Last summer I came across Columbus OH hip-hop artist, Hafrican (birth certificate name, Brian Earley), at the Independents Day festival in Franklinton, OH. As luck would have it, a few months later I found myself dancing next to him at some sweaty birthday party in the loft of my building. He was kind enough to give me his email (despite my somewhat “compromised” mental state), and share a preview of his latest album, “The Paris Project”. From the first listen, I found the “The Paris Project” to be well-laid tracks which calmly blend his smart syllabic fashion to the sultry back beats of his collaborator, Goomar. Throughout, Hafrican displays a need for speed (rhyme) which is neatly presented in such a way to avoid any kind of off-putting cockiness or unfounded swagger. The album is good, earnest, and just what Overblown‘s readers should be listening to when they want a clean dose of hip hop honestly. Below, Overblown talks to Hafrican about his background, music, and the cross-continental collaboration which went into the creation of “The Paris Project”.
Overblown: First, I have to say, you were my favorite performer I came across at Columbus OH’s Independent’s Day festival last summer, but I (and more importantly, our readers) don’t know anything about you. What’s your background here in Ohio and what was your introduction to Hip Hop?
Hafrican: I was born in Columbus, Ohio. I moved to Newark, Ohio when I was 2. I started playing the drums at the age of 3, so music has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. In 5th grade I joined the school band because I really wanted to learn how to read music. This definitely helped me comprehend how different instruments worked together to form songs.
I joined a band called Amorphia when I got to high school, I also Joined the drum-line to further my percussion skills. The band I was in (Amorphia) played all original music, no covers, so I think that has a lot to do with why I am so passionate about being original. Eventually the band split up and I helped start a hip hop duo called A-List with the bass player from Amorphia. A-List was my first experience with making beats and writing lyrics. We would go to as many open mics as we could find just to get a chance to perform. We soon found ourselves rocking lots of shows, and opening up for national acts, one of the bigger shows was Wale. We made 3 albums before going our separate ways. “Ghost And The Darkness”, “Like This”, and “Black Sheep Of High St” which was never released.
I had already made a name for myself as Hafrican of A-List, so I figured transitioning into a solo career would be easier. I produced 7 out of 11 beats on my first solo project titled Strange Arrangements, which ended up getting nominated for album of the year at the Ohio Hip Hop Awards. My 2nd solo Project is titled Underground Madness, I ended up producing 7 out of 13 of the tracks on that album. I shot videos for a few of the tracks from that project, “Haf”, “Feeling Good”, “Underground Madness”, and “Get It Got It Good”. All of these videos can be found on YouTube.
O: Your newest album, The Paris Project, is the result of a transcontinental marriage with French artist, Goomar. How did you two even find each other?
H: Goomar, somehow through the magical power of the internet, came across my video “Feeling Good”, and decided to search me on facebook. He told me he really liked my style and was a producer from Paris and asked if I would want to collaborate on a track sometime. He sent me a link to his SoundCloud and I couldn’t believe how dope the beats were. We started chatting back and forth through Facebook messages then he eventually sent me a file with about 11 beats. I found myself really interested in 7 of the beats, so we decided it would be best to do a project together.
O: Was there a language barrier? How did you go about maintaining this collaboration and what methods did you use to pull this project together?
H: There was a little language barrier at first, but for the most part we just let the music do all the talking. We stayed in contact throughout the whole process and I would record at home and send him the progress through emails.
O: Did working with Goomar expand your background as an American Hip Hop artist? Who are your influences and musical inspirations?
H: I think it helped me get outside of my comfort zone because of our different styles, but I feel it molded together perfectly. Some of my influences have been Eric B and Rakim, Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Biggie, Nas and many of the greats of hip hop. My musical inspirations are mostly life experiences and smoking a lot of weed hahahaha. (lots).
O: From the first listen, the sound mix quality is fucking excellent (I mean, it made my little Pontiac’s windows rattle while negotiating snow this winter, and my headphones really really like it.), who recorded and produced this album? How did the recording process change you as an artist?
H: I recorded and mixed the whole album in my spare bedroom using fairly cheap equipment. I’m still learning how to record and mix so at the end of the day I have no idea what I’m doing but have a lot of fun doing it. Goomar produced all of the beats for this project. Anytime I record I learn more and more, the recording process always helps me grow and try to think of different ways of how to do things.
O: You possess an awesome ability for speed and flow. How does your speech pattern influence your writing? Do you free verse or write first without beat?
H: I like to say that I rap like I play the drums. I like to spazz out on the beat, trying to fill in as many syllables as possible. I like to write to a beat so I can take full advantage of every rest and rhythm.
O: What is your writing background? Do you use your poetry in other formats?
H: I don’t really have a writing background aside from making up stupid songs as a kid, lol. I’d say the farthest my poetry goes in other formats is saying ridiculous stuff on Facebook and Twitter.
O: Where can we see Hafrican and Goomar this year? How can our readers find Paris Project so they can buy it and love it this February?
H: Unfortunately I’m not sure when you will get to see the both of us together but maybe one day we will be able to do a show together, that would be crazy! The Paris Project will be available online at www.hafrican.bandcamp.com for free download Tuesday February 17th. You can also get all of my other albums on there for free. The album release party will be at Double Happiness in Columbus, Ohio. I just want to be heard.