Interview with Evaflow - The Beginning
04/26/2017 by Angus Taylor
Avid readers of interviews with Protoje will probably know the name Evaflow. He’s one of Protoje’s oldest friends from Santa Cruz, Saint Elizabeth; the person who suggested he take the moniker Protoje; and Oje has been consistently rating him as an artist to watch. During a 2016 Reggaeville interview he said: “Evaflow is such a brilliant artist and he is working on lots of music. I am 100% that this year he'll release some stuff. He’s just not too keen on putting stuff out.”
A few months later that prediction came to pass. In August 2016, after years of creating music in his bedroom Evaflow released hip-hop influenced debut single the Anthem. Evaflow has decided he wants the world to know who he is. So Reggaeville travelled to investigate the man behind the mystery.
Angus Taylor conducted the first ever interview with Evaflow in the front yard of another artist residing in Saint Elizabeth, the great I Kong. They sat on a stone wall deep in the countryside - the cicadas and crickets making their percussion all around.
Evaflow speaks with the same soft lilting country accent as Protoje. He speaks more slowly and hesitantly yet with a similar charisma and determination. But where Oje’s determination was to make his mark on the world, Evaflow has spent his life determined to make the perfect art for himself. He told Reggaeville about his upbringing, his connection to Protoje and why he wants to emerge from his room and bring his music to the people.
So you've been part of Protoje’s Indiggnation organisation from day one?
From day one. I have been part of it kind of by default because of being friends with Oje for so long. The collective is like a family. So yes I was part of the family from very early.
You are from Santa Cruz originally?
Yes, from Santa Cruz. Born and grown. I live just down the road from Oje. I love Santa Cruz a lot. It can get very hot and congested but because that is where I grew up I have a big attachment to it.
You and Protoje went to school together right?
Yes, we went to school in the same period of time. He was three years ahead of me in school so we went to the same prep school, the same high school. Our fathers were very good friends so coming from the same town, we played sports together. It’s a small town so all of us know each other.
What do your parents do for a living?
Both my parents are bankers. My mother and father, when I was born, they were tellers and they eventually worked their way up. My mother recently retired early after working for over 30 years at the bank. Waking up at 5:30, 6 in the morning and coming home at 8:30 in the night. Five days a week. I am really glad to see her retiring early. I am happy to see my mother have some time to herself and some freedom to pursue whatever interests she has. I thought she was working too hard and I thought it was eventually going to take a toll on her. My father, he is a banker as well. He's been working for the bank for over 35 years. They are hard-working people! (Laughs)
Were you into sports growing up?
Yes, when I was growing up I was quite into sports. But my father was a really good football player so a lot of the time I was trying to kind of live up to his fame. Because whenever I would play I would hear how good he was. So I was into sports but at the time I was a little chubby and I tried my best, I've played for my school team but I really was just trying to go after my father's legacy. Now, I think I am way healthier and more active than I was in high school. Now I really do it just for my own health, for my own vitality. So I can do everything I need to do in a day fully.
Protoje told me about the Ovadose collective he was part of at school. What kind of musical things did you do with him in school?
Yes, he was older than me and he was writing songs and I used to kind of look up to him and one of his friends Chisel. They used to write lyrics and sometimes they would redo somebody’s song and I would hear it and I would like it and I would go home to my bedroom. Now I am spitting my own stuff but when I started writing they kind of set a certain level, listening to them. So when I went home in my bedroom I would analyse my own lyrics and ask myself "Could I rhyme beside them?" At the start I never tried to. I was just a big fan. But when I went home my goal was to be as good so I could rhyme beside them.
What sort of music where you into back then?
Growing up I was into a lot of reggae music and a lot of hip-hop music. I still listen to a lot of Sizzla, Jah Mason, Buju, Peter Tosh, but then I also listen to a lot of Bone Thugz N Harmony, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, UGK. Bounty Killa is one of my favourite artists of all time. I like his brand. I just like his personality. Like even to this day, when something happens I don't know, I just kind of impersonate him! "Yo, you know, it’s Evaflow". (Laughs) I just love Bounty and how he talks and everything.
