Fourteen-year-old Tramar Dillard is pinned under a 150-pound barbell in his friend’s backyard. No way he’s getting this bar off his chest. Not without some help, anyway. Young Dillard is athletic, having honed his skills for years on basketball courts near his home in Miami’s Carol City 187th street projects, but this is a different story. Not only does the weight feel heavy, but he can hardly even balance the bar in his hands. Truth be told, the boy is a little scared. “Wow, this is serious,” he says to himself. “I’m not that strong.”
Yet while he may have lacked innate physical strength, Dillard more than made up for it in persistence. “I just kept going to that backyard and lifting, me and a couple of my friends,” says Flo Rida, now 32. “I was just getting into high school—you don’t want to be the puny guy—so I dedicated myself every day, sometimes twice a day, to working out.”
It’s that same dedication, that same persistence that would drive Dillard not just in the gym, but through his entire existence. Adopting the stage name Flo Rida a few years after his sobering initiation into the world of weights, he would become one of the biggest rappers ever to come out of the sunshine state, breaking itunes sales records, earning Grammy nominations, and taking trips around the world promoting his music. While Dillard may have been owned by a 150-pound barbell in his first workout, Flo Rida would be the one to do the owning—in the gym, on the stage, in the charts—from that point on.