“The Risin Son” of Hip-Hop: An Interview with R-Mean

This weekend marks the launch of The Risin Son, the latest album by Los Angeles native and Armenian American lyricist and artist, R-Mean. To kick off the launch of the new album, R-Mean will be performing at Beyond the Stars Palace in Glendale this Saturday, February 21st. Tickets for the show can be purchased online at http://www.itsmyseat.com.

Keeping true to an underlying artistic theme of social consciousness and action, R-Mean has dedicated a portion of the proceeds from the album’s sales to support the Armenian National Committee-Western Region’s (ANC-WR) educational as well as community empowerment efforts.

Below is an exclusive Asbarez interview with the rising star:

Asbarez: How did you first become interested in Hip Hop and a career in music?

R-Mean: As much as Hip Hop was everything to me, I never thought I could be a part of it musically. It never even crossed my mind. But I used to get a lot of single cd’s that had instrumentals on it and one day I was listening to the Paparazzi beat by Xzibit and I just started flowing. Then gradually a hobby turned into my main passion in life.

A: Did growing up in Holland influence you as an artist?

R: As an artist anything you experience influences you and your art in some way, so absolutely. The lifestyle and mentality you grow up with is different than if you would grow up here in LA for example. But most of the type of Hip Hop I was exposed to growing up in Holland was really different as well. To this day Hip Hop is in a more pure form out there than here so I grew up with a great sense of what Hip Hop was really meant to be. That is why I am always such an advocate of "real" and raw Hip Hop, and lyricism and all that and less focused on rapping about "booty and jewelry". It all stems from how you were influenced early on.

A: Who have been your musical inspirations?

R: I have been influenced by all kinds of music since I was a kid, from rap to rock, from country to pop, from soul to Armenian music. I get inspired when I see any type of talent;doesn’t necessarily have to be music. I admire talent and I admire people who follow their passion and do what they love. As far as specific artists, early on I was inspired by the whole early 90’s era of Hip Hop especially from the East Coast. From Wu Tang Clan to Nas, Tribe to KRS. But now most of my inspiration comes from life experiences and people in my life.

A: What artists would you like to work with?

R: There are a lot of artists I would love to work with. I get excited when I see real talent, no matter what style or genre of music. In regards to Armenian artists I would love to collaborate with Serj Tankian of course and I would love to do something with Jivan Gasparian. I am a big fan of using Armenian instrumen’s and influences in my music. As far as Hip Hop artists and producers there are too many to name but of course all the great ones like Eminem, Fifty Cent, Nas, Jay Z. Others that come to mind are Mos Def and Corey Gunz. Call me old school but rapping over a DJ Premier beat is still my dream.

A: What are your thoughts on the state of hip hop today?

R: It’s great that it has become the most popular form of music among the youth;basically it’s pop music now. So that has its negatives and positives but overall I wish more artists with substance would be recognized. I think Hip Hop is ready for something new and fresh to come and just completely blow everyone away.

A: What is Pentagon and can you tell us about the people in your crew?

R: I met my producer and business partner Blind back in 1999. He got shot in his face, chest, and back and completely lost his eyesight (hence the name). He decided to turn his life around and started making music. He already had the idea of Pentagon back then;. Pentagon represents the 5 angles. The 4 corners of the world (E, W, N, and S) and the 5th angle which is God who guides us through everything. So when we met we repped it since day one.

A: You have a track about the Armenian Genocide called "Open Wounds." What inspired you to write it?

R: The First time I wrote a song about the Armenian Genocide is when I took an Armenian History class in college. I wrote the whole song in class. After that Blind and I did a couple of tracks but every time it wasn’t the one. So when we were working on the Broken Water album, we thought let’s do another one but this has to be "the one". I had the idea to use duduk in the beat so I got a bunch of cd’s with duduk stuff on it and brought them to Blind for him to sample. I had also met Soseh Keshishian–the girl that sings the chorus–at UCLA and so I already knew I wanted her on the song too. Once Blind created the beat, I wrote my verses and Soseh came up with the idea of doing the chorus in Armenian and using "Kilikia". It just all came together perfectly, and when it was done we definitely knew it was "the one". I think the song conveys the message perfectly both in words and emotion. The best thing for me was that so many non-Armenia’s learned about the Genocide through that song because people that don’t speak Armenian still get the message through the raps and the emotion and pain through Soseh’s voice. Hopefully one day we can still push the song to an even greater audience.

