Flo Rida: Take It To The Top

Since the success of Rick Ross in 2006, it seems like a new act from the Sunshine State is getting signed to a major label deal every few months. But don’t for a minute think that Tremar “Flo Rida” Dillard is just a lucky bastard cashing in on the success of his fellow Miami MCs. Nope—this 26-year-old Carol City native has a unique style and an even more unique story of struggle that led to his big breakthrough.

Before his current T-Pain-assisted crossover single “Low” became Billboard’s #1 pop single and the #1 most downloaded song on iTunes for a full month, Flo Rida was grinding for years, traveling across the country with 2 Live Crew’s Fresh Kid Ice and setting up shop with legendary Jodeci producer Devante Swing (who once upon a time also mentored a young Timbaland and Missy Elliott) out in California. But after enduring everything from shady lawyers to homeless nights on the street, he finally came back to his hometown to hook up with local label Poe Boy Entertainment. The home of Rick Ross soon helped him sign a deal with Atlantic Records, and before he knew it, his Runners-produced street single “Birthday” was blowing up across the country. With the follow-up “Low” climbing into the top 10 on the Billboard chart and the TRL countdown, his debut Mail On Sunday, which features appearances from Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Brisco and Cool & Dre, could make him 2008’s rookie of the year when it drops in February.

This must be an exciting time for you. Have you noticed a change in the way the public reacts to you?
Most definitely. They’re asking for pictures, autographs. All the grinding, hard work, it’s definitely paying off. So, I appreciate it.

There’s a lot of people who have records with T-Pain. Why do you think “Low” has stood out so much to the fans?
Mike Cameron, my A&R [at Atlantic] was like, “I think it would be a great idea if you did the record because of the different flows that you use.” I thought hooking up with T-Pain would be great anyway because I remember him way before he got his deal. I was a fan of him when he was with his rap group in Tallahassee, the Nappy Headz. I’m from Miami, and we grew up on the bass records. I got the record and recorded faster than I ever recorded before. After we recorded it, I took it to the strip clubs and played it for the strippers and they felt fond to it. So I felt like, Okay, this is gon’ be a smash. But I didn’t know [it would be] to this extent.

Your delivery is very original—there’s a lot of harmony in your rapping. How did you develop that style?
I have a lot of R&B influences—rhythm and soul, rock. Dudes like Jimi Hendrix—as you can see I got him tatted on my arm—and Marvin Gaye inspired me. My sisters grew up singing in the gospel choir, so that did too. My dad played all types of instruments. My name Flo Rida…I came up with that name basically because I have a lot of melodic style in my flows. But I always try to come up with different flows for different beats and never just come the same every time. Like the “Rida” part of my name is when you hear me flowing fast. You know the name definitely speaks for who I am and what I do as an artist. My style is melodic and the flows I use come from an R&B background.

What made you get the Jimi Hendrix tattoo on your arm?
My step brother always listened to dudes like Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and he would go to the mall and I would ask myself, What makes him like this type of music? So I started paying attention to it and me, with my style, I like to come from the left field but also have people understand. Jimi played the guitar with his left hand. That made me interested in him—he’s very different. Like, when he gets onstage, he did things like light the guitar on fire and other left field things. So I was like, What better tattoo can I get?

You’ve been working towards this for a minute. Tell me about your career before the deal with Atlantic.
It was just a lot of hustling and grinding with my group, the Groundhoggz. I was down in Miami slangin’ mixtapes; making sacrifices. Lawyers were ripping us off while we were trying to get a deal. I lived in Vegas for two years trying to go to school, Cali for three years trying to hustle up a deal. When I was in Cali, I went to Death Row and Capitol Records trying to get a deal. I had all types of jobs while I was out there. I was out there with Devanté [Swing] of Jodeci for like three years, and I learned some things from him because he’s a musical genius. So, all of those influences play a part in the music I do now. I always try to make my sound more universal than local.

How did you first end up in California?
I went out there with just $200 and I actually spent a couple of days on the street. I went to the deputy center and I had like this bag with me with my clothes in it and it weighed like 70 pounds or so. I went to the mall and put the bag on top of the bus bench for like an hour; came back and didn’t see my bag. I went to the gas station and asked, “Did you see a bag anywhere around the area?” He was like, “Aw man, you caused a bomb threat.” I was like “Ohhhh, man.” I walked into the police station looking for it. It was like 3 o’clock in the morning, so I stayed there until the morning. At that point, I had run out of money. So then I had some people back home send me a couple of dollars so I could go home. I was still on the streets for another couple of days. I went back home and worked on the demo. And that’s basically how I got back out to Cali. Devanté heard the demo and flew me out like the next day.

