By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia
About four years ago, Friday Flow was just a thing. Now it’s a THING.
Ali Tomineek, 20, was a student at Peoria High School when he filled a slot delivering rap songs during the Friday morning announcements. Over the years, he collected those songs and released them on May 5 as a compilation album called “Friday Flow.”
Later that month, it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseeker Mountain chart, which features top-selling albums by new or developing acts.
The attention garnered Mr. Tomineek a role in the film “High Strung 2: Free Dance,” co-written and directed by Michael Damien, former “Young and the Restless” star.
Mr. Damien has had a long career in the entertainment industry with a number of Top 40 hits, including a No. 1 with a cover of the David Essex song “Rock On,” from the “Dream a Little Dream” soundtrack.
Mr. Tomineek will play a supporting role and perform a rap number in the second installment of “High Strung.”
Shooting is scheduled to begin in July in Bucharest, Romania. He has never been out of the country and the shoot will be the first time he will meet Mr. Damien.
Everything has moved very fast lately, Mr. Tomineek said.
“The movie came really out of the blue. Really random. I think Michael Damien ran across one of my ‘Friday Flow’ videos on YouTube,” Mr. Tomineek said. “So he tweeted me and asked if I had ever done any acting. We did a Skype audition, and he said ‘You would fit the role perfectly.’”
Mr. Tomineek is no stranger to acting. He performed in high school productions, most notably performing as Harold Hill, the traveling swindler turned good, in the musical “Music Man.” The stage is where rap and acting came together, he said.
“The theater taught me to be more authentic and aware of what I’m doing on stage and on camera, and how to express more,” he said.
But his real passion is Hip Hop.
A true child of the new millennium, Mr. Tomineek has had a YouTube page since age 13, which is also when he started rapping. Two years ago, his account was hacked and lost 25 million views, he said. But he has since garnered more than 110,000 subscribers and more than 800,000 views.
But Mr. Tomineek’s prominence began in high school when he started appearing on Peoria High School’s morning news program, watched by the student body on school days.
Michael Serwa, who was the media teacher at Peoria High School while Mr. Tomineek was a student, said he saw his talent grow as he soaked up all four years on the school’s media productions program.
By his junior year, Mr Tomineek was appearing on the Friday slot of the morning program. This is when he started the installment Friday Flow, delivering a new rap to the student body every week.
“Every Friday he had a new video and song, and the students paid attention. They were excited to see Ali,” Mr. Serwa said. “He had a creative energy unlike any student I’ve had, so I tried to push him and he always responded.”
Mr. Tomineek said when Friday Flow charted at No. 1, it was crazy.
“People really wanted to hear all the Friday Flow (songs), so I created basically a play list so all the songs were in one place,” he said. “When I put the album out, I definitely wanted it to chart. But when it went all the way to No. 1, I was like whoa!”
Not to slow down, Mr. Tomineek has begun working on a new album. The success of Friday Flow has given him a lot more creative freedom, he said, able to produce everything without the help of a record label.
“I work independently, and I produce everything. I mix everything. I make my own cover art. I’m really hands-on. It’s a lot of work, but I believe the more work you put in, the more you will receive. So I am focusing on my next album right now,” he said. “Music is my day job, and I’m blessed to say that.”
The success of the album has also allowed him to give back to his alma maters, Peoria elementary and high schools.
CJ Smith, principal at Peoria Elementary School, said Mr. Tomineek has given motivational speeches and performed at the school for the last two years, as well as made donations to teachers and the band program.
Mr. Smith said Mr. Tomineek provides a positive message for a high-poverty school — 79 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunches.
“A young successful man who comes back to share his passion with kids from the same neighborhood he grew up in, that definitely makes him a star in our community,” Mr. Timineek said. “If you are committed and do whatever takes, you will experience success. That is a very strong message for our students.”