Is this not what hip-hop heads are yearning for? It has certainly been a long time coming. Unfortunately the current state of over saturated “cursive” rappers may overpower upstart, authentic emcees like A-F-R-O (All Flows Reach Out), but true heads recognize the potency. His craft has done a damn good job reaching millions of people in a rather short amount of time. We feel like it was yesterday when R.A. the Rugged Man introduced us to him on video, demolishing freestyles from the head after a rough car accident. In disbelief, internet trolls weren’t sold at first that he could rhyme this sharp – off the top of his head at that. It was only a matter of time that he smashed those assumptions. Now we meet here with the ‘A-F-R-O Polo’ EP.
We could go on for hours about A-F-R-O’s aesthetic qualifications, but we’ll save you the time. It’s not everyday that a teenager steps on the scene under the wing of a top notch, underground name such as R.A., and actually cares. Do new jacks even care anymore? There’s a concerning level of ignorance towards the culture that we cherish deeply with a lot of young artists today.
Lets talk about his choice of production for the first official release here. Marco Polo – the MPC 2000 virtuoso. Man, Fro has a trained set of ears. Anyone following Marco’s career will agree that this collaboration makes sense. It’s beyond refreshing. It’s fun. It’s quality hip-hop. The two of them almost make it seem too easy. Maybe it’s the cover art? We had the pleasure of speaking with Marco Polo about the EP, which you can check out below. Therefore, we won’t reiterate everything he already told us.
One of many notable and understood highlights on the EP is the limited amount features. Considering it’s his first official release it only makes sense, right? We want to hear what he brings to be table on wax, that of which is stellar. “Swarm” invites a deadly Pharoahe Monch appearance. Needless to say this was an awesome surprise. Shylow (First Division) handled all of the cuts. Does Shy ever disappoint? Easy answer – no.
The project is a must do. This is just a precursor at what’s to come from A-F-R-O in the future, we’re sure of it. He sounds like a seasoned veteran already. He’s hungry, but still has fun. He’s a giant voice. A giant personality whose passion for the culture is easily detected and admirable. That’s enough of our yap though. Enjoy the EP’s stream and our dialogue with Marco Polo! Peace and love:
RESPECT.: Before we talk about the music, we can’t ignore the incredible cover art! It sets a “don’t take life too serious” tone, which is refreshing. Can you talk about the cover a bit?
Haha, yup. I love the cover. Basically, A-F-R-O posted a picture of him with my cat Mischa on his lap (@catsandcrates on IG lol). Then, somebody flipped their heads on some Photoshop shit and posted it back on Fro’s Facebook page. I saw it and said “THAT’S THE COVER.” We both agreed it was the one.
RESPECT.: It’s probably safe to say that A-F-R-O is one of the sharpest, young wordsmiths that hip-hop has seen in quite some time. Can you talk about the recording process and how the in-studio chemistry is with the two of you?.
Agreed. Fro is an 18 year old kid who loves golden era Hip Hop. He studies it. He’s a fan of that era and knows the history. I think the overall chemistry between us is great. The studio process has never been so simple. I play my beats, he picks one and writes. Then we record it. I did not get in the way of his rhymes or overproduce his vocals on this EP. I wanted him to do this thing and focused on making the music elements & hooks sound tight. Shylow came up with some key hooks too for “Fro Armstrong” & “Long Time Coming“. That really helped turn joints into fully realized bangers.
RESPECT.: How did the project come about? Did A-F-R-O reach out to you to collaborate, or vise versa?
R.A. The Rugged man brought Fro to my studio. He wanted me to work with him and called me saying he discovered this young MC. Of course I was down. When Fro came thru with R.A. we chopped it up and Fro said he was a fan of my work. It was dope vibes from the jump. The very first thing we ever recorded was “Swarm” which later got a bananas second verse from Pharoahe Monch. That was the first joint we recorded for ‘A-F-R-O POLO’.
RESPECT.: Anyone familiar with your catalogue knows that you’ve worked with some of hip-hop’s finest emcees – from old to new school. What differentiates A-F-R-O from others that you’ve worked with?
Fro is 18 years old. His high skill level at such a young age is what differentiates him from other MC’s. The potential for what he can do is limitless. What also needs to be acknowledged about A-F-R-O is the mentorship of R.A. The Rugged Man. This is VERY crucial in his rise and introduction to Hip Hop. Rugged Man is a student, fan and now veteran MC who is guiding Fro in all the right ways. This is invaluable and a lot of young MC’s don’t have that on their side coming into the game. A lot of these young kids feel entitled and lack respect. A-F-R-O is great human as well as dope MC which is why people are so drawn to him.
RESPECT.: Outside of the new EP, what should we expect from Marco Polo moving forward this year? Anything else coming in the foreseeable future?
I have a lot of projects in the works. Instrumental albums, more collaborations with up and coming MC’s. Really focusing on working with younger MC’s. A follow up album with Torae is being discussed. A Masta Ace/Marco Polo album is being discussed. Also, internationally I’ve got my hands full with projects in Japan, Portugal, Poland, South America and Italy. Not to mention sound designing my “Pad Thai” drum kits that have been highly successful and useful for new producers trying to learn and produce beats – www.marcopolobeats.com is where you can find those.
RESPECT.: Do you have any funny or cool stories that you could share with us during the creation of the record?
My favorite story from this album is getting Pharoahe Monch to jump on “Swarm” without telling A-F-R-O. I knew Monch was one of his favorite MC’s of all time and I wanted to surprise him. I called Monch and asked him. He knocked out the verse and then I sent the mp3 to Fro’s email. I called AFRO and said “yo….check your email while I’m on the line….” hahahaha I’ll never forget Fro’s reaction of pure joy and shock. It felt good to help him achieve a collaboration I knew he always wanted to do and in the process we made a banger I knew heads would love.
Appreciate the interview Dread, much love.
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