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INTERVIEW – The Monster and Mr. Arnell (V-Zilla & Lawrence Arnell, AOTP)


Ok, so I did this interview before the album dropped. But then turkey & liquor got involved…and here we are, a little late. The project dropped yesterday. It’s available now, along with shirts & other merch (see link in interview below). These are good guys who make some good music. As part of the Army Of The Pharaohs collective, The Monster & Mr. Arnell are definitely helping to finish out a great year for their squad.

Spek27: This has been a big year for AOTP. Were you guys nervous at all putting out an album?

Zilla: Nervous? Naaaah….haha. In all actuality man, this was just supposed to be a quick little EP and be done. Four tracks in and we’re like, lets see what else we come up with. Straight no chaser, just vibed off one another and next thing you know, we 10 records in. AOTP is the machine, the tank, the fully armored vehicle…this is what happens when we splinter off.

Lawrence: Not even for a minute. The music came so fast and fluid, there wasn’t any time to be nervous. Besides, the fact that there was so much music from the squad this year I never expected anybody to pay attention to what I was doing anyway. And it felt good, you can’t beat that.

Spek27: Since you’re a duo, who’s Treach & who’s Vinny? Who’s B-Real, Erick Sermon & Q-Tip and who’s Sen Dog, Parrish Smith & Phife?

Zilla: Hahaha… Yo… I’m gonna let Lawrence answer that one. He’s definitely a major contributing factor. More than Vinny, Parrish Smith, Sen Dog and Phife…wait…umm…yeah.

Lawrence: Wait, are Vinny, Sen, Parrish and Phife supposed to be second bananas? Because I’ll take being a legendary second banana any day. Frankly, I think that people are gonna be surprised by the chemistry. You’ll find yourself comparing us to even more dynamic duos very soon.

Spek27: So, what do you have to do to be affiliated with AOTP? Is there an obstacle course? A written test?

Zilla: Yeah, you gotta try and not get bodied by all the entities in the crew. The obstacle course is being able to drop verses blindly and hope to god your not after Apathy, Vin or Celph…haha…

Lawrence: I definitely feel like I had to pass a bit of a test. I mean, I’ve known some of the guys for decades and I’m just getting involved. It’s an honor, no doubt. People think I’m bullshittin when I say that because there’s so much history there, but it’s true. Being called in such a big year for the group, I really feel like I…made the roster.

Spek27: You’ve already dropped a few singles. How’s the fan reaction been so far?

Zilla: Ahh man, love. Realistically I’m still the most under the radar MC in that crew. Lawrence will probably tell you that he is, but truth be told, he has a following and a past catalog of features with AOTP/JMT/OS. I think the recent L.A. trip showed what we could do, especially having never performed with each other for a full set. They ate us up. I think it’s meant for us to team up. It’s a fresh take on what the AOTP faithful have come to love. We’re just trying to step out the box a bit and have fun.

Lawrence: Wow…I mean, everyday somebody new is reaching out to me to say how they’re anxiously awaiting the project. I’ve heard so many times “most anticipated album this year” or “gonna be the best album of the year”. Expectations are high as hell. I love it. AOTP fans are the best and they’ve welcomed us with open arms

Spek27: What’s it like being an interracial couple?

Zilla: Hahaha…duo, you mean duo? Right? Well shit, he’s only a shade and some change darker than me, for all I know Lawrence is Dominicano.

Lawrence: It’s complicated. Lol

Spek27: How do you fit in with the rest of AOTP?

Zilla: I think I fit in pretty good because I can adapt to anything. Music wise, the flow is fluid…but mainly because the respect factor I have for these cats pushes me to be better. It’s an honor to be a part of the crew, and I’m always ready to go. Always.

Lawrence: On a personal level, it’s dope because we’re all so similar. Mostly 30-something family men with major smartass tendencies. It’s like having 14 brothers.

Spek27: And how do you set yourselves apart?

Zilla: Speaking as a duo, we take chances. Not saying that AOTP doesn’t, but me and Lawrence have this “break the rules, no boundaries” approach to making records. Singing on our own shit, actually just not giving a fuck once we’re in a moment. Some will love it, some will full on hate it. But, yo, we took a shot. No regrets and keep shit moving. Adapt, attack, move on…that’s hip hop to me.

Lawrence: We play by a different set of rules. There really are no boundaries when you step up for the first time, so we didn’t limit ourselves. It’s basically soul music to me. The lyrics, so much of the stuff is drawn from real life and actual events and conversations we had.

Spek27: Why should people support this project?

Zilla: Because its honest…and genuine. One of the records we did with Helen Sciandra, who is a incredible vocalist, I recorded at like 4am coming off a 2-3 day liquor bender. I was drunk as shit, but still had mad shit running thru my soul. I was sitting on this haunting hook and beat from Rob Viktum and in my liquored state, laid down the verse like…fuck it… and it was real. And Lawrence said some heavy shit about it in his verse.

Lawrence: People should support this album because it’s got something you haven’t gotten in a while from a rap duo…variety. There’s a little something for everybody and it’s all done in a way as to be able to play it and get it immediately. You don’t have to figure us out. You don’t have to explain to your friends what’s dope about us. It’s right there in your face. These guys can do anything!

Spek27: Where can people buy the album

Zilla: Since we’re truly underground, the LP will be available online everywhere, from itunes to amazon on Thanksgiving Day. And, of course, physical and bundle packs sold thru my merch store at

Spek27: Last words?

Zilla: Just want to say thank you to all the supporters and my AOTP brothers for giving us a much needed alley oop. Cop the LP on Thursday and feel free to get at us on our artist page. I’m excited about Musick again.

Lawrence: Everybody knows the state of hip hop is suffering. This is an opportunity to further the fight. AOTP has had an amazing year and we hope to keep the momentum going. However it plays out, I absolutely love what we’ve created. That is the thing I want most for the listeners, I want you to love it too. Thanks for all the support thus far from the squad and the listeners.

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