With hip-hop’s never-ending generational war reaching a fever pitch in 2016, there is some hope of the fences being mended. Teenage rap phenomenon A-F-R-O (All Flows Reach Out) defies convention as a late 90s baby from the West Coast who sounds like he just stepped out of the booth on Rap City’s “Da Basement.”
“I was maybe 5 or 6 and [my parents] had Biggie’s Ready To Die CD out of the case and Nas’s Illmatic scattered around,” the 18-year-old lyricist says of his rap inception. “They had a little music collection. I remember hearing all that stuff but I was still too young to stick to it. But when I was 9 I heard Rakim and it was ‘Microphone Fiend.’ I was like this is the illest shit I ever heard in my life. Once I heard [that], in the related searches [on Youtube] were Kool G Rap, KRS One and Big Daddy Kane and these guys were like gods.”
The young MC gravitated toward the intricate rhyme schemes over filtered samples popularized by the East Coast veterans, making him an anomaly among his peers. So it made perfect sense that he caught the attention of underground stalwart R.A. The Rugged Man, who discovered A-F-R-O in his “Definition of A Rap Flow” contest and mesmerized fans on the web with his off the top rhyming. After signing to RA’s label A-F-R-O released a mixtape called “Tales From the Basement” and landed a starring role in VH1’s hip-hop drama “The Breaks” as MC D-Rome. (“It was like someone created him in a lab just for us,” said producer Dan Charnas.) While he works on his official debut he linked with Canadian boom-bap aficionado Marco Polo to craft the EP “A-F-R-O POLO,” which is out now.
Having recorded with highest caliber of MCs from Torae and Skyzoo to Big Daddy Kane and Talib Kweli, Marco has a special appreciation for A-F-R-O.
“I’m a sample based producer. I love boom bap and a lot of these new kids are moving away from that sound,” he says. “So it’s a struggle sometimes. I’ll keep an eye out for somebody who embodies those values. Not trying to keep the old stuff alive, but A-F-R-O organically loves that sound. That’s what he wants to record. We both think Preemo is a god so when we got in the studio it was meant to be. My sound meshes with him and not to mention that he raps his ass off. I wish I could find 1,000 A-F-R-Os it would make me more excited to be in the studio.”
For our next installment of “Verse Behavior” we asked A-F-R-O to recite one of the more introspective tracks on the EP, “Use These Blues” which explores depression and self worth.
The thing about rock-bottom, there’s no room to sink lower
Instead of thinking back please think forward
Reach for a shoulder and fiend for your quota
A real human being’ll see you need closure
You gotta remember to tell yourself you’re worth it
The serpent in your mind doesn’t like you as a person
It seeks out to hurt ya, yeah it’s always with you
And I know that death’s a bitch to live through
But you don’t recognize the people in your life, trying to teach you to strive
The tears in their eyes when you’ll be falling a weak demise and the hurt is so deep inside
If you’re blinking and thinking “why am I even being alive?”
And why try to be the guy who finds beauty in life blind
My brothers and my sisters learned a lesson, if you’re hopeless
Just remember you’re a blessing to your loved ones
“One of my boys was going through one of the worst chapters of his life,” says A-F-R-O. “He was just calling me up saying the worst shit ever and I said yo, this is crazy what you saying. So it gave me the idea to write something for my homie real quick and hopefully I can get through to him with these verses. That was the main influence.”
Watch the full interview of A-F-R-O and Marco’s “Use These Blues” below.