Byline: Heather Lovejoy
Mr. Al Pete, a glass of beer in hand, was waiting at a local cafe after his business workday was over.
"Are you shocked I was early?" he asked. "Rappers are never early."
Indeed, it was a surprise. Not because he's a rapper, but because he's a musician.
He's not a corporate drone, though he masquerades as one by day so that he can provide for his 14-year-old son. As a 33-year-old single dad, strictly relying on a hip-hop career in Jacksonville doesn't cut it. Music is where his passion lives, and he pushes hard to continue by performing, writing, recording and taking late-night DJ gigs whenever he can.
His third full-length album, "Fish in the Forest," was just released, and a party and performance on Friday at 1904 Music Hall in Jacksonville will celebrate his hard-earned accomplishment. The album is available digitally through mralpete.bandcamp.com.
He was slightly stressed out because his son had gotten into some trouble and needed a lecture, he said. The topic of the evening, however, was his new album. The conversation became a laugh-filled analysis of daily life choices, bogus societal rules and the city's troubles of cultural division.
Mr. Al Pete, whether he embraces the idea or not, is something of a philosopher. He takes that statement as a compliment, but insists that all he is saying is simple common sense. Yet, he knows that his way of thinking has made him like a fish in the forest.
"It's about being out of place, but still relevant," he explained. "I look at it like a mudskipper."
Mudskippers are fish that are able to move effectively on land. They breathe in water, and out. He doesn't like to limit himself, he said.
He thinks often of advice he received from his uncle Tru.ski the Transmitter, also a hip-hop musician: "Just do you." Do your own thing, start your own trends and go where your heart feels like going. This outlook plays a big factor in his music.
In a mixed-up way, this sometimes leads people to call him a "hip-hop snob." In part, that's because he's partial to old-school beats and rhymes, and the Top 40 stuff doesn't thrill him. The radio hits tend to be formulated and made to fit a hip-hop mold that encourages big egos, he said. That's what's going on in hip-hop right now.
"There's too many rules to hip-hop," he complained. …