Cape Cod Embraces Afroman
By: Chris Kazarian, January 23, 2013
Don Parkinson - One hand on the mic; the other on his Colt 45.
At the end of last month Cape Codders received a late-Christmas gift when West Coast rapper Afroman paid a stop to the Beach House in Falmouth.
It is a performance locals are still taking about to this day as the larger-than-life persona entertained with his colorful rhymes and steady beats. When it was over audiences agreed the show was a perfect way to mark the end of 2012.
And it may have served as a precursor to the type of big-name talent the Cape plans on attracting, not just in the summer, but year-round in 2013.
InsideOUT was lucky enough to catch up with the charismatic artist and talk about everything from his earliest influences to his hit song “Because I Got High” to his thoughts on last month’s concert while he was on tour in Florida last week.
InsideOUT: Who were some of your major influences growing up?
Boogie Down Productions, Ice T, Too Short, Ice Cube, Big Daddy Kane. I loved that whole scene, though I loved some more than others. The whole hip hop scene was going down at that time.
I/O: How do they compare to today’s rappers?
It was another era. We had a different mission to carry out.
You know I’m to the point I can appreciate the worst things. I mean they can take cow manure and grow the biggest tomatoes with it. There's a purpose for everything, even bad rap music.
I think rappers rapped back then [rapping]: Come get some, you little bum / I take the cake, but you can’t get a crumb.
Every rhyme would [expletive] with you a little bit, you know what I’m saying?
Nowadays it’s like over-processed Coke. I might get four good rhymes out of a song nowadays, but in the 80’s every line tripped you out. If it wasn’t spectacular they didn’t write it down. And if it wasn’t spectacular it was building up to a spectacular rhyme. See what I’m saying?
I/O: How and when did you come up with the name Afroman?
Well, see I’m from the West Coast and on the West Coast gang banging is bigger than hip hop. It shouldn’t be when you’re a rapper, but when you got guys shooting pistols, life and death is bigger than rap music.
In LA you get a gang name and you want everyone to know you by your gang name so like it really ain’t got nothing to do with hip hop. The name and the neighborhood stuck with me; it just worked.
I/O: Your first album didn’t sell until 1999. How did you support yourself in the midst of trying to pursue your dreams.
I always look at rapping like Las Vegas: if I’m gonna gamble on something, I’m gonna gamble on me trying to make it.
I would buy recording equipment whenever I’d get my little tax refund back. I had a dream like Martin Luther King: my goal was to get a finished CD. So I worked at McDonalds and security jobs and whatever chicken shit jobs to get the big money. It helped me keep all the alligators away until I could get something substantial.
I/O: Can you talk about “Because I Got High” and the inspiration behind it?
I ended up moving to Mississippi where I noticed the kids were more relaxed and less uptight. They had money so they smoked it whereas in LA you sell your dope first. Little rich kids can only relate to me so much in Mississippi, but when I started talking about drinking and buzzing we had that in common. They liked to get high and get drunk.
On this song I just relaxed. It was just effortless. I’d be damned if it isn’t the second biggest song I got. I mean I didn’t even want to rap on this, I just talked shit [singing]: "Because I got high, yeah."
I was just [expletive] around. It's like [in the song] I basically gave up: you know a guy doesn’t want to admit girls won’t let him [expletive]. He wants to say they all let him [expletive]. He wants to say positive, egotistical things. So I thought what if I told the embarrassing truth: I got high and bitches won’t let me [expletive] and I’ve messed up all my life.
I'll be damned if it didn’t work. There are more people with screwed up lives than ones who have their lives together. I told the truth.
I/O: Did you think it would become as popular as it was (the song was nominated for a Grammy in 2002)?
No. Really, I didn’t.
With a successful rapper there are really three kind of categories: there is the worldwide rapper everyone knows like the LL Cool J’s and the Run DMC’s. And then there are the regional rappers known on certain coasts, but they can’t go off of their coast. You know what I’m saying? Then there’s the city rapper who is known in that town and may get a few gigs in the next town. I was prepared to be a regional/city rapper.
I wasn’t thinking I’m going to write the [expletive] “Macarena.” That shit was the “Macarena.” It was Spice Girl big.
