Flo Rida’s record release party to inaugurate his latest album, Only One Flo/Part I took place in a trendy alcove of New York City in a nightclub that was fully adorned to resemble an authentic outdoor carnival scene. The space was complete with a big-top circus tent ceiling, funhouse mirrors and games where you have to toss rings over bottle tops to win stuffed prizes. Flo’s latest singles, most notably the radio’s current runaway hit, Club Can’t Handle Me, blared through the room’s sound system as big screen monitors played his music videos.
Flo Rida himself sat quietly in a back VIP room as he waited for me to greet him for our interview. He kept dark shades on throughout our meeting, though his energy and expressions read more like suburban boyish charm than urban hip hop swagger. New-found fame and fortune can often resemble a carnival-like atmosphere and the irony of this party theme, particularly its fun-house mirrors, was not lost on me.
Flo Rida has been part of a hip hop music movement that excels at seamlessly blending pumped up party rhymes with nostalgic samples and addictive dance beats. The result has been an unprecedented amount of radio play and viral digital content. Unlike many artists who begrudgingly accept social media, Flo Rida embraces it and reveals no shame in the overzealous online marketing that has helped to put his music on the map.
As I approached the couch where Flo Rida was sitting he promptly stood up to walk toward me, but I had already made my way over to him. As he greeted me with a hug and we both sat down he coyly stated, “I was just getting up to say ‘what’s up?’ to you.” “Old fashioned chivalry was no doubt ingrained in him from growing up in a home with all women,” I thought.
Having just flown in from Perth, Australia the jetlag alone was enough to make Flo a little vague in his responses to my questions, but he proved to be incredibly present and gracious throughout our conversation. We covered some of the surprising influences that inspire his music, growing up in a heavily matriarchal family and what kept him going during those lean years before Tramar Dillard was signed to Poe Boy Music Group and re-christened, Flo Rida.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): I’ve noticed that in your music you sample a lot of older songs and blend them with an original beat. Why do you favor sampling other artist’s music, and do you hear an old song that inspires an idea, or do you write a song and then think of an old intro that would blend well?
Flo Rida: For the most part, it’s just spur-of-the-moment, really. But it’s just crazy that almost all of the records that make it to be singles sometimes have a sample. I just think that’s the whole [trend] of what’s going on. But I’m inspired by old records that are soulful and things like that. So I’m always willing to venture off and create something real different with a song that is a classic.
PR.com: What other genre of music do you love, what would surprise people about your musical tastes?
Flo Rida: Oh man, I’m a big fan of Jimi Hendrix. I got a tattoo on me… I’m a big fan of the song “Hey Joe.” And just watching his concerts and things like that definitely gets my morale built up when I’m out on stage. He’s a guy that, as an artist, he was always laid back but when you look at his stage performance he was over the top, and that’s like myself.
PR.com: You would compare your stage demeanor to Hendrix when you perform live?
Flo Rida: Oh yeah, most definitely. People are surprised, and I gain a lot of fans after people see me perform.
PR.com: You’re very rock n’ roll (laughs)?
Flo Rida: (Laughs) Yeah, I am very rock n’ roll.
PR.com: What began the dance-rap sub-genre of hip hop music, as opposed to conscious rap or just rhyming to a simple steady beat? Now there is a lot of dance-rap music out there, which seems to be your thing…
Flo Rida: For me, being from Miami, 2 Live Crew did it early on. I think that is where my influence comes from. I’m also a big fan of Outkast, and they go outside the box, and that’s what I do on most of my tracks, like when I’m working with David Guetta (the two collaborated on the single, “Club Can’t Handle Me”) or doing something with other artists that are not really inside the genre of [traditional] hip hop when it comes to production.
PR.com: How do many of your collaborations with other recording artists come about?
Flo Rida: A lot of times just working with guys like Lil’ Wayne, he’s a friend of mine, or working with Akon, he’s a friend of the whole Poe Boy family. A lot of times it’s just a phone call away, or I just feel like something needs to have a certain artist on it and they’re willing to collaborate with me. After me having so much success, who wouldn’t (laughs)?
PR.com: But your success didn’t come overnight.
Fl o Rida: No, not at all.
