Hip hop – more than just bars and a beat

INTERVIEW AND WORDS BY BEN FREEMAN

To people of all creeds and colours across over the globe, Hip-Hop is so much more than just some dope lyrics over a tight beat. I investigated exactly why this is, with a special insight from Cleveland Artist, Archie Green.

Anyone who has read any of my prior articles will be aware of just how favourably inclined I am towards Hip-Hop. I admit, I’m very biased. However, by its very nature Hip-hop is defined as so much more than much of the mainstream media choose to present.

Hip-Hop. what does it mean? Well, “hip” comes from a Senegalese language and means ‘to open one’s eyes and see’. “Hop” comes from English; symbolising movement. Thus put together, Hip-Hop means intelligent movement. If you look beyond face value, Hip-Hop is certainly that; an intelligent movement.

Hip-Hop is an intelligent movement in many a way. It began as an escape – a freedom – from life in the black slums in New York; the close connections to emotion and oppression are therefore inevitable. It is because of this that Hip-Hop embodies so much more than just a music genre, to so many people.

One rapper that utilises music to express their inner artistry and to document the obstacles set before us in everyday life, is Archie Green; an artist with whom I had the privilege of discussing  his story and what music means to him.

I first heard Archie when I saw a VICE article entitled “rappers talk about their struggles with depression”. I read through the article in its entirety, whilst also listening to each of the featured rappers’ music. Upon doing so, I discovered Archie Green. I felt that Archie was undoubtedly the standout artist. After just a few hours of listening to his tracks on his soundcloud (which I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone), I was a fan. Once we had exchanged messages and details on twitter, I sent Mr. Green a bunch of questions to help me understand how music has helped him.

Check out the interview below. 

