I've never been alive and there wasn't hip-hop.
That is why I feel like I'm fortunate to have this in my life. I'm blessed.
The relationship between an individual MC and
hiphop is one that can be observed through the artist's musical execution. Some
emcees have a relationship with hiphop that is strictly based upon money. Not
to knock, though, because it obviously works for them but for an MC like Brick
City's Flo Brown, her relationship with hiphop is based upon a different dependency.
This type of reliance is unyielding and allows her to continually look towards
hiphop for her personal survival whether in sickness or in health. Just by listening
to her, you know that her love for hiphop is not a gimmick, but a life's promise
with a reciprocated love demonstrated in her own existence. Through an unconditional
trust in where the music will lead, Flo has found a defined purpose that maintains
her livelihood. f*ck what you heard or have become accustomed to believing.
The (healing and growing) power of hiphop is deep and is as real to Flo as the
air she breathes between bars. "Whatever is going to happen with my music"
Flo contests, "I am going to leave with it."
Her dedication isn't in vain. Flo's lyrics have
the precision to tear through your psyche faster than you can comprehend. Her
poetic beginnings give rise to rhymes laced with complex patterns intermingled
with incisive imagery. As a self-directed student of some of hip-hop's greatest
teachers, Queen Latifah, Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane, her delivery is as deft
as the words that surge out of her spirit, packaged not in a fluffy decorative
covering, but in a raw and resilient core. From Philly, to D.C. to New York,
her stage performance leaves you with that dumbfounded look, not sure if you
heard right, prompting you to question, "Did she really just rip it like
that?" You feel her whether you want to or not and a level of respect forms
naturally because she offers no uncertainties about herself, her music or her
calling. Armed with a firm faith in her art, she is inevitable.
Allhiphop: How did you get into rapping? I know
that you started out as a poet.
Flo: I wrote poetry since I was real little.
I would re-write lyrics and I was real into hiphop when I was five, six, seven,
so I would know everything about the lyrics. When I got a little older, like
in the eighth grade, I would write my own lyrics in the form of poems. When
I got to high school is when I started to write raps, but I still didn't take
it seriously. When I was a freshman, my history teacher would let me say a poem
at the end of class, it was kind of funny. I remember this one rap I wrote for
my English class, it was so whack, it had references to red, black, and green
and February being the shortest month of the year.
But even back then I looked at the MC as like
oh my god. Like Queen Latifah, Rakim, they were like the ultimate to me. I always
had this respect for the game, but it wasn't until I got to Howard that everything
opened up for me. I guess it was because of the fact that I never dealt with
my father's death or his life and I was in DC by myself so I just started writing
poems crazily. I associated writing with therapy. I was writing real powerful
stuff at the time and after I wrote them I wanted to hear them. So for the first
time I attended a poetry reading at one of the boys' dorms and read my poetry
there. After that it was like a growth spurt and I started writing rhymes along
with my poetry.
AHH: Did the delivery come natural to you?
Flo: Yep, it was the flow. I was always called
Flo, since I was little. That's how I know I am supposed to be doing this, it's
AHH: How did you get hooked up with Lyricist
Flo: I did this show in Newark that Mos Def hosted.
Because anytime there was a show or something, somebody in Jersey or DC would
call me and I would go through. So after I performed that day, Danny from Lyricist
Lounge came up to me and told me about one of their upcoming shows. So I auditioned
for him and he liked it, so I opened for Common at Flamingo. That was one of
my first real shows where I rapped because I hadn't really rapped on stage,
people really just knew me for my poetry at that time.
AHH: What would you say are your main obstacles?
Flo: Probably just a lot of ego. Because everyone
is fighting for their agenda, you know, whatever they are about. In hip-hop
I look at it as tribal. Like there's this tribe that talks about guns, and this
tribe that talks about sex and woman, and this tribe talking about the art of
rhyming. Everybody got their own agenda, everybody is trying to bring their
own noise. You ain't going to get an opportunity to represent that if you ain't
thorough and not just on the mike but if your mind ain't right as far as what
you are trying to bring. I went through a lot. I don't like to talk about it
too much because I don't like to give energy to it. I am very thankful to be
where I am right now to be still writing and recording and popping up on projects
because I have been through a lot. Never really having a manager, never really
having a team, never really, really having people believe in me not even 75
percent of what I believed in myself. But that's why I don't like to talk about
the bad stuff, how could I? I'm still here.
AHH: So what was your relationship with the Roots?