Devante has been very influential in a lot of careers. What was it like working with him?
He never sleeps. He’s always making hot tracks. He’ll call at random times to get me to rap on different songs. But he always told me my work ethic was great. Prior to coming there, I was always this patient dude, real focused on my music. I didn’t let nothing stop me from grinding and making sure I was paying my dues. So just being there showed me I was doing the right thing, because he was doing the same thing I did prior to coming to his spot.

Is true at some point you toured with 2 Live Crew?
Yeah, Chinaman [a.k.a. Fresh Kid Ice], actually. I had to open up for Scarface one time and someone in his [Fresh Kid Ice’s] camp seen me and they needed someone to hype for him. So, he got my contact and asked me if I wanted to go to Hawaii. That was the first time I ever had done a show with him.

That must have been a wild experience.
It was crazy! I remember the shows now. When these girls hear the 2 Live Crew record, they would go crazy. They were getting naked and all kinds of stuff. Them girls didn’t even know me and they were trying to take my pants down; using whip cream, bananas and all kinds of crazy stuff. Yup, yup. [Laughs]

So you’re from Carol City in Dade County. Did you know any of the other well-known rappers from the neighborhood, like Rick Ross, when you were coming up?
Yeah. With the company I’m with now, Poe Boy Entertainment, I always knew my manager. The CEO [E-Class], I knew him through my sisters because they were around his age. So I would always get to see him around and [Rick] Ross has always been down with the Poe Boy family. I would see Ross. Ross played football and I would go to the high school a lot of times and see him out there. As far as rhyming and stuff, prior to us getting deals, we did a record before and we always showed love [to one another]. He always told me, “Man, keep writing and one day I’m gonna put you on.” I was real nonchalant about it. Next thing you know, he was a part of me getting my deal.

After being out West for so long, how did you end up back in Miami?
I was out there in Cali for like three years and I was like, I’m not going back home till I make it. And then my manager was calling me and he was like, “You need to come down here. They’re listening to your demo and they just want to put a face to the music.” That was around the time Ross was getting his deal, so A&Rs were in the building because the “Hustlin’” record was blowing up. So I was like, I’m going to go down there just to visit, and I ended up staying for like four months and eventually I got my record deal with Atlantic Records.

With the overwhelming response that “Low” has gotten, you’ve already gotten more success than a lot of rappers. Do you feel like you’ve made it?
Nah, definitely, feel like I got a lot more work to go. Everything that’s happening, I expect to see all these things happening for the fact of how hard I worked prior. But I never knew it would be like this; not to this level.

How do they react to you in the strip club now?
They’re showing a little bit more love. They want to take pictures and get autographs now. When they’re dancing, now they just expect a little bit more [money], but it’s all good [laughs].

  • yourFATazzMAMA

    Don’t like him, he just ano media wash up rapper/R&B/Popster

  • ill G

    lol first comment had to be a hater…anyway i have only heard that “low” shit with tpain it was aight. i guess it’s either hit or miss wit this cat.

    • Mr.Wang

      Ya damn right he a hater. Any damn way I think this nigga here is okay. BUT the T-pain song was garbage.

      I’m tired of dat nappy headed nigga anyway. He need to stay his ass out the club.

  • THAT DUDE

    I Like “birthday” better than “Low” but I have to hear more to see what he working with.The article makes me respect him because he was talking like he gives a shit about the music & not frontin’ like he was doing Nino Brown number’s in the street before rap.
    Depending on his next single he could make some noise cause ain’t too many cat’s in his region taking it past the strip club nowadays.

    Not that I give a shit but he don’t seem 26!
    Rock guy’s don’t even get asked their age all the time but as soon as a rapper pops up they grilling him on age like there’s an age limit.You’ll be making these dude’s lie!!!!!

    • Caine

      I smell u pimpin’. It’s kinda refreshing to hear a MAN speak on his grind, and to tell da truth like ” Yeah I worked odd jobs to get by.” Dats real shit…

  • jae gutta

    That song wack as fuck, xxl should be ashamed of thereself 4 even thinkin this wack nigga gon do good in 08.

    • NAWLEDGE

      Naw he got some spit on him. Youtube the song “bitch im from dade county” and wait till his verse comes up. Not only that, he spit a verse on kanye’s “stronger”, and that shit was FIRE! Dont judge niggas on they first single. For example, Folja Toy first single crank dat was wack. his second single was even wacker. Therfore, he sucks. Feel me dawg?

  • dig

    That nigga ain’t 26..that’s all I know and that hairline shows it.

    • CoZ

      Wow Nigga… Datz A Stupid Reason
      Any 1 Hair Line Can B Like Dat… It Could Be A Genetic Gene

  • dig

    That nigga ain’t 26..that’s all I know, the hairline shows it.

  • http://none nasir

    he sound like a spanish rapper..his not lyrical.garbage.hes not gonna sell records.wack..

