Afroman may be a one-hit wonder, but he's convinced — perhaps out of necessity — that it just means the next hit is on its way. At the age of 40, the rapper still finds himself trapped in a single moment from a dozen years ago, back when his preeminent stoner anthem "Because I Got High" brought him a Grammy nomination.
Recently, Afroman (aka Joseph Foreman) drifted back into the news with a reprise of his hit, this time with a more positive spin, as part of an election-year legalization campaign sponsored by National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the dispensary-finding app, Weedmaps.
His new "Positive Remix" heralds marijuana's ability to ease his glaucoma, cure his nicotine addiction, free him from hangovers and anxiety attacks, and fill state coffers with money for schools. It's a 180 from the comedic original that found him neglecting his responsibilities in favor of getting high.
The son of a music teacher, Foreman is a skilled singer and rapper. He can also play a mean guitar, and has self-recorded and produced more than 25 albums. Sure, there's no shortage of good-time pot anthems, but he's also developed entire albums dedicated to low-riders (The Fro Rider) and alcohol (Afroholic, A Colt .45 Christmas), and even cut a country-themed album (Save a Cadillac, Ride a Homeboy).
"My first album was so diverse, I got a little bit of everything, even a gospel song," says Foreman, adding that he had a no-less-diverse audience. "I got nuns wearing grillz, popping and locking."
But then things got weird. Once "Because I Got High" took off, Foreman became paranoid that the cops were on to him, and could often be seen peeking out from behind the curtains of his Compton home.
Later, after becoming born again, he considered disowning the Afroman persona entirely. But then he decided that even sin-drenched raps might serve God's larger purpose, offering a message of peace, love and exaggerated humor to people who are still working out their own direction. "It's funny how life can distract you from what you do," he says. "You have to fight it back."
You also have to cater to your audience, he figures. "When a girl says, 'I get turned on when you kiss my neck,' you don't try to finger her and fuck up the whole date," he explains. "So I go there a little early, walk through the crowd, shake people's hands, and I ask them, 'What do you want to hear?'"
Today, Foreman's thinking of developing more alter egos, such as Divorce-C, whose raps would take a more bitter approach than the fun-loving, female-positive Afroman.
"I don't care if I sell four copies of those other characters," he insists. "It will just be an outlet for me to get away from anything repetitious."
Foreman's also looking to record another country album, this time one that'll be more authentic instead of just going for cheap laughs.
"I've got a lot of other stuff to write about that don't fit hip-hop," he says. "Rap is cocky music. Blues and country music — that's the place where it's OK to be the loser. It's OK to take the punch in the stomach and learn the painful lesson. It's OK to be humble and grateful."