One Fan at a Time
A big breath.
Hollywood FLOSS's chest is rising. His eyebrows are crawling up his forehead. His pointy shoulders are moving upwards.
Then a slow exhale.
Hollywood FLOSS's chest is lowering. His eyebrows are coming pinched together. His pointy shoulders are returning to their natural state.
Everything is exaggerated a little, for effect, mostly.
"Man...," he says. Head shake. "A lot."
The question: How much work does it take for, say, someone like XXL, one of the nation's premier rap magazines, to notice you?
FLOSS's first rumblings in Houston underground rap's biosphere were in 2008, when he released an EP titled Ari Gold Tendencies that featured a fascinating twist on Led Zeppelin's "All My Love." At the time, he was young and inexperienced, his confidence and will were outpaced only by his unpolished eagerness. (Example: When he was asked by the Houston Press to participate in the Artist of the Week column in December of 2008, the primary photo he sent was one he'd taken of himself while holding the camera.)
But he grew wise quickly, flexing the marketing degree he'd earned from the University of Houston, building himself into a brand and pushing that, becoming a savvy, connected (Internet) rapper. Now? Now he's like a 135-pound version of LinkedIn.
In fact, there have only ever been a fistful of truly underground Houston rappers who have been featured in XXL or on the site, and FLOSS, a 28-year-old full-time middle school teacher, is one.
"With that, actually, they came to me," he says, eyes big again. He talks a lot with his eyes. "They e-mailed and were like, 'Let me see what you got.' I sent 'em a song. They liked it."
Prominent rap sites such as The Source.com, Rap Radar and 2 Dope Boyz have championed his cause, too.
"But, yeah. There's a lot of work that goes into it."
A couple weeks ago at Fitzgerald's, FLOSS, promoting his new tape, One Fan at a Time, was part of a rap lineup that featured one of the Internet's current favorite rap weirdos (Danny Brown) and some of life's favorite weirdos (Das Racist, currently on the cover of Spin).
FLOSS is a good rapper, but he is a great performer.
Halfway into his 9:45 p.m. set, the crowd, mostly hip and previously appearing not altogether excited about the prospect of waiting around two hours to see D.R., was fully engaged, jumping and clapping and shouting.
When his band — The Fabulous Pinecones, which consists of FLOSS, a short, round male singer with a ponytail named Kidd the Great, two guitar players, a bass player and a drummer — transitioned into a rock set that blended Green Day's "Brain Stew" into The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," the crowd lost its shit. A thorough mosh pit erupted.
"It's not just about the talent," says FLOSS. "You have to put it all together. It's about the whole package."
His show preps, he says, are laborious, tedious affairs. He and his band practice "eight hours to be ready for a 25- to 30-minute set," explains FLOSS. "It's a lot of work."
FLOSS is also part of a collective of rappers called T.H.E.M. (The Houston Elite MCs), which has several members, but FLOSS and rapper/producer Jett. I. Masstyr are the most prominent, most vigorous. Each day, the collective's clout swells by inches.
Little about this artist isn't streamlined. Even his business model has become viciously efficient.
"I used to work with everybody that asked me to," says FLOSS. "I can't do that anymore. I'll have random people hit me up — 'Oh, I saw you on Rap Radar, let's do something together.' I'm like, 'Who are you? Do you even know my music?'"
He elaborates: "We heard people saying we [T.H.E.M.] were cocky or arrogant. No, it's not that, it's just, a lot of work went into what we have now. We can't just lend that out. That's not how the best music gets made. People did the same thing to us when we were first starting out. We were upset about it, but we understand now."
He leans back in his chair, looks away, then aims forward again. He shakes his head.
The eyes. He doesn't say it, but he says it:
It's a lot of work.
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