PR.com: And how did you hold on to hope and keep going for all of those years when you were a struggling artist?
Flo Rida: For the most part I told myself that by the time I was thirty I wanted to be a millionaire, and after graduating high school I either felt like I was going to play basketball or I was going to do the music, and whatever I chose there wasn’t going to be a plan B; I was going to give it all I got. When my sister passed away, it was just like, man, you never know. Tomorrow isn’t promised so take advantage of every day. And that is what I did, and I pursued my career. I always gave it 200%, and even if I didn’t get any sleep I made sure that I felt complete in trying to pursue my career.
PR.com: Well, I’m doing back-to-back interviews these days and I don’t get any sleep, so now I feel better (laughs).
Flo Rida: (Laughs) Yeah, for real.
PR.com: You did attend the University of Nevada for awhile. Wasn’t that a backup plan of sorts?
Flo Rida: No, I was actually going to school when my sister had moved out to Las Vegas with her husband. She said, “You just graduated. You need to come out here to the west coast, see a different side of life and probably go to school.” And while I was in school it was like, “Man, this music just keeps calling me,” so I decided to drop out. But I was going for International Business Management, and right now it definitely plays a part in helping me have a great marketing strategy with everything.
PR.com: You said earlier in our conversation that your goal was to be a millionaire, and I’m assuming you are one, so is it everything you thought it would be?
Flo Rida: Even more, you know? Things work out much better when you put God first and give towards good and positive things; always thinking of giving. My New Year’s resolution is to give, because I believe the more you give the more you receive. I’ve been very fortunate and very successful with doing that.
PR.com: Why did you decide to do a two part album with the second part being released in 2011 (“Only One Flo/Part I” is out now)?
Flo Rida: Being my third album I wanted to do something real clever and catchy. And the fact that I’m from Florida, you break that in half and you got Flo Rida, so I decided to put out two discs: Only One Flo/Part I and Only One Rida/Part II. And I felt it would be more cost efficient for my fans. I birthed this idea and made it happen.
PR.com: On the way here to meet with you I was thinking if there was any other state where you could break up the name of the state to use as a hip hop moniker, and there isn’t.
Flo Rida: (Laughs).
PR.com: You grew up with a single mother and seven sisters. How did that affect you?
Flo Rida: Definitely it gave me a natural respect for women. Every woman is different, but I’m definitely very familiar with how women can be at times, so a lot of times I’m very observant and definitely have a heart for women.
PR.com: Do you think your upbringing affects your dating life?
Flo Rida: Oh yeah, most definitely. A lot of times I’m real hesitant, because that’s like eight different women that I have to answer to when I’m talking to a girl, including my mom.
PR.com: And they don’t want a player in their family (laughs).
Flo Rida: Not at all!
PR.com: Out of all of the songs that have been out lately on the radio, all of the popular hip hop and dance singles, which is your personal favorite?
Flo Rida: I’m a big fan of my own song, Club Can’t Handle Me, to tell you the truth (laughs). I feel like it’s not mine. When I go out and perform for the fans they take it as their own, and just go crazy. That’s when I just sit back and go “wow!”
PR.com: Who do you hope to collaborate with in the future?
Flo Rida: I’m a big fan of Outkast, and I went out on tour with Beyonce, and I wouldn’t mind doing a record with her.
PR.com: Will you ever do a different sub-genre of rap or will you always be the dance hip hop guy?
Flo Rida: I couldn’t say. Everything is spur-of-the-moment for me. If it works and it sounds good in the studio then I’ll make my fans get a taste of it.
PR.com: What would you like to do with your fame outside of music?
Flo Rida: I’m already doing something outside of music that is definitely very important to me. I have my own charity called Big Dreams for Kids, where I give back. Prior to me even having a charity, I was always giving for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. Now I’m taking advantage of the success I have, putting smiles on kids’ faces around the state [of Florida], just going to different hospitals and spending time with kids who might be fans of mine, to uplift them and give them hope.
Flo Rida’s third studio album, “Only One Flo/Part I,” is available now in stores and on iTunes.
For the latest information on Flo Rida, visit officialflo.com and follow him on Twitter @official_flo.