Seldom do we see a true emcee spawn out of an online rap challenge, but that’s exactly happened when then 16-year-old A-F-R-O won the Definition of a Rap Flow contest and blew up on the internet. When I found out that he would be in Salt Lake City, I had to see if I could troll around for an interview.
I happened to walk by A-F-R-O on my way into the Attack of the Flow Gods show at Urban Lounge. Dressed in a plain, black shirt, black pants and black shoes and standing at least 6 feet 3 inches tall, he looked like he had just been driven to the venue straight off a flight, so I was pleased when he agreed to chat with me after the show. His short but powerful set was highlighted by his two-mic technique, flowing afro, superb delivery and off the charts rhyme skills—but I wanted to get to know more about the man behind the hair.
SLUG: What’s it like under R.A. the Rugged Man’s wing?
A-F-R-O: Man, you know what? R.A. wasn’t one of the first emcees I ever heard, but he was the first emcee I heard where I was like, “Yo, he’s my number one.” I remember being 13 years old and listening to “L.I’s Finest.” It popped up on my X Box Live music channel—it was playing ill-ass old-school hip-hop music … and then I heard his song “Supa” and I was like “Yo, he’s my favorite of all time … and then I heard “Uncommon Valor” and I was like aww this is game over.”
It’s crazy, man. I start to pinch myself sometimes because I started as a kid from nothing. Without R.A. taking me under his wing like he did, I wouldn’t be doing what the fuck I’m doing right now.
SLUG: How has the tour life been treating you so far?
A-F-R-O: Beautiful, man— the number one thing I’m happy about, besides traveling and meeting new people and everything, is that I can help pay my mom’s bills. I paid a lot of bills, to a point where they don’t have to worry for a few months. I’m really happy. [Touring] is income, which is dope. As long as I’m feeding my family, I’m good.
But besides that, the people are beautiful. I’ve never traveled before I met R.A. When I was 5 years old, I went to Hawaii with my family once, so I never traveled.
SLUG: What new destinations are you looking forward to visiting the most?
A-F-R-O: Tokyo, Japan, Korea—oh, and I’d love to go to Australia.
SLUG: For what reason?
A-F-R-O: … I’ve never been there, so it would be pretty dope, hot spot. I’ve been to a lot of places that I wanted [to perform at] like Europe and Canada, so now I want to go to places like Asia, you know.
SLUG: So what are you working on now?
A-F-R-O: I’m working on my first album; I don’t have an LP out yet, so I’m hard at work. When I’m not touring, I’m in the studio trying to knock it out. That’s my main focus is the debut album, and I’m really close. The album is shaping up— it’s not finished, but, I think in the next two, three months, it should be done. This is an album that has been almost three years in progress.
SLUG: They say the first album is the biggest album because it’s a culmination of your whole life to that point. Are you feeling the pressure?
A-F-R-O: In the beginning, I was feeling a lot of pressure. I was like “Yo, this could go this way or it could go that way.” But ever since I figured out what sound I wanted to go to, what approach I wanted to go with the album, I feel way more at ease—and it’s shaping up. There was a time when I experimented in the album, but recently, a little before this tour, it’s starting to wind up again. I can positively say this thing is coming out. I’m 10 songs deep and wanna put like 16 [on the LP]. I wanna go big with this album.
SLUG: Have you ever been to Salt Lake City? Any impressions?
A-F-R-O: I’ve never been to SLC that I can remember. To tell you the truth, pretty regular. A little crazy because I saw your guys’ gay pride parade. So, we were driving around seeing characters. I was like, hold on, homie got on a thong and some shoes!
I like it though, I dig SLC. but I haven’t been around it enough to be like, “Yo, I seen some places,” and shit like that. I still gotta go around and the city and check out places, ya know.
SLUG: If you were in a hip-hop yearbook, what quote would be underneath your picture?
A-F-R-O: Damn, that’s a hard one. I’ma say, “God take, God give …” go with R.A.’s quote.
SLUG: Anything else we should know?
A-F-R-O: Your boy ’Fro is trying to get into some movies. I love movies. I love hip-hop. I love music. I write my own scripts. I love to audition for movies … to “blend it all” in a way. I’m nowhere near Denzel but I wanna reach that status. He’s the man. I wanna do some Denzel shit.
A-F-R-O’s first album will definitely be worth listening to. It’s hard to find a talented rapper who is truly humble and family oriented, but fits the bill. Whether or not his skill and charm will be enough to endear him to fans for an extended period of time is another story entirely, but he’s starting out well.
Rap fans, the crowd seemed to come for A-F-R-O just as much as they did the Rugged Man. You could attribute that to ’Fro’s fans being younger and it being a weekday show, or maybe the young man is up to something. Only time and discerning ears will tell … but with his creative wordplay, unique ability to draw people in, and his incredible vocal ability, he can go as far as anyone on the XXL Freshman cover—he just needs you and me to support him. I know I’m down.