Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Our friends at Dogs On Acid hosted a special interview with Westbay's very own Armanni Reign, who has been blowing up the U.S. bass scene performing at some of the most massive events across the country, including Insomniac's Electric Daisy Carnival. Take a glimpse into the world of Armanni Reign in this one-on-one interview!

How did you first get involved as an emcee? How long had you been into Drum & Bass (and electronic music in general), and when did you realize that you could start spitting over the beats?

I have wanted to be an MC since the days of KRS -1's "My Philosophy". I would spit anywhere that gave me an open forum to all types of music. Hip Hop, Jazz, Trance... it didn't matter. My thing was to prove that I could rap over anything. In 1999, I met a group of cats (Illskillz) from Philly and Jersey through a friend who were all DJs. They introduced me to Drum and Bass and I fell in love with it. It was only natural for me to not just spit over it but learn how to do it properly.

You definitely don’t bring the stereotypical “fake Jamaican” flavor that many heads associate with the US style of MCing at DnB parties. How would you define your style when you’re MCing for a DJ – what’s your approach?

I'm a chameleon socially and lyrically. It's funny, in the beginning I did what a lot of MCs from the states did in trying to find your place in the sound. I studied, who I consider, the greats. I listened to the syllable wordplay of Skibadee or the ruggedness of MC Foxy. I watched how to guide the music like GQ or MC Dynamite all while learning the mathematics of the music. In doing that, at times my flow was most certainly influenced by them but eventually I had to find a way to pull it all into my own style. This result is my willingness to experiment vocally. I can be sing-songy one minute then rapid-fire lyrics the next. The complexity of DnB has aloud me to find the spaces in all types of music to become an added instrument. It really depends on the DJ, music and the vibe of the party or recording session at that moment.

Did it take a while for crowds and DJs to accept your sound?

"You can't please everybody" is a mantra I was taught to follow a long time ago. DnB is an instrumental driven sound. We could ask a hundred people in a room if they like MCs and you'll get a 50/50 answer. With that being said, the most gratifying thing spoken to me when I step off stage is "I don't like MCs but I enjoyed that!" I've been blessed enough to share the stage with DJs who have shown me love from the beginning and I think that respect level has carried over to the crowd. To this day, I still step on stage like I have something to prove. It will probably always be like that.

You’ve rolled with a few crews over the years. A few years back, you were linked to the TEKDBZ crew with Photek, Hochi, the man formerly known as Infiltrata and Craze. What was it like being aligned with those guys, and what happened to the crew? Was it just something that sort of fizzled?

TEKDBZ was all about linking two worlds, Hip Hop and DnB. It's not like it was a revolutionary idea because Hip Hop could be found in tunes way before most of us were around. There was a different swag about us though. We didn't expect or care if anyone else understood it. It was a break from the norm that we all felt good about. I didn't realized how much people loved it until it was no more! HA! We are all still family because that's the kinda people we are. Maybe a reunion is in order?

You’re also cool with the Gasm crew. We remember some legendary things going down during those HEAVYBAG shows. How important was it that Mason and the guys kept their vibrant personalities while still bringing for the explosive tracks?

Good times... that show was crazy. Look... if you wanted to tune in and hear DJ So-and-So rock out for 2 hours there are at least a hundred places for you to do that. I love those shows too but we wanted to do something for those who agreed that the scene took itself too seriously at times. No one was having fun anymore so we went as far left field as possible. When it was good it was gold. When it wasn't... fuckin terrible but we had a GREAT time doing it. The Gasm family is the closest thing to having blood relatives. We are all a little on the crazy side but we try to keep each other in check and just enjoy life, then spread that feeling to others. "Forewarned of the ink on my forearm..."

What’s the current situation with Mental Sharp? Are you guys still functioning as a duo? Any plans for releases from you two in the near future?

Sharpness is forever my homie. Ever since I moved away we have tried to rock shows together whenever possible. Truth be told, even when I was in Philly we were always on a 'Divide and Conquer' vibe anyway. So it's not so different that it becomes detrimental to us being on the same page. We both have been working on solo projects at the moment but, yes! Mental Sharp is and forever will be alive and well. I would keep an eye out for something in the near future.

You’re out in Georgia now, right? How long have you been down there? Has that area influenced the music you’ve been creating lately?

