With 29 Billboard Hot 100 hits in his catalog, Flo Rida has established himself as a party playlist staple and a go-to collaborator for some of the most powerful pop voices in the game. Whether he’s handling a track solo on his own smashes (“Whistle,” “My House”) or teaming up with other hit-makers like Sia (“Wild Ones”) and Kesha (“Right Round,”) the Miami-born singer/rapper is a household name for several reasons.
It all started with “Low” back in 2007, a breakout single that had Flo Rida counting successes from the jump. “Low” reached the top of the Hot 100 only two months after he released the T-Pain assisted track. It ended up staying there for 10 weeks straight, and went on to become the longest-reigning single of 2008 and the most downloaded single of the 2000s.
After “Low” set the standard for what was to come, Flo Rida released his debut album Mail on Sunday on March 18, 2008. The album’s other two singles, “Elevator” (feat. Timbaland) and “In the Ayer” (feat. will.i.am) were both Top 20 hits, and their success proved that Flo Rida was certainly no one-hit wonder — a fact he’s continued to prove 11 years into his career.
“That project in particular is just the dream for any artist trying to put out an album,” Flo tells Billboard. “It definitely changed my life.”
Just before Mail on Sunday’s 10th anniversary, Billboard caught up with Flo to celebrate his impressive debut and discuss how it turned him into a worldwide superstar — and why, even with a hit-filled catalog, he’s still hungry for more.
How did you feel your career change after the success of “Low”?
[“Low”] was a very versatile record, so it took me to being not just the typical urban artist, but to being a pop star as well. It set the tone for me to be able to do all kinds of records like the “Right Round”-es and the “Elevator”-es, and with different producers like Timbaland wanting to work with me.
Now that I look back, I’m like, “Wow, I’ve had big records, but that record was just insane.” It was really just one of those things where everybody was just giving me access to everything. That record is the record that, basically, once it hit radio, once it hit the clubs, it was like a snowball effect. It was a global phenomenon. I didn’t really think of the international market — I thought America was my goal and my focus. This record took me from a national star to a worldwide star.
What was it about the song that you felt was so special?
The fact that I recorded this record so fast, it was almost like a freestyle. I think it probably took me less than an hour to do all the verses. That record reminds me so much of the Miami bass, so I was able to put my thing on it. And T-Pain having such a good melody on the hook, and me having some great melodies on the verses — the record just has so much ear candy [and] the lyricism was just amazing. When I heard [it], I just knew it was gonna be big, [especially] ’cause T-Pain was doing a lot of huge records at the time.
What do you remember about Mail on Sunday‘s release day and how you were feeling?
It was amazing. High school friends, my family, fans, they all came out to Best Buy. DJ Khaled and Rick Ross came out, Cool & Dre. I signed autographs. It was just like, all the work that I put in prior, it was like a dream come true, just to see that support. Just to see the city come out was overwhelming. As someone who put in the hard work and did things prior without help, to actually have someone supporting me, I was like, “Man, the sky’s the limit. It’s gonna be much easier from [here]. This is gonna be amazing.”
When the album dropped, some critics said that you didn’t really have an identity as an artist. Do you personally feel like you’ve proven them wrong?
Growing up in Miami, having these different cultures and being inspired in so many ways musically has let me have a very long career, ’cause just when you think I’m gonna do this type of record, I go and do something else. I think it’s the fact that I’m more like a chameleon who holds his ground.
Speaking of being a chameleon, “Dancer” is your latest track, and it’s a little more acoustic than people might be used to for a Flo Rida record. Ten years into your career, are you toning down the club-ready anthems you’re known for, or did you release that song just to show your versatility?
If I get in the studio, it’s very organic. I like to go off how I feel. I’m definitely not gonna stop making what got me to where I’m at or what inspires me. I’m just not sticking to one thing. I like to have fun with it. I like to spread myself in many ways so you’re gonna get all types of music. I’ve worked with so many different artists and I’m always willing to expand and do some new fun things as long as the music is fun and the fans appreciate it worldwide.
What do you think is the secret to your success?
My drive. I live music. I am music. Throughout my day, I’m always thinking of different melodies, always listening to different genres of music, and I love it. I wouldn’t call it work — when you love something, it shows, and I think that’s why I’m so successful because I really love it.
Have you ever thought about your legacy within modern pop music?
It’s funny, because even now some of the younger kids will come up to me like, “You’re a legend. You inspired me.” I was on a video set with Rick Ross and Kodak Black, and one of the artists, Lajan Slim, walked up to me like, “What’s up, legend? You a legend. You inspired me this, that and the third.” The up-and-coming artists definitely pay homage, and I appreciate it, but at the same time, I wanna give back and do it. So I have my own label where I’ve had success with artists and different things, so I try to give back.
It was a very long journey. I woke up, fell asleep in the studio for years as a struggling artist. If you can remember how you started, you can always do it over and over. I always make sure that I’m grounded, I stay rooted and continue to show as much love as I did when I started, nowadays. All the artists that were poppin’ back then, there’s not too many that’s around now. I’ve worked very hard, I love music, and I’ll continue to do it as long as it’s an option for me.