“If you look at this puddle, it has upside-down trees in it. That’s just sick,” said Christian Felner in a Zoom interview with The Daily Californian.
Felner, better known as Felly, turned his camera to reveal the reflection of trees in a nearby puddle while strolling through his latest tour stop in Portland, Oregon. As the rapper described his creative process, the moment served as a relevant metaphor for his reflective state of mind.
“I’m speaking to that beauty — this mystery of life — and just trying to honor that,” Felner said. “It’s a little spiritual.”
As towns across the country lift their venue capacity regulations and permit musicians to tour again, Felner’s spirituality knows no locational bounds. With years of touring experience under his belt, his travels have heightened his ability to connect with new surroundings.
“Every area has a different energy to it. I don’t know if I’m more susceptible to it than other people or if I just keep my eyes open … but it’s so evident,” Felner explained. “It kinda just picks up in your DNA, the cells in your body. You kinda access new codes and almost get to go deeper than if you were in the same place. ‘Cause nothing new happens unless something changes, right?”
This concept of change seems to hold significance for Felner — and not just in terms of touring. Before venturing into rap, his first encounters with music took place in his humble hometown in Connecticut. Felner described the “edgier sounds” his mother introduced him to, ranging from Rage Against the Machine to Taking Back Sunday.
“I’m definitely tapped into trying to make the music I would have wanted to listen to when I was 16, 17, which was a lot of that stuff,” Felner said.
His most recent album Young Fel 2 exquisitely reflects this desire, incorporating a broader range of instruments than his previous works.
“It’s just musical — like, guitars and band,” Felner described. “I kinda just felt like rap can be a little bit of a box, you know? Maybe that’s not all there is for me.”
Young Fel 2 takes inspiration from Felner’s childhood in more ways than one. After an accelerated success story rife with constant touring, the pandemic allowed the 26 year old to reflect on the most vulnerable and pivotal moments of his youth.
“My dad passed when I was eight,” Felner expressed. “He died of cancer, and my mom remarried to another guy whose wife also died of cancer, and so I became the youngest of five.”
Though Felner endured tremendous hardship at a young age, he often turned to music for artistic solace.
“I was just being the little kid who grew up fast,” Felner recalled. “I had a lot of alone time to just explore.”
This philosophy of exploration has followed Felner into his current creative projects, especially in terms of collaboration. Having worked with artists such as Trip Carter, Gyyps and even Santana, Felner emphasizes the importance of connection through art.
“I have a couple friends who are painters and stuff, and I feel like I can kinda connect with them,” the artist mentioned. “I can look at something with them and we can kinda feel the same thing. It’s like, ‘You see what I’m seeing?’ ‘Yeah I am.’ It’s great to find people like that.”
However, for Felner, not all collaborations are made equal.
“Sometimes it seems like people want you to do collaborations for the wrong reasons,” he continued, “like, just to get some plays or something. And I’m like, this would be cool for like a year, but then after it’s gonna be, you know, cheesy.”
Although a person’s superficiality may inhibit their chances of collaborating with Felner, the rapper made sure to note that he is more than willing to work with someone prideful.
“I’m down to work with someone cocky because I don’t have that cocky muscle too much,” he asserted. “I’m not overly boisterous or boastful like a Kanye or something, so I’d love to work with somebody who has that because it would be a cool balance.”
As long as his collaborator is “down to serve the song,” Felner’s cooperation prospects are limitless, as is his desire to grow as a musician. This ambitious philosophy is reflected in his simple yet powerful one-word Spotify bio that reads “eternal.”
Although reaching eternality is often a never-ending search for artists, Felner may have found the answers through revisiting his roots.
“The hometown is where it all comes from,” Felner said. “Sometimes I think about going back there and just making something there, ‘cause you’ll get some really raw parts of yourself.”
Tapping into nostalgia, Felner hopes to provide comfort to his listeners, with his hometown serving as a catalyst for creative inspiration and spiritual satisfaction.
“When you hear songs, they give you a sense of familiarity,” Felner said, “and, ideally, they last the test of time.”