featured interview

Aarophat The Unconquerable Soul Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be, For my unconquerable soul. These are the opening lines of a poem by William Ernest Henley. It was written over hundred years ago, but still inspired Aarophat for his seventh album. Invictus. Latin for unconquerable. Aarophat, known from collabos with Wildelux, D Strong and Illastrate, makes his music with passion, love, and a heart that is not to be overrun by the vicious music industry. 'Invictus' is not just an album, it's a mission: 'never give up'...

INTRO

Sup Aarophat. How things going?

Peace fam. Everything is everything. Thank you the opportunity to chop it up.

Everytime we do an interview, we do quite some research on the www. When I started googling you I could not find as much write-ups as I thought I would. In other words: most results lead to Aarophat-the-music not Aarophat-the-man-behind-the-music. Not a coincidence?

Often times good press is guarded by politics and profit schemes which can make things difficult for any independent movement. As an artist, my main focus has always been on the music itself. I feel as long as I keep releasing good music, you will definitely be reading more about me.

Please introduce yourself to our readers who're not familiar with you yet…

I would let them know off the bat that I'm a real emcee who has been putting in work since the 1990's. I'm originally from Youngstown, Ohio and was raised on the kind of hip-hop that shook up the world. Music was the culture's platform back then. My music is all about a love for that movement. The creativity and the consciousness of the Golden Era shaped the approach I took when first stepping into the booth. When cats hear Aarophat they will be reminded of gold standard hip-hop.


PAST

We'll get to your new album in a minute, but let us take a sec to think back...you have built up quite a catalog since you entered the game in 1999. Although I been following hip-hop thoroughly since 1997, I only discovered you with the Black Noise project. Of course I'm the one to blame but do you feel like people should just discover you when the time is right or would you wish to have been in the picture a lot more?

I feel like the time is and has always been right to follow my music. Since I started releasing projects, one thing has been a constant through it all and that is the growth I've experienced from album to album. You can hear the transformation take place once you check the catalog. Whenever people become aware of the movement, the aim is to have dope shit waiting on them. Regardless of when they find any of my work, I want listeners to find joints that they like and want to hear more of. That is how a good following grows. Being in the picture is all relative.

The Black Noise album was definitely one of my favorite albums of 2009. Could you tell me how that project with Illustrate came about?

Illastrate and I met through our former management and clicked right away. The mutual respect for our talents led us to start collaborating in 2005. That resulted in songs like "Two Years" and "Let's Get Bigga" from 'The Sound Vol. 2: Vibe Music' and later with "Get 'em Up" and "Caramel" from 'Aarodynamix'. Our chemistry on a track was undeniable and the energy was incredible so we decided to push forward with the LP. Back then, the whole one MC/one producer trend wasn't as popular but we got to work on that idea early. The first Black Noise tracks were created in '06.

Give us a quick briefing on the Third Rail project 'Politics'… Who's in it and what does it stand for?

I'm one-third of the group Third Rail alongside D Strong and Wildelux. Our 2011 collaboration was dubbed 'Politics' in reference to the political term 'third rail politics'. Looking at how off track mainstream hip-hop is, we felt like our approach in bringing forth that hardcore boom-bap rugged vibe is what a lot of rappers were afraid to touch. We're veterans in the game and we respect the architects, so in this day and age our style is controversial. Topically, our lyrical content is politically charged as well. The track 'Visions' is a great example of that. You won't hear any dumbed-down rhymes from Third Rail.

You were part of the infamous Rawkus 50 line-up with Aarodynamix. Could you tell us more about that prolific Rawkus project?

Rawkus selected 50 acts to represent them back in 2007. At the time it seemed like a pretty good look. I think they bit off more than they could chew with that campaign. They later folded again, but the movement motivated a dope project and turned a lot of fans on to our music. I was also able to meet a lot of good people in the process.

Although the Rawkus 50 was probably intended to only be a little push for the artists and not become an over-promoted machine, I always felt Rawkus did not the best job in promoting the actual music itself from the Rawkus 50. I remember I had to be lucky to find some of those projects…

A lot of people feel the same way. The Rawkus situation was what it was. I'm sure even those dudes wish things worked for the better.

You were included on the Minority Report project from Rasco. How did it feel to get such a platform for your Ohio anthem "Ohio Streets"? Did being included in that project open doors for you?

Yeah, the Minority Report was dope. That joint definitely gave me room to expand. It felt good to be mentioned among so many artists I respect even to this day.

Apart from Invictus, if you had to pick one album to introduce a new listener to Aarophat, what album would you give him/her? Or would it differ it's a him or her?

'The Black Noise LP' would have to be the universal choice. Although it's not my most recent work, that album gives you a good look at how I get down.


INVICTUS

First of, the album is a banger, congratulations…

Thank you fam!

Are you happy with how it got received so far?

'Invictus' is being received with open arms. The response is really positive. Lots of people are choosing a variety of cuts as their favorites, some heads can't decide. It's good to see such an appreciation for the work.

How long has this album been in the works? It feel like you put extremely detailed effort in making it as cohesive as it could be?

It's been in the making for a few years. Putting together this project never included the idea to microwave the the music like so many cats do these days. This was my seventh studio release and I wanted it to be done right. I felt like the fans who followed me up to this point deserved an album they could grow to love. I did my best to deliver.

I feel like this album has been "built" with a one mission behind it...

Absolutely. The mission is to motivate. People need to be reminded that anything is possible. 'Invictus' is about dedication and perseverance against all odds. Revolution can happen this way. Hip-hop can change the world this way.

To come back on my second question: your lyrics have such a depth and personal perspective that I probably had to state 'the music equals the man behind the music'. How easy or difficult is it to be so personal in your music and how come a lot of emcees seem to be afraid of it?

