Following the release of his music tracks, 'That's Gangsta' and 'Betcha Didn't Know', Strong A.R.M establishes his presence in the EDM genre, moreso for his unique brand which is heavily laced with elements of Rap and Hip-Hop. This exclusive interview with Ikenna Okeh of UbuntuFM introduces Strong A.R.M, his style and his process.
We are glad to be in touch with you, Strong A.R.M. The first question that quickly comes to mind is the choice of your name. What's the story behind the name, ‘Strong A.R.M.’?
Thank you for your interest in me, I truly appreciate it. The story behind my name is a short one. Back in the day, I was in a group. After a while though, the group broke up, and I went solo. The name I had in the group was not good enough for a solo artist. I searched for about a week, and finally, one of the dancers from the group said, “… you should call yourself ‘STRONG A.R.M.’, and I thought, hey, I like it because it describes me totally in mind, body, and soul! And that is who I have been ever since!
By the way, the A.R.M. stands for ‘A REAL M.C’.
In a review of your music track, 'That's Gangsta', on UbuntuFM Hip-Hop, it's described as rightfully counted amongst relevant musical offerings within the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) genre. Besides, you had quite a lot to say with the song's lyrical content. Did the desire to express yourself come as a sole motivation for the song's creation?
Most definitely, because listening to a lot of other artists who are considered hardcore Hip-Hop artists made me just sit down and write ‘That's Gangsta’ in a very aggressive manner, to show how hard I can get as well. So I got the inspiration for that song from various artists.
Recent times have witnessed an increase in popularity and market value of EDM music, from being underground in previous years to having stepped into its 'golden era'. We at UbuntuFM are of the opinion that yours is quite a brand in its own right, considering its strong elements of rap culture. How far into the future do you consider this boom of EDM to go? On another note, do you consider a workable strategy to push the trends past Europe and America, into say, Africa?
Truthfully speaking, I'm still new to EDM and to be honest, doing EDM the way we are doing it was an idea brought to me by my man, Warren J. Gallimore, who is versatile in a lot of different music genres. A lot of the times when something does not look or sound great to me, he has a way of making me see it! That's what he did. So with this new blend of Hip-Hop and EDM, I do believe it's going to elevate into something even greater, hitting everywhere, even Africa! Hell, look at me now, I'm on UBUNTU FM … (laughs).
EDM has a long way coming from its Detroit House origins in the eighties. It has ventured out over the world and is now largely dominated by European acts. It has become main-stream – dare we say soul-less – which is not exactly our cup of tea. It seems to us that your music goes back to the root and blends it with rap elements – which, back then in the eighties, was still in its infancy too. Are we correct in our assessment?
You are very correct in your assumption. I'm an eighties baby! So I could not help but mix any kind of music I do with old school Hip-Hop of the eighties and nineties! Hip-Hop is a form of two music genres; Reggae music (D.J. Kool Herc) and Dance/Disco music (Grand Master Flash). Hence what I am doing is just a natural progression.
It's always the case that there's a story that made the man. What experiences shaped you into a musical artist? And if I may add, did you start off with Hip-Hop/Rap? And at what point did you venture into EDM?
(Laughs). Once, I heard ‘Rappers Delight’ at a young age. It was a turning point for me as far as my involvement with the Hip-Hop culture would later go. My mom bought me that record, so I guess I have her to thank! Before Hip-Hop, I felt like I had no kind of identity whatsoever, and when it came to certain things, I would always get passed over. Once I started rapping though, people started recognizing me a little bit more, haters included (laughs). As time went on, Hip-Hop gave me my walk, my talk, my style, and basically my whole self-esteem came from being a part of the Hip-Hop culture. As a D.J., I have heard many EDM records but as far as incorporating EDM with Hip-Hop goes, it was an idea brought to me by my man, Warren J. Gallimore, and now, here we are!
I will want for us to talk about 'Betcha Didn't Know'. It's a song that has its strength not in its electronic beats but in the rap lyrics. Let's say it's also another of your works of musical art intended for self-expression. Right? Was there an occurrence or cultured observation that inspired the track?
Yes, there was. At that time, I wanted to show everyone what they didn't know about me. That's why the song is called ‘Betcha Didn’t Know’ so everyone would know how I get down on the mic!
It is evident that you feel some attachment to 'Betcha Didn't Know' and 'That's Gangsta'. It's likely that sort of relationship between the artist and his work. How has the public reception for both tracks been since their release?
Wow! The reception has been better than I anticipated. It's truly been great all over the world. Even in countries I can't pronounce (laughs). The love and the write-ups have been a true inspiration for the new music I am currently working on.
The word 'Gangsta' has such social negativity associated with it. Does it not portend the same impression for your choice of title, 'That's Gangsta'? What does 'That's Gangsta' mean for you?
‘That's Gangsta’ is anything that is hot, good, and even great; anything you do in your life that is considered your best. It’s more like saying ‘that’s bad’ when you actually imply that something is good. It’s more appropriately used when you achieve the feat against all odds, even when people tell you that you couldn't do it in the first place.
Looking back at the course of your musical journey what would you consider to be your most remarkable moment? Is there something you would do differently if you were to do it all over again?
When I think back, one of my most memorable moments is when I got to shoot my first solo video for a song titled ‘Let’s Get It On’. I mean it was the greatest feeling ever with all the people who showed up to support what was going on. It was great. Before that, it was seeing my name on a record. It was the coolest thing ever.
What is your audience to expect from you soon? Do you have a project ongoing at the moment?
Yes, I am working on some new material that's going to be EDM and boom bap oriented, and trust me, you and everyone will get a taste of the STRONG A.R.M. when it's time to drop.
'Betcha Didn't Know' and 'That's Gangsta' have been enjoying airplay on UbuntuFM HipHop Radio, treating our listening audience to your EDM House beats and rap lyrics. Before we wrap up, do you have a word in parting for them?
Let me just say ‘thank you’ to Ubuntu FM, to all my contributors, and all my fans around the world. On behalf of my record label, Survival Crew Records, we will continue to bring you hot music, as long as you want to hear it. We will continue to do it on the real!
Thank you, Strong A.R.M. It's been a most insightful moment with you. Our gratitude for granting us this interview. The best of wishes, from us, on your artistic endeavors.
No, thank you for your time. It's greatly appreciated. And you will be hearing more from me and Survival Crew Records in the very near future! Peace.