Dominic Fike | A backhouse BBQ to jumpstart a star-studded co-sign
Dominic Fike’s favorite food right now is sushi—specifically, yellowtail and ponzu sauce with jalapeño. He likes to order takeout from famed L.A. chainlet, Sugarfish. “I be eating $500 meals every day, it’s disgusting,” Fike admits, over a phone call in August. “My business manager’s telling me to quit it.” His new dining habits aren’t surprising—the long-limbed, charming 23-year-old made headlines last year after a major label bidding war scored him a rumored $4 million in a deal with Columbia Records. Who wouldn’t splurge on expensive meals everyday with that kind of money? “What are we here for then? Life is too short,” Fike states proudly. While the six-song EP that got him signed, Don’t Forget About Me, Demos, demonstrates a raw, promising talent and a knack for irresistible pop, the story of Fike’s rise itself has been scrutinized and unpacked enough by media and fans to be classified as hype.
Fike grew up in Naples, Florida, a coastal city on the Gulf of Mexico that’s known for being one of the wealthiest in the country. “I hated the separation of class,” he says about a childhood he spent watching his mother struggle to find and hold down jobs. “I felt like I was always left out,” he explains, “not being able to go do certain things with certain people.” His fonder memories involve a lot of skateboarding, spending time at the beach, and teaching himself how to play the guitar. In high school, at a friend’s guest house they called the “Backhouse,” Fike, his older brother, and their friends, partied and freestyled, eventually turning their efforts into a collective and building a local fan-base. Inspired by rappers like Earl Sweatshirt and Eminem, Fike says his early self-produced songs were more akin to imitations. His first release, “Not A Word,” spawned his Backhouse rap career, but the beginning of his current chapter starts in late 2017.
Fike recorded Don’t Forget About Me, Demos while on house arrest after being charged with assaulting a police officer, and self-released the tape two months later while in jail. “I was sitting in there and my brother and girlfriend would come and play me these songs,” he recalls. “I would be like, ‘I hope you guys don’t blow up without me.’ I was also talking to the fans,” he explains, breaking down the EP’s title. Last summer, the deal with Columbia was announced, and in the fall, the project was re-released. Artists from Brockhampton (with whom Fike has formed a collaborative bond) to DJ Khaled shared the EP on social media. Today, the standout track, “3 Nights,” is so popular that I even hear it playing in the reception of doctor’s office in a small town in England the day before our call. “I got to give my parents a proper shot at their court cases and give them another chance at life,” Fike says, when probed about the impact his record deal has had on his life. “They needed really expensive lawyers and I’m able to make sure everyone in my family has a house and food,” he adds. “The good stuff—and unlimited guitars.”
The intrigue around Fike’s potential, catalyzed by the house arrest and bidding war, has taken a front seat in the musician’s narrative, so much so that even he’s questioned it. “It was weird,” meditates Fike, on the moment in time celebrities like Billie Eilish and Kendall Jenner began co-signing him. “I didn’t know if any of it was real. I was like, is the label making me feel better?” On most days, he’s working with his close friend, Reed Bennett. For now, Fike is dealing with all the buzz and the pressure by logging off. “I try not to read it. I deleted my Twitter, I stay off Instagram as much as I can,” he confesses. “I’m really taking my time away from all that so I can come and deliver.” His recent single, “Phone Numbers,” a buoyant collaboration with beloved rap producer Kenny Beats, is a sign that the pop sensibilities he brought to Don’t Forget About Me, Demos, were no stroke of luck. Dominic Fike can deliver a hell of an earworm.
In a recent Vevo-produced live session, Fike renders the twinkling, guitar-laden “King of Everything” into an acoustic ballad with ease. At work on his album, Fike is also opening himself up to more collaboration than ever, suggesting that songs with Omar Apollo and Baby Keem are on the way. This fall, he’ll embark on his first-ever tour. He’s excited about the simple things, like joking with the crowd and performing more acoustic versions of his songs. Still, Fike remains humble about his process and his goals. He knows he still has a long way to go. “I still don’t think I’m a singer, I just learned how to do some runs,” he shares, noting the transition away from his hip-hop leaning roots. “When I was in the studio with Ant Clemons last night, I was like ‘Why am I here? I don’t need to be in this room.’” Fike’s honesty is searing, but humbling—a breath of fresh air. “My writing’s alright, but I’m not a singer like this man, bro.”
It’s inspiring when an emerging talent in today’s music ecosystem can comfortably exist as both a superstar and the kid next door. For Fike, at the end of the day, hype is just that—hype. “If I just keep working on myself and getting better, they’ll just keep saying all that shit and whatever, we’ll just coexist. I’m fine. I’m chillin’. I’m doing shows. We got money.”