At the start of 2017 John Welch was envisioning being a rapper while he worked as a dog trainer and photographer in Victoria.
Now, as the rapper known as Fleshxfur, he can count opening for Mad Child and Snak
The Ripper, seeing play on Eminem’s SiriusXM Shade 45 Radio station, a full length album, and six music videos among his list of accolades.
With the accomplishments continuing to mount, it’s becoming increasingly clear that what’s setting him apart is his lyrical prowess and fervent self promotion.
Here’s five pieces of vital intel you need to know about the emerging rapper.
His name comes from his photography company
Welch’s unique rap name comes from his photography company, Flesh + Fur Photography, in which he specializes in shooting portraits of both dogs and people.
“So I took it from there when I went into rap,” says Welch.
“I was like what am I going to call myself, ‘little’ this, ‘little' that?
“It just seemed like the most genuine thing, I love dogs, its already there, it just works.”
More importantly, the name was completely original.
“You can search that and nobody else is going to come up,” he says.
He’s only been rapping for a year
“It’s been maybe like just over a year now,” says Welch.
“Yeah I dropped my first song in December, and I was probably recording for maybe six months before that, maybe a bit more, just trying to learn how to record music.”
Prior to 2017 Welch was an avid hip-hop fan who grew up listening to the genre, but he had never actually attempted to rap out loud over a beat. In recent years, however, he gradually became disillusioned with rap’s current landscape.
Finally he arrived at the resolve that he needed to take matters into his own hands.
“I think I was sick of hearing rappers that were famous that didn’t have bars, didn’t have talent, didn’t have like - no metaphors, or no thought provoking lyrics,” says Welch.
As demonstrated by his current releases, Welch’s rhymes routinely use advanced techniques such as multi-syllabic rhyme patterns, triplet note rapping, and a fast-paced delivery that at times approaches the percussiveness of chopper rap.
One of the factors that allowed Welch to develop this skill set in a short period of time was the solitude afforded to him by his day job.
“I own an off leash dog hiking company, so I drive a lot during the day and pick up a lot of dogs,” says Welch.
“So I do that and then I hike with them, but it gives me a lot of time to listen to music, and listen to instrumentals and write.”
After visualizing it in his head, Welch first made the attempt to rap over an instrumental in July of last year. Initially it was a struggle, but it was one that he was willing to tackle.
“You gotta find your voice, it’s still not there, I’ve only been doing it nine months,” says Welch.
“Because your voice sounds one way in your head, you can rap out loud and your voice sounds one way but then you hear it on a recording and it sounds completely different, so you got to learn how to bridge that gap.”
He blends old with new
One of the defining characteristics of Welch’s music is his ability to blend the energy and flow of modern trap-style music with a level of lyricism normally found in classic hip-hop.
In recent years these two schools have been at odds, with supporters of trap accusing classic rap fans of being unable to evolve, and classic fans denouncing trap’s foregoing of lyricism in favour of more party-centric energy.
Welch states that he’s a fan of both, and each is equally influential in his songs.
“I like a lot of new school stuff, I like a lot of old school stuff, I’m just going with the times,” says Welch.
“I grew up on Eminem, DMX, Jay-Z and stuff, but my ear is growing with the trap, I’m preferring that more.”
Merging these two styles wasn’t a conscious decision at first. As Welch explains, it gradually developed when he began seeking out instrumentals that were similar to the artists he drew inspiration from.
“How I choose a beat is I go on YouTube and I will search an artist’s name, and then type ‘beat' after it, so for example, ‘Mac Miller type beat,’” says Welch.
“Just listening to who I was feeling at that time, that’s who I search for and that’s the style of beat that I’d write to.
“Then if I end up writing and recording it, then I just end up going back to the producer and buying the beat.”
Welch says that his forthcoming releases will increasingly feature trap-style beats as he wants to make them more oriented for high energy live performances.
“What I’m working on now is going to be even more performance-wise really lit, cause I’ve done a couple shows and I really want to pump that part up,” he says.
He had to learn the business of hip-hop on his own
In addition to perfecting his flow and learning the technical side of recording, over the past year Welch has also had to learn all the different roles associated with artist management.
“It’s tough being an independent artist, you have to be your own writer, hopefully, you have to be your own singer, your own backup vocals, but you have to be your own publicist and your own marketer, so you have to do all that,” says Welch.
For starters, he had to become acquainted with his local hip-hop community, something he didn’t even know existed before he began rapping.
“I was completely ignorant to the local hip-hop scene, I’ll be completely honest about that,” says Welch.
“I was listening to, I wouldn’t say top 40, but I listened to much more popular artists, I just never came across that music.”
After networking with other local promoters and artists, he soon learned that getting gigs in hip-hop involved entering into a high risk, high reward contract.
“The whole concert thing, doing shows, it’s a whole process,” says Welch.
“Like first of all a lot of promoters want you to sell tickets, and you have to sign to sell a certain amount of tickets, and if you don’t sell that amount of tickets then you have to pay out of your pocket.”
This initially presented an obstacle for Welch who previously lived in Waterton and Toronto.
“For me it’s tough to sell tickets because I’m not from here, so I don’t have a stockpile of high school friends that can buy tickets off me,” says Welch.
Thankfully the success of his music is now allowing him to bypass these obligations, as promoters are becoming increasingly aware that he can deliver a solid performance.
“A lot of promoters that have reached out to me now have said that I don’t have to sell tickets,” says Welch.
His Forthcoming Release will be more calculated
Welch’s debut release, the Effy LP, was largely a compilation of songs that were created with the intention of being singles.
The aim behind releasing them together on an album, he said, was to qualify for FACTOR Canada grant that would allow him to further promote his music.
“So I decided, okay, I’ve got a pretty good stockpile of songs,” says Welch.
“Some that I’ve put out, some that I haven’t put out, and I’ve got a few written, maybe I’ll just do a couple more then we’ll choose from there.”
His next release, however, will be planned out over the course of the next year and envisioned as a whole.
In the meantime, Welch assures that there’s still a lot more to come in the form of music videos, live appearances, and new benchmarks being reached.
In the past week alone he’s become the first and only Canadian to win five demo battles on Shade 45, seen physical copies of his album on sale in local record shops, and released a video for his song “Mad At Me.”
It’s a fitting glimpse of the hustle required to both learn how to rap and develop a professional rap career in a little over one year.