Screw making lemonade — Denton rapper AV the Great ( real name Christopher Avant) turns lemons into gold.
One night when Avant was a college student, a blackout on his street inspired an impromptu block party. When the cops arrived to quash the fun, he returned home. But soon, the police were at his door and accused him of “inciting a riot.”
Avant tried explaining they had the wrong guy. The next thing he knew, though, an officer had launched his head through a window. The impact made him black out, but he got up and fought back.
“I just remember how it ended: with two cops slamming me,” Avant says.
Luckily for Avant, he walked away in one piece, albeit a little traumatized. He spent a short time in jail and now carries a small scar above his right eyebrow. Navarro College expelled Avant following the melee, but he says the ordeal was a blessing in disguise: It made him take his music career more seriously.
And now, with a new music video, album and record deal, it’s all starting to pay off.
On Friday, Avant dropped the video to his single, “We Had Love.” It's a catchy yet somber track, and the artist says he wrote it following the back-to-back deaths of his uncle and the rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle.
A message opens the nearly 5-minute long video: “We went to 3 Black Owned Businesses and paid for food, haircuts, and beauty supplies,” it reads. Then, Avant appears, seated on the counter of a Denton soul food joint. Later, the camera follows him to a local barbershop and beauty supply store.
“I’m entrenched in this community,” Avant says. “I love my city, no matter where I’m at at the time or what I’m doing.”
In November, Avant announced he’d signed a deal for his label, #NoFakeHandShakes, with EQ Distribution, the independent distribution platform under Jay-Z’s agency, Roc Nation. It was just the bid Avant had been waiting for. He retains his label’s music rights, and he says Roc Nation is a business that’s dedicated to social justice initiatives.
The deal couldn’t have come at a better time. Avant says he was keeping his album — also titled #NoFakeHandShakes — on the back burner until he signed with a company that he fully believed in.
“They’re fighting battles inside the industry and changing the rules,” he says of Roc Nation. “It’s a great opportunity. I’m going to make the most of it.”
The number 11 plays a big role in Avant’s life; after working as an artist for 11 years, he released his 11th project, #NoFakeHandShakes, on 11/11. Avant says he places great importance in the meaning behind the number, which according to numerology.com is “dynamic and capable when its sights are set on a concrete goal.” With several irons in the fire at all times, that may as well be a description of Avant himself.
On Feb. 8, Avant will bring the club experience to Andy’s Bar in Denton for his #NoFakeHandShakes album release show. Ever the businessman, he’s constructed a three-tiered bundle for his fans priced at $10, $20 and $100.
Among other perks, the latter two bundles will include raffle tickets. And what will AV the Great be raffling off, you might ask? Just a trip for two to Las Vegas — no biggie.
That “go big or go home” mentality permeates everything Avant does. In addition to his label name and LP title, Avant also runs his own #NoFakeHandShakes clothing line. Fittingly, the upcoming event will double as his brand’s fashion show.
It took a full three years to complete #NoFakeHandShakes, Avant says; he’s scrupulous when it comes to selecting beats. But being meticulous has panned out for the rapper. Even though it was just released two months ago, the album has already accrued over 750,000 streams.
Still, that number falls slightly short of Avant’s goal.
“I thought I’d be at a million right now,” he says with a laugh. “But it feels good. I’m enjoying the ride.”
Over the years, Avant has collected several accolades. In 2015, he won the award for Best Underground Southern Rapper at the Underground Music Awards in New York City. And he was the reigning Best Hip-Hop artist three years running for the Denton Arts & Music Awards, between 2017 and 2019.
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Avant has a music video for his next single, “Clam,” lined up for imminent release; one for “Vision” dropped last September. And he says he’ll begin an extensive tour starting next month, touching down every two weeks in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Phoenix.
Aside from being a rapper, AV used to deejay for K104 (104.5 FM) under the moniker Chris Cole. It’s a profession that runs in the family, too; his dad and uncle were also DJs. Avant enjoyed his six years on air and says he was responsible for breaking Dallas-based rappers like Post Malone and Yella Beezy.
But now, Avant says it’s his turn to enjoy the spotlight’s glow.
“I know it’s my time,” he says, cracking a wide grin. “This is something I’m going to be doing until I’m dusty and gone. I mean, I’ll probably be waiting for y’all in the afterlife with a fresh-pressed mixtape.”