Born in Tallahassee, Fla. and now living in Atlanta, Ashanti “The Mad Violinist” Floyd, grew up in a string instrument world. His Mother, Patrice Floyd is a Florida A&M University string professor; she ran a string school when Floyd was young. His Father, Dwight Floyd is a pianist. All of Floyd’s siblings play, as well. He has been playing the violin since the tender age of three. Floyd is a classically trained violinist who blends violin music with hip-hop and dub-step. Performing with a five-piece band, together they are called the Symphony Crack Orchestra—making a huge impact on the music world with their unique style.
Some may have caught their recent shows at Pensacola’s Vinyl Music Hall, first with Big Bone and Body Head Bangerz, featuring Roy Jones. Later that month, they played the free show at Vinyl during gallery night. Their show packed the venue to the brim.
Nominated for five Grammy awards over his relatively short tenure in the music business, Floyd has produced and played with many well-known artists. He recently toured with Lupe Fiasco, was in the band performing with Yelawolf, worked with T-Pain, Rick Ross, Fifty Cent, John Legend, Mario, Young Jeezy, David Banner, Sean Kingston, Young Buck, American Idol, Usher and more.
Floyd attended Berklee College of Music, on a full scholarship, which he garnered from his audition. Currently, he is signed to Kane Beatz’s production team, The Building and APG/Atlantic Records. The Building is known for the song, “Bed Rock,” featuring Lil Wayne and Young Money. Floyd has mastered eight instruments; he plays up to 30 and has become one of the top trackmen in the country.
IN had the good fortune to be able to talk to this busy virtuoso about his music and the future.
IN: How did you get your start in music and when was your first recording?
FLOYD: My mom taught me how to play the violin. I was about three years old when I started. My twin brothers and my whole family play instruments, it was the only thing we did when I was growing up. My Mom had an after school program called String School. I teach and host workshops around the country. My first recording as an artist was in 2005, it was recorded in my room. I played all the instruments. I sold over one million songs from my room.
Floyd has been involved with the Summer Stars camp program as well. Summer Stars Camp for the Performing Arts is a nonprofit organization, devoted to providing economically disadvantaged children, ages 12 -15, with an opportunity to discover themselves and their potential through the arts.
IN: Symphony Crack Orchestra is such a unique name, where did it come from?
FLOYD: The band consists of a symphony of different instruments, styles and genres. I am heavily involved in the production side of the music business. According to some, down the line, they have said that my beats, and our sound, are so hard that they keep you coming back, like crack.
IN: How many members are in your band?
FLOYD: Normally five, bigger shows we have seven. It is a really diverse group of guys. We have regular instruments, electric versions of instruments and a DJ rig. Very multi-talented.
IN: Your work seems to be very improvisational, is that your process?
FLOYD: About ten minutes after hearing something, I can pick up my violin and lay down a track to accompany it. It is innovative and creative, important when you are a performing artist.
IN: Who are your biggest influences?
FLOYD: My mom for sure, she made her violin talk. Growing up I was surrounded by gospel music. She always taught me that you can learn how to play 500 notes in a minute, but if you are not putting your soul into your instrument then you have accomplished nothing.
IN: Who are you listening to now?
FLOYD: Honors English, a rapper and graduate of Florida A&M University. I also really like Serius Jones, a battle rapper, who is so talented that when Lupe Fiasco heard him he put him on his mixed tape.
IN: You have played with so many people, name a favorite.
FLOYD: Working with Fantasia for over a month, I really got up close and personal with her. Fantasia showed me how normal and real celebrities can be—they are like everyone else. I also got my first Grammy nomination on her album. Another special moment was when I played for B.B. King’s birthday in Nashville, Tenn., he pulled me aside and gave me some useful tips. He is a good conductor, a great musician and entertainer.
IN: Where have you been playing recently?
FLOYD: Big shows with Lupe Fiasco, playing violin with him. We had a show at Terminal West in Atlanta, it was a big seller, we had 450 in presales and it is a 600-person venue. We are making a name in the Southeast, as well.
IN: What does your future hold?
FLOYD: I am working on a regeneration project with Earth, Wind and Fire. Old school meets new school. We are speaking the language of the streets, bridging the gap. In the future, a lot more records with Kane Beatz, Symphony Crack Orchestra, more touring and hopefully a tour overseas.
THE MAD VIOLINIST AND THE SYMPHONY CRACK ORCHESTRA
WHAT: The Mad Violinist and The Symphony Crack Orchestra with The Ugli Stick
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, August 3
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox