Stik Figa
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Stik Figa

Topeka, Kansas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | INDIE

Topeka, Kansas, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2012
Solo Hip Hop Indie




"Stik Figa X The Expert - Ritual"

“Producer The Expert fuses elements from jazz and 60s-era psychedelic music on Ritual, which sets the backdrop for emcee Stik Figa at his most honest and personal. People who have heard psychedelic Hip Hop opus The Overview Effect by The Expert together with emcee Jermiside, already know they’re in for a trip. A glimpse at the tracklist also sets the tone for what to expect with guest spots by Blu, Solemn Brigham (of Marlowe), Defcee, Sleep Sinatra, and Tanya Morgan. But the true beauty of this record lies in the contrast: the way jazz influences collide with psychedelic production pushes both the Dublin, Ireland-based producer and the Topeka, Kansas native into new Hip Hop territory.

Stik Figa has a great ear for beats—he’s got a back catalog of thirteen years deep to show it. His releases include early work with Oddisee, the collaborative album The City Under The City with L’Orange, last year’s Valley of Dry Bones with Conductor Williams, and releases on Mello Music Group with production work by Apollo Brown, Black Milk, and Exile, among others.

Now, with The Expert, he finds himself in a sonic pastiche of psychedelic effects, banging drums, clear touches of jazz, and deep basslines. The Expert freely bends what he digs up from his crates: layers upon layers of Mellotron chords, vibraphone melodies, guitar stabs, and swirling strings tumble over each other. All for hard-hitting beats that defy the golden-era boom-bap rulebook. Case in point: when was the last time you heard a solo piano piece between tracks with reversed drum samples and 808 kick drums? Irish pianist Daniel Luke delivers just that on “Rob Peter, Pay Pallbearer.”

Stik Figa moves with ease from dead honest observations to showing lyrical dexterity and skill, to expressing inner struggles. Ritual is without a doubt his most personal body of work to date. It’s just as he raps on “Uknowhut?” featuring Blu: “Self-fulfillment remains the greatest metric of wealth.” Besides Stik Figa openly sharing his inner musings on the album towards that goal, the same goes for The Expert: he shares his own deepening and further self-cultivation—a head-nodding, mind-blowing continuation of his psychedelic-tinged beat-making antics.”

The Overview Effect was one of the best Hip Hop albums of 2022, Ritual is among 2023’s best. At 35 minutes the album is on the short side, but that’s a minor complaint. Ritual is a tasteful and stylish piece of Hip Hop, an album you can’t afford to miss out on. - Hip-Hop Golden Age # 19 Best Hip-Hop Album 2023

"A Topeka Rapper Appears To Accept His Unfairly Fameless Future"

Central Standard, the latest release by the Topeka-based rapper Stik Figa, chronicles the struggles of a man begrudgingly beginning to accept that his musical career is unlikely to yield fame and fortune.

With stoic dignity and ingratiating humor, Stik Figa (the alias of John Westbrook, Jr.), on his new 25-minute EP, repeatedly acknowledges that his dream of becoming a prominent rapper will probably remain unfulfilled.

Stik Figa is accustomed to being overlooked. He’s been a compelling yet underappreciated presence on the regional hip-hop scene for more than ten years. But while his talent has long outstripped his stature, Central Standard indicates he doesn’t intend to go down without a fight.

Rather than suggesting that his base in Topeka is an unfortunate obstacle to be surmounted, Stik represents his hometown – a place he calls “Top City” – with pride.

That's certainly the case in his video for the triumphantly funky “Cold,” which provides a leisurely tour of Topeka’s less prosperous neighborhoods. Referencing the absence of acknowledgement from XXL, the taste-making magazine that acts as a primary gatekeeper for the hip-hop community, he brags: “No XXL but (I) excel in the (recording) booth/Beats in the coffin and nails in the roof.”

The shout-out leads to a bit of delicious irony, given the fact that XXL premiered the “Cold” video on its site in January.

And Stik's boast isn’t empty. He is one of the region’s most lyrical rappers, frequently applying his sharp wit and smooth flow to assessments of his unheralded status, such as on the fluid “Down Payment,” where he advises: “Just know that eagles don't fit in pigeon holes.”

