By Syune Arakelyan
American Armenian rapper Armin Hariri, better known as R-Mean, has recently released his new album MEAN, which features some outstanding collaboration, among them his duet with world-renowned rapper Nas. Years ago, R-Mean's name became popular in the music world after he made a song with the legendary The Game, called “Lost Angels.” A year ago, an Armenian rapper performed in Yerevan opening for 50 Cent and G-Unit's concert within the framework of HAYA festival.
R-Mean is also doing a huge job in recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In 2013, he released his song “Open Wounds,” then turned it into a non-profit movement to increase awareness on the Armenian Genocide. His movement was supported by numerous other famous people, among them Serj Tankian, The Game, and US Congressman Adam Schiff.
NEWS.am STYLE's ArmenՅԱՆս (Armenians) features an interview with R-Mean with whom we talked about his musical achievements and Armenian roots.
Armin, first of all, I want to congratulate you on your new album, MEAN. What was your inspiration while creating it? How were the songs chosen?
Thank you so much, I appreciate it. Creating this album has been a process and a journey. I started working on it before the pandemic with the legendary producer Scott Storch, and working with him I knew it was an opportunity for me to make my best music ever; so I took my time and crafted what I feel is a real masterpiece. I knew I wanted to make an album that had the perfect balance of my usual introspective storytelling and lyricism mixed with straight bangers. I knew I could have the best of both worlds on this album. Of course, when the pandemic hit we stopped for a while and the plans changed, just like for the rest of the world, but eventually we picked it back up and now here we finally are.
You have asked your followers what their favorite song is from the album. I want to ask the same question to you. What's your favorite one? Or the one which is very close to your present feelings?
Asking an artist that question is like asking a mother who her favorite child is (laughs). It's impossible to choose. But for me the intro “Triumph” and the outro “Overnight” are very special because they really describe my journey and everything that it took to get here. They are personal, but I feel very inspirational as well. And then of course “Candle of the Devil,” with Nas, just stands on its own. That will forever have a very special place in my heart.
In your interviews, you have mentioned Nas as one of those artists who had inspired you before you started your own career. How does it feel now? And how did the collaboration start?
It feels like a dream come true. It's one of those things that I never really expected was even possible for an independent and relatively unknown artist like myself; let alone an Armenian one. But it just proves that everything is possible if you put it out in the universe and work hard towards it.
The way it happened was special, too, because back in 2016, I did a tribute song to Nas called “Letter to the King.” And years later, he ended up hearing it, and I got a FaceTime call from him saying he really appreciated it, and three days later we were in the studio together and creating the song on the spot.
This is not the only dream come true for you. Years ago you presented Lost Angels featuring The Game.
Yeah, I love The Game, and “Lost Angels” was a very big song for me indeed. I actually did two more songs with him after that. One was called “Fake Mutha” in 2015, and then we did a remix to my song about the Armenian Genocide called “Open Wounds X” in 2017. That one was special because he really represented for us Armenians on that song. But popularity wise, “Lost Angels” was definitely the biggest one. Who knows, maybe we will do another collaboration in the near future!
In the song “Candle of the Devil,” with Nas, while telling your story, you touch upon the topic of Genocide as well by mentioning that you are a Genocide survivor, and years ago you had started the Open Wounds nonprofit organization to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide. If I'm not mistaken, a lot of famous people, among them The Game, have joined this movement. How did you manage to capture their attention on this topic? A lot of renowned people, unfortunately, prefer not to be loud about it.
I've definitely had situations where people didn't want to be associated with it as well. But I have learned that a lot of it comes down to how it's presented to them and how it is presented to the public. It starts with education. I always tried to find a way to educate these artists and quickly explain the backstory and the history of what really happened and what is still happening, and then explained that this movement we created started with a song and then uses a T-shirt to spread the message. This is a very "Hip-Hop" thing to do, and I feel like that's why a lot of artists from the Hip-Hop community respected what I was doing and supported it.
Hip-Hop has always been the voice of the streets and the voice of the people. That's how it started. And me, being of Armenian descent, am telling the story of my people, instead of trying to be something that I am not. And most of these celebrities and artists respected that a lot and were willing to support.
Armin, you were born in LA, and raised in Amsterdam. How do you have this strong bond with Armenia?
I have to credit my mother. She was always very adamant about keeping our culture and language alive. So even though I grew up in a city in The Netherlands with no other Armenian families around, and I grew up with zero Armenian friends, we always as a family felt very Armenian. She would drive an hour and half to the city where we had a "miutiun" (Armenian gatherings) every month or two, and she would drive us an hour every Saturday to learn how to read and write Armenian. And that's how we stayed in touch with our roots. When I moved back to LA I was 18, and that was the first time I was around so many Armenian people. It was a cultural shock at first, but then of course I adjusted and always felt at home here in LA.
Are there any Armenian traditions or holidays that you love and always follow?
I think I follow most of them. In 2018, I arrived in Yerevan on Vardavar by coincidence, and that was such an epic experience. But in general, I love how we celebrate Easter and Jrorhnek (blessing of the water).
How often do you visit Armenia? How do you like to spend your time here?
I've been to Armenia a total of four times. I was there last summer 2022, and before that was 2018. I would love to visit more often; but as of now, I have been able to go once every few years. But I love going there. It's a certain magical feeling when you're in your own Motherland. I love connecting with the youth, specially the ones that are into music and art. Just have conversations and inspire them, as well as get inspired by them. One of my most valuable experiences was when I taught a Hip-Hop workshop at TUMO in 2018. The connection with the kids was very special, and I still keep in touch with some of them. It made me realize how much talent and potential our country has, and I'm looking forward to each and everyone of them to grow and reach their goals in life. Also, Geghard is my favorite monastery. Every time I'm in Armenia I make sure to go there. The lower room with the echoes has a special spiritual feeling I have never felt anywhere else.
You performed in Yerevan last year as an opening act for 50 Cent's concert in Hrazdan Stadium in Yerevan. How was that moment for you? Do you usually have opportunities to perform in front of Armenian audience?
Unforgettable moment for me. I did a small club performance at the Opera back in 2015; but this was really my first official performance in Armenia, and for it be opening for 50 Cent for such a large Armenian crowd was very special. I also wasn't sure how I would be received; but as soon as I stepped on stage, the energy the crowd gave me was amazing.
You have had a lot of musical inspirations. What about 50 Cent? Is he one of those artists who had inspired you at the beginning of your path?
Absolutely. The whole Shady/Aftermath/G-Unit era was one of my biggest influences. Eminem, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent.
Did you have any opportunity of speaking to him, planning some kind of collaboration?
Not really. 50 Cent moves real militant. It's not that easy to talk to him; but I connected with all his people and the G-Unit guys like Tony Yayo. I know he's very aware of who I am, and with time, hopefully we'll make something happen.
What are you working on at the present moment?
My main focus is the promotion of this new album MEAN. It has a lot of big songs on there. Besides the ones we spoke about like Nas, we got a really strong single with Quavo called “Yessir,” and records with Offset, YG, French Montana, Jeremih, Method Man, etc. It's a very strong body of work, so my main focus this summer is promoting this album to as many people as possible.
At least a couple more videos will drop soon, too. But, of course, I also know we live in an era where people are always waiting for the next drop, so I'm already working on the next release. I have some more special things prepared, which will be revealed soon!
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