Flo Rida doesn’t curse in his music. “I have seven sisters, so I don’t want any of them going to tell my parents,” he jokes.
The 35-year-old hitmaker has spent the last few years working on a highly curated record called The Perfect 10, but tonight he’s promoting his EP My House with surprise guests Jeremih and Prince Royce, on a boat called the Hornblower, hosted by Pepsi and iHeartRadio.
It is gray and post-apocalyptic on the Hudson tonight, but the inclement weather hasn’t stopped us from setting sail. Should the Hornblower sink, it’s almost worth it for the New York Times obit (15 PEOPLE, 1 CRUDITE PLATE PERISH ON FLO RIDA BOAT), undoubtedly penned by a cranky old news desk reporter who yelled at copyedit for adding that weird mid-word space.
The idea of a soft drink hosting a concert seems George Saunders-ish to me. I’m not a music expert. Luckily, I don’t have to be, because Flo Rida—and I say this affectionately—is the Kraft Singles of music. The only qualification you need to write about Flo Rida is having held a Solo cup at any point in your life, and by this logic, everybody on this boat is Lester Bangs. As such, here is my critical take of “G.D.F.R.”: It is the best song on the playlist at Physique 57, where I take barre classes, and it features a saxophone riff that will stick in your head until death.
The Internet seems to be full of rap snobs who pity Flo for his “lowest common denominator” fan base, but talking to Flo, you definitely don’t get the feeling that he longs to have Kendrick’s career.
“What do you think people like most about your music?” I ask him.
“It makes you want to party,” replies Flo Rida, accurately.
People don’t seem shitfaced at the concert, but the overall tipsiness level is “everyone is digging around in their purse for way longer than usual.” One woman in the front row sticks out, looking like a cute, conservatively dressed young mom sandwiched between a bunch of club dresses. When he opened the show, Jeremih sang to her and twirled her around. Then Flo took the stage, wearing sparkly red sneakers reminiscent of Dorothy’s ruby shoes, and sprayed the whole row with champagne. At one point he straight-up made out with the same woman. She was holding a paper that said “TAKE IT OFF <3” (he did; he has a flo < span>RIDA tattoo on his back) and knew all the words to his songs.3”>
Flo rida took the stage, wearing sparkly red sneakers reminiscent of Dorothy’s ruby shoes, and sprayed the whole row with champagne
During a break between acts, the DJ—who has one million Twitter followers—points out that we are passing the Statue of Liberty if anybody wants to take selfies.
Flo Rida is a unique case for Atlantic because of the juxtaposition of his modest album sales and monster singles. It makes sense that there’d be way less actual “Flo Rida fans” than there are people pre-gaming for a party by downloading “Wild Ones” on iTunes. Much like the shrimp dumplings being passed around this evening, Flo Rida is served best a la carte, preferably to an intoxicated crowd. He’s a success story of the digital age, in no small part because he unabashedly capitalized on the country’s dance music craze early on. Other rappers, looking to boost their own sales, have since jumped on board: At last year’s Ultra festival, among those on the EDM-specific stage were Pusha-T, Chance the Rapper, fellow early adopter Waka Flocka Flame, and Riff Raff. (The only truly comparable EDM/rap giant is Pitbull, but let’s not talk about him.) And EDM has become more than just the butt of aforementioned music snobs’ jokes in other ways too: New York Magazine, arbiter of taste, has a feature on its appeal this month, and there’s a demand for more complex dance-music-related scripts in Hollywood featuring women and people of color.
In some ways, however, Flo is pretty traditional, citing Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac as influences. Having been taken under the wing of 2 Live Crew in high school, he’s always trying to pay it forward by “doing his homework, trying to find the next big thing,” like rapper Gorilla Zoe, whom he signed last year. Other rappers he admires: “I love Ludacris, I love his music, I love how he’s transitioning into acting in a major way.”
Overall, Flo’s motto seems to be “Don’t overthink it.” “I love going into the studio and making music that gives me goosebumps. There’s nothing like having a hot beat, having a hot melody, and having anthems.”
Anna Breslaw is a writer living in New York. Follow her @annabreslaw.