The June 28-July 4 issue of Folio Weekly Magazine features a cover story that focuses on Mal Jones, a hip hop MC, events coordinator, mentor, and arts ambassador. Jones hosts the The Lyricist Live, a monthly open mic cypher, which started in 2011, set in the streets of downtown Jacksonville during Art Walk. During the event, MCs step out of the crowd and up to the microphone to showcase their lyrical skills. The environment is supportive and aspiring rappers are given the opportunity to artistically express themselves and hone their craft.
Jones created The Lyricist Live as a way to pay tribute to the forefathers of hip hop, a musical genre with roots that trace back to the 1970s and the Bronx, New York. It is no wonder that this genre resonates with Jones, because he himself was born in the Bronx in the mid 70s. Jones has helped develop Jacksonville's hip hop scene, making him a centerpiece within that community.
The Lyricist Live has a zero tolerance policy for cussing and fighting. Jones, who isn't shy about promoting the importance of a well rounded vocabulary and exposure to the arts, has served as a mentor to Jacksonville's youth and emerging MCs. One MC that felt the effects of The Lyricist Live and was influenced by Jones is Flash the Samurai.
When you meet Flash you quickly realize that he possesses many of the characteristics necessary to captivate an audience's attention. He is creative, fashion oriented, energetic, and charismatic. Also to Flash's advantage is his belief that he has the ability to influence Jacksonville in a positive way. Flash's willingness to do the work is a result of him viewing Jacksonville as his forever home and a place that he cares about immensely. Flash is an advocate for loving Jacksonville unapologetically.
Flash started dabbling in hip hop during his freshman year in high school. By the age of 17, the young MC expanded his network of peers as he embarked on a more disciplined and precise approach to his artistic endeavors. Flash, who is now 22 years old, has a discography that includes a full-length album,"Fallen Hero," released in 2015, and an EP, "Herbs and Slices," which was released this year. He is also one of the members of L.O.V.E. Culture, a hip hop collective who released their debut album "Fluidity" earlier this year.
10 Questions with Flash the Samurai
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
First off, I really appreciate what you're doing for the city. Even if I have to do it alone, I will make sure people see how hard you guys work!
To answer the question, when starting a new project I feel it is extremely important to go out and live life! I like to use those experiences to inspire my next big piece of art.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic endeavors?
Being with L.O.V.E. Culture has helped me see how impatient I am when it comes to the process of creating and taking action, but I'm working on that. Being a part of the collective has shown me how powerful my style of art is, and that I should fully accept my craft as my own.
How do you define success in what you do?
It isn't about money.
Money is not hard to come by. It is here today, gone tomorrow. You can't spend money after you die.
Success to me is using my art to become immortal, being recognized on a world wide platform that people wont forget.
What is the origin of your MC name, "Flash, the Samurai"?
Flash is an acronym for: Fly Low And Stay Humble and "the Samurai" came from being a sharp minded individual. I also like the superhero the Flash! Barry Allen is amazing, but imagine if he had a sword...
In the opening to your song "Welcxme" you state, "In my opinion, being able to put forth effort and energy into a creation that appeals to an audience's senses is true art." How do you stay engaged with your audience to ensure that what you create is relevant?
I'm always looking for a new way to push the envelop in regards to lyrics and flow. Those who listen to my music are expecting a certain caliber of concrete flows, and the lyrics to match. I attempt to stay relevant by showing them something new from what they are expecting. Honestly, I really enjoy it.
What activities or inspirations serve you when replenishing your creative well?
I find inspiration in the city. I love to play basketball with my friends and brothers. I also watch an UNHEALTHY amount of anime. These things really help me fight through writer's block.
How would you describe the hip-hop scene in Jacksonville and what served as your introduction to the local hip-hop community?
I would describe it in one word - diverse. Our city has artists like EASY, Rob Mari, GeexElla, Cheech, Mizzy Raw, Broadway Louie, Rich Broke, etc., and they all have different styles. These artists are so talented. If you are new to this and not completely confident in your work you could get discouraged easily.
My introduction into it all was, of course, attending The Lyricist Live. I was already making music, but seeing Mal Jonesfor the first time on that mic, rocking the crowd without any hesitation, lit an undying fire inside of me that continues to grow!
How did you develop your cadence and delivery and what assisted you in sharpening your craft?
I discovered that I had a talent and then I did my homework on the history of hip hop! I researched Wu-tang, Canibus, Mobb Deep, Big L, Mos Def, and more. Listening to these individuals and groups helped me develop my craft. Aggressive delivery, fast or slow cadences, stomach churning wordplay. I was able to model everything I did off of what they built. I saw what made them strong and I try to use the same formula in my art.
In your opinion, what is it about hip-hop that lends itself to collaboration and collective projects?
I think successful collaborative projects come from people who understand that hip hop is bigger than any one thing. That goes for any individual, any group, or any imaginable faction. Those who are a part of it are willing to sacrifice for the overall goal. We find ourselves in a space where egos don't exist. There is a positive energy, whether it is creative or competitive, that is very prevalent and stronger than any negative outside forces. It's beautiful!
What would you like to see in Jacksonville as an effort to grow the city's creative economy?
I'd LOVE to see the professional athletes in Jacksonville attend some artistic events. Their attendance could help bring some attention to the culture we are trying to create! Imagine if Leonard Fournette came to a hip hop show in the city and tweeted about it?! It would push the city in a direction that no one was expecting! It's also beneficial for both sides because it shows the Jaguars support the youth and, in return, the youth will come to more games.