North Texas Daily

The Dose: Hip-hop evolves with vintage sounds of new rapper A-F-R-O

The Dose: Hip-hop evolves with vintage sounds of new rapper A-F-R-O

March 28
18:38 2016

Kyle Martin | Staff Writer

@Kyle_Martin35

Arguably the fastest-evolving genre in the music world right now, hip-hop is blowing up. And emerging from behind the scenes is Jamal Gutierrez, also known as A-F-R-O (All Flows Reach Out).

The 18-year-old California native has a cutting-edge flow that would make anyone think his songs are fake (they’re not). When he was 17, rapper and hip-hop guru R.A. the Rugged Man picked him up at a freestyle rap contest called Definition of A Rap Flow.

Making his debut into the rap game in 2014, A-F-R-O has since taken off.

One only needs to listen to “Code #829,” produced by Wu-Tang Clan sage RZA, to be left cross-eyed, dazed and dumbfounded by this dude’s ridiculous talent. The song opens slow and heavy, almost lackadaisical, but halfway through A-F-R-O spins the track around and pours into a swift, tongue-twisting tornado verse tailored for weathered hip-hop veterans with ears trained to decipher lightning-fast lyrics.

Even Genius.com, the website that takes rap lyrics and dissects them into the vernacular, couldn’t keep up when he reached maximum speed toward the end.

But this is not just a party trick of his — nearly every damn song he’s got is just as fast and impressive as the next. His written verses are insane, and so are his freestyles. When the rapper goes off the dome, he can’t be stopped. Drawing inspiration from what’s in front of him, he has the word bank to back himself up.

At first glance, A-F-R-O looks awkward and nerdy — he’s got wire-rimmed glasses and actually has an afro — but when he raps, it’s easy to tell he knows what he’s doing. In an interview with “Complex Magazine,” he talked about the development of his style.

When the rapper was younger and got in trouble with his mother, he had to read the dictionary as punishment. In a separate notebook, while he flipped through the dictionary, he wrote raps. Taking inspiration from old-school ‘90s hip-hop and before, he was able to meld his stockpile of words into music.

Years later, A-F-R-O has gotten attention and four EPs on Soundcloud. Word of a new project for 2016 has people anticipating what’s to come.

It’s hard to say where the hip-hop genre will take its next turn. With Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” rightfully winning rap album of the year and new neo-soul styles like D’Angelo and Hiatus Kaiyote, artists are paving the way for innovation and storytelling. Rappers like Isaiah Rashad, Earl Sweatshirt and Vince Staples are hiding deep, passioned lyrics in plain sight, soaring over the heads of the casual listener.

Classic hip-hop is also making a comeback with radio stations like 94.5 popping up, which play hits both young and old for a Missy Elliot or Notorious B.I.G. fix during midday traffic. Music genre barriers are being broken down — bands like Snarky Puppy have won R&B grammies for their jazz-fusion sound.

A-F-R-O’s sound would have fit in well with hip-hop sounds from the ‘90s and 2000s, but now that it’s 2016 and music has all kinds of variety to be played around with, he’s showing promise of a positive change to hip-hop. With the right producing and mixing, along with the right musicians, there is a realm of untapped potential.

Watch out for this young rapper. He could turn into something huge.

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