Thursday, May 22, 2008
Cover Story: The state of Flo Rida
Rap's "Low" man talks about his rise in Miami, hustling during Memorial Day Weekend and, of course, Apple Bottom jeans.
By Joanie Cox
May 20, 2008
With "Low," Flo Rida has the best-selling digital single of all time. Even though the song was released six months ago, it's still getting incessant radio play on 99 Jamz (WEDR-FM, 99.1) and Power 96 (WPOW-FM, 96.5).
But five years ago, Flo Rida was pedaling his mix tapes in the streets of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. "Some of the clubs that are playing my song now turned us away at the door," says the rapper, whose real name is Tramar Dillard. "And every Memorial Day Weekend, I'd be out on Washington Avenue or Collins promoting my album. Now, those people that gave it away are trying to collect it."
With more than 214,000 copies of Mail On Sunday sold, Flo Rida doesn't have to worry about getting his name out on the streets anymore. "I never expected it to blow up like this," the 28-year-old admits. "I've been doing this since I'm 14. But I've been able to stay motivated and have patience."
Flo Rida formed his first group, The Groundhoggz, when he was a freshman in high school. Born in Opa-locka, he grew up with his seven sisters in Carol City near fellow hip-hop star Rick Ross.
"He basically co-signed my situation. I can remember him telling me early on, 'Keep doing what you're doing man. I'll most definitely help you get on.'" Flo Rida recalls. "I always looked up to him and admired how he was poppin' locally. He definitely kept his word."
After a stint touring with 2 Live Crew's Fresh Kid Ice in 2001, Flo Rida took a Greyhound bus from Miami to Los Angeles to record with former Jodeci member DeVante Swing, but nothing came of the session. In 2006, Ross' manager, Poe Boy Entertainment owner Eldrin "E-Class" Prince, urged Flo to return to Miami. "I finally got my deal with Atlantic Records," he says. "It's a dream come true. I just look at all the days I spent not being signed as an artist and I definitely don't take it for granted. I try to work harder each and every day because I know someone could easily take the position."
Flo Rida has been touring the United States promoting his CD and will play Tokyo next week. The list of artists who collaborated on the album reads like a fantasy hip-hop compilation, including luminaries such as Timbaland, Will.i.am and Sean Kingston.
"Being from Florida, T-Pain wasn't too hard to get a hold of and Timbaland has a place in Miami. Lil' Wayne and Birdman are also down there," Flo Rida explains. "With a lot of these cats, it's almost like a family-oriented situation because somewhere or another they're down with either Rick Ross or Brisco. And me coming in, they automatically show love. Being fans of each other's music makes it easier to work together."
Even though his success doesn't surprise him, the fashion trend "Low" inspired does. "It's 80 degrees down in Florida, but you'll still catch the women stylin' in their Apple Bottom jeans and fur boots," Flo Rida says with a laugh. "Me and T-Pain thought it was clever to put it in a song."
Now at his shows, boots and jeans from Nelly's Apple Bottoms clothing line have become a uniform. "At the clubs, the bartenders will jump over the counter to show me they have 'em on," Flo Rida avers.
With his album debuting at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart this past March, Flo Rida can finally afford to splurge. He now owns houses in Weston and Miami Beach and is sporting some new wheels — a black, 2008 Cadillac Escalade. "People ask me how my life has changed since 'Low' came out," Flo Rida says. "Definitely the notoriety is there and financial stability. I can help my family out. It's just a blessing to not have to worry about the bills and things like that."
Taking into account his own success, Flo Rida feels the Miami scene is stronger than ever. "Right now, you have Rick Ross, Brisco, DJ Khaled, Pitbull, Sean Kingston, Trick Daddy and Trina," he points out. "Miami is a place where hip-hop is very involved and we're just taking full advantage of it. … We're being more competitive as artists and showing love to the next up-and-coming person trying to get into this music."
And Memorial Day Weekend was always Flo Rida's favorite time of year in Miami to market himself and his music. "You get to run into different rappers from all over and meet people and there's always a great party," he says. "A lot of times, I would try to get my music played in the clubs to see the reaction from people out of town."
While I Da Ho would've made a fine rap name, Flo Rida says he's proud to have adopted a moniker that pays tribute to the Sunshine State. "I love the weather, that I was born here and the Caribbean food," Flo Rida adds. "But my favorite part of where I'm from is definitely the sexy ladies."
Contact Joanie Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Flo Rida likes hanging out at Cameo, Opium, Karu and Y and Wet Willies. He also still chills in Carol City.
2. He hopes to eventually work with André 3000 and Gnarls Barkley.
3. He is working on a new CD that will be released in December.
4. Web site: OFFICIALFLO.COM
Glamazon: Black is not the new black
At least that's the view of one local designer and everyone who has given up on goth.
