Most hip-hop and rap fans probably aren’t familiar with names like Shawn Corey Carter, Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr., O’Shea Jackson, or Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones. But ask them about household names like Jay-Z, Snoop Dog, Ice Cub or Nas, the respective stage names of the aforementioned birth names, and their ears and eyes will perk up.
At first glance, Amillion The Poet, Dover’s own author/artist tabbed to play Firefly Music Festival, seems to have been cut from the same cloth: a hip-hop/soul artist with a bombastic stage name.
But Amillion isn’t like most artists in his genre, and festivalgoers will soon find that out when he performs at The Woodlands on June 14.
“My Mom named me Amillion because, well, she thought I was one in a million when I was born,” he said via phone from a recent tour in Jamaica. “I came into this world real early when she went into labor, at a time when my family was really struggling, so she saw it as kind of a miracle that I made it.”
Born and raised in Washington, D.C.’s hardscrabble southeast section, but moved to the Dover area while in elementary school. (For the record, his full name is Lucas Amillion Mayfield.) Since a very young age, he’s always been interested in spoken word, poetry, music and art. Being authentic, he says, starts with his name, but permeates his music.
“I walked out on a 9-to-5 job when my daughter turned one, and I’ve been committed to my poetry and working as an author ever since,” Amillion said. “I was working as a social worker at the time, but when I looked at her, I knew I had to follow my dreams and my passion.”
His passion led Amillion to being one of about 125 artists fortunate enough to grace Firefly Music Festival in 2018. The seventh annual edition of the festival will bring some heavy hitters from the rap and hip-hop game, including and Eminem, whom Amillion has always admired.
“I’m thinking of writing something dedicated to Eminem, because him, along with Jay-Z and Nas, have always had a big influence on my music,” Amillion said. “I’m definitely working on my ‘Road to Firefly’ tracks, though, which will be full of emotion: the good, bad, happy, sad; everything I’ve gone through leading to this moment.”
The 29-year-old will perform with a full live band at Firefly early Thursday evening, making him one of the earliest performers of the weekend. But he says he isn’t nervous about “going first,” since he’s been preparing for the festival since he found out months ago that he’d been selected.
“I mean, I’ve played on big stages before: the Chase Center and the Queen Theater in Wilmington, to name a few, so I won’t be nervous, just more excited than anything,” Amillion said. “But I’ll also have Miss Anne from [local jazz/funk/hi-hop/blues band] Best Kept Soul on stage singing with me, along with a live band with a drummer, keys and horn section.”
Amillion says he found out the news early in 2018, when his name was mentioned by concert promoter Goldenvoice, which works with Coachella, and Red Frog Events, the organizers behind Firefly. The two companies partnered in 2014 and both play a role in booking acts for the four-day festival in Dover.
“When they mentioned my name during a tour they were presenting in the UK, that was a signal. When I got the official email, it was a moment of validation and joy for me,” Amillion said. “I’ve gone [to Firefly] before, so I kinda know what to expect. But to go as a fan and then go as a performer should make for a whole different experience. And being able to rep my home state will be really cool.”
Amillion feels like Firefly can “rocket boost” his career, which has already seen some stellar moments in the past. The artist has also had a music video for his single, “Air it Out,” featured on MTV and VH1, and authored the 2011 book, “P.I.M.P. (Poetry In Motion Proceeds)” in 2011.
Amillion The Poet’s music and videos are featured online at www.amillionthepoet.com, as well as on YouTube and Instagram. He will be playing the Backyard Stage at Firefly on Thursday, June 14 at 5:45 p.m.
Delaware Public Media' s arts coverage is made possible, in part, by support from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.