Months before the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Original Flow was examining his own Black American experience. On November 19, 2019, Flow released “Lately,” a single that explored the day-to-day reality of racism and how it can impact a young Black man’s view of himself and the world.
The video showed Flow in bed and secluded, dealing with the depression of being “not accepted, being Black is holding weapons.” “Lately” evokes the mental anguish that comes with being labeled, a sentiment that pervades much of Blackmankidboy, Flow’s remarkable debut album.
“I think this part of America really is finally starting to see what’s happening,” Flow said. “Being mistreated by police officers, being profiled, police officers being prejudiced, you know, based off of the color of my skin, and assuming I’m part of a gang or have weapons or any of that stuff. You know, that’s just been my life growing up, and I wanted to talk about that, from my perspective.”
Music and filmby George Lang
Sponsored by True Sky Credit Union
Joined by his bandmates in the Fervent Route, Original Flow’s live band featuring drummer Soulful (Josh Carpenter), keyboardist Android (Andrew Wood) and guitarist Danyoson (Daniel Acuna), the rapper set out to explore that experience beginning with the title track to Blackmankidboy and extending through several key songs, including the wrenching spoken word track, “Angry Black Man.”
Through the stark echoes of the studio, Flow delivers his primal scream, “You don’t know how it feels to be hated and killed.” What follows is bruising poetry recounting 500 years of transgenerational stress inheritance, the lasting impact of slavery and subjugation.
“You know, my family wasn’t in the field working as slaves or anything like that, but we were feeling the ripple effects of those things, like the type of food that we eat, like the type of religion that we have, the dialect we use,” he said. “It reflects not just my family, but all black families that live in America have that imprint.”
Born Christopher Acoff, Original Flow is the son of pioneering Oklahoma City rapper Chill G, and he got his start performing at open mics at Hubbly Bubbly Hookah & Café, 2900 N. Classen Blvd., with his friend and fellow rapper Jacobi Ryan.
In 2014, Ryan and Flow started the Heart of Hip-Hop shows at the venue and were initially joined by Chief Peace, Joey Sativa, Jim Conway and DJ Triple 8 (Joshua Tullis). These shows spawned The Art of Rap, an ongoing series showcasing new talent from the OKC hip-hop community.
Meanwhile, Flow and Carpenter, who met as high school students at Astec Charter School, attended the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, honing their musical skills and learning how to operate as independent artists.
Over the course of their studies, the Fervent Route recorded songs like the radiant all-star track “Feeling Good,” and found their music spreading to unexpected points on the globe. Just through the quirks of online distribution, Original Flow and the Fervent Route developed a significant following in Nepal, a place Flow hopes to tour when the opportunity arises.
Flow is looking to resume a series of hip-hop showcases he started at Scissortail Park last year.
He said he is currently working with park staff to schedule new dates, weather and COVID-19 permitting. Just before the October ice storm, he was organizing shows to help Black-owned businesses that were impacted by the pandemic, inviting them to sell their products in the open air and bringing in Black-owned food trucks to feed the fans. Flow said he wants to do an all-female showcase in the spring.
In addition, Original Flow plans to record a sequel to Blackmankidboy, but after the cathartic sessions that produced the original, he said he needs time to work up to it.
“I got to live a little bit more,” he said. “It was like birthing a child for me, because there was just so much work put into it. And I can’t even remember how many hours I spent just like mixing the songs down and, and getting everything done. But it was a beautiful experience.”
Blackmankidboy is available on Spotify, Apple Music and at theflowmentality.com.
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