By Joanie Cox
Fashion can be an icy, brutal bitch, capable of forcing you to abandon carbs for weeks at a time just so you can fit into a certain outfit and drag your ass out of the house on a Sunday night for a runway show. On May 11, I headed to Glass at The Forge to check out the spring/summer collection of South Florida clothing line Favala. Although the show was scheduled to start at 11 p.m., I showed up an hour early to try to interview the designer of Favala. But I knew I'd probably get stuck waiting around all night; once a club starts filling up, it's impossible to find anyone who knows what's going on.
While looking for the bathroom, I accidentally stumbled into Glass' VIP area and found half-naked models running in every direction and complaining about how cold it was in the back of the club. The air was thick with vanilla-scented perfume, hair spray and body glitter. The red vinyl walls and enormous chandelier made the room resemble a Moulin Rouge version of Barbie's Dream House. "I'll be with you in a second," a curvy, Latina woman with rainbow-painted eyelids told me while clipping hair extensions onto a model.
"Are you Favala?" I asked.
The woman came scurrying across the floor in black, patent-leather stilettos. "I'm actually Alicia Sanchez," she said. "Favala is my clothing line."
One look around the room filled with models wearing leggings and off-the-shoulder, Flashdance-style T-shirts, and it was clear the 1980s have a major influence on Sanchez's designs.
"I hand-make everything," the 24-year-old designer said. "And I do graffiti on some of my pieces. I learned how to do that in New York. But I never went to design or art school."
Sanchez, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, learned how to sew from her mother, who made all her clothes growing up. She's also one of a few contemporary designers to shun black clothing. Everything she makes, including the pink, blue, yellow and green checkerboard minidress she wore to her show, is drenched in tropical colors. Yet somehow, none of her clothes look cheesy.
"I love color," Sanchez affirmed. "I'm from the Caribbean. A lot of black and Latin woman are afraid to wear color, but I say let's express ourselves. This is why I love designers like Betsey Johnson." For sure, Sanchez recalls a Dominican version of the veteran New York designer, bubbling over with enthusiasm and seemingly ready to hurl herself into a cartwheel at any second. So it was surprising to learn that Sanchez was diagnosed with breast cancer in March.
"People can't believe I'm out in the middle of the night doing a fashion show after a chemo treatment," she said, "but this is my passion. I'm fighting every day. When you're going through something like this, you're never too stressed to appreciate life."
Sanchez's fashion show finally began at about 1:15 a.m. The graffitied hoodies, shredded dresses and shutter shades like the ones Kanye West wears in his "Stronger" video were worth the wait. But the most impressive look of the night was provided by an audience member — a woman with a 4-foot Afro and a thong tattooed onto her hips. That's one way to avoid doing the laundry. To check out Sanchez's creations, visit Favaladesigns.com.
Goth is more over than Von Dutch. Ozzfest is not touring this year, The Cure's Robert Smith seems kind of happy and, I hear, Marilyn Manson was spotted eating a Mickey Mouse ice cream pop and riding the tea cups at Disney World. I'm convinced everyone has cheered up, stopped trying to fasten metal chains to their pants and moved on to hip-hop, which is all about hos, not pantyhose.
So I wasn't at all surprised by the weak turnout May 9 for A Night of Death Rawk Disco and Fashionista Genocide at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale. About nine people appeared on the dance floor, while roughly 25 wannabe vampires roamed throughout the club. While the event's flier demanded "fucked-up attire," the crowd looked as if they went shopping in the Hot Topic clearance bin at the Coral Square Mall before the show.
Carrying a giant Coach bag, wearing a Flavor Flav T-shirt and flashing no visible tattoos or piercings in any body part other than my ears, I stood out like a mink coat at a PETA convention. Every time I tried to stand next to someone, they'd either roll their eyes at me and walk away or look terrified by my presence.
I saw no trench coats, only a high-school-age girl with a raccoon tail stapled to the back of her shorts; a slew of people in boring, black-and-white Chuck Taylor All-Stars; and one too many Pete Wentz look-alikes with anime hair, skinny jeans and guyliner. One guy was wearing a hospital gown, though he appeared as if he could have just left North Broward Medical Center. But mostly, everyone looked as if they needed a blood transfusion and an afternoon with Tim Gunn. It got so boring, I hardly noticed the manorexic, 6-foot-4 guy running across the club in fishnets and a garter belt. There's nothing shocking or edgy about dressing like that anymore. He needed a bathrobe and a cheeseburger. However, if he really wanted to frighten his cohorts slithering through Revolution, he should have just gone with a surefire goth-repellent: True Religion Brand Jeans and a crystal-covered Christian Audigier T-shirt. Now, that would have given 'em a reason to cut themselves.