hmv's Next Big Thing... #71 A-F-R-O
Every Wednesday we recommend a brand new artist who we think you're going to love. This week we're bringing back that old school hip-hop with a talented young rapper that goes by the name A-F-R-O...
Who is he?
James Gutierrez, better known to most as A-F-R-O, is a young emcee from southern California who has been steadily gaining a reputation as one of the brightest prospects in hip-hop, earning endorsements from the likes of DJ Premier, Talib Kweli and Questlove. A-F-R-O, in case you were wondering, stands for 'All Flows Reach Out'. But yes, he does also have the hair to match.
Still only 18 years old, A-F-R-O got his first break in 2014 when he submitted an entry into a contest held by RA the Rugged Man, in which the New York rapper invited budding wordsmiths to record their own verses over the instrumental to his track 'Definition of a Rap Flow'. Of all the entries received, A-F-R-O's was a clear winner and RA was shocked to discover that the deep voice deployed by the rapper on the winning entry belonged to a kid who was still only 16.
Since then, Rugged Man has been championing his protege and offered A-F-R-O the opportunity to join him on tour, while in the meantime the young rapper has put out a couple of his own mixtapes and has been steadily growing a fanbase of his own.
What does he sound like?
A-F-R-O is very much of the old school and in terms of style he has much more in common with the likes of Blackalicious and KRS-One than the more modern iteration of hip-hop you'd associate with Drake or Kendrick Lamar. His mixtapes have featured beats from the likes of Damu the Fudgemunk and MF Doom, overlaid with lyrical flows that are rapid, intricate and full of imaginative imagery, but there's a tangible sense of humour in his lyrics too.
Why should I be excited?
There has been an ongoing discussion in recent years concerning what does and what does not constitute hip-hop, with artists like Nicki Minaj offering a much more pop-influenced take on the tried and tested formula of beats, samples and rhymes. That's not necessarily a bad thing - things progress, times change – but in recent years there have been relatively few new artists offering a sound that's more reminiscent of the 'Golden Age' era and if that's what you're into, A-F-R-O is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Can I hear something?
You can find the video for his track 'Code #829' below. For anyone who wants to check out his winning entry for Rugged Man's contest, you can also find that here...