"When I was growing up, there was this one moment where there was a domestic violence situation between my parents. My mother was in the bathroom and he was trying to break the door down, and I came in between them, ran in between them, trying to stop anything from happening, screaming."
I've talked to literally hundreds of artists, heard countless stories about what inspired someone to make music, what drove them to put music out into the world for people to love, hate or ignore, but I'd never heard a musical origin story that powerful and compelling before. I'd never talked to Armani White before.
"I'm a little kid, 4-years-old, and he moved me out of the way and kept going. I was screaming at the top of my lungs and no one could hear me. I remember feeling like I was mute, like I didn't have a voice. So now when I make music I feel like I'm embodying that voice I didn't have before."
Armani White is just beginning to have that voice heard although he's been honing it for years now. Growing up in Philadelphia his household was steeped in music, a "house of prayer" where everyone played an instrument and everyone sung in the choir and so Armani loved music but also didn't see how hip-hop could be the vehicle that gave him the voice he wanted until he heard "Kill You" from Eminem.
"Eminem was a game changer. I was always around rap, it was just everywhere. It seems like every song was about money, clubs, but then I heard Eminem and it felt like...you can do that? It showed me you had make any music you want to, make your own lane, and it made me want to be in a field where I could say whatever I wanted to say."
But while Eminem was an inspiration, Armani was still a Philly kid surrounded by Philly hip-hop, and if Philly hip-hop is known for anything, it's for having emcees that, as Armani puts it, "Can spit lyrically, rip your head off. That's how Beanie Sigel came up, and I'm just trying to carry on that legacy." And so he worked tirelessly to hone his rap skills, but in his drive to rise up to the bar set by all the local heroes before him, his music sounded like many of the local heroes before him. "I was in the hood, so I was rapping about hood shit," he explained. "It was general, typical."
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But then through the hard, sometimes tedious work of trial and error, Armani slowly but surely discovered how to "rap about the changes in my life, what I want to see in my life," and as soon as he discovered that voice, the voice that made "Stick Up," the world began to hear him.
"We dropped 'Stick Up' and everything changed," explained Armani. "Two weeks later I'm in a hotel and I'm chilling with GoldLink and Kehlani. At 16 and 17, everything I wanted and I shot for, I missed completely. But now at 20, 21, everything that I wanted at 17 is coming. Now I'm reaping the benefits."
Now Armani's facing the same challenge so many others have faced before him. After years of yelling, demanding attention, that attention is beginning to come in the form of select radio play and Top Prospects inclusion. So now what? What do you have to say now that the world is listening? Armani originally planned on dropping his Indian Giver project as an EP, but time has seen the project expand into a full-length album, a collection of music that he hopes will more than hold up to the scrutiny he's beginning to receive.
Like many of his projects this one will come complete with Egyptian inspired themes and concepts, Egyptology is a regular presence in Armani's work, but more importantly it will be a project that's his voice, the voice that will just maybe give him the power to change his own world in a way he couldn't at 4-years-old, screaming by the bathroom door.
Sometimes the cut really does run that deep.
[By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]