Flo: Yeah, I was down with them. They took me
on tour. I signed a contract for what they told me was a development contract,
a demo deal or whatever because MCA had interest in me. So the way it was said
to me was it was a done deal, they were interested, but this was just a preliminary
step to get material on me and that was the procedure. So I was contractually
into that and they took me on tour with them. Yeah I was kind of down with them
for a minute.
AHH: Do you have any labels interested now?
Flo: Labels, I mean I have people interested
that want to do some things. But I've been through the whole label-interested
thing back in 99',00', and 01'. Oh this label interested, that label interested,
and a lot of times when you out there like that things always come back to you.
I've been in with a couple of major labels and the sh*t didn't pan out so I'm
just going to keep doing what I do, trying to bring what I'm about. That's all
I can do. Labels should be interested if they know what's best for them especially
the way hip-hop is going right now. The way they have tried to manufacture the
future of it, you can't do that. It is going to grow and evolve to what it is
naturally supposed to be.
AHH: What do you think about females who use
sexuality to sell records?
Flo: Let me say this first. I was discovering
this sh*t when people where discovering it in me. When you eighteen, it is big
and powerful and spiritual and you growing with it. But that's always been in
the forefront, oh as a female MC, as a female MC, like they don't really want
to know who you are or what you are about, it's like you are always defined
as a female MC. Emceeing isn't really about being a male or a female. Now when
you talk about the politics behind it, gender does play a role. The way I look
at it, it is all animalistic. Like I'm a person out here who happens to be a
female but in the jungle, nobody gives a f*ck if you are a female form, you
can get f*cked up too. If you fall prey, you fall prey. If you get caught out
there, you get caught out there.
I don't think it's necessarily about being a
female or not when it comes down to lyrics. A lot of people from the gate want
to know, as a female rapper what do you think of Lil' Kim and Foxy and I feel
like that is just part of the element. There are all types of beings out here.
As far as I am concerned, I come from all the same evolutionary processes as
any other male MC that wanted to bring it.
As a far as being a female, where politics really
plays a part is that a lot of people feel as though they can tell you what to
talk about, they could tell you what to say, or they can write your rhymes.
They feel like it really matters how you look and they get intimidated if you
rhyme better than them. That's where the female thing comes in. But the thing
people fail to realize that this is about wit and intelligence, and men and
women equally possess that. If you speak to the reason why you in this, and
you know who you are and what you want to say and you have patience and faith
that your day is going to come, you'll get it.
AHH: How often do you feel like you are tested
to stay true to yourself?
Flo: It is not that hard for me to stay true
to myself because I feel like it is my truth to rhyme about the things that
I rhyme about. I've always approached it as this is how I feel so this is what
I'm going to rhyme about. It was never a show-and-tell thing or a let me try
to appease you sort of thing, it was always just this is how I feel. It is natural,
it's second nature, and habitual for me to say sh*t my way. You write my rhymes,
for what? If you can write the rhymes, then you be the MC, you say it. I've
had pressures as far as the structuring of what I say. I've had people tell
me that people don't like aggressive women and people don't like angry women.
I've been told America isn't ready for an angry black woman, I've been told
all types of sh*t like that. But I am like you don't even know who I am, I'm
not an angry black woman. I'm not angry. I'm a person who has something to say
with conviction and passion to say it. Everybody's just scared. I thought that
when Lauryn Hill came out, that her success would help the vibe gravitate towards
that. Usually when they get a rapper that raps a certain way that sold so many
records, they will try to find another one like that. But they didn't try to
find four more L-boogies. Why didn't they jump on that? They jumped on so many
other styles. It's crazy.
AHH: What can people expect from a Flo performance?
Flo: When I perform, I just zone out. I'm up
there in my stance, but I can't really explain it, I just like black out and
become one with the words. You just got to see it.
AHH: How was it working with Jazzy Jeff on The Magnificent?
Flo: He's cool as hell. I did the song for his
album and cut about four songs out of his studio that I absolutely love.
AHH: So what are your goals now? What do you
want to accomplish?
Flo: I'm just trying to bring what I'm on. I'm
trying to speak my experience and my story no matter what. And find voices within
myself that haven't been tapped into. That is what the hip-hop thing has brought
me through, just all my experiences. I want to make my record that speaks to
the people and the youth. Put out a record and tour with it.
AHH: Anything else you want to discuss about
what your music means to you?
Flo: It means several things to me. There's the
flow though that's so important because a lot gets expressed in it. That's what
I'm bringing to this--the flow. That's my name. I mean everybody knows what
flow is but what is it really? And that's the question I'm coming to answer.
Visit Flo Brown at www.flobrown.com.