Whenever religion, politics, and hip hop collide, the result is always something to look for. So it is with Phoenix-based rapper Arhythmatik, whose clever, creative beats and words never tip-toe around controversial or taboo topics, without resorting to the language or vulgarity of some other artists. A devout Mormon, producer, emcee, underground musician, and father of three, Arhythmatik is a satisfying blend of seemingly different influences and experiences.
Arhythmatik has been very involved in the LDS music community and is hoping to bring together LDS hip hop artists all over Utah and the West to create a monthly concert showcase, and is releasing one song a month for the next 12 months. For an interesting interview with an ambitious, principled rapper, read on.
First of all, your website says you’ll be releasing a song a month for the next 12 months. Tell us about that promotion and what inspired it?
A: Basically I was praying about it, and I heard a voice that said I should move to Utah and release a song each month. That would guarantee me fame and great wealth among the saints.
Nooo really, as I have become older and I am now a father of 3 kids, I realized just how little time I had to actually put together an entire album with 12+ songs- making all the beats, writing, recording, mixing, and doing the album artwork. Because I couldn’t do it all, I ended up doing none of it. It has been almost 5 years since my last album, and that was only an EP! I finally realized that trying to bite off more than my schedule allows just resulted in eventually getting nothing done. So I thought about what I could do. I realized I could do 1 song a month. I also realized that for an indie artist, your buzz dies out pretty quickly after an album is released. With the advent of iTunes and digital downloads, the single is making a come back. So I figured I might as well just go ahead and release the song I make each month, at the end of each month to keep the buzz going and continue to make music without any long periods of stagnation.
You have been involved in hip hop culture since you were very young. What got you started in music? Were your parents musical?
A: Pretty much when I heard The Mormon Rap, I knew that I wanted to be a rapper. My dream was to take The Mormon Rap to Wall Street, but now that Wall Street is hurting so much, I guess taking it to Main Street is the next best thing. Really, what first got me started was in 2nd grade, there were these kids who were really amazing b-boys and break dancers (as amazing as you can be in elementary school anyways). They would throw out the cardboard and pull out the boombox during recess and just dance. It was just such an intriguing sight to behold – the dancing, the music, and the social situation it created for all of us who stood around to watch it. Ever since then, I have loved hip hop culture. Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer helped too ;). My mom taught piano lessons and played the guitar as well, so yeah- I did come from a musical family as well.
Were there any influences that inspired the music you write?
A: The thing that inspired me to write the most over the past few years has been the degenerate state mainstream hip hop has been in. Just seeing, on a small scale, hip hop culture in it’s purest form back in elementary school and the positive aspect it had an all of us, then seeing what hip hop was influencing people to do now, angered and frustrated me. Hip hop is such a powerful art form and has so many positive aspects, but to see it used to perpetuate the most debasing things of humankind is really hard to sit and let happen. Now I’m inspired by our current moral and political situation we’re in, so you will see a lot of that appearing in some of the songs I’m working on.
It’s easy to tell from your website that you’re not shy about your political opinions. Are politics an integral part of your music? Do you find that this creates friction with fans or other artists?
A: Yeah– hip hop and music in general have always been voices for political concerns. Historically though, musicians’ political positions have been one-sided. Especially in hip hop. I have seen how the political views of popular artists have destroyed the morals and values of people who listen to their music. Their goal is not to uphold and sustain the righteous principles this country was founded upon, but to rip that foundation out from under us. I hold the same opinion that President Ezra Taft Benson held– that trying to separate politics from religion is like trying to separate baptism from the gospel- baptism IS the gospel, just as politics IS religion. You cannot separate the two. Politics is where our religious and moral beliefs should be most apparent. That doesn’t mean I believe we should live in a theocracy or even in some moral dictatorship. True religion allows others the same freedom to worship that we enjoy. True religion is based upon natural law, the same law that the founders of this country incorporated into our Constitution. That needs to be valued and defended in all corners of our society, including music. My political views DEFINITELY create friction with other artists. But their immoral lyrics and music create friction with me. I would rather create friction by defending righteousness principles than by doing anything else.
How does your faith interact with your lyrics and music? Like our other hip hop favorite at Linescratchers, Young Sim, you have decided to write lyrics minus the vulgarity that seems to be common in modern commercial hip hop and rap.
A: Basically I’m pretty much perfect so that is why my music is so perfect. Okay I’m lame. Really, my music and lyrics interact with me, as a person. Because I see the harm that vulgar lyrics do to individuals, I have chosen to keep my lyrics clean. It’s definitely been a journey though. I used to try and NOT talk about God or Christ in my lyrics, just because I thought it was perhaps a little bit irreverent. But now I just say what I feel like saying. People look to media to gauge what is acceptable in our society. People need to see regular individuals who hold a strong conviction about God’s truth and who aren’t afraid to show that. God is purposely left out of so much in the public arena, I don’t think we need to purposely leave Him out of anything anymore.
Some readers might recognize you from the ldsmusicians Yahoo group. What do you think is the state of LDS music right now? Do you think there is a future for LDS musicians who are trying to make it?
A: I think the only future LDS music has is exactly what this website is focusing on— LDS musicians who create music and who aren’t afraid to express their religious beliefs. Does that mean that their sole focus is on creating LDS music? No. Does that mean that LDS musicians sole focus is music, and their religious beliefs take a back seat to being a musician? No. It simply means we need to be ourselves. We are musicians and we are LDS. Both identities should interact with each other and enhance one another.
You also say that you are a music producer. What other artists have you worked with?
A: Well I produce beats mostly for myself. And Jay-Z. And I will ghost-produce for Dr. Dre sometimes too. I have produced beats for other artists, but I like to produce for myself. I have tracks that I will be releasing soon with Spoken Nerd, Redcloud, Man of War, Scott Allen, and a few others.
You have mentioned that, since you have moved to Utah, you’ve begun plans to start having live shows featuring local hip hop. Tell us more about those.
A: The goal is to set up a monthly show where people can come and see what positive hip hop is all about. We want to have a few live MC performances, DJs spinning all night, and b-boy competitions. We want it to be a place where people can bring their families and just have good o’l fashioned fun, but immersed in hip hop culture. I’m working with DJ Shawn Phillips on getting this event going, so hopefully we’ll be able to pull it together in the next few weeks. We’re thinking if we bring in livestock and farm animals for the kids, it will be a hit.
Where can interested readers find out more about your music?
WWW.ARHYTHMATIK.COM is always the best place. From there, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, etc.