Such soaring wordplay is a casualty of the stylistic revolution that's transformed hip-hop in recent years. So-called “mumble rappers” like Future are in vogue, while artists such as Stik Figa, who place a premium on eloquent social commentary, have become passé.

He dismisses trend-chasing radio rappers who pretend to be criminals on the abrasive "James Lemonade": "I'm just staying active/Hardly past my peak/You lack a leg to stand on/I had to speak/Laughing at these amputees/Saying that they ran the streets." The putdown may be merited, but it sounds like sour grapes coming from a man who never achieved a hit.

“Oldtown 96” is among the the compositions that might have gained traction in a more hospitable artistic climate. Over a beat that sounds like a countrified variation of Jay Z’s 2001 classic “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” Stik recalls a childhood tainted by racism: "I been black longer than I been my first name/Called nigga before a nigga ever learned names."

But that powerful moment is diluted by frustrating incongruities throughout Central Standard. Multiple producers and a gamut of guest appearances, ranging from the experimental New York rapper Homeboy Sandman to the nefarious Bay Area emcee Rappin’ 4-Tay, create a whipsaw effect that’s likely to confuse potential Stik Figa initiates.

Yet he doesn’t operate entirely in obscurity. He recently made an appearance on the SiriusXM satellite radio show Shade 45, where he tossed a telling line into his freestyle demonstration: “how you measure your success ain’t how I’m measuring mine.”

His quiet form of success may not have made Stik Figa rich or famous, but Central Standard is a minor Midwestern gem.

Bill Brownlee’s writing appears weekly in The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine. He blogs about Kansas City’s jazz scene at Plastic Sax. - KCUR

"Stik Figa Is Not Quite Himself"

Last time we heard from Topeka emcee Stik Figa, he had collaborated with producer L’Orange on the excellent The City Under The City. With that project, though, it was all about pushing Stik Figa out of his comfort zone and trying something new and different. On his latest album, Is Not Quite Himself, done in collaboration with Kansas City producer Leonard Dstroy, he is more in his comfort zone than ever, and despite what the title says, this is his most personal album to date.

The first thing that hit me about Is Not Quite Himself is the chemistry between Dstroy and Figa. The two always sound as though they are on the exact same page, and as a result, Stik Figa really sounds more relaxed and confident than ever, and he is able to really open up and get personal with his listeners. The sound of the album, as shaped by Leonard Dstroy, is reminiscent of ATLiens, and by that I mean that there are lots of laid back, soulful grooves, with a heavy gospel influence, but Dstroy also finds a way to keep the music weird and add all sorts of interesting elements without losing its accessibility. Figa is able to hop into the pocket of these grooves and really find himself and let loose. He’s got a charismatic presence on the mic, without going over the top, but what makes him really special, and it’s on display here, is his ability to talk about personal issues, making him someone very easy to relate to. He's never the hero or the villain, he's just the guy trying to figure life out through all its ups and down, and that means exploring romantic relationships, his relationship with his kids and his own parents, religion, trying to make it as a musician, and growing up in a piece of the Midwest that doesn't get a whole lot of attention from the rest of the world. It often feels like you're having a direct conversation with Figa, as he sorts out his place in this world. As he does all of this, though, he never forgets to keep the music moving and to keep things entertaining on top of everything else. This is an album that you could both cruise around late at night blasting in your car stereo and one you could listen to on headphones and get lost in the deeply personal lyricism of Stik Figa.

Stik Figa's latest is his best album to date, and he's already got a few solid albums under his belt. His chemistry with Leonard Dstroy fits perfectly for the type of lyricism and personal exploration that he lays down on Not Quite Himself. It's an album that feels immediately familiar, and rewards with each additional listen. You'll definitely want to spend some quality time with it this spring. - Scratched Vinyl

"Stik Figa--As Himself Album Review by Rachel Swan"

"Humble and hungry" is one of the most well-entrenched credos in hip-hop, and Topeka rapper Stik Figa apparently takes it literally. The title of his 2009 mixtape, It Ain't Easy Bein' Skinny, may have been intended as humor, though it also made the emcee look like a famine victim. His current album jacket, for a remarkably slick April debut, shows Stik Figa bathrobe-clad and downtrodden, polishing off a huge bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats. And lest you question his humility, Stik Figa — whose real name is John Westrook Jr. — lards the opening track of As Himself with self-disparagement: He was a nerd in high school, girls didn't like him, he covets luxury items that are well beyond his price range (a Chevy truck with hydraulics, and an engraved pimp chalice, for example), and everyone doubts his authenticity. Got grades in school, got told I wasn't black, Stik Figa grouses in the second verse. It truly ain't easy bein' skinny.

