DnB legend Armanni Reign interview, MCing tonight (5/3) in Atlanta
Published: May 3, 2013
By: Jordan Calvano
MC Armanni Reign has been a legend in the drum 'n' bass world for more than a decade. Working with producers from all over the country and all over the world, his sound has evolved over the years, but his first love DnB is back in the spotlight with the new monthly from 4th Dimension BANGERS & MASH, taking place the first Friday of each month in Atlanta and focusing on all things jungle and drum & bass.
The first edition of this new monthly is tonight at Graveyard in East Atlanta featuring headliner A-Sides along with Danny the Wild Child and a whole host of talent. The show is 18+ and $5 will get you in before 10:30pm. Now enjoy this revelatory interview with Armanni Reign, one of the most respected vets in the MC game.
Jordan Calvano: You’ve been involved with the drum ‘n’ bass culture for over ten years now. How were you initially introduced to the genre, along with dance music as a whole?
Armanni Reign: Honestly, after high school I really started taking hip hop battles seriously. Somehow, through a series of unrelated events, while traveling around the tri-state area doing that I also started going to raves. Through friends of friends I met a DJ named Kid Digital who had a college radio station. He knew I battled and wanted to set up one for his show. Well, the day came to battle and the other MC never showed up so we were forced to kill airtime. While freestlying over Hip Hop beats for God only knows how long he said "I'm gonna put on some different shit. Do you mind?" So, he put on some jungle and I spent the rest of the show rapping to that. We had fun, he started taking me to shows, I heard a mixtape with SS, Skibba and Foxy that blew my mind and I never looked back.
JC: Big ups on your recent collaborations with The Upbeats and Kastle. Were you able to get into the studio with these artists, or was it mostly sending stems back and forth?
AR: Thank you! They are both an amazing group of people as well as artists I have a great deal of respect for. You know, It's funny though. While the rest of the world is saying that AIM is dead and no one uses it, I know an extremely large part of the EDM community having a laugh because without nothing would get done. When we can, we get in the studio but most of it is done sending stems back and forth, AIM, email and Skype conversations.
JC: Also on the subject of Kastle, you worked with him and Dominique Porter on “Walking Away” a couple years back, and than again on the recently released “Timeless.” How was reigniting the “trifecta,” and was this experience any different from the last?
AR: First off, let me say Dom is a very talented and beautiful individual. We actually met after "Walking Away" was recorded in Boston for the video shoot. We all had a blast that weekend (coincidentally my birthday) and kind of knew at some point we needed to link again for something special. "Timeless" is actually a remake of a tune Kastle and I did entitled "Lil More Love". When it came time to redo, he (Kastle) wanted a vocal to replace the sample that would match the message/vibe of the song. Dom was the obvious and perfect choice. I absolutely feel like her voice took that song to another level.
JC: Your Off The Grid EP featured production from Atlantic Connection, Trowa, and Submorphics. Can you tell us anything about your upcoming album, and who you might be working with?
AR: I am currently working on a full length exclusively with The Upbeats. It's been something we have been grinding through for about a year now. We're taking our time with this one, obviously, as it is my first proper full-length project. Those guys are beasts on production and we've all clicked on a personal level that definitely shines through what we are doing. There are a couple tunes floating around in DJ sets to give a taste like "China Girl" and "Trippin". On their new album "Primitive Technique" (OUT NOW :P) is a song "Again I" which most likely will be on my album as well. I can't wait to really start letting everyone hear what we're working on.
I am also working on some other projects with SMOG, Mark Instinct and Legion ranging from Hip Hop to Drum and Bass. The details on all that, unfortunately, are for another day.
JC: Much of your career has dealt with MC work, touring and providing vocals onstage for Andy C, TC, Xample, DJ Craze, and Dieselboy, amongst others. Are many of your MC sets choreographed with the artist in advance, or is it mostly freestyling?
AR: What I love about emceeing to Drum and Bass is the live aspect you get from electronic music. The way these DJ's craft their sets has always amazed me. Because most of them do it on the fly, I constantly have to adapt to not only them but the crowd. I have been blessed to not only work with DJs who's talent level is unbelievable at times but they are phenomenal people off-stage. We don't plan anything besides having a good time and trying to make sure the crowd sees that and wants to join in!
JC: Who have been some of your biggest influences in both hip-hop and EDM, and what artists have you been keeping an eye on recently?
AR: I grew up on a lot different artists. Whoever lyrics made me feel a certain way during that part of my life, I guess. KRS 1, Rakim, Ice Cube, Nas, Outkast, Biggie, Em... Later on I was listening to Korn and then going back and checking Nirvana and Metallica as friends started exposing me to genres beyond Hip Hop. The EDM world was a trial by fire. I was and still am influenced by the hard work of the people around me. GASM, Kenny Ken, SS, Photek, DJ Craze, 12th Planet, Skibbadee.. it's amazing how this world continues to expand and evolve. Goldie has played a HUGE role in my life since we have become friends. I learn something new everyday, as cliche as that sounds.
JC: What have been some of your biggest challenges with balancing a musical career and family life over the years?
AR: Time management. That's it. I am married with two beautiful daughters who are very understanding about what I do but will never play second fiddle. I won't allow it and neither will they! At the end of the day, they are who I do it for so it can't be a competition. MIx love with love.
JC: 2013 marks another chance for fans to experience Armmani Reign onstage at EDC. What are your favorite memories from playing this festival over the years, and what can we expect this time around?
AR: I do love me some Insomniac. Seriously though, I have been been blessed to be a part of Bassrush for quite some time now. They have always showed love and as much as everything changes in the world we live in, you can always count on those parties to bring a vibe you have to feel for yourself. There is so much history there and you can tell from the second you walk in. Good times had. Come out and create some more with us!
Thanks for the taking the time out for me to spend two cents. I appreciate you and anyone else who cars about what I do and what it means to me. Forever grateful. Bless!