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Archie Green. A 30-year-old rapper who believes Hip-hop has been part of his recovery from depression.
BF: To begin with, who are you and what do you do?
 AG: My name is Archie Green.  I’m an MC, Producer, Songwriter, Music Consultant and Educator from Cleveland, Ohio.
BF: who inspired you growing up?
 AG: I have to say that I’ve always been inspired by music.  My mother told me a story that she attended the Michael Jackson BAD Tour when it stopped in Cleveland.  At the time she was pregnant with me, and she told me she had to leave the concert because I was “moonwalkin'” in the womb!!! Hahaha!!  Growing up of course I was inspired by Michael Jackson.  I grew up in a predominantly white suburb, so I was always into pop music as a kid.  Hanson, The Cardigans, Will Smith were a few artists that I always heard at the local roller rinks, that was the place to hang out and talk to girls back in the day!!
As I got older, in high school was when I was first exposed to Hip-Hop.  Jay Z was the first rapper I ever heard that made me want to rap.  “Hard Knock Life” changed my life.  I was like, this dude looks like me and is rappin’ while riding around in a bentley with beautiful women around him?!  I want in!!! Kanye came out when I was a senior in high school, and he changed the game for cats like me who didn’t grow up in the hood.  I could be from the suburbs and rap about suburban living, not selling drugs or killin people, and I could get “respeck” in my name because of Ye.  Other influences were Lupe Fiasco, Notorious B.I.G., and Puff Daddy.  I was a huge Diddy fan, a nigga used to have an AIM name “PDFAN1” HAHAHAHAAHA!!!
BF: At what age did you really begin to get involved in music?
 AG: For as long as I can remember I’ve always been a fan of music.  I used to watch these Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 documentaries and dance like crazy in front of the TV, like….everyday!!! Haha!!!  I always used to tell my parents that I would be on TV one day doing the same thing.  When I was like 10, they bought me one of those microphone sets with a spotlight and shit.  It was crazy!!  I used to put on shows for them on holidays, and anniversaries.  I didn’t know then, but I was preparing myself for my destiny and future on stage.
I started writing and recording, and even producing when I was 13.  I used my dad’s old radio, which had a tape recorder attached.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was producing too because I was using samples from old records and CDs that my parents had laying around the house.  I rapped on top of those joints on my dad’s radio and started putting together mixtapes.  I was doing everything, artwork on my computer with a scanner, dubbing tapes and CDs and giving them to my friends.  Crazy to think about it now, but that’s when it all started.  I started officially making beats at 18.  A friend of mine got me a copy of this program called Fruity Loops and that’s how it started.  I pretty much got all of my music producing and songwriting skills from being in band and choir all through high school.  The first producer project I put myself up to was remixing Jay Z’s Black Album. I called it The Green Album.  I’ve been producing, writing and recording ever since.
BF: okay, so tell us – in as much detail as your comfortable with – about your story.
 AG: Growing up was traumatic at times for me as a kid.  I grew up in this town called Chagrin Falls, which is about 45 mins outside of Downtown Cleveland.  When I was growing up there, some kids nicknamed it “The Bubble,” because everything inside that town was on some “Leave It To Beaver” type shit.  People were out of touch with reality, it was some Stepford Wives type living.  Needless to say, I was one of very few minorities that grew up there.  Kids used to pick on me, feel on my hair (WITHOUT MY PERMISSION!!!) and call me ‘nigger’ from time to time.  I was never that good at sports, and some of the kids I was around didn’t understand why since I was black. Hahaha!! I endured a lot of racism and prejudice that I knew many other black kids wouldn’t have been able to go through.  I know now that my depression started then.
On the other hand, my depression stemmed from rejection.  If you are a creative, whether in music, art, photography, architecture or whatever your craft, you will be told ‘No’ millions of times (at least it feels like that, haha) until you get that first ‘Yes.’  It took me years to get to the level that I’m at now as a songwriter, producer and performer.  But in the beginning, there wasn’t really anyone who believed in me, but…Me.  My parents supported me as best they could, but in order to protect me from failing at music they suggested I focus on a ‘more realistic’ career.  It hurt me deeply that at that time my parents didn’t think that I could make it in music.  It wasn’t until recently, after I earned my Master’s degree at NYU (New York University) for Music Business, that they really started to see that this just may be what I’m here to do.  So rejection definitely played a part in my depression.
The event that brought me face to face with my depression was my DUI (Drunk Driving Arrest) that I got after moving back to Cleveland from New York City in 2013.  It was my first ever offense, and the judge threw the fucking book at me!!! I got 3 years probation, 1 year license suspension and had to go to 20 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.  It was obviously embarrasing, because at the time I was living with my parents.  I lived about
30 mins away from all of my friends, and with my license suspended I could only drive to and from work and/or to church.  I was too embarrassed to ask any of my friends to come pick me up to go out.  So for most of that year, the only social interactions I had were when I worked at Nordstrom at the mall.  It was a very dark time for me, I was very alone.  It gave me a lot of time to get to really know who I had become as a man.  It also brought me really close to God.  I had a lot of talks with God, and it was through faith and prayer that I was able to keep going.
After sometime, a frat brother reached out to me and suggested I see a therapist.  I had thought about doing it before, but never acted on it.  Finally decided to do it, and it without a doubt saved my life.  It’s an awesome thing to talk about your inner thoughts, and find out what that kind of thinking stems from.  I had a bunch of breakthroughs, the biggest obviously being when I wrote the song, ‘Layers’.
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The artwork for Archie’s introspective track, ‘Layers’.
 BF: What gave you the courage to speak out through music, about your life experiences?
  AG: As I’ve stated before, I’ve been doing music for nearly 20 years.  Started when I was thirteen, and I’m thirty now.  But for most of my musical career I had only touched the surface of my story.  I thought about my heroes in music, not just in Hip-Hop.  I’m talkin bout Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, the list goes on.  They all kept it all the way real in their lyrics.  That’s what truly connects with people.  It was a therapeutic exercise for real.  I recommend it to any artist out there struggling with depression.  Tell your story, you never know how many people may be affected or impacted by your story.  It could also affect you in a positive way as well.  The courage for me came from me wanting to help and encourage someone else out there.
BF: Do you feel music had a part to play in your recovery? 
 AG: It played a big part in my recovery.  Especially working on it in the studio.  It was surreal to work with musicans at the Cleveland Institute of Music that played on the music from my new project.  When I heard the final version of “Layers,” I got super emotional.  Hearing those strings at the end especially was something I had always dreamed of.  To hear them on my song, was crazy to me.  I have to shout out Perry Wolfman who co-produced “Layers,” and arranged the live strings, percussion and bass guitar.  Shout out to Kynan, Kiarra, Kyle and Linda who all played those instruments on “Layers.”
BF: If you could give someone going through depression one piece of advice, what would it be?
 AG: Depression is a very real mental disease.  But it’s also very common.  There’s a huge stigma that people shouldn’t talk about it.  That’s a bunch of bull if you ask me. Don’t be afraid.  TALK ABOUT IT!!! OUT LOUD!! Seek help, it could save your life.
BF: In one sentence, what does music mean to you?
 AG: Music is the most beautiful language God ever created, and it is the only language that will forever be universal.
                                                                                                                                                                               An excellent response to close on, if you ask me.
                                                                                                                                                                          Don’t forget to hit up Archie via the links below –
 Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/archie-l-green
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/archie_green/
Stay tuned for more.

 

 

 

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