I wasn't one to get extremely personal on record in the beginning. Time and life have led me to turn to the rhymes as a form of therapy. Writing helps me through difficult situations, it allows me to clear my head and organize my thoughts. The more I live, the more easily my life comes out in my bars. I know a lot of emcees who are not very personal on wax, but then again there are many who get very personal. To each their own. They have the right to express themselves however they like. Those who are authentic with how they manifest get respect.

You have a lot of producers on the album. How do you manage to balance the beats out and how does the "picking process" happen?

Selecting beats is the most important part of putting together an album. This is where the battle is won or lost. I never want to allow my opinion to cloud what's really good. I could be wrong about whether a track is dope or not so I seek out the talent of a well trusted ear for a second opinion. My partner, D-Flawless executive produced the record. She helped me select the producers and the tracks as well as keeping my eyes on the big picture. The balance came naturally.

Invictus stands for unconquerable. But that like declaring a methaphor with a methaphor. What does it mean for you to be unconquerable?

Being unconquerable in respect to this album was a reflection of how I felt putting it together. At this point in my music career, I'm not here for any other reason than love. My love for hip-hop has kept me active for well over a decade. Regardless of the current state of hip-hop or my position on the food chain, I've been putting out my hard work consistently and undeniably. I never let the industry conquer me. The industry needs to breathe again and I'm blessed to still be here. I'm not about to give up on what I believe in.

'I never started rhyming for the fame or popularity…': at what point in your life did you
discover rhyming was like breathing? For the people that don't know the track: could you give them insight in the concept?


It's been like second nature to kick rhymes since I was about 6 years old. I went from spitting along with the radio, to making up words to other peoples' songs, to later coming up with concepts of my own. I developed how many emcees did… freestyling in the cafeteria while banging on the table, rhyming at recess and showing my face anywhere there was a cipher brewing. The song 'Get You There' was based around my development as an artist and what motivated me to take this music seriously enough to become a contributing factor, giving back to the culture that raised me. Even though hip-hop artists are motivated by opposing forces many times, I wanted to remind people of the energy that made this art form a phenomenon.

You once stated in an interview you like 'big and epic' beats. What is it that makes you work so well with warmer and more organic beats? Just a feeling or is there another reason for the chemistry?

Versatility is one of my strong points. I can move like a chameleon over any type of beat and blend in, but overall I'm just drawn to big music that sounds like something important is about to happen. Something serious you know? Heavy joints with all the harmonics in full effect alongside rough drums, that's what I like to hear.

Pick one track from the album which stands out from a personal perspective and please share why?

The whole record stands out for some reason or another on a personal level. The most outstanding joint would have to be 'Exodus' though. Coming from a small city like Youngstown, I have seen far too many individuals who lack the motivation to live life to the fullest. Too many cats are so sheltered and closed minded that they never leave their home town to experience anything new. 'Exodus' is telling people to get up and do something!

Is Invictus the album you're most proud of out of your catalog?

Definitely. It's my most solidified work to date. I'm very proud.

What are your plans in order to promote this album? How is the 'new and social media' being your partner-in-crime for stuff like this?

Today's business makes it complicated to stand out. People's attention spans are too short and it's mad easy to be slept on or forgotten out here. I'm blessed to have a great team beside me with my own label, Ill Sevenz Music Group to push the project. First thing we wanted to do was put together an album that would stand up on its own, so as people became aware they would feel what we've brought to the table. We're looking to get the word out any way possible, through social media, press and DJ's primarily. We're also getting the record off to entities that help spread our movement through our targeted market to spark the fans' interest and get them involved. This is a double edged sword as we all know, but these days we have to deal with certain necessary evils.


CLOSING QUESTIONS

I had this strange thing when I was listening to an interview with you on youtube. The interview was playing in the background and suddenly I thought: damn, he almost sounds like Kool G Rap when he talks. First time you hear that?

(Laughs) Yo, I've never heard that one before.

Obviously the word "phat" in Aarophat we all know what it's about, but where does your name come from?

My name is a twist on a number of things. Aaron is what my moms named me and people call me Aaro' for short. Aarophat is me meeting hip-hop, taking the name Arafat and flipping it to make it my own.

In this digital ages, having an name that starts with double A is a blessing: you're always the first name that comes up in every alphabetical playlist or iTunes window (laughs). Smart move, right?

(Laughs) Indeed. The only way further up the ladder is to start with a number, i.e. 2pac, but it's all good though. If you're looking for me I'm easy to find.

Name 3 recent projects that did not get deleted from your iPod yet?

Right now I have De La Soul's 'First Serve' in rotation and I'm still rocking 'Straight No Chaser' by REKS x Statik Selektah and Phonte's 'Charity Starts at Home'.

Our main editor is an amateur chef. What should be the next thing to test out in the kitchen?

I'm a big fan of Ethiopian food, so Doro Wat would be great.

What the strangest or most striking thing you saw in Ohio during the last few months?

I've been living in L.A. for a few years now, but the last time I was home I saw this drunk dude in a motorized wheelchair with his boombox banging, doing donuts in the middle of the street! (Laughs) There's no place like home.

What's next for Aarophat?

This coming year is going to get pretty crazy. Now that 'Invictus' is released, I have several projects waiting to drop. I'm currently wrapping up 'The Minez' album with producer C-Dubb, who I've been working with since '99. That album should be out sometime this summer. Illastrate and I are coming back with another 'Black Noise' record as well, so check for that. There will be much more to follow, including a new Third Rail LP, some guest appearances and other Aarophat projects in the coming seasons. Ill Sevenz Music Group is bringing that genuine authentic shit you need in your life.

Thanks a lot!

Anytime fam, respect. Thanks again for having me.

 

POSTED 06|17|2012
conducted by Wulf

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