Rock It: Afroman talks weed legalization, performance at Hideaway

Posted on November 13, 2013

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Rock It: Afroman talks weed legalization, performance at Hideaway

Afroman attends the 2001 Radio Music Awards at the Aladdin Resort and Casino October 26, 2001 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Jason Kirk/Getty Images)

Afroman attends the 2001 Radio Music Awards at the Aladdin Resort and Casino October 26, 2001 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Jason Kirk/Getty Images)

Afroman used the plant – still far from legalization in most of the United States – as the muse for his best known single, 2001’s “Because I Got High.”Many rappers received their first break thanks to marijuana, such as Dr. Dre (“The Chronic”), Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill and Palmdale, Calif.-raised rapper/guitarist Afroman.

With his song about the unfortunate pitfalls that resulted from his and his friends’ avid weed smoking, the performer, born Joseph Edgar Foreman, took grams to Grammy nominations for the song, paving the way for several more albums, the start-up of his label, Hungry Hustler Records, and eventual return to Lafayette, where he last performed in 2010. Afroman will perform Sunday at the Hideaway with local musician Kyle Bledsoe.

Afroman also is known for humorous and laid-back lyrics that focus on having a good time instead of violence or animosity, such as his song “Cali Swangin.’ ”

Along with being associated mostly with pot, the curse of being a one-hit wonder still lurks by Afroman’s side, pressuring him to write even more effective hooks.

In between freestyle phone rapping and long, weed-fueled pauses, I talked with Afroman about what’s happened since “Because I Got High,” how he got his stage name, guitars and marijuana legalization.

Question: I read that you started rapping in eighth grade; how did you decide on the stage name “Afroman”? Answer: That was a West Coast thing. A real rapper comes up with a name like Run DMC, LL Cool J, KRS1, but I came up in the west so it was real gangster out there.

In L.A., they aren’t going to call you something like Poetic Paul, they are going to drink beer and come up with the worst thing they think is funny and put it on shirts and jackets. I didn’t want to get no goofy name that cats wouldn’t respect in the streets, so I wanted the streets to name me.

I went to school and this chick was asking me to pass up a paper and she didn’t know my name and she said ‘Hey, Afroman’ and everyone laughed and it just kind of stuck.

Q: Playing guitar as a rapper is definitely different. Who inspired you to play? Tell me more about your double neck guitar.

A: Since I was a baby I was fascinated with guitar. There was a guy that would play guitar at our church when I was a little boy. It was really boring until he started playing and everyone went crazy. He was a real good musician that wasn’t famous. Some guys are just showing off a little riff they learned in a frat house, but not this guy.

I used to try and play the drums, but it was hard to get the sticks from the bigger boys so I thought if I played the guitar, there would be less competition. I helped carry that guy’s guitar and amplifier in and I would set it up for him.

After a year of volunteering of carrying his equipment, he gave me is old guitar when he got a new one. I was only a little kid carrying an electric guitar. In the hood, that was a big deal.

My mom played piano so she would help me find which strings to push down and he would show me a little bit at church and then after that I was just off to the races.

Q: What kind of guitar do you own?

A: A double neck.

Q: What’s the brand name?

A: You know what, that’s where I’m hood. All my white homies know guitar names. I don’t know, I’m too broke. My Gibson got stolen in one of the Carolinas.

Q: Do you think living in the Los Angeles area gave you the best advantage to become a successful rap artist?

A: I made some money in L.A., but I got rich in Mississippi. Something about your hometown that works against you. People kind of know you too much. By high school, they don’t take you serious, they talk against you. It’s hard for an artist to get out of his hometown and you are outcasted.

Don’t worry about the haters. You need to get away from home to a place where they think you’re different and people don’t know about you.

Q: What was going on in your life before your hit “Because I got High”?

A: It was an absolute debacle, chaos, but a beer and a cheer in the middle. I was learning to enjoy life in the process in becoming better, not committing suicide because it wasn’t happening that day. I was just learning more acceptance and moving on and just laughing about it. I heard this preacher say that 99 things could be going right and we bitch about the one thing that’s going wrong.

Q: How many instances in the song did you write about yourself or what happened to you?

A: The part about cleaning my room, the child support wasn’t about me. I thought about how weed was messing me up and I thought about how weed was messing my homies up. I tried to relate to as many people as I could.

Q: What inspired you to incorporate the overdub?

A: I grew up listening to the Fat Boys and Run DMC and I always liked that in the back. It’s kind of like playing in the backyard with your buddies; nobody is going to be all the way quiet when you rap. I mimic the friends and characters and memories that I had as a child and I say all different kinds of stuff like I’m different people. It’s kind of like Eddie Murphy playing the different roles in “The Nutty Professor.”

Q: A lot of your fans associate your music with weed since you talk about it often. Is this something you’re OK with?

A: As I get older, I feel more guilty about that. A certain percentage of humanity smokes marijuana. I entertain a certain percentage of that percentage. A lot of marijuana smokers don’t like me because they think I make marijuana smokers look unintelligent. Tommy Chong spoke out against me and said I “insulted smoker intelligence.”

The truth is, I used to get tired of going to parties and I can’t enjoy my beer because they might start fighting or shooting any minute. I wanted to design a peaceful party. The rapper usually attracts what he talks about. I try to crack more jokes, just have people relax and have a good time.

Q: Is it safe to say then you are an advocate for legalization? What do you think will have to happen to convince lawmakers and the masses to fully pass it?

A: Yeah! I’m tired of going to jail and watching my back. I’m not a bad dude, I have tax returns.

There are a lot of pros and cons – the government makes a lot of money out of it being illegal, but if they legalize it then people will just grow it and have it and the government doesn’t get any money from it. Then these poverty states will be gone. Marijuana is bringing this place back. It’s funny because the car companies are all gone, but weed is here.

It wasn’t my intention to be the logo for something illegal, but since I am, I’ll capitalize on it. I’m not going to get a job at Taco Bell.

Q: Do you still get asked by fans to smoke with them?

A: (Laughs) All the time, a lot of kids, lot of people teasing.

Q: You’ve been to Lafayette and Purdue before, so what makes you drawn to the vibe of this area?

A: I love all my fans and I like to keep it healthy. It’s a relationship with my fans. Indiana is real cool and it’s close to Cincinnati, which is my home. I can drive and then jump on stage and do my thing.

Q: Where will you be on April 20 or 4/20 this year?

A: I’ll be in Troy, Ala., doing a show and hanging out.

Q: What is your dream car?

A: 1983 Cadillac.

Q: I saw pictures of you in a Brett Favre jersey. Are you a Packers fan or just a Favre fan?

A: I like Brett Favre. We are both from Hattiesburg, (Miss.), I think he’s a good quarterback. I thought if he can make it, maybe I can, too.

Q: Who smokes the most – You, Snoop, Wiz or Cypress Hill?

A: (Laughs) Right now I think I got them all beat. I’m going to let them have it here in a minute. Q: What’s in store for your future?

 The new, underground songs are available independently on my website. I want to make good music, I want to put my heart into into it. I love the fans I have now, I just want to run a good little restaurant. It will filter out to the mainstream music eventually, but I’m not going to let MTV slow me down and stand at their back door for two or three years tapping my toe waiting for them to play my video.

Mattice is a producer and music journalist for the Journal & Courier. She can be reached on Twitter @RachaelM_JC.

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Posted in: "Rock It" Column