The Armenian-American community of Southern California can be proud to count one of its very own as a “Rising Son” in that segment of the Hip-Hop community still striving for substance and talent when on the microphone.
We are referring to R-Mean (Armin Hariri), a seasoned Los Angeles rapper who is perhaps best known in the Armenian community for his track, ‘Open Wounds’, which deals with the pain and injustice of the Armenian Genocide.
R-Mean recently released a brand new album and we caught up with him for this exclusive interview.
HAYTOUG: 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.
H: You grew up in Amsterdam for the better part of your youth. How did that influence you as an artist?
R-M: 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.
H: What artists would you like to work with?
R-M: 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 instruments 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.
H: Can you talk about the track “Open Wounds”?
R-M: 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 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, 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-Armenians 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.
H: What inspired you to write a song about the Armenian Genocide?
R-M: 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 Armenians 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.
H: Can you explain the title of your new album?
R-M: 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. 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.
To learn more about R-Mean and his music, visit his website at www.r-mean.com.