From the street to the big stage, how Baltimore’s A1 Chops are living their dreams

Fletcher is explaining, in their apartment in downtown Baltimore, their journey before fame. (Ndeye Aminata Ndiaye)

Fletcher is explaining, in their apartment in downtown Baltimore, their journey before fame. (Ndeye Aminata Ndiaye)

Before appearing on national television, Malik Perry and Timothy Fletcher were two street artists struggling to entertain Charm City. Living in a city filled with violence, the two artists found an escape route in music. After meeting while in their school’s marching band, the two decided to show a better side of their city, and started playing drums.

“When we were doing drums, we looked at it as, this could be a way to showcase, not just kids, but people all around the world that there’s more to Baltimore than just violence. We have positivity in our city” said Fletcher.

After five years of struggle and hard work, fame came in the form of a viral video. On New Year’s Eve with his partner Perry in town, Fletcher posted a drum performance of Ciara’s song “Level-Up” on his Youtube channel and Instagram. It caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres and millions on Instagram.

“At first I didn’t believe it. It was too good to be true,” Perry said.

But it was true, and two weeks later, the teens performed on the Ellen Show, receiving a lot praise for their performance, new drumsticks from Shutterfly and a gift of $10,000 in cash.

Since their appearance on the show, life shifted for the artists.

“Before the viral video and Ellen, we had shows, but our shows were scattered throughout the year. But since Ellen, we are booked,” Fletcher said. With their new found fame, A1 Chops--as they call themselves--the duo helps build a better community for Baltimore.

A1 Chops teamed up with design experts, John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino, to provide a life-changing surprise to Charm City. The “Build Up” series renovated the teens’ former high school band room.

“I was grateful for Ellen and [she] gave us a way to give back to our school—I always wanted the band room to look different because it looked so old. Mr. Brown didn’t deserve to be in a room that looked run down,” Perry said.

But their courtesy did not just end with their school. On the series, they gave the city’s cultural center a new face lift.

“Giving back is like the best thing in the world. Smiles are contagious. And who doesn’t like seeing another person smile or helping somebody out. If I can help somebody else out, it’s this warm feeling of love, and being appreciated. Giving back to Baltimore means a lot,” Fletcher said.

The future is looking brighter than ever for the artists. Since their national recognition, they were able to work with all big name artists in the industry like French Montana, Cardi B and Pharrell Williams.

But one of their biggest performances is yet to come. A1 Chops will be part of the closing ceremony for the 2019 Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington.

“Extremely excited [for the Cherry Blossom Festival]. First time attending and participating. I know when I looked it up, there were a lot of people watching us perform. ” Perry said.

Following the festival, A1 chops will kick their next adventure into high gear. In September, the artists will be headlining in Australia for their first international tour, next Singapore and maybe a movie project with Hollywood. Even with all the fame, A1 Chops wants kids to pursue their dreams.