POSITIVITY IS THE FUEL FOR ARMANI WHITE ON THE ‘ROAD TO CASABLANCO’
Armani White is already living out his dreams. He started out as just a kid from Philly, but has since had co-signs from legends like Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (aka The Neptunes), Ludacris, N.O.R.E, and Busta Rhymes, who sang him happy birthday way before Armani was Armani.
He blew up off the TikTok virality of ‘BILLIE EILISH’, which has amassed hundreds of millions of streams. The term ‘TikTok rapper’ is a heavy weight on the shoulder of an upcoming artist, and often it’s hard to shake. But Armani is determined to prove he’s more than that—with his latest EP, Road To CASABLANCO, being the teaser to his upcoming album CASABLANCO. The 9-track project features artists like Denzel Curry, A$AP Ferg, with the overwhelming highlight being ‘Proud Of Me’, where Armani is accompanied by the incredible Fridayy.
‘Proud Of Me’ is an appropriate statement at this stage of Armani’s career, but equally his life thus far as well. Things are looking promising for him, but it hasn’t always been this way. A few years ago, Armani was at College, and after dropping out twice and going through some heavy life-shaping trauma, he decided tertiary education wasn’t the wave for him. Now, Armani’s carved out the life he always wanted, and he lives it everyday. But he’s got a lot to prove, with just as much to showcase.
Matt Slocum spoke to Armani White on positivity, trusting in religion, new music and more. Stay updated with Australia’s Hip-Hop Connect and read the AUD’$ interview below!
Armani, off the bat. The one thing that I gathered from listening to your music thus far and your latest EP is literally, positivity. So my first question is, what does positivity mean to you?
Positivity is a lens. So it’s not necessarily the world or the environment that you’re in, but it’s the way that you look at everything around you. For me, positivity is creating. Creating an outlet, creating a different avenue, creating a different resource to just travel down as far as for me being the person undergoing it, or for someone being the listener.
It seems like people seem to love you a lot because of that uplifting message in the music. Is positivity a choice you have to make every day, or are you just naturally positive when you wake up?
Nah, I’m not positive, bro, I’m negative. Haha, nah I’m playing. I’m a human being at the end of the day, so it’s not always positive. Like I said, positivity is a lens, I think there’s a lot of things that I still undergo and there’s a lot of work in progress. There’s just the everyday things that you go through. I make happy hood music. So it’s not always that it’s supposed to be happy. It’s supposed to be authentic and show you that like, “Yo, this is where I came from, but this is the direction that I’m going into.” It’s to breathe the opportunity and the idea of hope into people and just be a reinforcer of positivity, even if I’m not always the one that’s being positive.
You touched on your upbringing and some of the hardships you’ve been through on a personal level in previous interviews. What do you take out of those experiences that fuels you going forward?
The biggest thing was when I lost my family. I learnt to let the fire live in you, and not around you. And that’s one of the hardest lessons that I had to learn because I jumped to the streets when I was a kid just because I was in pain, and I wanted everybody around me to feel the pain that I was in. I didn’t know how to articulate that I was in pain and that I needed help. After a while, I had to learn to let the fire live inside of me instead of living around me, and that’s what I was trying to do at the time. When I lost my father and when I dealt with my house fire in 2020—like that same year when we made it out of our situation, I lost my Aunt. She was the person who let me stay in her house when I lost my father, she died on my birthday. So it was a lot of those moments where I had to kind of let the fire live inside you and not around you and be a reinforcer to myself.
Building on that, what’s something positive that you have to make sure you do every day, maybe outside of music?
I go to the gym, I’m fighting demons in the early morning. And I play Call of Duty.
I wanted to ask about Lil Durk and J.Cole’s new song, ‘All My Life’. What are your thoughts, and do you think that’s what the rap game needs more of?
I think it’s dope. I’ll be honest, I think everyone needs one in their arsenal. I love when people put kids on hooks and shit like that, I think that’s always fire. But I think those records should always exist, but at the same time, it’s just not realistic that that’s all you’re gonna get from every artist.