I/O: How did you get Kevin Smith to direct the music video? And what was he like?
Man, dude, that is how crazy it was. I didn’t even know how we hooked that up. I was so high man, people were giving me so much weed when that song came out.
I think the record company Universal made it happen and called over to Miramax. He had a movie [“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”] coming out and he thought it [the song] was great and boom, we put it out there.
He is big time. I’m sure if I pull out my star cache I can get back in the loop with him, but I don’t want to cash that out. I don’t want to use my Kevin Smith coupons until I’m serious and have a movie for him to direct or want to be in one of his movies so he doesn’t think I’m some time-consuming pothead waste of time.
I/O: You attended the Grammy’s in 2002? What was that like?
Dude it was cool. I guess one side of me liked being around all the stars, but the other side can do without all them and their egos. I’d rather be around down to earth fans than other musicians. It was cool, but it isn’t my thing, you know what I’m saying?
I/O: Obviously when people hear the name Afroman they immediately associate you with that song. Does that bother you?
The good thing for me is when the road gets rough I can call somebody and say I’m the guy who made “Because I Got High.” It gets the door open and gets me talking to whoever I need to talk to. It's a tool.
I guess what I didn’t like is I look at these rappers like Beyonce. She’s not going on award shows singing, “To the left, to the left.” She’s singing something else.
What I’ve hated when I’ve tried to move on, people have tried to hold me to that song. I realize Afroman fans will let me sing new material, but not too much new material at one time.
I’m proud of that song. I wrote it and it's my second biggest song. For people who want to ‘one-hit wonder’ me I know how to deal with that, but I got a younger new-school generation on Facebook. I got some active fans and I get down with them and propel them to the future. All my Macarena, Spice Girl fans keep getting doors opened for me so it all works out.
I/O: How’d you get involved with Colt 45?
It was an accident, actually. I started drinking Old English. That was the ghetto drink to drink, but it was luxury malt liquor. It cost $3.84 in the early 90’s. That was a lot of money for a high school drop out back then.
But Colt 45 cost $1.25 so I could get two of those and I’d be the drunkest [expletive] you’ve ever seen in your life. I was loving it. I noticed it took my butterflies away when I talked to a girl. After I drank half a bottle I started to be Romeo or some shit, sweeping girls off their feet.
I remember I’d be on 4th and Main in Hattiesburg, drinking on the side of the liquor store so no one could see me. I downed a 40 and I wasn’t babysitting. I was trying to get it down so I could hurry up and be drunk. I was back there guzzling it and then I’d go to the club and wouldn ‘t have to buy any liquor because I was already drunk.
I/O: So what’s your relationship with Colt 45?
They don’t want to endorse me. They don’t want to admit drinking their beverages turn you into me.
I really drink Colt 45. I’m not lying to just get a check from them. They gave an endorsement to Snoop the other day. I love him, but that kind of hurt me.
I/O: What do you think when you see a crowd of your fans not only drinking Colt 45, but lifting bottles in the air at one of your concerts?
First of all I know they’re gonna feel good because it’s the same shit I’m drinking and I feel a brotherhood with them and realize my songs and lyrics are having an influence on them. It’s a beautiful thing, man.
I/O: Where does the Beach House concert rank for you in terms of career achievements?
Man, you know my shows, my fans, to me it is like Afroman Christianity. I love all my people wherever they is.
I had a great time there. I loved that place man and I look forward to coming back. I’m from LA so I feel like Massachusetts rolled out the red carpet for my LA ass. And I said nothing about the Lakers.
I never thought I could do a show in Massachusetts. You can’t be a punk in Boston or NY. These kids grew up on Everlast and House of Pain. I’m from LA. We some thugs, but Boston boys will throw your teeth in the [expletive] ocean. Those boys don’t play. I really felt flattered. Those people all about quality. Nobody gonna waste money in Massachusetts so the fact they spent money flattered me.
I couldn’t dance, but did everything else. I even cracked a few jokes. I said Foul-mouth so they know I’m from out of town like another dumbass.
I/O: You said you might return to Cape Cod. You know we have sharks in our waters.
I don’t plan on swimming, you know. I’m too drunk. Swimming is for the swimming pool, not for the [expletive] ocean. I don’t belong out there.