Delaware emcee hits new milestone by landing Firefly gig.
Around 2009, Lucas Amillion Mayfield took a leap of faith, quitting his day job as a social worker in hopes of becoming a full-time musical artist.
Mayfield, better known by his rap moniker, Amillion The Poet, had a simple plan: He wanted to flood the streets with his new book of poetry called “Poetry in Motion Proceeds” or “P.I.M.P.”
The same month that Amillion quit his job, he was booked to headline a poetry showcase in Wilmington for $250. But when he showed up, he started having serious doubts.
“There was only like 40 people there,” Amillion said. “I’m thinking, ‘Man, maybe I shouldn’t have left my job.’”
Not knowing whether he’d sink or swim, the rapper decided to cannonball into a sea of uncertainty, making a sizeable splash.
“I just gave them the best 15 minutes of my life,” said Amillion, 33, of Dover. “Afterwards, when I went to the back of the venue, there were 35 out of 40 people standing there to buy my book. Some of them bought two books.”
He said he made $1,250 from that night alone, well over what he earned at his day job.
“It went from a vulnerable experience to me thinking, ‘I’ve got something here,’” the emcee said.
Nearly a decade later, Amillion has remained a full-time artist, and his gutsy gamble on himself continues to pay off.
He’ll make his hometown debut at Firefly in The Woodlands this June.
“This is a blessing,” the rapper said. “I’ve been dreaming about this for like the last four years.”
Amillion said waiting until this year to finally grace the festival forced him to dig deeper.
That’s because he felt overlooked when he didn’t make it in 2016, the same year he was invited to play the Essence Music Festival.
“Instead of getting mad about not being selected for Firefly, I was like, ‘I just have to keep working harder.’”
That he did.
Since 2016, Amillion released the “Key 2 The City” mixtape. And last year he shared headline status on three sold-out gigs in the United Kingdom with artists Collie Buddz and New Kingston. He also headlined two solo gigs there, with one selling out.
In January, he made his debut in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
When Firefly producers Red Frog Events broke the news of this year’s festival lineup, the Dover rapper was relaxing in the resort town.
“Woke up in the Dominican Republic and just [received] the official word that I’ll be performing at @fireflymusicfestival this year!” Amillion wrote in an Instagram post.
“So humbled to be representing my state among so many music greats,” he wrote in the post. “Thanks A Million to everyone who has ever supported my journey. This is a dream come true.”
The emcee follows in the footsteps of Cypher Clique, a Dover-based trio and the first Delaware rap act to play Firefly in 2016.
Amillion said Red Frog told him around the middle of last year that he was selected for the festival.
“The hardest part was keeping it a secret,” he said.
Getting on the radar
Amillion said Kay Sass, public affairs coordinator for Dover, was instrumental in helping him break into the festival lineup.
Last year, Amillion said, Red Frog interviewed Mayor Robin Christiansen, and Sass ended up giving the rapper a major cosign.
“Kay mentioned my name, and it kind of put me on their radar,” he said. “Red Frog had done their own research, and I started getting correspondence from them about six months ago.
“Red Frog hit me directly and said they don’t know how they missed me, but I’m doing great work. ‘Don’t worry, you’re already in the festival.’”
Sass said dropping Amillion’s name to the festival organizers felt natural.
“We have so many talented people in such a small state,” she said. “We spoke about many different groups and individuals, including Amillion.
“Amillion has done some fantastic things in our community, giving hope to so many kids, doing charitable work – making our community one that he is proud to be part of,” Sass said.
Firefly has a tradition of recruiting Delaware acts. Lauren King, director of public relations for Red Frog, said it’s their mission to help local artists get some shine.
“We’ve always strived to provide regional and Delaware artists an opportunity to get in the spotlight through performing at Firefly,” King said.
“Amillion has a very unique sound,” the festival spokeswoman said, “and we think Firefly fans from around the world will be excited to discover his music.”
King said Amillion is slated for the Backyard Stage, “but that is subject to change based on our final schedule, which we have not yet released.”
Long road to Firefly
It’s easy to think a serendipitous name-drop to the festival’s organizers is all it took for Amillion to crack the lineup.
That’s partly true. But it took almost 10 years for him to get to that point.
Around 2009, Amillion survived as a single parent by traveling to poetry open mics around the country (yes, even to the West Coast), mostly performing for free, while making money from selling his book of poetry after performances.
In the span of two years the Dover rapper said he averaged close to 100 gigs annually.
Eventually, Amillion said, he didn’t want to get pigeon-holed as just the poetry guy. So he began performing at churches, prisons and at schools.
He also began performing more hip-hop style shows with a live band, something he said he intends to do at Firefly.
New Firefly project
This year’s Firefly lineup includes big names such as Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Arctic Monkeys, Lil Wayne and SZA, who’s a former student from Delaware State University.
Amillion said he’s working on releasing a special project closer to the festival, with individual songs paying tribute to headliners, and non-headliners.
“SZA is someone I wanted to work with ever since she was at Delaware State,” said Amillion, a DSU alum. “I also wanted to pay homage to her style and eclectic self for not changing.”
The Dover rapper said writing his tribute song to Slim Shady allowed him to discover some similarities they share as men.
“With Eminem, I found we had a lot of things in common with doing hip-hop for our daughters, and with having some family issues,” Amillion said. “My song for him made me have a new respect for Eminem.”
Amillion’s style of hip-hop is reality rap.
He’s introspective and has discussed topics ranging from being a single parent, to nearly being gunned down when the perpetrator pulled the trigger multiple times at point-blank range, only for the gun to jam each time.
His music comes from a place of honesty and is told through witty wordplay and enough verbal gymnastics to make Olympian Simone Biles feel a little insecure.
Dover spokeswoman Sass said she appreciates that Amillion is a positive role model.
“I absolutely adore the love he has for his daughter and the pride he takes in her,” she said.
“As a mom, it warms my heart to have him include her in all that he does,” she said. “Often we see folks ‘thank mom’ in passing. For Amillion, it is genuine – he really gets the sacrifices that his mom made for him.”
Paving the way for the 302
Amillion hopes his Firefly debut will open more doors to play other major fests, like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California.
The rapper also said he’d like more outsiders to begin taking notice of the talented artists the state has to offer, across all genres.
“I want to provide hope that Delaware music artists and their representation belongs, that we earned our right,” he said.
Last but not least, he plans to be a familiar face in The Woodlands for years to come.
“This isn’t going to be my first time at Firefly,” Amillion said. “It isn’t going to be a one-and-done.”