Enigmatic, Dover-based poet and rapper Amillion Mayfield talks Firefly, his new project 1na Tour, and his upcoming summer camp
When it comes to Amillion Mayfield, there’s a lot to unpack.
It’s best to start simple. “What do you want people to know about you?” I ask him in a clip of our meeting that he posted to Instagram.
“I just want them to know . . . Amillion is really me . . . it’s not the stage name. You know . . . it’s really who I am.”
He sits in front of me, leaning forward in a patio chair. We’re at his mother’s house in Dover, his hometown, although he was born in Washington, D.C. It’s a newly built colonial with all the suburban fixings: glass-enclosed porch, beautiful front lawn, a deck. Amillion’s second car, a gray 2010 Chrysler 300, sits in the driveway. The backyard is filled with miniature artificial ducks, mysterious and charming, placed in long lines that wrap around trees and over logs.
He’s wearing ripped jeans, a white T-shirt with a bedazzled skull surrounded by flowers, and a pink baseball cap with a gold finger pointed toward heaven, a reference to both God and himself. After all, his name, he says, means one in a million.
What I thought was going to be an hour interview has turned into a day. “I’m obsessed with greatness,” he says, staring off into the distance.
His assistant, Deanna Wright, who has been with Amillion since the beginning of his music career, stands behind me with a cellphone, recording as he continues. “I want to be a trillionaire. I want to be someone who you can attach to success…but the way I reached it is pure. I never sold my soul.”
Selling a Brand
But selling is exactly what Amillion wants to do. “Music is like the commercial, to get people to buy into your product and your movement, and your brand,” he says.
He’s been rapping for the past six years, but attaches many titles to himself, all aimed at marketing his brand. “I’m gonna be a future mogul,” he says. “That’s how I see my brand evolving. It goes from Amillion The Poet to Amillion the Best-Selling Author, Amillion the International Hip-Hop Artist, and one day, Amillion the Mogul.” His words flow like a steady stream of clickbait.
Amillion has probably made more local headlines than any non-politician. As he’ll tell anyone, he is a father first. His projects are laced with his 12-year-old daughter Aaliyah Adams-Mayfield, who appears in his music, videos, and social media. They’ve even co-written a book—Beauty Full (2014). In a video on her website, posted in June, she cartwheels into the frame. “Sorry I’ve been really inactive lately,” she says, before in one breath stating that just won both the U.S. Finals in Virginia with her cheer team SYA Extreme and also got first place in the Individual All-Around Competition for gymnastics with her team Gymstarz Gymnastics in Delaware. She caps it all off by spinning around and hinting at potential new merch.
Energetic and Prolific
Amillion is equally as energized and prolific. At 34, he has played basketball overseas professionally, written a book of poetry, traveled to countless schools and prisons to carry out poetry workshops, and has performed on stages all over the world, from Amsterdam to the Dominican Republic.
His latest project, 1na Tour, released in June, is an autobiographical collection of songs reminiscent of early 2000s R&B. But if you held it against a wall, grabbed its arm, and mainlined it with DJ Khaled, it is an album littered with catchphrases and inspirational messages absent of nuance.
The single “6pm in London,” for instance, slingshots us into the moments before a major gig abroad. Sample lyric: “It’s about 5:55 / Top floor of The Park Plaza Hotel / Westminster London / 62 degrees.” That’s not meant as a metaphor. He’s actually writing about the fact that from his hotel window he could literally see the line for his show wrapped around the block.
“Rest In Poetry, Pt.3” is a one-minute spoken word tribute to Nipsey Hussle, a portrait of local violence and a pop culture thermometer. “While they was talking about 6ix9ine being a snitch, another body was being buried in a ditch.” In the music video, he stands on top of a train car as he says, “One hundred unsolved murders in Wilmington / Three thousand youth found homeless in the state / The fifth body just found in Silver Lake / Rhetorical question how many more will it take?”
“I haven’t seen any kind of fiction coming out his mouth,” says Brent Ferguson, aka “Ferg,” production manager of Jet Phynx Films, a Wilmington creative agency that has worked with Amillion on various projects.
Ferguson, 33, first met Amillion while working on the music video for Road to Firefly (also the name of an accompanying mini-documentary). Amillion was one of the acts scheduled to play the main stage at Firefly Music Festival 2017 in Dover.
“We actually connected right out of the gate. He is a single father, I am a single father,” Ferguson tells me over the phone. Road to Firefly is jam-packed with shots of Amillion shooting hoops at the courts under I-95 near MLK Boulevard in Wilmington, footage from his concert, and an aerial view of him riding on a truck covered in LED video screens.
Ferguson asked himself before the show, “What can I do in this Dover area to get people to the stage where Amillion is performing?” He remembered his friend had an LED billboard truck, so he gave him a call and throughout the festival campgrounds and the city the truck went, displaying a promo video for Amillion’s show. “It was definitely a sight to see,” says Ferguson.
Father and Daughter Shelves
Amillion’s house is a short drive from his mom’s place, And it’s similar—large colonial, quiet, and suburban. A flat screen TV at the center of the living room plays the music video for his single Air It Out, which aired on MTV and VH1. Flanking the TV are two shelves: one dedicated to news articles about him and awards he has received, the other to his daughter’s gymnastics trophies. On the wall there is a key to the city of Dover, awarded to him in 2017.
Every object in his house is there to support the persona he created with each article, interview, album, project, speech, book. Today, the place is empty of people except for Amillion, Wright, and me. But during Firefly, according to Ferguson, it was a full house, a crazy, wild, exciting moment in time.
Things have seemed to settle for now, but it’s unlikely that Amillion will allow it to stay that way. For next summer he’s planning a one-week writing camp with four available weeks, an extension of his workshops, hosting up to 250 kids.
Stacks of his book P.I.M.P (Poetry In Motion Proceeds) sit next to the couch. He self-published it in 2011, and claims it sold more than 30,000 copies in the first three years, a jaw-dropping number, and a testament to his ability to promote pretty much anything.
In the video for Air It Out he hands a homeless man a signed copy of the book, and he sells it at all his appearances at prisons and schools.
Colleges, High Schools, Libraries
His visit to Ferris School for Boys in Wilmington in 2016 was educational for him and his audience. “Their minds are somewhere else,” he says. “It makes you have to be so on point. You can’t cheat the process. If you’re fake and you’re not a great performer—or have a great message or whatever the case may be—they’re gonna get you up out of there.”
Over the past five years, he says, he has hosted his workshops at more than 50 colleges, 15 high school districts, 10 libraries, and five adult and juvenile detention facilities, all of which are contracted. He has performed and given speeches more than 100 times at various schools, churches, and prisons.
But he doesn’t stop there, he has a scholarship titled Amillion The Poet Scholarship, and his philanthropic work ranges from national Boys & Girls Club tours, food drives with Solid Rock Baptist Church and the Delicious Cravings Food Truck, to Duffy’s Hope Celebrity Basketball Charity Game, which takes place on Saturday, Aug. 3 at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington.
He wants to enable young creatives from all walks of life to be able to express themselves, and to set an example as someone who despite being from a small town still made it to the big stage. And he gets his message across. In a video from his visit to Ferris, a room full of young men point their fingers in the air and echo Amillion in chanting, “I am one in a million.”
Outside, it looks like it’s about to rain. In his backyard is a trampoline. The neighborhood kids come by to jump on it. As I leave, one of them, riding by the house on his bike, waves to Amillion.
We shake hands. “Do you think they’ll put this on the cover?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I’ll have to write it first.”
He walks toward his door, looks out. “Let’s aim for the cover.”