  • menace man 305

    I never understood why niggaz get on here and talk down against someone. now this man (flo rida) didn’t try to come off as some kind of mobb boss, or dope boi or none of that shit, just a nigga who pushed and pushed untill he made it. I wasn’t a major fan of “birthday” because I was to naieve to listen to the lyrics oppose to the verses and I see niggaz on blogs from all over the u.s. givin him props on it, so I’m gon take the time to listen. but “low” was a undenyable hit off top, lets be real, there is bo flaws in that song at all. oh yeah and he murdered that kanye “stronger beat” betta listen to it for ya self. the man paid his dues and is the future of southern music. and tha boy killed EVERYBODY verse on “bitch I’m from dade county”!!!

    Flo Rida, u already know what it is folk, dade county is behind u all the way. tell e class check out my track “dade county”. we the future of dade. dj khaled,dj suicide, thugg hound, dj murda, funk master olly, have all co signed it.

    E Class get at me.

    Dade County, We Here Now!!!

  • http://mysace.com/fly4noreason Real man

    I dont know, Like everybody is sayin. Im gonna have 2 do more research.
    I don’t care 4 “low” at all tho.
    I do respect his grind tho
    let’z c if xxl’s prediction will b right.
    If soulja boy can do it, then im convinced that n e thing can happen

  • http://www.alumnah.com green eyes

    miami stand up!!

  • C.O.

    407 TIL ITS HEAVEN.

    Flo Rida doin his thang. Come on, if Soulja boy can get in da game, why cant sumbody who has raw talent like Flo Rida get his props??? Da Shop Boyz R one hit wonders, with nothin 2 talk about, at least Flo Rida changes his flow, has lyrics n topics. LIKE THE LATE GREAT PIMP C SAID “QUIT HATIN ON THE SOUTH”

    Florida is blowin up in 2008. Wes Fif, Flo Rida, Treal, DJ Smallz, C.O., Raye Wonder, Joe Hound, da whole state. Shout out to every body frum 850, 407, 321, 305, 904, 727, 813, 386, 863, 239, n anybody else i 4got

  • Fireforreal

    This nigga is wack. I think that’s cool he did whatever to get by but I think he’s settin himself up with a single by T-pain and the world ain’t feeling him on his own yet. I bet his album won’t sell than like everybody else he’s gonna blaime his lable for his album not sellin even though he’s wack. Let’s get back to skills people Damn !

  • DADE COUNTY 305

    MUCH RESPECT TO ANOTHA BROTHA FROM DADE COUNT! WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT HOW OLD FLO IS! THEM IS WORKIN AND MAKIN SOME REAL GOOD MUSIC. NIGGAZ QUICK TO HATE ON A BROTHA FROM THE SOUTH OR JUS A BROTHA PERIOD!!! NIGGAZ GET MAD ALL WANT ABOUT NIGGAZ MAKIN STRIP CLUB MUSIC. NIGGAZ DOWN HERE JUS KNOW HOW TO SPIT ON THE STRIB CLUB BEATS. WHAT 99% OF U DUMB LIL(NIGGAZ)ON HERE DONT UNDERSTAND IS “HARD WORK IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS” QUIT THE FUCKIN HATIN AND RESPECT THE MAN GRIND! U DONT HAVE TO LIKE THE MAN MUSIC BUT RESPECT THE MAN WORK! I LOVE HOW OUR SOUTHERN RAPPERS R GETTING THEIR SHINE ON.

  • calico
  • STEZZO

    It’s an okay song not something I WOULD BUY. It’s funny cause my mom was singing this sh@t so either he’s going to be a one hit wonder or sell a lot of records – he doesn’t have that rapper look to me – he look like a boxer – anyway congrats – can’t hate on another brother for trying to get it – just not my type of hiphop/rap

  • fla all day

    I got one of his mixtapes. I was suprised dude is lyrical but i didnt really like any songs off top. but i’ll be checkin for him in the future.

  • http://www.myspace.com/mc585 M.C

    I respect his grind..Most def..I was down there in my for memorial day weekend..Him andhis GOONz was kicking it at Jadaz B-day bash at club Cameoz in MIAmi–He def been hustling hard-Its paying off–enjoy that sht”’Cause sht hopefully one day you mothafuckaz can listen to my sht in judge all day too–as long as i got couple of haterz i’ll be happy as hell—

    http://www.myspace.com/mc585

    respect another niggaz hustle..I might just have some pics of him in the club that night-cause niggaz ws snapping like a mug–go check em out and listen to my sht while you at it…

  • 305 SHOWIN SOME LOVE

    this my shit right here im feelin the song n the beat is tight
    keep doin ur thing Flo Rida u gonna make it
    to the haterz f^c# u ya heard

    305 4 life

  • http://www.myspace.com/hurricane Freeze

    YOOOOOOOOOOOO
    Have yall heard of that nigga Flo Rida Homebwoy from California named DaChao….funny cuz that nigga is poppin like sum bubble gum!!! He finna sign with Epic/KOCH/Collipark!!!
    That nigga is hella clean at freestyling but he needs to drop a better album single

  • http://www.myspace.com/12roundz That nigga who KANT RAP!!

