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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - F. Stokes
Monday, September 27, 2010

When I first saw F. Stokes he was opening for P.O.S., Dessa and Astronautalis in NYC during their March tour. His passion, and the way he literally jumped into the crowd to be with the fans, was inspiring. I didn’t get a chance to catch up with him then, but after he performed in CT earlier this month, on a bill with Sketch Tha Cataclysm, Expertiz, Ceschi and Louis Logic, we were finally able to exchange information. This week we sat down for what for me was a long awaited interview, and during it F. Stokes opened up about his previous homelessness, his strained relationship with his father, and the intimate connection he has with everyone at his shows.

Adam Bernard: Your first initial isn’t F and your last name isn’t Stokes, so how’d you end up with the moniker F. Stokes?
F. Stokes: In the late 70s/early 80s there was a gentlemen who served as somewhat of a Robin Hood-like figure to my neighborhood. His name was Flukie Stokes. As a child I would hear my uncles and aunts speak of Flukie with great admiration. He was a man of many layers - flamboyancy, confidence, resilience, loyalty. During my “find a cool rapper name” phase Flukie was my choice because of his ambassador-like presence to the south side of Chicago. Even though I’m far removed from the south side of Chicago, the name F. Stokes reminds me of where I am from. Rodney is also fine.

Adam Bernard: From the south side of Chicago, to a homeless shelter in Madison, WI, to living in Brooklyn, NY, your life has been quite the journey. Have you found there to be one continuous theme prevalent throughout all of it?
F. Stokes: {laughs} Excellent question. Throughout my life the word “home” has always been multi-dimensional to me. I've stayed in many youth hostels, shelters, basements, bus terminals. I've slept on so many couches my back hurts. I've structured my life in such a way that where I sleep is like my 70th priority. I am on a mission to continue to enlarge the platform on which I am heard, and in doing so I've sacrificed any idea of normalcy in regards to my living conditions. When I’m on stage and I feel my words pluck spiritual and emotional chords in people. The fact I slept on a floor nine hours prior to show time is meaningless. Where I lay my head at night to me is ground static; a penny in between railroad lines. The stage is my home. Completely.

Adam Bernard: How would you compare touring as an independent artist to homelessness?
F. Stokes: They’re similar in many aspects. When I’m on tour, I become interwoven into the fabric of whatever town or city I am in. One of the joys of being able to travel is to see/feel first hand the affects of my music and personality beyond the emotion one would convey at my show. I truly believe it’s my journey to plaint seeds around the world. Ever since I was a child I've always been infatuated with the idea of traveling, and seeing the world, touching souls beyond my neighborhood. When I build with people, that connection is generally for a lifetime. I've never been recklessly homeless. Like us all, at times, I may fall into rare pockets of redundancy, but whenever I've been homeless it’s been because I believe in my dream so much that I’m willing to sacrifice what most would consider basic needs. After a show when someone buys a CD, it’s because they connect and admire my courage to disregard the idea of being a robot; work, sleep, work, dream, get married, etc. They go “this guy is brave, and I wanna support his mission.” It’s the same as when I was homeless; people felt compelled to let me crash on their couch because they admired my determination.

Adam Bernard: How do you think your father’s incarceration for murder has affected your outlook on life?
F. Stokes: My father and I are two completely different individuals. Granted, we're attached to some of the same social circumstances, but we are not connected in many ways. Frankly, my father has hurt and disappointed me in ways that are beyond words. My father is a very sensitive subject for me. I’m literally fighting tears right now. His incarceration for murder has been somewhat of a black stain and embarrassment to me. My father is a sad story because at one point in my life he was Superman to me. Now I look at him with pity, and guilt. Perhaps I’m a bit ashamed. All of these emotions are mixed with a very acute need I have to feel loved. There’s a corner of me that feels like my father wouldn't accept me for who I am; the way I dress at times, my choice of woman, my intimate approach with most things in life. My father being disappointed in me scares me. I really just want my old man to love me. I feel so bad for him. He is so charismatic, so charming. I mean, he is a stone cold gangster, as well, but when I see him I see a helpless, constrained, weak... baby. Yeah, a baby. A poor baby. I’m not sure if theirs a definitive answer to this question buddy.

Adam Bernard: Let’s move on to a happier topic. I’ve seen you live twice, and each time you’ve had this really incredible connection with the crowd. Why do you think the crowd connects with you so?
F. Stokes: Firstly, thanks for the kind words and showing your support at my shows. I appreciate you. I use the stage as my pallet to not only entertain, but to generate hope and provoke conversation and thought. When I look in the crowd I see the girl who was raped. I see the Mexican brother who bears this look of complete defeat because he can't find a job. I see the busboy, the factory worker, the starving artist. These are my people, so when I’m on stage I take it as my responsibility to give life to their story. That’s why there’s a connection. I take high pride in my stage show and I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my live performance. There’s always room for growth, brother.

Adam Bernard: You have a few releases people can pick up, the Baked Goods mixtape and the full length album Death of a Handsome Bride. What make each of these albums unique? In other words, why should people pick up both?
F. Stokes: Because it’s good music and it comes from a fella who actually cares and take pride in his craft. I promise to always give the listener 100%, all I ask for in return is your ears.

Adam Bernard: Your live sets can vary greatly when it comes to the topic matter and moods of individual songs. Do you feel your albums are similar in that way?
F. Stokes: Of course. Each song has a different meaning so the mood change is imperative. My album varies in subject matter, so the mood change may seem a bit reactionary at times, but it’s needed for me to fully express how I feel.

Adam Bernard: Do you think it’s fair to label you a success story at this point?
F. Stokes: My story is still in motion, brother. I’m really learning as I go. Up until this point, yes, I've defied the odds and circumstances of being a poor Black man, so you could label me a success based off my upbringing and family history, but when the books close I truly want to be an example for all people. The “success story” talk will probably be a bit more fitting when you can purchase my autobiography. For now, I’m just taking it one stage at a time, brother.

Adam Bernard: Finally, what’s beautiful to F. Stokes?
F. Stokes: The fact that I look at everyone as teachers. I am probably one of the most inquisitive people you will ever meet. I truly believe that we should all aspire to inspire. That’s in addition to my beard, of course. It’s a beauty!

Related Links

Website: everythingfstokes.com
Blog: fstokesmusic.blogspot.com
Twitter: twitter.com/fdotstokes
MySpace: myspace.com/fstokesmusic


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:47 AM  
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