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Courtesy of Nashville Scene

The narrative is a familiar one around here: A talented kid from a musical family attends college in Nashville, sleeping on sofas while grinding it out from gig to gig. After writing and recording a song inspired by his childhood, he lands on a local radio station and next thing you know, his friends are freaking out after seeing him on national television.

In this case, that kid is Mike Floss, and he may be Nashville’s most promising hip-hop artist.

 

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“A lot of people don’t know that we have such a great hip-hop scene here,” Floss tells the Scene. “A lot of people have no clue what’s going on in the world that I live in. I think it’s only right to show this other side that people have never seen, that they need to be exposed to.”

Floss was born in Chicago, but his family moved to Nashville when he was around 2. His father is accomplished jazz musician Rod McGaha, so the music industry already feels like home.

“I grew up with music being played nonstop,” he says, “whether it was practicing or jazz records or production. I used to do my homework in the studio back when I was probably in the third grade, so it was nothing out of the ordinary for me to go on that path. It’s my comfort zone.”

Fittingly, Floss later studied business administration and marketing while he cultivated a following among Nashville’s underground hip-hop community as Openmic, a moniker the rapper only recently dropped. But despite his Teflon local ties, Floss opted to record his upcoming LP, Don’t Blame the Youth, in Atlanta with local artist/producer and longtime collaborator Ducko McFli.

 

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“I was sleeping on studio floors and couches,” Floss recalls, “trying to wait on the studio to be available so we could jump in at 2 in the morning and make some music. We were recording it out of a label studio, and they were cool with us doing stuff, but the artists that are signed to that label obviously have priority, so I was waiting on the studio to open up and get in there.”

Youth‘s pulsating lead single, “Dopeboy Dreaming,” draws on a teenage experience where envy might have gotten the better of him.

“I saw this guy I went to high school with walking down the steps with what had to be somewhere above $5,000 in twenties. He was just waving it in the air!” Floss recalls with a laugh. “Clearly in high school there is no way to get $5,000 in twenties unless you’re doing something illegal. I remember looking like, ‘Man, I wonder what would happen if I just took that money from him.’ I probably wouldn’t be alive right now, but it’s kind of that foresight — it’s like looking onto something you want, then thinking, ‘I wonder what would happen if I did that.’ ”

He continues, “For a lot of young black guys, the dopeboys are the ones who have the stuff we want. They acquired these things through making life decisions that most of the time they end up regretting. For a lot of us, that’s the only way we feel like we can get it. It’s the balance of the two — is it worth the risk? I wanted to communicate that in a way that’s not preachy, but just perspective.”

 

Locally, Floss has graced stages the likes of Third Man Records’ Blue Room and The Stone Fox, while “Dopeboy Dreaming” has been played on 101.1-FM The Beat. When the digital single was spotted on a TV commercial for Jay Z’s controversial streaming platform Tidal during the Billboard Music Awards, Floss’ phone blew up, even though he had no idea what his friends were talking about.

“I didn’t even see it!” he says. “Somebody hit me up and told me like, ‘Yo, go online and look at this.’ Everybody was posting it on Instagram and Twitter. … I was hanging out with my girlfriend at the time, and I really wasn’t paying too much attention to the awards, but my phone started going crazy. Apparently somebody over at Tidal likes me, I guess. I had no idea.”

Although he admits he’s “not a huge social media person,” he’s wisely using those platforms for more than self-promotion.

“I get a lot of inspiration from the Internet,” he explains. “I’ve never left the country, so it’s my only real access of real time and spaces that aren’t in Nashville. I share that inspiration a lot on my Tumblr, or talk about it on Instagram or Twitter. Social media is the main direct consumer platform for indie artists. So we can [promote] shows completely through social media and sell it out. In Nashville, some of the shows that I’ve headlined, we did a hundred percent Internet — no fliers printed, no posters printed, and it sold out.”

MIKE WEARS


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