Yung Filly interview: The YouTuber ready to conquer music, TV and beyond


e’s one of the UK’s most popular YouTubers, who has grown into a multi-hyphenate entertainer with a cross-over career taking him from plunging into ice baths with Wim Hof ​​and impressing Paul Hollywood on Celebrity Bake Off, to recording music with grime royalty. But for Yung Filly, the 26-year-old south Londoner, the big break came thanks to a rejection.

After filming short comedy skits and uploading them onto social media as a teenager, he approached an online channel, Wall of Comedy, to see whether one of his most popular videos, about a guy who gets cheated on by his girlfriend, might be good for its Facebook page.

“I remember specifically the CEO saying, ‘This format is not going to work on the Facebook page, so we’re not going to post it,’” Filly says. “So I posted it on mine and it got a million views in 24 hours.”

Proven wrong, channel bosses hired Filly to front their Asking Awkward Questions series, heading out to quiz members of the public with toe-curlingly hilarious results. It showcased Filly’s boundless energy, down-to-earth relatability and infectiously booming guffaw, which, all bundled together, made for sure-fire viral hits.

It catapulted him to internet fame (1.23 million YouTube subscribers plus 1.9 million followers on Instagram as it stands) and beyond: now he splits his time between appearing in online content, guesting on TV shows or presenting them, and trying to boost his burgeoning music career.

It’s that last pursuit that has taken up most of Filly’s recent energy, and last week he released his most high-profile track yet, Day To Day, featuring Chip, one of the key players in grime and UK rap over the past two decades.

“I was super excited because I’ve always listened to Chip, from when I was young,” Filly says. “It was a real pinch-myself moment.”

Surreal as might seem, it’s a position Filly seems proud to be in — and one far removed from that in which he found himself as a youngster. Born in Colombia as Andres Felipé Barrientos, he left the country as a child refugee, resettling with his family in south-east London. His main memory from the time is one of “struggle”.

“I’m in such a good position in life, but I just can’t help but think how I used to live,” he says. “So I’d say that’s the one thing that stands out the most: how much my mum struggled, sacrificed, and what she went through.

“I had an amazing childhood, don’t get me wrong,” he adds. “As much as I’m saying I struggled, when you’re a kid and your mum’s giving you rice and ketchup for dinner, you don’t know no different.”

It’s an experience he now feels “humbled” by, and Filly acknowledges that he has more than just that childhood support to be grateful to his mum for; she also gave him his sense of humour.

“I don’t even have to think about that one,” he says when asked where his skill for making people laugh comes from. “It’s my family in general. My friends and my manager can vouch that when it comes to a family gathering, I’m the quietest one. I am not the guy. If I’m not there, the party still goes on. My sister and my mum are the two main people in the family.”

Still, his knack for comedy would emerge before he’d left secondary school, even if it did follow his first love: grime.

“I started writing lyrics before I even did a video,” he says. Spurred on by watching “in awe” as his friends delivered their lyrics over grime beats, Filly resolved to write his own 16-bar verse. “The next time we went to go chill with the boys, I just sprayed my one. And I liked the reaction I got.”

It motivated him to carry on writing music – by his own estimate, he probably has more than 100 unreleased songs locked away on his laptop – but it took something of a backseat as his video career took off.

After Wall of Comedy, his face started popping up all over YouTube, whether that was on the comedy-dating show Does The Shoe Fit, hosted by shoe retailer Footasylum, or appearing in football-related videos on the Pro:Direct Soccer account. And wherever he went, the views followed, often in their millions.

It marked him out as a major player in a new cohort of entertainers: young, digitally fluent Londoners who have a savvy eye for a money-making brand deal, but who never lose grip of the authenticity that made them so popular. Much of the appeal of Filly’s videos is in the interactions with his co-stars, such as the similarly popular Chunkz, with whom a behind-the-scenes chemistry shines through unmistakably while on camera.

The two knew about each other’s work before they were friends, Filly says, but when they did eventually meet in person, they instinctively hugged. “It was mad. It was like we felt each other’s energy just from looking at each other.”

They have gone on to become an unofficial double act, appearing in each other’s videos and even playing on the same team at Soccer Aid in 2020 (Filly, a promising footballer in his youth, ended up bagging a goal). That close-knit working style is a conscious decision, Filly says. “The beauty of it is that it happened all organically. I get so many messages from people, like, ‘Ah, let’s do YouTube, let’s do tunes’ and… it’s just not really my vibe.”

Filly says he enjoys the immediacy of YouTube – “in the front room with my boys, camera on top of a shoebox, let’s go” – but he’s keen to make more of a name for himself in mainstream TV too, building on those appearances on Bake Off and Wim Hof’s Freeze the Fear, as well as the likes of Would I Lie to You? and BBC Three’s Hot Property.

“I really do want to be a TV presenter,” he says. “I want to have the equivalent of a Big Narstie Show or [The Lateish Show with] Mo Gilligan.” And if that means having to surrender a bit of the autonomy he has on YouTube, then he’s “willing to do that”.

For now though, he’s got his eyes on music, chasing the “unreal” feeling he got while making his first ever festival appearances earlier this summer, at Parklife in Manchester and elsewhere. He wouldn’t be the first YouTuber to make a successful leap into music, either. KSI, real name JJ Olatunji, generated billions of views with his online videos before dropping two albums, the latter topping the UK chart in 2021, and even selling out Wembley Arena earlier this year.

“He’s the GOAT [Greatest of All Time],” Filly says. “KSI made it easier for people like me to come through.”

And that’s not all: Filly’s also got his eyes on acting. “I think I’m a bad boy actor, you know,” he says. “I don’t really have a clue what I’m doing, but I watch it [footage of him acting] back and I don’t cringe, so that’s how I know I’m half decent.”

To that end, he’s in the process of hiring an acting coach and organizing auditions at casting calls, which means we could be seeing him on cinema screens before too long. And like his other ventures, Filly is confident. “Hopefully I can take it by storm, like I have done with YouTube, TV and music, by the grace of God.”

Day To Day by Yung Filly featuring Chip is out now


Leave a Comment