In a genre not typically lauded for its humility, local rapper Hafrican has set forth some fairly modest career goals.

By Andy Downing

In a genre not typically lauded for its humility, local rapper Hafrican has set forth some fairly modest career goals.

“I don’t think I could be superstar famous or anything, but there are so many artists on an underground level doing big things, and there’s gotta be room somewhere in there for me,” said the MC, born Brian Earley 30 years ago, in a mid-February interview downtown. “Maybe I could be the opener for that one guy where everyone saw him and said, ‘Hey, that guy was kind of sweet.’”

Throughout his latest release, The Paris Project, a collaboration with French producer Goomar, Hafrican comes on with much greater intensity than he projects in person, packing tracks with rapid-fire syllables that spread into every crevice like watertight sealant. Witness “I Want It All,” where the rapper flaunts his double-jointed vocal chords, dropping double-time verses atop a woozy backdrop of trickling piano and static drums.

The MC said his frantic style is an outgrowth from the years he spent studying drums (prior to emerging as Hafrican, Earley manned the kit for shape-shifting jam collective Amorphia).

“I was in the drum line in high school, and sometimes we would just sound out the parts, like, ‘Ticka-ticka-tick,’ and make all kinds of drum noises,” said Hafrican, who performs at Double Happiness on Saturday, Feb. 21, as part of a showcase marking the 10-year anniversary of local promoter Grant Gatsby’s company Everybody Else’s Entertainment. “And that just evolved into rapping faster.”

Though Hafrican has long had an interest in music — the Columbus native started playing drums at 3 and could perform double-stroke rolls less than a year later — he didn’t take up rhyming until he turned 19.

“My band broke up, and for some reason I started doing hip-hop, just joking around and writing funny, stupid songs,” he said. “I was so afraid to be myself at first, and I was so conscious about what other people were going to think. Now I’m like, ‘It’s going to be sweet. And it doesn’t matter if they don’t like it.’”

Photo by Tim Johnson