Just 20 seconds in his debut EP Don’t Forget About Me, Demos, 22-year-old Florida native Dominic Fike will have you convinced of his immense potential. It’s on a song called ‘3 Nights’, an acoustic pop masterpiece that weaves plucked guitar strings around agile melodies and takes no time making an impression. It’s the strongest song on the 14-minute project, but there’s plenty of diversity and depth to be found on the entirety of Demos.
‘Westside Collective’ is a coming-of-age soft rock stunner that bleeds with nostalgia, while ‘She Wants My Money’ feels like a smokier, slower run of the magic captured on ‘3 Nights’. The project-closing ‘King of Everything’ is a patient flex of songwriting prowess, performed tenderly and serving as the perfect end to a project that leaves listeners salivating for more.
And that anticipation for more might just be part of Fike’s master plan, which already has the likes of Billie Eilish, Kevin Abstract, Khalid and Kourtney Kardashian sharing his music. Fike struck gold doing last December, when he first self-released Don’t Forget About Me, Demos while serving a short stint behind bars at Collier County Prison. The project caught fire on Soundcloud but was mysteriously pulled down a few weeks later, leaving a breadcrumb trail for fans desperate for its return.
In January 2018, around the same time Fike’s music started disappearing from the web, he started getting noticed. Chance the Rapper’s manager Pat Corcoran reached out for a video call and by March, polarising rapper/singer Russ tweeted praise for Fike. In April, Russ again tweeted to celebrate his release from prison and the next month, Fike was in Los Angeles hanging with Billie Eilish and recording at Rick Rubin’s iconic Shangri-La studio.
Come August and Dominic Fike was reportedly the subject of an intense bidding war, won by Sony’s Columbia Records on a deal allegedly worth around $4 million – a huge investment in an artist without any online presence short of a few loose songs on Soundcloud.
Listening to Demos, it’s not difficult to see why Fike is so highly regarded by industry kingmakers. The project has the effortless appeal of Rex Orange County and Fike boasts an incredible aptitude for writing catchy lines all across a song, from the chorus to bridge to overlaying background sounds.
There’s also the hint of an edge in his music, complemented by a circulated black-and-white press shot of Fike staring into the barrel of the camera, brandishing a buzzcut and two pierced ears. Where Lil Wayne has tear drops tattooed beneath his right eye, Fike has an Apple logo and there’s another inked inscription on the upper rim of his forehead.
There’s little left of Fike’s pre-Demos work online, with most Soundcloud links leading to dead space and deleted files. However, parsing what remains reveals a starkly different sound to what listeners are being introduced to. Demos sparsely teases the genealogy of hip-hop, but Fike’s output from 2014 until last year is almost exclusively just rapping.
One of his first appearances is on a 2014 collaboration called ‘Rest in Pieces’, where Fike (as ‘L$G’) raps alongside Matt Black (as ‘Matty Bones’). Just 18 at the time, the verse doesn’t break any new ground but it’s notable how developed Fike’s melodies and flow already is. That gets followed up in 2015 with some Soundcloud freestyles, including this nimble take on Eminem’s inimitable ‘Shit On You’ verse that harnesses an impressive layer of lyrical dexterity not showcased on Demos.
The best song from Dominic Fike’s pre-Demos era may also be the most different to what he’s making now. Fike’s remix of fellow Hippie Circle member Terry Presume’s ‘Jada Pinkett’ is a menacing cloud rap stomper in the vein of Pouya. It’s set to an attention-grabbing music video in which a long-haired, shirtless Fike chugs a Heineken and butts out a lit cigarette on his tongue.
Following ‘Jada Pinkett’, there’s a defined pathway to Fike evolving his sound and reaching the zenith of Demos. Fike put out Dishwasher in June 2016, a whirlwind exploration of different takes of hip-hop with more singing than anything he’d put out prior, and by 2017, he was producing on Matt Black’s woozy R&B project Loverboy.
At every step of his journey, Dominic Fike has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to not only pivot to something new, but drastically improve in the process. He showed up a melodic rapper, became a lyricist and then when on the cusp of breaking out amid South Florida’s cloud rap wave, he spun around to become a genre-defying chameleon with a silky voice.
Music is an unpredictable industry, but everything is coalescing very quickly for Dominic Fike. He has otherworldly talent, the resources to make it heard and is quickly winning the hearts and ears of some of the biggest artists in the world. He may be music’s best kept secret, but it won’t be long before everyone knows.