While a vast catalog of complaints doesn't always become a rapper, in Stik Figa's case, it's very much part of building a persona. He's taken a populist stance that can also double as a form of male preening, particularly when he shifts from stories of working-class upbringing to a weirdly detailed description of his hair. The theme stays consistent on As Himself, so you get the sense of a tangible, likeable character being squeezed through the platitudes. More importantly, Stik Figa is a talented emcee. His beats, all produced by hip-hop auteur Michael "Seven" Summers, have the chunky horns and rubber-band bass lines of Seventies funk. And Stik Figa tends to stay in the pocket, even rapping double-time. (Mello Music Group)

Update: A previous version of this review erroneously stated that Stik Figa's album was produced by Oddisee. It was in fact produced by Michael "Seven" Summers.

- The Eastbay Express

"Stik Figa--As Himself Album Review by Fred Castano"

Being comfortable in your own skin is an invaluable life skill. Dove, Ghostface Killah’s favorite soap, is even using the phrase in their current marketing campaign (not a sponsored sentence, but I’m listening to offers, Hennessy!). Rick Ross wasn’t comfortable in his own skin (or his correctional officer uniform), so he made a whole new persona to put himself on the road to the riches. Stik Figa, from the “other” MMG – Mello Music Group – took the other route, embracing himself for who he is: just a skinny dude from Topeka, Kansas with the same real world problems the rest of us have. He’s not worried about his phone being tapped or being followed; he’s dealing with the everyday struggle á la Phonte Coleman. Stik Figa’s greatest strength is his ability to relate to his audience. The cover of his 2009 re-release, As Himself, features him eating Honey Bunches of Oats in a robe and pajamas. If you can’t relate to eating Honey Bunches of Oats in a robe and pajamas, you might be part of the 1%.

As Himself has a small-town feeling to it. He uses “The Skinny” and “Class of 2000” as self-deprecating introductions to himself and his surroundings as well as ’70s funk and soul production to give the album a sense of familiarity. They serve as a setup to “Absitively”, a head-bobbing, one-liner showcase that Stik uses to demonstrate that despite his humorous, genial style, he’s not to be played with on the mic. That skill includes the ability to “sink battleships with a sick pair of loose lips” and “kill a track and use the bones to floss my teeth.”

Stik Figa’s social commentary on “Medicine” courtesy of Aaron Neville’s classic “Hercules”, touches on familiar issues with a glimmer of hope – “The hands that picked cotton could today build monuments, the kid who cooked crack could be a chemist or a pharmacist,” – but he makes it clear it won’t be easy, with a special nod to the plight of felons adjusting to civilian life: “Fill out an application, you hoping they let you in, you fresh out the pen, who you puttin’ as references?”

If you’ve been following Stik Figa since 2008, you’ve heard all of these songs before, as this album came out in 2009, and half of that album is pulled from 2008’s It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Skinny. The album aged well, considering that these songs are so old that Kevin Durant was listening to them while wearing a Seattle SuperSonics jersey. A time when nobody knew who Justin Bieber was. Feel-good, regular-guy raps tend to age better than materialistic ones because besides the fact that nobody drinks Cristal anymore, honesty and humor never go out of style.

- Potholes in My Blog

"Stik Figa--As Himself Review by Erin Duncan"

Hip-hop today is consumed by artists who lack individuality. Not everyone, maybe, but a majority of hip-hop artists are living comfortably on the tails of other artists; looking at what led one to success and adopting those ideals as well. Living in these times also means that creating a series of odd alter egos and facades, glorifying lifestyles that you may not know yourself–that’s what’s up.

With his latest installment, As Himself, MC Stik Figa takes a line from a Robert Frost, however, and takes the road less traveled. The project–produced solely by Kansas-bred producer Michael “Seven” Summers (Tech N9ne, Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes)–will put listeners in mind of Figa’s debut From The Top. Fans of that work will recognize Figa’s country drawl, uncanny humor and descriptive concepts; everything, in short, that makes the Topeka, Kansas MC who he is.

