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Saving lives and beating up rappers // A-F-R-O Interview

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“I want to save someone’s life through the music”, lautet A-F-R-O’s eröffnender Satz in einer Mini-Dokumentation über ihn. Durch Musik leben retten, wie es auch seine Idole für ihn getan haben. Aufgewachsen in den Vororten von L.A., wo er in der Schule sowohl Opfer als auch Täter von Mobbing war, zog A-F-R-O (Abkürzung für All Flows Reach Out) sich hinter seine Platten und seinen Notizblock zurück. Bestrafungen hielt seine Mutter für kontraproduktiv, stattdessen musste er im Wörterbuch blättern, woran er schnell Gefallen fand. Die Einflüsse der alten Pioniere des HipHops und sein Reichtum an Vokabular machen aus dem mittlerweile 18-Jährigen einen mehr als außergewöhnlichen Rapper. Dies fällt auch dem legendären New Yorker MC R.A. The Rugged Man (ein ausführliches Interview mit ihm findet ihr HIER) auf, als er 2013 einen Contest lanciert, in dem die Teilnehmer „Definition Of A Rap Flow“ mit eigenen Strophen remixen sollen. Schon vor der Entscheidung ist abzusehen, dass Jamal Gutierrez — so A-F-R-O. mit bürgerlichem Namen – gewinnen wird (Def Ill wurde übrigens Dritter!). Und das bringt ihm nicht nur die Aufmerksamkeit der Judges des Contests wie Vinnie Paz oder Talib Kweli. Rugged Man nimmt den jungen MC unter seine Fittiche, organisiert Treffen mit seinen Lieblingsproduzenten, nimmt ihn mit auf Tour und hilft ihm, sich in der Musikindustrie zurechtzufinden, in welcher er sich selbst so oft „verlaufen“ hat. Plötztlich wird A.F.R.O. von verschiedenen Medien als vermeintlicher „Retter“ des HipHops gefeiert. Was er davon hält, hat er uns im Interview nach seinem Auftritt im Fluc erzählt. Außerdem sprach er mit uns über seinen großen Mentor R.A. the Rugged Man, über „Def Jam: Fight for NY“ und über den Film Titanic.

Bilder des von Beat The Fish inszenierten HipHop-Legenden-Abends könnt ihr euch hier anschauen.

Foto: Gregor Krassnig
Interview: Jérémy Machto
Mitarbeit: Wanja Bierbaum

The Message: Can you tell us something about the forthcoming album?
A-F-R-O: We’re making the songs right now. We’re getting in the studio with the producers I want to work with. A lot of them are really down, we just have to catch them at a good time so we don’t have anything done with the album right now. But I have an EP with Mr. Green that is almost finished and I have a Marco Polo EP that’s finished. So we got two of those marked out. In the meantime, we’ll drop those two and then the DJ Premier album is done too, but I’m not sure when that drops.

Working with Premo – a dream came true for you.
Every HipHop-Heads dream. Incredible, surreal … a dream came true.

You often said that HipHop saved your life. How do you mean that?
Absolutely. If it wasn’t for HipHop I wouldn’t be breathing. I’d either be in jail or dead. Because HipHop — and the MCs who pioneered HipHop — spoke words to me, that no other person could speak. The MCs that I worship where the ones that got me through the tough days. That was my go-to, my thing to get everything off my mind.

Suddenly A-F-R-O gets thrusted a wad of money in an envelope.

Is that weed?

Ticket to weed.
I just got paid! (laughs) I thought it was weed, but money is good too.

Did R.A. give you special tips concerning the music industry?
Absolutely, R.A. was there to help me every two step. Without R.A. I wouldn’t be here, he’s my everything. He gives me hints on everything in life man. For the live shows he gives me little techniques and stuff that I just can see from him and learn for myself. He helps me every step through the music industry and the music industry is pretty tough. He’s been there every step since all of this happened.

Are there some specific things that you wouldn’t have reached without him?
Everything! I wouldn’t have reached anything without him. Everything involved in the music and my shows wouldn’t be here without R.A. When R.A. stepped into the picture, that’s when everything happened. I was just a nobody kid before I met him.

