NEW YORK (Billboard) - When Flo Rida first took the bus
from Florida to Los Angeles in hopes of launching a music
career, he was so broke that he was forced to live on the
Even worse, he once left his bag on a bench while milling
around the Beverly Center mall, only to discover that the LAPD
had confiscated it, fearing it contained a bomb.
Nowadays, the rapper's outlook is considerably brighter.
His debut single, "Low" featuring T-Pain, is enjoying its
fourth week atop the Billboard Hot 100. It has sold more than
1.78 million downloads through January 6, according to Nielsen
SoundScan. In the post-Christmas week, it set a record when it
moved 470,000 digital downloads.
As a bridge to his Poe Boy/Atlantic debut, "Mail on Sunday"
(March 18), "Low" is prominently featured as the lead track
from the Disney film "Step Up 2 the Streets," which opens
February 14 in U.S. theaters. Atlantic will release the
soundtrack February 5.
The label has been building the Flo Rida story since late
last summer, when he began playing club dates in Florida and
the Southeast in conjunction with the release of "Low" to clubs
in the area.
"This may seem like an overnight sensation to most of the
country," Atlantic vice president of marketing James Lopez
said. "The song spread so much faster than we could travel."
The "Low" video debuted in early November on BET and MTV,
inspiring nearly 100 YouTube videos of dancing fans. According
to Atlantic director of digital marketing Brian Dackowski, the
label quickly initiated partnerships with social networking
sites like Imeem, where fans can upload their own photos and
remixes of the "Low" clip.
Flo Rida also has his own YouTube channel, through which
"Low" has garnered nearly 5 million plays, and he interacts
personally with fans on his MySpace site.
"This phenomenon was organic," Dackowski said. "We haven't
had an artist take off like this before with a song picking up
and kids across the country going for it on their own. It was
like riding a wave."
Flo Rida was born Tramar Billard on December 16, 1979, in
Carol City, Fla.'s 187th Street projects. The youngest (and
only boy) of seven siblings, he was a natural athlete who
played every sport imaginable, but music was what really moved
He honed his skills making tapes in his grandmother's and
aunt's garages, and by ninth grade had joined four-member rap
group the Groundhoggz.
"We grinded locally doing shows and mixtapes," Flo Rida
said. "We kept rapping together even after I graduated high
school in 2001 and left for (the University of Nevada-Las
Vegas). But after a while, we started shopping our demos
separately because no one signed us as a group."
Now, the rapper is putting the final touches on "Mail on
Sunday," which features appearances by Ross, Sean Kingston, Lil
Wayne, Trey Songz and Brisco.
"They say if you grind hard enough, you'll shine," Flo Rida
said. "I didn't know 'Low' would get this big. It's the
greatest feeling in the world."