The production on the album works perfectly with the topics that Figa speaks on, as well as conveying its small town vibe (particular production highlights come include: “Absitively,” “Knowhatimsayin,” “Everyday,” and “Flaudgin’”). On, “The Skinny,” Figa lets listeners in on his early story of the awkward, nerd who got made fun of when he was younger. In “Class of 2000? this awkwardness and hazing is brought to fruition -“Got good grades in school got told I wasn’t black/ matter of fact, that wasn’t enough / the girls never spoke because most wanted a thug.”

Figa addresses social issues with “Medicine,” which samples Aaron Neville’s “Hercules,” exploring relatable topics like the lack of compassion for others, the war on poverty, and why some turn to crime. At the end of all verses, Figa drives the point home incorporating the same line at the end of each verse, “These are the conditions that are giving us the sickness, they try to diagnosis it but ain’t visited the clinic/ disease breathe but we ain’t ready to admit it/ and I ain’t met a physician that’s fixing the prescription.”

He also gets a little smooth when speaking to the ladies (or a particular lady) with “Susan B.” “Syrupy and sweet like my verses on a beat / Having dreams about bubble baths and nursing shawty’s feet/ I do anything, anything, anything she say/ I can’t believe I’m right here looking in your face/ I just want to taste all your pleasure and your pain/ right now, I’m exploring every measure of her frame.”

With As Himself, Figa has managed to create a project that is the epitome of Kansas–or at least set the standard for what we should expect from the state.

-Erin Duncan

- Okayplayer

"The City Under the City [Mello Music Group, 2013]"

The City Under the City [Mello Music Group, 2013]
Atmospheric North Carolina beatmaster embellishes sincere Topeka rapper, Firesign Theater chips in ("Before Midnight," "Dopamine") ** - Robert Christgau


Stik Figa as Himself (Mello Music Group; 2012)

City Under The City w/ L'Orange (Mello Music Group; 2013)

Central Standard Time (Mello Music Group; 2017)


Feeling a bit camera shy


"From a dead city in a fly-over state, got the landlocked blues, really trying to escape..."--From the Top by Stik Figa

An artist locale is something of great importance in the genre of hip-hop. It gives a point of reference to the listener, and a certain perspective of the artist. While east coast MC's create vivid narratives of city life, over headphone ready production, likely, more effective while shuttling through the metro in subway cars, many west coast artist paint pictures of good weather, cruising in old school American made cars to laid back grooves with gang violence as the backdrop. But what does an artist do if they're from somewhere in the middle?

Meet Stik Figa, an atypical MC from America's heartland (Topeka, KS) who converges many styles with his brand of down to earth humor and commentary, while still display virtuosity on every instrumental he comes across. Born John Westbrook, Jr. in Fort Campbell, KY, the emcee's earliest hip-hop memory begins with LL Cool J's performance of "Radio" on the seminal film Krush Groove at the age five. That seed would blossom years later in John's adolescence when his family settled in the Oldtown neighborhood of Topeka, KS where he met his childhood friend Tiwanne Wiley. Tiwanne would create dubbed cassette tapes with everything from E-40 and the Clique to GZA of The WU-Tang Clan, and he was hooked.

Writing his first rhymes in high school, entering multiple talent shows and battles before he began cutting his teeth in the music scenes of neighborhood cities of Lawrence and Kansas City, later collaborating with DJ/producer D/Will on a series of online releases that have been featured throughout the blogosphere, including, XXL 2dopeboyz and Mass Appeal.

Stik has shared the stage with Blackalicious, Talib Kweli, Blu, Phat Kat, El da Sensai, Slaughterhouse, Cool Kids, Das Racist, Rick Ross, and a host of others. Even earning the emcee three consecutive years winning "Best Hip-Hop/Rap" artist from Kansas City lifestyle magazine The Pitch Weekly.

Soon enough, he was discovered by Brooklyn-based production auteur Amir Mohammed, professionally known as Oddisee, and has been featured on several of his projects including Odd Winter and Mental Liberation. Most recently releasing the star-studded EP "Central Standard Time" featuring Elzhi, Homeboy Sandman, and Quelle Chris. Along with production from Nottz, Black Milk, and Apollo Brown.

Band Members