    DUMBASS!!! FIRST DaChao is wack!! SECOND he thinks he is hard but he rap for ladies too!!!
    THIRD BITCH he not signed to COLLIPARK he said he wud sign to them

  • http://www.myspace.com/blackmusicrecords O Yeaaahh A Beast

    That DaChao nigga sick…HE GOT MAD BITCHESA and the hood wit em!!!
    LUCKYASS NIGGA
    He a tyte ass artist….we finally got a touch of NEW artists

  • http://web.nuklei.com TheTranslator

    Flo Rida is str8 nothing like Trick Daddy something close to Rick Ross, pitbull coming back, I think a lot of people are gonna be hearing about the Miami hustle this ’08. I appreciate all their hard work and good productions and the fact that they rep the city like never before. To all the haters that come here and write negativity I think that’s whack and we should embrace some sort of support system not only for our artists but also the people that make the hip hop culture possible, if we keep shooting ourselves down we’re not gonna go ANYWHERE. And believe me with all the shits thats coming in the U.S this culture could actually come together and lead the future, lot of niggas with mad knowledge on the wig just take your time to listen and be a little less critical, after all we’re all human and like the same style of music. Not to mention we all strive to survive and protect our families, don’t hate modulate.

  • http://myspace.com/daskoolboisounds2006 Freddy Long

    I’m not a fan and I’m from Dade (CC to the LBC) but I believe he gon’ be the superstar Miami needs. When have notable artist but we don’t have the Jay, 50 or Big for NY, OutKast for Atlanta, Nelly for St. Lou , Pac, Snoop and Dre for the West Coast or Eminem for Detroit. I’m cheering for him and he may just be the 1st Miami artist i actually spend money on. Not a fan of his songs that i heard but i respect “SUCCESS”. Embrace it instead of downing it cause you’re too lazy to study the game and make a sacrifice to obtain “SUCCESS”.

  • drell

    I didnt even know devante swing was still alive

  • sO fresh!!!

    im diggInG that sONg iiTS a pReTTy tiGht SOng To daNce on THE cLUBS && SHIT!! YUp YUP DIGGING IIt

  • Young 7

    yall need 2 quit hatin im from florida and all i was hearin was about dis nigga plies im glad we finally have a real nigga 2 represent florida

    polk county 863 haaaaaaaaa!

  • reggaetony

    Reggaeton is taking all music over again is the dope as music out there now and there beat’s and instrumentals are getting better and better

  • DJ BRE

    Why can’t black people be happy fa the dude. Damn, whenever somebody makes it, they still got haters that don’t even know them… So chill and give the dude a chance.

    954, 305, 786

    -DJ BRE

  • http://www.cmusinc.com Kamikaze CMI

    Hating is define when a (Mother Fuc*er) who don’t have anything at all to do with a situation, have a muta fuc*ing opinion, a negative opinion, and always running off at the mouth like they can do better.
    If you fit the profile above then you a hater, and yall niggas keep doing what you do. I haven’t heard much from Flo Rida but I like his single and I’m going to show support and buy the album. If I didn’t like the single then I wouldn’t buy the album it’s that simple. So shut the fuck up. Better yet keep hating it’s free publicity

  • ~MS. CERTIFIED~

    AY GET OFF MI BOI T-PAIN REEL TALK…DONT HATE LET DAT NIGGA MAKE HIS MONEY…U SIT CHA ASS DOWN SOMEWHERE

  • G.E

    all i got to say is behind every successful man there will be haterz..(like me) :(

    so with that said,ive heard this new cat i respect hustle and respect where it is due.
    to you i raise a hand and say dawg im grinding to and you just happen to have got there before i did..

    as far as the musiq i was fucking pissed off when i saw your fucking lame elevator video…shit was fucking gay and to top it off you have buffed up timbo doing some repetitive shit..irionically it sales so it only makes (cents)
    i hate to sound like im contradictiing myself but we all have our taste in musiq and we do what we do…but rida your shit is not worth the effort or the money you spent on that wack ass beat.your flow is below medicore and all that ice will only get you a clawn-dike homie..shit is washed up wack ass excuse for a fucking “rapper”..the bitches might like it and at the end of the day really what you and lame as t-pain are doing is really for the ladies cause girls now in days aside from the fact that they are completely elusive over glamour and tryna look better that the bitch with the fake breast and alright ass…are close enough to compare to what you foo’s think…and thats get the money while you can…

    *no hating get that money..shit i wish i was on that video….

    ;)

    ill meet you someday in the game and be like mr flo rida ya shit sucks,but uhhhhhh that girl to your left introduce me to her….:0

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