March to the Beat

The cover art of rapper BishopTheMFIC’s newest single “Fafo” is a photo taken during one of the Calhoun monument protests this past June, as demonstrators pushed for the removal of the statue that had loomed over Marion Square for over 120 years. Bishop’s prior single, “Bratty Kids,” featured another photo, showing Black Lives Matter protesters gathered and posing at the Battery. Moments like this informed the artist’s upcoming EP Fafo, out Oct. 1.

“I’m sure my mom was a Panther, I know my grandmother was a Panther, my grandfather was at the Million Man March and [March on Washington] with Dr. King,” Bishop said. “I’ve always been around people who say, ‘Stand up for what you believe in, fight for Black lives and underserved people.’ ”

BishopTheMFIC is the musical alias of Simeon Washington, a 23-year-old Charleston native. He grew up in his church’s choir, learned to play piano at Drayton Hall Elementary School and attended Charleston County School of the Arts as a theatre major from 6th grade through high school graduation in 2015. 

“That spring I realized I wanted to start rapping just to kind of release the emotion of graduating high school and growing,” he said. “From there it became a passion. That was all really corny back then though, it was all kind of ‘lyrical miracle’ pointless wordplay type of stuff. Around 2018 I started working with some other local rappers like Prince Douglas and Ivory Keys and they boosted my confidence.”

Washington sees rapping as a balancing act, citing artists like YBNCordae, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z and Earl Sweatshirt as people who helped in that search for mastering relatability in his music. “To me those guys can make it sound like you’re just hanging with your bro in a car,” he said. “But I also like rappers who make fun music and talk about having fun. That all really influenced me to bring in reality and actually breathe out my problems rather than create some side scenario.”

You can hear that tightrope walking in his songs. Rap isn’t a genre where an artist has to choose between making conscious music versus tailgating music; we’ve seen hundreds of artists who integrate and alternate between both. There is an effort in Bishop’s songs to do both of those. The EP’s title track is a clear example, employing an electrifying industrialized beat that carries Bishop’s locomotive flow as he speaks directly to an officer about the fears and fury of Black America toward a militarized police state that serves to uphold white supremacy. 

In the past few months, the relatability that Washington has been seeking took the form of national social justice efforts. It may not specifically be about him, but it’s relatable to millions.

“I kind of got disillusioned with protesting and talking about it, just thinking it doesn’t work,” he said. “But as June started to progress I was almost renewed with energy. ‘Fafo’ was me removing that disillusion. Internally I started thinking that protests and songs can work in fueling people.”

While “Fafo” is the lead single, “Bratty Kids” may be a better indicator of what BishopTheMFIC is capable of as a growing artist. The six minute medley plays out in four parts, using industrious production and Bishop’s rhymes to speak on the complexities and contradictions of people’s involvement in the modern abolition movement as well as his specific and personal elements of life. He takes moments to calm his voice and show, while he has a passion for the Run the Jewels method of riling up a crowd and speaking about contemporary issues, he can go into the introspection that made him want to continue.

“The focus of it is to vent,” he said about his music. “There’s a consistent downplaying of Black voices and anger and frustration with this government and how American society has been built against us … When people are like, ‘You shouldn’t say A.C.A.B.’ or ‘You shouldn’t create enemies out of white people,’ you’re kind of just assuaging white guilt.” 

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