Was he like you expected him to be? Because there are a lot of rumors and “urban legends” about him.
I thought he was going to be absolutely “ape shit bananas crazy”! But when I really met him, he was the sweetest guy I’ve ever met. He was quiet, he wasn’t throwing fucking tables around the room, he was just chilling. Ever since he has made me everything I am. I think he has to be one of the greatest guys on earth to just put a kid under his wing and change his life. Not a lot of people can do that. R.A. did it flawlessly.

You also have a lot in common, you both love movies for example. Do you have discussions about this? Because R.A. is a fan of the old-school films, especially German/Austrian cinema from the 30s-40s.
Hell yeah! I love movies from Humphrey Bogart and movies from right now. Movies are probably my second favorite thing behind music. I love every genre except cheesy romance movies. I don’t fuck with that shit. I hate the first half of Titanic (laughs) but I love the second half, because that’s when shit happens. The ship is sinking and people start dying. I don’t want to sound fucked up but that’s Titanic, not some cheesy ass love story. Everything else I love: Sci-Fi, Horror, Comedy, everything. If it’s a great movie, it’s a great movie.

You also said that you would like to create a video game like “Def Jam: Fight for NY”.
Hell yeah, how do you know that shit!? “Def Jam: Fight for NY” is my most favorite game of all time! It’s rappers fighting! Not even just fighting, but throwing stools, hitting other rappers with bats, pipes and beer-bottles. That shit is the illest shit on earth. So I would absolutely love to make my own game like that. If I would do something like that, I would have R.A. and Vinnie Paz, even Mr. Green could be in it, just beating up people. But he’s the nicest guy ever.

Do you have a talent for programming?
Oh no, not at all. Noooo (laughs). It’s just an idea. We got to link up to people to do all that, it’s an idea that I have marinated in my head.

In the Uncharted mini-documentary you talk about what HipHop is lacking without getting specific. Also the term “saviour of HipHop” often comes up  when people talk about you.
Oh man, I’m not a fan of everybody saying that. I’m just trying to make my own music, I want to be able to do my own live shows and I want to be able to save a fans life. I just want to get someone through the day, just by my songs. If I could do that, then I’m happy. I’m not trying to save HipHop, I’m just trying to do me first. And buy my mom a house.

Do you still live with your mom?
Yeah. My Moms and my Pops are definitely the most supportive people in my life right now. I’m really blessed to have them and they made me who I am too.

Did they already see you on tour?
No, they haven’t seen me on tour because I don’t really like bringing them out, honestly. But when there is a show near my home in L.A. my mom would be like: “Oh let’s go!” and I’ll be like: “Ok, let’s go mom, you can go” and then she’ll see me rock.

What I also picked up from the Uncharted video is that you don’t really like mainstream rap.
Right, I’m not a fan of mainstream at all.

So what was your reaction when Chris Brown shared the Uncharted video.
Yo honestly, I’m not gonna front: I love Chris Brown’s first album (A-F-R-O starts to sing): “Let me see you can run it, run it …” I love that album. There are some dope joints on there. But I thought “Wow, that’s actually pretty crazy”. I’m not personally a fan of any of his music after the first album — and that was like 2006 — but I thought that was really dope. I’ve heard a few stories, that he is actually a pretty cool guy. Well, he beat the shit out of Rihanna … (laughs) but you don’t know what the fuck happened in that car. She could have attacked first, you never know. If that’s really him that shouted me out, than I appreciate that. That’s really dope to me.

Talking about “how to treat women”: I watched your reaction when R.A. duck-taped this girl during the show (Note: During the show, R.A. tied up a girl that had come on stage with duck-tape), you didn’t seem very amused.
Oh no, it was just very surprising. I thought it was really hilarious. That’s R.A. being R.A., R.A. being Crustified Dibbs. But it was very surprising, I’ve never see him do that before on stage. It was the same girl that rapped before. She rapped R.A.’s lyrics but she killed it. That was really dope.

 

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