Saturday, April 19, 2008

My Interview With digitalundaground.com
7:17 PM

My Interview With digitalundaground.com

my boy JV sat down with me & did an interview for his blog, Digital Undaground. God is so good, I asked for an interview & He granted one for me. JV approached me a little while after & it was a go. an EXTENSIVE interview at that. pretty soon i'll be doing interviews for People talm'bout "what's your favorite color" & "what's your favorite name brand", SMH. glad to have experienced my 1st major interview with another hip hop head...anyway, i'ma shut up. enjoy!!!

http://www.digitalundaground.com/2008/04/dus-exclusive-interview-with-armond_18.html

ARMOND
"CLOSER TO THE DREAM"

I recently got the opportunity to sit down for an exclusive interview with one of my favorite independent emcees: epideMIC aka Armond. Over the past several years, dude has been dropping nothing but quality hip-hop. The St. Louis native has had plenty of life experiences which are clearly evident throughout his extremely personal and introspective rhymes that both captivate and inspire...a lost art long extinct in today's mainstream saturated game. Read on below for the full interview with Armond as we take an exclusive look at man and the music...

JV: First off, thanks for taking the time out to do this. For those who aren't familiar with you and your music, why don't you introduce yourself.

Armond: No problem, I appreciate the opportunity. My name is Armond, most know me as epideMIC or deMIC but I dropped that name about 5 months ago. I'm from STL but I've lived all over the world, experienced everything under the sun and its apparent in my music.

No doubt. Your experiences are definitely a focal point in your music, it seems like you've gone through a lot, yet you're still fairly young. How long have you been rapping for?

I wrote my 1st rhyme in '91, I was 7. Started performing @ malls and school talent shows @ 8. And I wrote my 1st structured song @ 10. I put it down for a while, and when a friend of mine committed suicide my senior year of high school, I picked it back up

So you've definitely been at it for awhile. It seems like the best emcees started making music as a kind of therapy…a way to cope with their personal struggle. Is that something you can relate to as an artist?

You have to relate to the people. Everybody isn't a thug, everybody isn't rich, and everybody doesn't have 10 different girls at their disposal. That represents a small portion of our population. I have a wife and a daughter, everytime I do something, I represent them. I'm a Christian, everything I do represents Christ. I used to make music that was only theraputic to myself, but when you get people telling you "hey I went through the same thing too, and I'm glad I'm not alone" or "your music helped me get through this issue", you see its much bigger than just you and your surroundings. I try to talk about issues that are relevant to my generation but everybody else seems to put certainthings on the backburner. Its the only way we can overcome ourselves, is to deal with life candidly...wait, is that a word?? Lol...

Haha...i think so. Lemme grab my scrabble dictionary right quick…

LOL!!!! Google is your friend.

Haha true story. But I hear you with the theraputic aspect of music. It definitely helps that your music is relatable on a number of different levels...moreso than most other hip-hop released nowadays. Regardless though, there's also a lot of passion for the culture that comes through in your music. When did you first fall in love with hip-hop?

Yeah man, its a love/hate relationship. Sometimes I give up on it and then ill hear some new stuff and ill be right back into it. I grew up on hip-hop, my cousin used to stay with us, he had a lot of Big Daddy Kane, LL, KRS-One, etc, personally I fell in love when I got Kool Moe Dee- Knowledge Is King first dropped, I wore that tape out. Lotta Fat Boys too...

Haha It was ALL about the Fat Boys back in the day. I'm a big fan of BDK myself, his whole persona and swagger really paved the way for most of today's mainstream artists. Just like Kool Moe Dee's "Knowledge" personifies what he was all about, if someone was to listen to just one of your tracks, which one do you think is the best representation of you as an artist?

Definitely "Closer"...everybody's got some type of dream they want to get closer to. My goal is to try and get everybody I can to a next level within themselves. And that song personifies everything I stand for musically. Will I be heard in today's market? Am I on the right path? Can I make it to the next level? I might not be there today, but everyday I'm getting "closer to my dreams".

Wow...it's crazy you mention "Closer". My next question was regarding that track. That joint was hands down my favorite track of 2006. period. I still get goosebumps listening to it and I must've played that track for every single person who stepped foot in my car that year. And everytime I did...whether it was my mother, my girl, or my crew...everyone was really moved by the track. I'm sure I'm not the first and definitely wont be the last to tell you that...but did you know that there was something special about it when you were putting it together?

