Interview: Maryland’s Armani Jordan Aims to be Hip-Hop’s Top 5, Dead or Alive

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A read through Armani Jordan’s Spotify bio can tell you that the Maryland rapper has been been through more hardships in his 20 years on Earth than most people do their whole lifetime. After chatting with him this past week, I realised that the bio was only scratching the surface of the journey he took into making his debut mixtape – The Language Of Goats.

Armani (real name KhristianArman) has been forced to confront mortality his whole life. Growing up in Capitol Heights and experiencing “about 12-15 murders within [his] friend group and family”, learning of the death of his estranged father at 17, and being diagnosed with cancer at 20; “Bro, your life is like a movie,” as his friends would point out.

Still, he chose to use his moment of weakness and the immense pressure he was under as an opportunity to create the art he always wanted. Recording 85% of the project while in the hospital, it’s an impressive enough feat on its own. The sheer quality of the project is then the icing on top as Armani combines the sounds of his biggest influences – 90s boom-bap and modern day trap, for an autobiographical record that’s raw and exciting.

I haven’t even mentioned his past battle rap experience and background in PG Country’s theatre scene. Luckily for you, we talked about all that and more in our interview below. Listen to The Language Of Goats here, and his latest EP – Freaky Friday here.


Turntable Thoughts:

Let’s start with the title. Could you tell me about the concept behind The Language of Goats?

Armani Jordan:

I feel like when you’re talking about people who remain in our minds long after they’re gone, physically; the determining factor between who’s a legend or GOAT (greatest of all time) and someone who was just here, is what they did under pressure. 

As humbly as I can say it, when there’s immense pressure on me to do something great, I never buckle and know to put in the hours needed to get things done for the greater good. So, The Language Of Goats to me is a test, like “What are you gonna do with the time that you have on this planet Earth?”


Turntable Thoughts:

You mentioned the things that you want to do under the pressure that life has given you, and as I understand, you went through a hiatus after your father’s death and was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 20. How was that pressure like for you when making this project?

Armani Jordan:

I was about 17 in high school when he passed and it was a very crushing thing to me because I hadn’t properly spoken to or seen him 5 years before that. I just got a call one day and found out he was gone, out of nowhere, and that his funeral was the next day. 

That time was a make-or-break situation. When people have PTSD, it’s either they become extremely productive or the exact opposite. For me, I had extreme productivity and did a lot of creative things. My goal was to make music that expressed how I felt about these different hardships, but then another hardship fell on me, which was the cancer battle. 

When I got the diagnosis, I knew I was going to be sitting in that hospital for a good amount of time. I was like, “Alright. Let’s get the microphone and headphones, make beats and the whole mixtape right here in the hospital.” That pressure made me think, “Do I wanna go out as a person who was stopped by all these obstacles or overcame everything?” I chose to overcome.

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Turntable Thoughts:

What the message you wanted listeners to take away from Language Of Goats?

Armani Jordan:

It’s really my life’s story. It was like therapy as I processed everything I experienced. Coming from the neighbourhoods I come from and seeing the things I’ve seen…everything on Language Of Goats is a true story. Just like when I talk about all these murders. Have I killed anybody? No. But I speak about it from the perspective of a person who’s a victim of it. 

Living down the street from the murder capital, being from Capitol Heights, there’s probably been about 12-15 murders within my friend group and family. That’s something I have to process and deal with. I had to be kind to myself and practice self-care cause that’s not a normal thing.

It was therapeutic to talk about these things like on “Welcome to the Neighbourhood” or “Angels”, and with me processing my experience with cancer as well; my message to others then becomes, “Your time is your time. You’re here today and gone tomorrow so what are you gonna do in between then?” So hopefully for others, I hope it motivates them to get more done today. 


Turntable Thoughts:

What were the musical inspirations for the mixtape?

Armani Jordan:

Ok so, my favourite artists – Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Drake and Kanye. Lyrically, I listen to battle rap all day. I’m really big into super lyrical music and boom-bap. I listen to Eminem, Royce da 5’9 and Jay-Z all the time, classic hip-hop albums. 

But the sound of the boom-bap hip-hop is kinda…old and, in my opinion, a bit outdated. So I wanted to bring that intense and intricate lyricism to the new age of rap and blend it. For Goats, I wanted to give some really aggressive drum patterns and weird sounds that would make the listener go, “Yo, who is this guy?” or “What era does this even come from?”

That’s why I made a good blend of things that you can vibe out to in a car or things that you turn up to. People have told me they wanna go rob people to my music. [laughs]

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Turntable Thoughts:

I gave the mixtape a listen and noticed the ‘movie-like’ structure to it. Could you tell me about how you wanted that autobiographical story to play throughout?

