Under The Influence: Being An Album Artist With Rapper Floco Torres
Floco Torres is an Akron, Ohio-based rapper with an impressive and extensive discography. When it comes to creating music, he believes in dropping thoughtful albums instead one-off tracks. With over 20 projects under his belt, Floco Torres is dedicated to his craft and expresses absolute freedom as an independent artist. A lover and student of music, he is entrenched in the DIY culture of the underground music scene. Although Hip-Hop is his stylistic focus, all types of music from Jazz to Japanse Pop-Rock influence him. When he feels the urge to create something new the textures and sounds of different genres serve as his motivation and bank of inspiration.
Tackling each project with an unending stream of enthusiasm and creativity, he recently dropped his latest solo album ‘Nobody Cares News.’ The album holds notes of Afrofuturism with an edgy lyrical depth. Of course, Floco Torres hasn’t stopped there, he has also teamed up with producer/drummer Holbrook Riles III aka HR3 to form a new group and fresh project of the same name, Free Black! In this exclusive interview, the prolific artist shares with Steereo the highlights of being independent, what it’s like being an album artist and nearly everything that fuels and sparks his creative mode.
Listen to ‘Nobody Cares News’ by Floco Torres
Tell us about yourself, what made you get into music?
I am currently in Akron, Ohio and it will be two years in January. I just released my third project since I’ve been in Akron and I’ve been doing a lot of shows and promotion. For about ten years, I’ve been on the independent grind and I like being in control of my own destiny. Originally, I went to school for Journalism which sort of translated to music. Writing has always been my thing. Writing is the most fun for me: telling stories through music. Journalism also helped with some of the business side of music.
You seem to have an impressive discography, how many albums do you have and what’s your productivity like from one project to the next?
I have twenty-four, I just released a project called ‘Free Black.’ It’s the first group record I’ve done–which was nice. When I started really getting into music I was going to a lot of DIY shows, being around bands and artists that were doing things their way. They made music in more of a prolific manner rather than a mainstream way where it’s more about pushing out singles. I’m more of an album artist. I know it’s a little overwhelming for people when they find out how much music they miss, especially in Hip-Hop because by this point I’m supposed to be Jay-Z or something to people. I just create. Similar to artists like Curren$y, he has a lot of music and he’ll always saying in interviews “if I don’t rap, I don’t eat” and that’s kind of how I look at it. I push projects for a while, get on the road, and when I feel something I get into the next thing.
Since you are an ‘album artist’ do you have a concept or an idea that you start with when making an album?
Yes, my full-length album ‘Nobody Cares News’ is set up like a news/television network. Everything moves fast and songs are built like channels. I came up with conversations and featured news anchors. So usually an album will start with a concept or conversation or I’ll see a piece of art and say to myself “It would be really cool if I made seven songs like that piece of art.” It’s more fun that way because I’m not signed to anyone and don’t have to focus on singles.
Listening to ‘Nobody Cares News’ there seemed to be Afrofuturistic vibes, a fun tone, and deep lyrics. Was that your intention for the album?
Yes, absolutely! I specifically wanted to make it so that if someone was looking for a single or something with that sound, I made some of those songs like ‘I’m going to give you this backdrop but the concept of the song will be a little deeper.” Also, I’ve been listening to a lot of records. I did an album dig and listened to different kinds of music. As well, I’m really into dystopian shows like Black Mirror and Manic. I’m always watching Voltron, which is a part of my mindset and style–cartoon, fictional, yet based off of real things.
What were the records and artists that inspired you during the creative process?
Leading up making the project, I listened to Frank Ocean’s Blonde, St. Vincent’s Masseduction. I had actually listened to a lot of Michael Jackson’s albums. I also listened to a lot of Norwegian Pop music and Brazilian records I bought to get a sense of different textures.
Of course, I’m influenced by artists like Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco and J.Cole but I’m often inspired by the artists I’m around. As I mentioned, I go to many DIY shows. I went to one recently and there was a band from Japan called The Firewood Project. It was really dope to hear their sound. I’m constantly going to shows, constantly listening to music, watching things, going to art museums and I kind of store everything until it’s time to make something.
How do you keep track of all your ideas when you’re working on projects?
I have so many notebooks, two dream boards in my office. Sometimes I print out pictures and paste them to the wall. I have this giant wall that just has images and sayings. I also have two whiteboards to write. I’m a visual person, so if I’m seeing an idea I don’t know when it’s going to come out but I know that it will.
In “Bounce back like Rubber” you sample ‘Turiya And Ramakrishna’ by Alice Coltrane. How important are Jazz and other genres to your music?
In my head, I look at myself as a Jazz artist. I don’t necessarily claim that because I’m definitely a Hip Hop artist. Yet, I listen to so much jazz music in the house and it seems so fun because those musicians made a variety of music. They loved music, put out albums and toured. I want to educate myself as much as I can. I remember listening to Puffy sample jazz songs and then I found out he’d use nearly a whole song. So I think it’s really important to know where we come from musically and how important Black music is. Also those records just slap like Alice Coltrane! Art Blakey Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Dizzy Gillespie, and so many more are other artists I listen to.
Would you mind telling us what your song ‘Chance’ is about and what you want to express through the song?
I’m glad that the mental health conversation is happening more in music, especially in Hip Hop. I made ‘Chance’ as something I can listen to and inspire myself on those days when I was working jobs I didn’t want to work. Everything moves so fast now that often as artists we don’t feel like we’re making progress in our own lives. It’s easy to forget where you came from and I just wanted to make something that was based around those conversations in the morning, looking in the mirror and not being happy with what you see. In the Black community too, we don’t have much mental health conversations growing up. I wanted to be more open and share that it’s okay to not feel well and to get help. I think the line “I’m losing my mind, my momma said I’ll be fine” speaks to that. Most importantly being transparent means a lot to me.
Would you say you’re a conscious rapper? How important is lyricism to you?
I let other people do the labels if people think I’m a conscious rapper then cool. I have songs, specifically ‘Money’ that I got flak for that form women misunderstanding the message and other people completely got it. Once you put the music out people will interpret it. Lyrics are important to me because that’s the music I enjoy listening to. I try to toe the line of not doing too much
Is there anything more you would like to share?
Musically, since I am an album artist I try to keep the projects short so you can digest in an hour and move on. Most importantly, I care deeply about what I’m doing and I hope listeners enjoy it.
Watch The Music Video For ‘You!” By Floco Torres