I feel like the ones that do make more positive music, especially within hip-hop, always seem to get a bad rap. People like Cordae, or even J.Cole as well, frequently get called boring or corny because yeah, what you’re saying is true – you can’t be positive 24/7, it’s just unrealistic.
Don’t nobody wanna hear that happy shit. We got real things to deal with (laughs). That’s a battle even when making happier music. We got to pivot into “this the hood music, it’s not always happy.” Like this is just one layer of it. Because, yeah, it’s unrealistic for somebody to be happy every day. At some point, something’s wrong with you, you’re kind of weird. And if you create this moniker or this idea of a person that’s just super happy all the time, you become really un-relatable to people and they’ll think you’re not authentic.
I wanted to touch on ‘Proud Of Me’ with Fridayy from Road To CASABLANCO. That’s literally my favourite song you’ve ever made, it’s on repeat. Something about Fridayy on a hook just goes crazy. What do you think your main objective as a hip hop artist and a musician is?
First of all, thank you. Those records like that, those soul food records, you just really feel them. When I make any record it’s to feel it like that. It’s soulful, even if it’s just fun shit. Like ‘Billie Eilish’ was just fun for me. But I felt it. I was sold on it. It’s the same thing with ‘Proud Of Me’. In a whole different lens, I felt it and I was sold on it. With music, I want to be the biggest thing in the world with this shit. But I also want to say to people that’s close to me, “I can’t sell you the world.” I can only do as much as I can. But I’m in the position to do so, and my family’s super important to me, and my friend group that I’ve created a family out of is super important to me. And we all kind of came up with similar stories and if I can be any bit of a vessel to help people live a different life and change the trajectory of their lives, then, yeah, that’s the goal.
In ‘Angels’ back in 2021, you talked about your faith at the time and your journey with that. Fast forward to now, two years later, how are you balancing having faith and then having a music career at the same time, and how does it impact your music?
I think having religion was what really got me into music. When I was younger, I think just experiencing trauma, grief, and dealing with loss was what really had me battling with religion. If God is a person, then why am I dealing with this? Why is he putting me through this? Why are these things existing? That was the real battle through a lot of religion based things. Still, a lot of times, I have to put my head down and just trust.
Touching on your come up as an artist- because ‘Billie Eilish’ and ‘Goated’ were two big viral moments, I kind of feel like the world didn’t really know what you were capable of as an artist. But I feel like this EP is a great introduction into the broader scope of what you can do.
That was the goal. There were whispers that I heard about being a one-hit-wonder. “Can he really make songs?” – So I wanted to fix that and answer the question. Another thing that happens when you have such meteoric success is, “who is he?” I wanted to show I could make music first, and then lets really get into who I am because it isn’t just a Road To CASABLANCO. thing. Who I am is a full album worth of music that really defines, and details me.
You’ve got two songs on this EP that both sample Neptune’s beats. Do you have anything with Pharrell coming up?
Yeah, we talking about it. I can’t say too much yet, but we’re definitely talking about it. Shout out both sides of the Neptunes, Pharrel and Chad Hugo. We having conversations.
Man, I can’t wait to hear that. You got a further cosign on the ‘Billie Eilish Legends Mix’ with Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, and N.O.R.E. How does it feel to be on the same song as people like that?
It’s dope bruh, it’s really dope. They embraced me, it wasn’t just me asking them for a verse. They really were fans and supported me. Like Busta sang me Happy Birthday in like 2018. He was just watching me turn into who I turned into from that kid. It’s been really dope.
So, what’s next for you? You just dropped but what are you looking forward to in the future?
We got CASABLANCO coming up like I said. There’s a lot of people who we couldn’t get on his record in time, so we saved those features for CASABLANCO. There’s a lot more appearances and just rapping. Just getting back to just rapping rapping. At the core of all that is, it wasn’t really about songs. Sometimes. It was just about me just throwing some bars on the table, and that’s what I’m getting back to right now.
When do you plan on dropping it?
It’s coming before the year’s up for sure.