People say I'm a rapper but I don't think I'm a rapper. If anything I would say I am a lyricist. Let's call it a lyricist. I want to be known for making Jamaican music. Because the music I make is kind of a fusion. Reggae, hip-hop, just Jamaican music. Maybe you want to call it hip hall? Dub hop? (Laughs) Something. Yeah, just music from Jamaica.
So how much recording have you done over the years?
That is a very good question. If you were to say recording like going to a professional studio, I have done some recording, scantily over the years. However, I done a lot of recording in my room! (Laughs) I spend a lot of time in creative mode. I don't want to say solitude because solitude kind of sounds a bit depressing or maybe it isn't? But yes, I like to write by myself where there is a certain zone I get into. But you can get trapped in that too.
So I spend a lot of time demoing songs, writing songs, next one, move to the next one -they're all on my computer. But I am at the point now where I can't stay locked up in my bedroom, so now is the time where I'm going to present to the world what I feel is my best work. Because I have done a lot of work. I don't intend to put out all of it. What I'm going to do is do right by the public by putting out my best work. There are a lot of things I want to say and I want to be heard, not by everyone, but just to display my art. It’s like you have an art gallery so it’s just about putting my art up on the wall and whoever comes to this gallery and walks through, maybe one of my paintings is one that they glance at or they stop and check out?
I have done five or six interviews with Protoje over the years but in at least three of them he has called your name. Has he persuaded you to put your music out or did you have an epiphany at a certain point?
Okay, yes. There are two answers. Yes, there was a point where I did reach. Did Oje encourage me or talk to me? He's been talking to me. He's been telling me. He's been one of the people who made me keep writing because I got the confirmation that I am good. I think I am good but when somebody else gives you that confirmation, it gives you a drive to keep going. He has encouraged me to come out more with my music.
And why that hasn't happened that is all on me. It is hard to explain. It's like I could spend eight hours in my room just in a creative zone doing what I do. Maybe I'll have a check list and I'll spend the entire day consumed, trying to accomplish things. Maybe it’s working or maybe it’s meditation. I want to write. I want to rehearse. I want to record. I want to exercise. I want to meditate. I want to make food. And I live in this zone, creating every day.
And when I think about coming here to do this interview… because this is my very first interview. My first interview ever. I was a bit nervous about it because this is the beginning of me coming out of my shell which has been tough for me. I do enjoy just kind of having my own space and just kicking back and writing. I love writing so much… I have learnt over the years how to not have to wait on inspiration. Because inspiration comes from in spirit. So you can put yourself in a certain mode with a certain vibration where inspiration is almost automatic. And I love being at home writing. I would love to write for a lot of other artists too, to tell you the truth. But I was nervous about this interview… just coming out and being like "Alright". I don't know. I don't have an image to portray. I don't have anything. I am just going to be myself.
There's a saying "the music business - love the music, hate the business". It seems like you're dealing with the music so much you don't even think about the business.
Right. There are a lot of things I can't deal with, with the business. Because I love my relationships, I love my friends and I want them to always be my friends. But some things about it, from my experience watching and loving hip-hop music, seeing relationships like Damon Dash and Jay-Z, seeing certain groups break up, I think about it and wonder "What is it all about?" But the music business, I think it's changing. It doesn't have to be something that's kind of slimy anymore. I see conglomerates coming together like Indigg collective, Bebble Rock, Jah9 has her team behind her and they all seem to be operating very harmoniously. And I love that. So to me there is a new look on the business.
Last summer you released your song the Anthem. Tell me about the inspiration for it and why that was the tune you decided to push out with?
I think it's the chorus. In the chorus when I am saying "Wah mi waa do"? I'm telling you what I want to do. I'm presenting myself and I am telling you I am here and this is what I want to do. So it felt right like an intro song.
When I wrote it, I was going through a lot of different expectations from people around me about what I am doing with my life. Whether I was going to go corporate? Because I was always talented. I could do what I want to do. So I was like "Wah Me Waa Do? Me waa know who them a talk to. Who them fi tell me wah me cyaan do" Who are you to say I can't be this? So that was the zone I was in. I was kind of frustrated. Like I can be who I want to be. What do I want to be, I want to build schools, hospitals and ball-fields.