Armani Jordan:

People who know me, tell me all the time: “Bro, your life is like a movie,” and I’ve only given people a glimpse of what I deal with on a day-to-day basis. With this mixtape, it’s basically my superhero origin story. 

I come from theatre and film, so I’ve always been a fan of storytelling and giving the audience something to sit back and immerse themselves in. So for people to know the pressure I had to make this under, I had to give them a cinematic experience. I can’t just give you some rapping. 


Turntable Thoughts:

Tell me about your theatre background, when you “became the face of local theatre in PG County MD”. 

Armani Jordan:

I went to Fairmont Heights High School where me and my mentor built this great theatre program. We were basically getting people to pay and come see these kids in 3-hour plays. The experience taught me the importance of the creative arts and artistic expression, which made me want to become an entertainer. 


Turntable Thoughts:

Going to the other end of things, tell me about your previous battle rap experience.

Armani Jordan:

If I wanted to do a resume, I wouldn’t put in that “I was a battle rapper”, but it’s also not a lie. I had this weird experience where I went to a high school with a lot of creative people and also rappers. So, when rappers start getting some praise and acclaim locally, naturally the bigger ones would start clashing heads. 

In high school, people would just say “KhristianArman can rap. Oh, this other guy can rap too. Y’all should battle each other. Right now.” It became a thing where I would just have to battle on the spot. I just had to rip their ass apart, right there and then.

It’s unique, cause I think most artists today didn’t have to experience that at all. It’s similar to when I hear Lupe [Fiasco] or Royce da 5’9 talk about their come up, there wasn’t a bridge between rapper and battle rapper. Every rapper battled. It made me want to go home and write any phrases that I could think of. If anyone felt like they were the best rapper within a 10 or 20-mile radius of me, then we had to battle. We gotta see who’s really the best.

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Turntable Thoughts:

So how much did your theatre and battle rap background influenced each other? And how much of an impact does it have on your music?

Armani Jordan:

At first, they conflicted. Being a theatre kid, I had a good boy image and was put in positions where I might host a charity or be a motivational speaker, doing all sorts of positive things. But when I went home, I was also writing some of the most violent lyrics I could possibly think of. 

I ended up losing scholarships over my lyrics. So, I had to make a choice. Am I going to keep my clean-cut image? Or am I going to pursue my passion? Ultimately for me, it was rap or die. So I made my choice and was like: “It’s all good. It’ll circle back around.”

But those theatre experiences informed me as a performer. Now I know how to set up a great show, be dynamic and speak to an audience of strangers. It gave me this confidence. I became a showman.


Turntable Thoughts:

Tell me about how the recording process inside the hospital worked.

Armani Jordan:

The two reasons why I recorded it there was, one, I didn’t know whether I was going to survive and, two, I didn’t know how long I was going to be in there, which end up being about 7 months. I ordered the whole setup and then I would just sit in there and write, all day and night. I usually recorded at night cause that was when I would get bothered the least.

About 85% of that project was done in the hospital, I only added like 2 verses after I got back to my apartment. Day in and day out, the only things I was working on were designing clothes and working on music. Those were the only things that kept me going.


Turntable Thoughts:

What’s this about “designing clothes”? 

Armani Jordan:

See this hat right here? [points towards hat] This was a hand-painted hat that I designed and had my friend paint for me. My clothing brand’s called “Officially Frustrated”, and its purpose is to capitalise on creative frustration and motivate us past those shortcomings.

Think about Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Tony Hawk; think about all the times they probably failed, turned down, physically hurting themselves attempting to do something great. I think the common denominator between all these Goats and legends is frustration.

If you were complacent or happy with where you are in life, you wouldn’t do anything else. You would stop and retire. Thus, the meaning behind the brand is about frustration and the drive to continue. 

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Turntable Thoughts:

What plans do you have for your music?

Armani Jordan:

My future? We gotta be top 5, dead or alive. The real goal is to be #1 – greatest of all time. That’s legacy.

As what’s for around the corner, I wanna make the best music that anyone has ever heard. The motivation I have now is to do things that people have never seen before. I feel like people got a taste of that on The Language Of Goats. On my next project, I want to immerse people in an original sound that blends things that usually don’t fit together.  

People think the trap artists can’t be poetic. People think that lyrical artists can’t bang. My goal is to make this beautiful space where all these elements of hip-hop come together. That’s the goal for my next project and, hopefully, it’s project of the year. 

After that, we’re gonna make project of the decade.

Posted by

Based in Melbourne and Malaysia. Jensen is a part-time journalist and full-time music fan.

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