A-F-R-O Describes Achieving “Hip-Hop Dreamland” While Still A Teenager (Video Interview)
A-F-R-O was among the performers at this past weekend’s second annual J Dilla Weekend in Miami, Florida. The 18 year-old Bellflower, California representative has gotten critical cosigns from DJ Premier, GZA, Jean Grae, and others, as well as being mentored by his personal favorite MC, R.A. The Rugged Man.
Speaking at the event with Ambrosia For Heads, “All Flows Reach Out” reflected on living the dream. “Everything that I thought was pretty much impossible in my ‘Hip-Hop Dreamland’ has pretty much come true. I can only think of a few things that haven’t,” he said, adding that he felt blessed.
Speaking specifically on sharing a stage with Black Thought, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and more, he admitted, “I can barely speak on that lineup. To me, one of those guys is good enough for me; that’s high potent enough. All those guys, wow.” Elsewhere in the interview, the artist born James Gutierrez cited both Preem’ and Pete as primary musical influences, among others.
In 2014, the West Coast hopeful entered a competition for R.A.’s “Definition Of A Rap Flow” freestyle remix. Winning the contest, the Internet-driven challenge put a spotlight on the lyrically gifted teen. “It’s crazy getting noticed in the streets now. Before, I was just a kid—nobody really knew me like that,” said A-F-R-O. He has since appeared on The Queen Latifah Show, and toured Europe, twice. “Now [I often hear], ‘Yo, you ‘Fro, right?’—then I’ll end up smokin’ a blunt or somethin’ with them. It’s just little things—my family’s a little happier. They’re more prouder, ’cause they see me doing something with [Rap].”
All Flows has approximately seven years of training in writing and rapping. “The first time I ever wrote, I was probably around 11, 12 years old.” It was a 1980s single that drew him in the closest. “I heard [Eric B. & Rakim’s] ‘Microphone Fiend’ when I was nine, like, ‘I want to do that. I want to rap.’ Just Rakim…his sound was incredible! That was the best that I ever heard in my life, at that time.” However, in time, it was another Long Island, New York lyricist that A-F-R-O was truly drawn to. “R.A. [The Rugged Man has been] my favorite MC since I was 13. I heard his track ‘Supa.’ There’s one part [in the verses] where he’s just [raps like crazy]. The first time I heard something like that—especially from somebody like him, I was just like, ‘Wow.’ It was mind-blowing. He’s been my favorite rapper ever since.”
A-F-R-O updated fans on the EP with producer Marco Polo he revealed earlier this month. “I really want it to come out [in March]. I think we need two or three more songs to be mastered. And I think it should be done by then.” The project is a follow-up to 2015 mixtape, Tales From The Basement, “With the Marco [Polo] joint, it’s eight songs—it’s a little EP. We did it in like the course of a year, something like that.” Marco has previously released numerous solo albums, as well as joint projects with Torae, the late PumpkinHead, and Ruste Juxx. “I want to drop it as soon as I can. I want to drop it right now.”
Last month, A-F-R-O also made his acting debut in Vh1’s The Breaks. There, he played a reigning 1990 Rap star, in need of some career coaching. Reflecting on the opportunity, the California MC said, “One thing that I loved as a kid was music, but I loved movies. I never thought I’d see [myself on] the screen ever in my life. So when I [did], I was like, ‘Wow.’ That’s too much to comprehend—’cause I was actually in character.”
While the TV movie D-Rome needed some motivation, it appears that A-F-R-O is seizing every opportunity that he encounters, with his advanced definition of a Rap flow.