Ha ha!!! I appreciate that. To be honest, I just thought I had a dope song. But hearing stuff like that let's me know that was on a whole other level. Because I'm my own worst critic I can't predict a song's impact until it actually gets out there. That song is nearly 5 years old and it still gives me chills, just to know what its done for people, its a great feeling.

It's gotta be. Now that we're on the subject of your tracks, can you shed some light on your creative process?

Everything inspires me. Putting my daughter to bed to being bored at work. And the beat is definitely important. I'd say a good 30 gigs of my ipod are instrumentals. Ill just ride around and listen to beats, then I start humming, and before you know it I've got the Blackberry out laying down the verse. Some people like to take their time when writing, you have to learn to trust your brain and your emotions. Then ill go in the studio and one take the song. I've just now started to take my time, and re-record, plan out adlibs & stuff. But before, it was all based on the feeling. I did a freestyle over Common's Finding Forever that's 4 1/2 minutes long, one take...looking back I don't know WHAT I was thinking. But I know I was in that zone and it just came out crazy.

Word, inspiration can occur ANYWHERE. Even as a DJ...I'll find that ideas for mixes and blends will pop up at the oddest times during random situations. But on the production side of things, you definitely have a great ear for beats...which is becoming more and more of a lost art these days, especially since there's so much trend following that goes on in the industry. On your track "Away Too Long" you make a lot of observations and criticisms on the current state of the game. Where do you think hip-hop is headed as a culture?

I think its in a great state. My only complaint is a lack of balance. You watch Rap City back with Joe Clair & Big Lez, even with Tigger...there was more than just one type of hip-hop being shown. You had Puff, Redman, Jay-Z, I-N-I, Wu Tang, Mack 10...I mean EVERYBODY had an outlet to be heard. Now networks determine who and what is too intelligent for the audience. But the great thing about today's hip-hop, you don't have to rely on TV and radio to get some great music. Blogs, myspace, facebook, imeem...its there for the taking. And as artists,you can build your fanbase online, sell your music online, promote online, you don't need a record label anymore. So with that type of creative freedom, there's no pressure. You can do what you want and find an audience for it. You still have to be somewhat talented though, lol.

Exactly. I feel like the Internet is forcing everyone to step their game up and adapt with the times. These labels are still struggling to deal with the reality of the situation. But your right, the ability to produce, promote, and distribute music independently online has evened the playing field and is allowing everyone a chance to get some shine...with or without a major label backing you. But with that, the playing field is so even, that virtually anyone with a microphone and a computer can call themselves an emcee which is making it harder and harder for artists with actual talent to stand out in the crowd.

Yup, I agree. I remember KRS-One said when he 1st started rapping, he had to get the approval of his family and his friends, like they had to co-sign him being nice before he even thought about jumping into a cipher, battle or studio. Nowall you need is Limewire and 50 dollars, and now you're an MC...its wack.

Considering that all of your releases have been produced and released independently, are you content with being an independent artist? Do you feel like it holds you back in any way and if given the opportunity, would you sign if you were approached by a label?

I've always said I didn't want a deal. It definitely has to be a perfect situation creatively and financially. As an independent artist, I love it. But the only drawback is you have to be everything; engineer, street team, creative consultant, stylist, manager, accountant, everything. It would be a lot easier if I could just concentrate on the music side and let other people that I trust handle the business. But never say never.

Yeah...I hear that...it's a lot of legwork to simply produce the music...nevermind promote the music. It's always smart to leave the door open...you never know who or what could come along and change your opinion.

Definitely

But changing gears for a second...I've known you for a few years now, and I know you recently were serving your country and were stationed in Japan for an extended period of time. What was that experience like? Being away from your friends and family for so long must have been tough.

Awwwwwww man Japan was incredible. I helped form the Triangle Effect with 5 of my brothers that helped me mature lyrically, mentally and definitely spiritually. On the other side, I missed my daughter's birth, I had to hear her 1st minutes over the phone,I missed the 1st year and a half of her life. I had family members and friends that were being murdered, going in and out of jail, and some disappeared altogether. And you feel helpless cuz you're halfway across the world, people need you and you can't do much outside of a phone call. But in that time I turned to God and He pushed me into my music. Wake Up 2 and Ventilation came from all that depression, frustration and anger. Your music should represent that period of time in your life, and those 2 cds definitely do that.

