WORDS AND INTERVIEW BY BEN FREEMAN
Strength is something that can be measured in an innumerable variety of ways. It could be measured by how much weight you can lift, how many push-ups you can do or even how hard you can punch. I’d argue the best measure of strength is in fact the opposite; how hard can you get punched and continue fighting. How well can you swim against the tide, even when all your muscular endurance tells your brain to stop – but your heart tells your brain to continue.
This is exactly what Cleveland rapper, Archie Green, has done. Not only has he broken onto the Hip-hop scene, having recently released his latest EP, The Black Pharaoh, he’s done so whilst overcoming a mental health battle; hence swimming firmly against the tide. This makes Archie’s success in creating an incredible piece of music all the more sweeter for someone like myself, who appreciates real Hip-hop and the grind that goes into it. I love to see real music excel amongst the sea of fake, materialistic, mumble rap – of which there is seemingly a never ending supply of. The Black Pharaoh is a great example of bona fide Hip-hop standing tall.
What strikes me most about Archie, whenever we’re in contact, is his radiating warmth and positivity. He’s far detached from the stereotype of a typical rapper and it’s clear he does what he does to make a change (as you’ll see in the interview below). Prior to our conversation below, I last spoke to Archie a little over 7 months ago. After hearing his debut single, Layers, I was compelled. Compelled, not only by his artistry and lyrical prowess, but also by his story and his overtness in telling that story. At no point during listening to the track did I ever question the legitimacy and reality of the narrative – something that has become somewhat of a rarity given the current climate of Hip-hop – and this theme of authenticity has thankfully cemented itself his new EP.
Archie, what’s changed since we last spoke?
A WHOLE LOT!!! Hahaha!! I’ve quit my 9-to-5 and I’m now doing music full-time. However, I’m also working in the mental health space now too as a Mental Health Advocate. I’ve done my first event, a panel discussion on mental health in the black community coupled with the premiere of my video for Layers, which was a great success. I’m now looking to do more of that type of work across the country.
What was the driving force behind the album?
The driving force in this album is to speak from the perspective of a black man living in 21st century America. With songs like Blacks Only, I wanted to speak out in anger not only with what’s going on in this country, but also at those people of influence who have remained silent during these times. I shout out the [James] Baldwins, Nina Simones & Harry Belafontes because these were entertainers who used their respective platforms to also fight against injustice.
I speak from the perspective of dealing with depression, on Layers. There are many that battle demons, especially being a black man in America. You can turn on the news, or your nearest social media timeline and see why a black man could be depressed and/or suicidal.
I aim to empower black men through self-realizations and affirmations on A Beautiful Mind. We are all kings and queens, or whatever WE tell ourselves that we are. We are all equipped with the same tools and resources to put ourselves in positions of power. The internet has broken down so many barriers of entry. I’ve learned through teachings of self-help gurus like Wayne Dyer, Les Brown and others that I can be whomever I WANT to be. So now, I want to let others know they can do the same.
I weaved the EP together with quotes from other Black Pharaohs such as Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X & Louis Farrakhan. Sometimes we need a reminder of how far we’ve come, and how far we got to go. Lastly, I of course infused elements of hip-hop with boombap joints like Archie Strut, Pt. 2, Supreme, and Diary.
What was the hardest part of creating the album?
The hardest part of creating The Black Pharaoh EP, I believe was being as transparent as I was. I wrote Layers, which is my most personal song ever, everything in that is true. Then with songs like, Blacks Only, I truly believed that it would be polarizing to my non-black friends. I got nervous performing that song live initially, but now I embrace these truths. A last struggle for me was holding out on releasing it too soon. I was gonna drop it in March, and a friend suggested I hold off until there was more of a demand for my music. Then I did the interview with VICE that next month and my life changed forever.
What was the most rewarding part of creating the album?
The most rewarding part was working with Perry Wolfman. Perry and I produced a majority of the EP together. I would go in and make beats, chop samples, come to Wolf with ideas and he in turn would add so much more. He was the main composer for all of the live instrumentation that you hear on TBP. I finally have live strings on MY MUSIC!!! That was a dream of mine for so long, and now it’s out for the world to hear. Dream come true. Thank you, Wolf.
What does the album mean to you?
Simply put, The Black Pharaoh is a musical perspective of what it’s like to live in America as a 21st century African-American. There is love & hope, depression & despair, but also pain & pride. The term ‘Pharaoh’ means king to me, so the Black Pharaoh is the Black King. It’s dedicated to all of the leaders of Black American culture pictured on the cover (including 2Pac, Malcolm X, Nina Simone, MLK, Nikki Giovanni, etc), as well as my grandfather, Archie Lee Green who passed away this year. It’s socially conscious but most importantly, honest at its core.
What’s your favourite track and why?
My favorite song is Layers. It’s my most honest song to date. I listen to that song, perform that song, watch the video and continue to be grateful to God that I was able to overcome depression in the way that I did. More importantly, it put me in a position to be able to share my story with others and help to save and change lives in the process.
Any more projects in the works?
I’m always working on music. Right now, I’ve gotten more active in Mental Health Advocacy. Taking my #PeelDemLayersBack initiative on the road is at the forefront right now. I intend to speak to schools, mental health organizations, churches and more across the country and the globe in order to help promote mental health and educate and empower those who are suffering from mental illness. However, there will definitely be more music to come in 2017.
What does the future hold?
There’s a lot of work to be done in the space of mental health advocacy. We have a new president and there are many up in arms about it, and many are even more depressed than before. I hope to partner with different organizations using the medium of my music and hip-hop in general to educate and empower others on the importance of mental health and different methods of use.
Whether it’s music, mental health advocacy or most likely still, both, Archie will continue to thrive; that I have no doubt about. Expect to see a lot more of buzzing Cleveland artist and keep updated at www.archiegreenisclass.com.