at all, was it instrumental in your success in music?
To be fair even before the injury I had an uphill battle to make a good university team because I wasn't allowed to play during my senior year due to some behavioural issues. The year before that I developed some weird allergic reaction the morning of the BC provincial team tryouts. The reason it was weird was the medicine which I was allergic to I started taking 3 weeks before and I woke up that morning and couldn't walk. The final injury, which was me breaking my thumb throwing a snowball, was the final straw. Even though I loved basketball my whole life, I realized God, for some reason didn't want me to pursue it. It was really hard. I remember there was a year I didn't know what to do. I have a really obsessive personality so basketball was everything I did. When I finally got into music it filled that vacuum and it made me productive again. I applied that same obsession to music so the way I see it now is it was all meant to happen.
When it comes to mix tape artists, there tends to be difficulty in branching out and reaching commercial success, why do you think you’ve be able to reach such great heights with yours?
I don't think I've reached any great heights, but the success I did manage to achieve I'd probably credit to the obsessive work ethic. For example, out of the 200 plus songs I made so far about 20 were quality and managed to generate some buzz. So for me it's much more to do with persistence than some great talent. I've also had some big collaborations and placements on some major TV shows like SYTYCD. I market pretty hard and have the luxury of having a English and Serbian speaking fan base. To be honest I think I'm much better at marketing than rapping and I'm exploring that as a alternate career path.
You’ve worked and released tracks like “Camouflaged” (feat. Lil Wayne), “I Gotchya” (feat. Cupid) and “Boom” with T-Pain, all heavy hitting tracks. Tell me how important it is for you to collaborate with other artists and why you do it.
It's important because it's absolutely instrumental in promotion which leads to generating income. I'll give you an example, 'Boom' which you mentioned, I personally hate. However it has something like 5 million views on YouTube. While 'Mandolins Cry' and 'Blood in My Eyes' which I put my heart and soul into have about 150,000 combined. Why? Because they don't feature a household name. Some of the people I have collaborated with I truly am a fan of, like Collie Buddz and Opera Steve for example. Some other artists like Mickey Avalon, who I worked with on another STYCD track, I don't listen to, to put it kindly.
One of my personal favourite tracks is “Mandolins Cry”. I find it one of your deepest tracks in which you rhyme in both English and your own Serbian language. Can you tell us about this track, its importance and the message behind it?
Mandolins Cry is very dear to me because it's dedicated to my grandmother who passed in 2007. I did the chorus in Serbian and so far it's the only song I sang in Serbian. The message behind it is about me missing my grandma but because she's from Kosovo and during that time the Albanians were ethnic cleansing the remaining Serbs from there, I touch on some political issues as well. Both my grandmothers are from places where Serbs were cleansed from, and to me in some way they embody the struggle. It's my favourite song to date and I always put my favourite song as number 5 on my CDs and that song will be number 5 on my album.
What gives you strength to overcome life’s’ adversities?
I always remember no matter how bad things get, time will pass and then it will get better. No matter how hopeless a situation or a period in your life may seem the brightness of day will eventually come. I believe every experience and ordeal has its own purpose and makes you wiser and stronger. It also helps prepare you for a situation which will come at some point in your future, so when it does occur you will handle it better.
What advice would you give to youth if they are struggling through a tough time?
It will pass and make you a better person when it's over. Everything during your youth is magnified and seems much worse than it really is. You need to stay true to your values and be thankful for the positive things in your life. No matter how bad it gets never forget there is always someone who had it worse and overcame, and if they can do it so can you. So turn that frown upside down!
What motivates you and gives you hope?
I'm fortunate that I have a really supportive family and making them proud is a major source of motivation. I strongly believe in God and I find a lot of my hope in Him. I believe I was given some natural ability and luck in my life and I feel I would let down my family if I didn't try my best to live up to my potential. I want to clarify that when I say potential I don't mean potential to be rich or famous, but rather to be a good person and help others and stand up for what I know is right even when everyone might not agree. Those characteristics to me compose a complete human being.
Anything else you want us to know about Filip Filipi?
I have Aviophobia. My favourite food is spaghetti. My favourite color is olive green. My favourite animal is a bear and if you wish to keep up with my bizarre rants and sometimes enjoyable music you may keep up with me on FilipFilipi.com, Facebook.com/filipfilipi and Twitter.com/filipfilipi