Success against the odds

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 April, 2009, 12:00am

Even if you're not sure of the exact location of the state Florida, you've probably heard of rapper Flo Rida. He is one of the hottest and highest grossing hip hop artists of the last couple of years.

Only a year after his commercially successful debut Mail On Sunday, Flo Rida (born Tramar Dillard) released his eagerly anticipated follow-up, R.O.O.T.S. which, besides obviously being about the artist's 'roots', is also an acronym for 'route of overcoming the struggle'.

According to the Miami-based rapper, the album was inspired by an eye-opening trip he took to his ancestral home continent of Africa. There, he witnessed the struggles average Africans go through on a daily basis, which made him reflect on his so-far-so-good career and tough childhood.

'[The trip] also made me think about my own struggles, and the adversity I had to face growing up in the projects,' says the 29-year-old.

Brought up with his seven sisters by a single mother in a notorious ghetto, it would have been all too easy for the young Tramar to fall into a life of violence and crime. But while many of his friends ended up in jail at one time or another, Flo Rida decided to pursue his musical dream, and also study international management at university so he'd have something to fall back on.

'My mother always taught me and my sisters that if you can believe it, you can achieve it,' says the rapper.

'I decided to be a leader and do more positive things.'

Apart from this believe-in-yourself attitude, growing up in a big family also exposed the artist to a wide range of music, an influence which is infused into his music.

His new record features elements of good-time 80s good-time club jams.

Lead single Right Round is a good example of such fusion. An infectious sample of Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) was borrowed, rejuvenated and taken to the top of the Billboard Hot 100; it stayed for an impressive six consecutive weeks.

The single reached platinum status in just two weeks and smashed the one-week digital single sale record previously held by the rapper himself, with his debut smash-hit Low.

R.O.O.T.S. has an all-star line-up of collaborators. From the versatile Nelly Furtado in the Jump and Ne-Yo in the catchy, feel-good Be On You, to Akon in Available which samples The SOS Band's Take Your Time (Do It Right) - yet another 80s connection.

Going back to the first decade of his life has given Flo Rida a chance to reflect on how much he's grown as a person and an artist.

'I've grown so much in the past year. I saw the entire world, and it's reflected in my song-making. I really think people will be amazed at my versatility on R.O.O.T.S.'