If Afroman knows one thing, it’s good times. In fact, he wrote an album about ’em: 2001’s The Good Times, which boasted the mega-novelty single “Because I Got High.” Then came another, the two-disc The Even Better Times, then the Christmas album Jobe Bells, and now 4RO:20, a play on “4:20,” stoner code for what Afroman (nee Joseph Foreman) considers the best time of all.
Not coincidentally, it’s 4:20 p.m. when City Weekly rings Afroman. He’s rolling into Warrensburg (or “Warren G-sburg,” as Afro calls it), Mo., where he’ll play tonight. Consistent with the time of day and his reputation, he’s “hittin’ this blunt, going through my CD book, sittin’ here listenin’ to some of my favorite songs.” He slowly recites a diverse litany of rap, soul and rock artists:
“You know, I got Compton’s Most Wanted, I got James Brown, DJ Quik, Monica, Snoop Dogg, The Cure, Chi-Lites, The Best of Steely Dan, Ray Charles, Boo-Ya Tribe, Rick James, DeBarge, MC Eiht, Isley Brothers, Kid Frost, Gorilla Black, Madonna, Sam Cooke, R.E.M, India.Arie, Smokey Robinson, Boyz II Men, Dire Straits, Gang Starr, Roy Orbison, Boogie Down Productions, Steve Miller Band, Westside Connection, E-40, Tom Petty …”
He trails off after another 20 titles. Few interviewees would even care to tell you everything—everything—they’re packing in a CD book—they just want to get off the phone, go on to the next interview or take a nap. Yet Afroman will, because in order to have a good time, you’ve got to be good company, you’ve got to be cool.
You get the same cool-dude vibe from his music. Afroman’s hip-hop isn’t gangsta, blandly self-aggrandizing or blinged-out. It’s almost singer-songwriterly, folksy, the way he plays guitar and reminisces about Compton and the ghetto (without glorifying violence), glorifies drugs and alcohol (but only for himself and other consenting adults) and rhapsodizes about sex (in a goofy self-deprecating way, as on “She Won’t Let Me F—k”).
Even when he’s pissed, he handles himself well. Recently another rapper, Dol Re, was rolling around the country impersonating Afroman, running up bar tabs and doing interviews in his name. It happened enough that people were beginning to doubt Afroman was the real deal. He thought about suing, but took the high road via the Internet-only track “Dol Gay.”
“I did the most positive thing I felt I could do in the situation,” he says, laughing. “I just didn’t want people to think he was me. Once I got [the song] out there, it was pretty much mission accomplished.”
It’s this positive attitude that enabled Afroman to surmount being dropped by Universal Records and the backlash against “Because I Got High,” and keep his career on an upward arc. He continues to tour and release albums on his own Hungry Hustler label (which functions via AfromanMusic.com), finding more success than the Universal association ever afforded him. Most importantly, however, Afro’s attitude is what keeps people buying the records and coming to the shows. Afro explains it all:
“A turtle needs to realize he’s a turtle,” says the hungry hustler, happily munching his dinner. “And a zebra don’t think he’s a lion—he needs to realize he’s a zebra so he can run like hell. Well, I’m not bad, dude. I’m a happy person. I rap like I am. I gotta realize … if I be myself, I’ll be alright. If I portray myself as this guy that I’m not, there might be a price for that.”
And so it is that Afroman keeps it real as the keeper of the good time, satisfaction guaranteed. “I want [fans],” he says on AfromanMusic.com, “to spend their $17 or whatever, and when all is said and done, just feel happy.”
AFROMAN The Velvet Room, 149 W. 200 South, Monday May 9, 8 p.m. 800-888-8499