The reason I said those things is because those are things I cannot do myself. I can't build a school by myself. I said those things to express that they want the individual to do something but I have a concern about the community and the youth. I think the youth have a very big opportunity right now with the internet. You don't need to go to university. I am not saying anything against university but I am saying this is a very precious time, especially for the youth growing up right now. Especially if you're in your teens. Use it to learn something. To go on the Internet to research and learn. There is so much information that if you want to move towards something you don't need to wait to get into some school to teach you. Now is a great time for that.
In the song I say "Nuh take the young people simple. They want their college degree inna metaphysics" meaning they don't have college degrees in metaphysics. It means they're getting their own degrees. Right now with the internet there is free edX or Udemy. Lynda.com. On YouTube there are so many things. You can teach yourself to do so much. I taught myself to code. I can code websites. I can make iOS apps. I can make Android apps. I didn't pay a dollar to learn that. Doing that made me realise "Oh man, the children need to be up on this". Don't wait on any school to validate you. Go out there and learn things and validate yourself.
I’m never really happy unless I am creating something. That is why coding was kind of okay because it was very creative. You're still creating from scratch. Just like when you write a song. It is a blank paper and all of a sudden you've got a song written. Same way.
So what are you going to do next? More singles? An EP or a mixtape? Are you interested in making an album? Some of the artists you mentioned like Kabaka have not been in a hurry to put out an album. But others like Protoje have many albums. He obviously believes in the concept.
I believe in the concept of the album. I also believe in all the stages as well. Presently I'm focused on crafting songs, one song at a time. Yes I think about an EP collecting the songs that I'm crafting. But presently I'm just focused on doing songs one at a time and after I present myself and I see the response I'll make a decision about making a collective CD, an EP or a short album or something.
I just released the music video for the Anthem and I’m just going to let that be out there a bit. There is this other video on YouTube but this to me is my first coming out there saying "Hey, this is me, this is my face". If you look on my Instagram I don't have many posts. I am going to do a better job when it comes to engaging with people who support me. That something I think I need to work on. So what's in the future? Nothing definite except that you could definitely look out for another song.
You talked earlier about the artists you've listened to. Have any of their lyrics influenced you culturally and spiritually as well as musically?
(Laughs) Oh man. That is crazy. Sizzla changed my life. Miguel Collins totally shifted my consciousness. When I started listening to Sizzla's music, it was like my whole perspective on the world became different. I became more collective thinking through listening to his songs. You know "Love is always there, no matter how mi dress with mi ragga ragga hair" I was just connecting with that.
At the time I was hanging with one of my friends, Reese, and we both were listening to Sizzla. We listened to so much Sizzla that everybody was saying we were going to be Rastas. This was in about ninth grade. I think we were about 15 years old. He started eating vegetables. He stopped eating meat. I was still eating pork so everybody thought he would be the Rasta and I would just be like the bald-head who loved Rasta. But then it turned out that everything switched. He eats what he wants to eat and I am the vegetarian.
It's funny you asked that question because the reason that right now you're looking at me and I look the way I am - Sizzla has a really big part to do with it. He influenced me greatly because after that I started researching everything. Researching His Majesty and looking at the Bible verses and being more curious about information. So it was him when it came to the whole Rasta thing.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Just big up to everybody across the world. Anybody who feels there is no hope or times are hard or they're down. My wish is that the Almighty would just pour his blessings on all the hungry people all over the world. Pour his blessings on all the people who feel hopeless and who are homeless. That was one of my greatest wishes because I can't do it. If you were to ask me if there was anything I want to say publicly that is what I want to say.
And there are a lot of things going on, a lot of news about whoever, but there are real situations that can be solved across the earth. Just very simple things like shelter and food and clothing. And it seems like what's being highlighted is just to grab our attention and dumb us down and keep us focused on negative stuff.
The world is a beautiful place so if anybody is going through anything I hope the beauty expresses itself to them. Because I am feeling good right now. I am in a good place and I have been in other places - so just love life.