A: What inspired you to write a song about the Armenian Genocide?

R: I was raised with the Armenian Cause instilled in me from a young age so it was always important to me. I want my music to convey an important message and I always knew that I wanted to express the pain and frustration I feel about 1915 and pay tribute to the 1.5 million Armenia’s that were annihilated during the Armenian Genocide through my music. I always wanted to help somehow but just going to protests and all that wasn’t enough for me. Once I started making music I knew my voice can be heard and especially the youth, which is the most important portion of the population but at the same time the hardest to reach, can be educated. Since music is a universal language, I hope that “Open Wounds” has and will continue to help raise awareness for the Armenian Genocide among Armenia’s as well as non-Armenia’s.

A: You reach a lot of youth through your music– what message do you want them to take away from your music?

R: You can look at everything in life in two different ways;positive or negative. I’m trying to focus on the positive and be appreciative for what life has to offer. With that said I want the youth to relate when they listen to my music and understand that they are not alone when it comes to their struggles in life…I hope that my music can help uplift and inspire people. I want kids to realize that no matter what obstacle lies in your way you should always follow your dreams and do what you love in life. Be realistic but don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t achieve what you want.

A: You have had a long and successful career, what have been some of your most notable accomplishmen’s?

R: Thanks, but I’m just getting started (laugh). I think my first album, Broken Water, as well as the song Open Wounds really broke ground in the Armenian market. I think that project helped in a way to make it acceptable for Armenia’s to rap;.even just among Armenia’s. Finally Armenia’s (and of course non-Armenia’s) were convinced that Armenia’s can rap. After that everybody was rapping, so I definitely see that as an accomplishment. Besides that I have been blessed with the opportunity to perform at big shows opening for some of the artists that are the reason that I started rapping myself like Nas and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. I have recorded with The Game (even though he never released the song) and I have been able to get the recognition of a lot of big named artists in the industry. My biggest accomplishment though is that I have been able to balance real life responsibilities and still do what I love and that’s something you don’t see often.

A: You have a new album coming out and a show in February – can you tell us about it?

R: Yes I’m dropping my new album titled "The Risin Son" on February 21st and we are doing an Album Release Concert the same day at Stars Palace in Glendale, CA. The beauty about this show is that everybody that comes gets a free copy of the album.

The Risin Son is a nickname I acquired years ago….It symbolizes the rise of the next generation….the next generation of Hip Hop. Originally it was just going to be a mixtape of some of my unreleased material but as we were putting it together it sounded so good that we had to make it a complete album. Instead, I am planning on releasing a free downloadable mixtape soon after this album. Most of the songs on The Risin Son album are produced by Blind and Humbl Sohl but I have also recruited several other producers for this album. Also, Ras Teo and Soseh are featured on the album as well as Romeo from the Goodfellas, Roscoe from DPG, and a few other guest appearances. It’s an incredibly well put together album and if you love Hip Hop you’re going to love this album.

A: What does the future hold for R-mean?

R: We have big plans of taking our movement to the next level. Up to now we were making great music but not pushing the music out there the way we should have. 2009 and the release of The Risin Son is going be the start of something new just like the title suggests.

A: How would you best describe your music….in one sentence?

R: I speak the bottom of my heart from the top of my lungs…

Editor’s Note: You can find out more about R-Mean and the debut concert as well as purchasing his new album "The Risin Son" by visiting www.myspace.com/rmean or calling 818.919.6665. Tickets for the show can be purchased online at http://www.itsmyseat.com.


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