You can definitely hear all that emotion, frustration, and growth throughout your music. It's kinda bugged because although we've never met and don't know each other outside of the internet, I feel like I know you personally after listening to Wake Up 2 and especially Ventilation. On that project in particular, you show a lot of vulnerabilty as you open up about a lot of personal topics that most artists would hesitate to share on record, especially in such large doses.

That was the whole aim, its rappers that have been out for years, and you don't know them. anybody that's popular in our society is popular because of the personal connection they make with the people. I'm glad you had that connection.

Exactly. Even artists that put themselves out there like that usually stretch that kind of insight out over the course of their career, so that their listeners can put the pieces together themselves with each album. Those two projects were very candid and honest...and you earned my respect as a listener right away because of it. I'm sure that everyone reading this who checks out your music will feel the same way...even if they don't necessarily feel the music, they gotta respect it.

I appreciate that

You mentioned earlier that you recently changed your name from epideMIC to Armond…what made you make the change?

Before all the Wake Ups and everything, my music used to be very disrespectful to women, I used to have a dirty mouth, I used to say whatever sounded good. And what you say sticks with you. So I had this desire to change my name, and I figured because my music is so open and true to my life, why not go by the gov't?

Oh no doubt. That makes sense. If you were spitting like that early on, I could see why you'd want to switch it up considering your subject matter is dramatically different these days. Moving on…If you could choose anyone to work with...which producer and rapper would be your collabo dream team?

Not big on rappers, lol...But I’ll say my boy Ca$h cuz we compliment each other so well. Long gone are the days of posse cuts that actually sound right, and not just "throw random hot at the moment rappers on one beat.“ Producers…definitely Just Blaze, Kanye, Neptunes, 9th Wondra, Dilla, Black Milk, Don Cannon, Bink!, Toomp, Soulquarians, anybody that would push me creatively. I'd rather work with people that don't specialize in hip-hop, on some next level steez...

Solid list right there. So what's your top 5 hip hop albums of all time?

OK, and I’ma base this off personal preference, cause Doggystyle is a classic but I don't have it on my iPod…1. Reasonable Doubt 2. Blueprint 3. Lost Tapes 4. Aquemini 5. Reflection Eternal. Answering that let's me know how much hip-hop I stopped
listening to.


Yeah huh. You got nothing past ‘99 on there. Then again…not that many classics. if any, have been made since then.

The crazy part is, there was still dope music being put out, we just complain and every year gets worse. But on second thought, I’ma add BE & The Listening coming off the bench.

While were on the subject of the present day…what’s the last album that really blew you away?

Without question Mood Muzik 2...But honorable mention to Shabach “From Sin To Shabach” and Blu & Exile “Below The Heavens”.

I hear that...both MM2 & Below The Heavens were insane…but I must confess, never heard of that Shabach cat though. So what do ya got in your rotation right now??

*Whips out the iPod*

Definitely got Kanye, Lupe and NERD (Cause I'm going to see “Glow In The Dark” on Wednesday), Below The Heavens, MM3, Mickey Fact’s “Heavenz Fallout”, Day 26, Kidz In The Hall, Stimuli, Ne-Yo, Andre 3000, Anita Baker, Donny Hathaway, The Isley's, Stevie Wonder, Sade…that’s about it.


Word. You got a nice varied selection right there. And finally, where do you see yourself + your music in the future? and what projects are you working on that we should look out for?

I see myself growing as a person and letting the music showcase that. Just allowing the movement to get larger and allowing myself to be used. As for projects, I'm always releasing random songs thru my mailing list and my myspace. My group Triangle Effectis dropping a mixtape "Cause & Effect" this year, my dude Ca$h is dropping his 2nd CD "Redemption" that I'm executive producing, Wake Up 3 is probably dropping next year, but before that I plan on continuing to push my best of mixtape, "Wake Up 2.5" and I might do another mixtape before then. Other than that, just stay tuned to my blog, armondwakeup.com & my myspace www.myspace.com/armondwakeup.

No doubt, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for all those projects. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing what the Triangle Effect has in store. But anyway, it was great talkin’ to you my dude, thanks again for taking the time out for the interview.

I appreciate the opportunity, Veg. Congrats on the blog's success.

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