Aris is a Pittsburgh based rap artist, formerly of the Hip-Hop collective APEX, who just released his third solo album "THE SURE SHOT". Comprised of ten tracks, "THE SURE SHOT" is a dose of musical medicine that the rap game is in sore need of right now.
We connected with Aris for this interview to find out how he first became interested in rap music, what he's the most proud of with his new album, and much more. After reading this Q&A, be sure to stream/download "THE SURE SHOT" below.
Tell us about how you got your start in rap music? Was there a particular artist or song that sparked that match in your brain to create your first rhymes?
I've been a fan of hip hop as far back as I can remember. I recall getting one of my first hip hop albums, "Thee Whut Album" by Redman, when I was really young. I'd watch Rap City with Big Tygga and Yo! Mtv raps hosted by Ed Lover and envision myself rapping and performing.
Some of my other early influences were 3rd Bass, L.L. Cool J (especially the "Momma Said Knock You Out" Album), Public Enemy, and the Wu-Tang Clan.
I wrote my first rhyme when I was about 16 just messing around. It must have been like 98 when my cousin, who goes by Pre-Sense, suggested teaming up and encouraged me to take it more seriously. That's when we both began recording with a weak ass mic on like a magnavox boom box over DMX, Killarmy, and Ja Rule instrumentals. Lol.
What do you enjoy the most about being an artist?
I thoroughly enjoy the creative process. Finding production that fits my style, conceptualizing, writing, recording, and bouncing ideas back and forth between my engineer Mindbender and I.
Once the final product is realized and then released to our fans tho...the gratification of hearing the opinions and critiques of the material is ultimately the greatest pleasure and the exact reason why I continue to make music.
When someone contacts you to tell you how a song touched them or how they related to a certain song or songs or just to simply say that they love what You're doing and to never quit, that's by far the most incredible feeling and one of the things about being an artist that I truly appreciate and enjoy.
What are you most proud of with your new album "THE SURE SHOT"?
Well, this is my third solo project in 4 years but I feel like this is the most fluid and solid of the three. It's contains at least three of my favorite songs that I've ever wrote and recorded, "Dollar And A Dream" featuring dope cuts from Canadian emcee/DJ Fraction (Prod by Sinima Beats). "Wake Up" featuring my cousin Pre-Sense (Prod by one of my favorite Pittsburgh beatsmiths Shade Cobain). And "What You Know" (Prod by Yung Hrt Brk) which is a song I encourage people to really focus on the lyrics of the song so they can understand the full concept. I know a few friends of mine heard it and were like, "Whoa! This isn't what we're used to hearing from you." But if you actually listen the lyrics you can better understand where I'm coming from with it.
I also feel like I've never had as much support for any of my projects as I've had for this particular one and THAT I am extremely grateful for and also proud that I've created something that everyone is seeming to thoroughly enjoy.
What's your favorite song off the new album?
My absolute favorite song would have to be "Dollar And A Dream". Just the way it all came together and the end result to me was perfect.
I wrote the first verse to that song a couple years ago. Initially I was going to feature my cousin Pre but he got busy with life things so I decided to make it a solo song. I wrote the second verse about a month or two before I recorded it and released it.
My engineer, Mindbender, suggested possibly getting a DJ to do some cuts on it and I myself was getting that same vibe. I contacted a few people I know locally but wasn't having any luck. Then I hit up my homie Shade Cobain and he put me in touch with Fraction from Canada. I hit him up and he was all about it! A few days later he sent me basically what you hear on the song...he nailed it! Bender did what he does to finalize the track and the rest is history. I absolutely love how it turned out.
Picking from your overall song catalog, which one defines or represents you the most as an artist?
Man...we've recorded so many songs over the years...the first solo song that comes to mind is a song that was produced by Staten Islands Git Beats. The song was on The Prelude Ep. It was titled "Oh Lord". That was also probably my most personal song.
The song "Grow Up", which I recorded with our group APEX, is also a favorite of mine and I feel it represents me/us wholly as artist too. It was written right around the time of the birth of my first child. It was produced by, in my opinion, by one of the most talented producers in the game, Germany's CZIENTIST. He's pretty much been our go to guy since we released our first project in 2008. He's an incredible producer and a great person whom I'm thankful I was able to build a relationship with over the years.
What's the music scene, Hip-Hop specifically, like in Pittsburgh? Most music fans recognize the city because of Wiz Khalifa,but describe it for us. Are locals supportive generally of the music coming from there?
Honestly, the scene isn't the greatest. There's definitely several insanely talented artists and producers in and around the city, and I feel like we all do a fairly good job of supporting each other. But as far as support from fans and the community goes, I'd say it leaves something to be desired. Mainly for the more underground artists.
It's obvious that ppl come out in droves in support of Wiz and Mac or other popular artist, but for the lesser known artists, the ones coming up, it's a little tougher to get people to show up at the venues.
Outside of the venues...discussing the locals support of songs and album releases...I give them props. They're the most supportive when a new song or album is released. That love is what keeps me motivated. My Pittsburgh and New Castle people rep hard and have been more supportive of my latest project than I've ever seen. It's been awesome to say the least. The overall support nationally and internationally tho has been tremendous and I can't thank everyone enough for their support.
What are your thoughts about the current state of Hip-Hop right now in the United States?
Personally, I think hip hop is alive and well, you just have to look a little harder for it. I feel like most of what's considered mainstream "hip hop" lacks the substance and lyrical content that hip hop usually contains. I truly wouldn't classify many of these new artists in the hip hop genre. They need their own category of music.
There's a few better known artists tho that I feel represent the genre properly like Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, and Mac Miller, to name a few. There's also plenty more, underground emcees and producers doing their thing on a smaller scale.