I've been in Atlanta for almost two years now and I love it! Don't get it twisted, I'm a Philly head first. I miss the concrete but, ATL has been good to me. Good food, good people. The vibe is vibrant, blossoming and intoxicating. They go hard down here and I don't think anyone who has ever visited here would say differently. I most certainly feel it's helped boost my creativity!

We’ve been catching wind of the new music you’ve got on the horizon. You recently linked up with Westbay for the forthcoming release of Off The Grid. How does this project differ from the other tracks you’ve released?

It may be different to some but to most of my family, friends and supporters it's an early chapter in a book I've been writing for some time. I feel like I've matured a bit as an artist and am more comfortable with my flow. It's mostly Hip Hop, only this time, I would like to believe I opened up the personal files in my brain. My life is like anyone else's, full of highs and lows through success and disappointments. I tried to not only show that in this EP but also set up a full length album that will let me tell an even deeper story across many genres of music.

What’s it like working with Atlantic Connection, someone who definitely has a different sound than the producers you’ve been linked to in the past?

I can't stress enough how great it's been working with Nate. From the very beginning , I felt we clicked musically. We both have worked on tunes in the past and everything just flowed. There is a belief in the potential of each others gift and we approach every project with a childlike level of excitement and confidence it will be something we're happy with. He has an extensive musical palette, which works perfect with my hunger to attack as many genres as possible. Most importantly, he's an all around nice guy who I trust and that means a lot to me.

What are some of the plans for your music career now?

The pedal is to the floor now. With the "Off the Grid" EP ready to come out June 21st, I'm already tapped into other projects. I've been collaborating with artists like Atlantic Connection (HYPEM EP OUT NOW) Kastle (Time Traveler's EP OUT NOW!), Trowa (Trowa EP OUT 6.20.11!), Endboss, Dave Gee & Trigon feat MC Diggadee, Total Recall, The Upbeats, Mark Instinct and some others I actually can't name at the moment. I'm wrapping up a mixtape chock full of unreleased material that varies from tracks that didn't go on the EP to unofficial remixes to goodies that sat in the vault. Obviously, my full length album is under construction but we'll talk about that later. Other than that, I'm still doing shows with people I respect as well as preparing for Thee Armanni Reign LIve Extravaganza! (not really what I'm calling it... or should I?)

'BREATHE BACK' (produced by Submorphics) by Armanni Reign

We know you’ve been touring and performing with some of the finest – you’ve shared stages with heads like Chase & Status, Friction and many more over the last few years alone. What have been some of your highlights as an MC for DnB and dubstep DJs?

The opportunity is the highlight. I'm blessed to do what I do and beyond grateful for the support of it because I'm a fan of these guys just like anybody else. I just happen to have a mic. When it comes to performing with them, whether it's a festival or a small bar I try to cherish the moment. I love the MCs and DJs I can sit and have a drink with. I have learned just as much from guys like Goldie, Kenny Ken, SS or Craze off stage as I have onstage and am forever grateful for their friendship. I never have and never will deal with people who think they are bigger than the music and it shows in the performance. Music is life, have fun with it.

You recently celebrated the birth of a daughter, right? As you’re now officially part of the Father Junglist Brigade, how has your life changed since your child was born?

Yes! Things are much different now in that cliche-things-parents-say kinda way. It's greatest, most beautiful, nerve racking level of pride and frustration I have ever received as a gift. I love my daughter more than life itself and my wife shares that eternal space. My family is my motivation now more than ever.

When you’re not juggling your fatherly duties and the life of an artists, what kinds of things do you get into?

I do enjoy a bit of basket weaving in my spare time. Joking. You know as a father yourself, I don't have any spare time. Hahah. When I do find a break in the action everyone knows I'm a hardcore gamer. First person shooters are my drug of choice but I love it all really. Some people watch TV, my wife and I love video games. Although, I do try to stay up on my movies too.

Before we wrap this up, do you have any shouts or final thoughts?

I want to thank you for taking the time out to let me speak my two cents. You guys have always shown me love and appreciate that. I want to say thank you to all of the support from family, friends and anyone out there who has shared happiness and grown with me over the years. Big ups to the camps that hold me down Gasm, Westabay, Metalheadz, and Circle. We're gonna keep pushin'! "Off the Grid" EP OUT 6.21.11 Full length album coming soon! Stay tuned to ArmanniReign.blogspot.com and WestbayMusicGroup.com for all the info you need! Shake ya Shouldaz, Kaw!

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