Lawrence Arnell – 7th Boro Interview
Last week I posted a video by Lawrence Arnell. To a lot of people, Arnell would be considered a new artist. But all the hip hop “nerds” out there (myself included) realize he’s been around for more than a minute. Lawrence has gone from label deals to major motion picture soundtracks to working with some of the biggest names in indie hip hop. He could have easily fallen into that category of forgotten obscure indie rappers from the 90’s, but instead he’s continued to move forward making quality records. Records that he wants to make. Hopefully we’ll be hearing a lot more from Lawrence Arnell in the near future. Until then, here’s some more hip hop homework for y’all.
Spek27: Start off by introducing yourself. Who are you & what do you do?
Lawrence Arnell: My name is Lawrence Arnell. I’m an Mc, singer/song writer from North Philly. I also make beats sometimes and enforce the law.
Spek27: People know your name right now from all the features you’ve had over the past few years with the AOTP camp. But, they might not realize your career goes back much farther than that. Give the readers a run down of your resume.
Lawrence Arnell: My actual recording career really started with joining Deadly Snakes in ’98. One of my partners, Set Free (who now runs the Compound Blog) came up under Prince Paul who in turn helped us land a gig with Tommy Boy. That played out for about 2 years, until we got dropped just prior to their folding. We appeared on the HipHop 101 album they did and the soundtrack for the Jet Li film Black Mask. After all that, the group split up and I started doing features on joints with Outerspace who I’ve known for decades. As well as Jedi Mind Tricks who I met around ’98 as well. I’ve worked with Chops, Dave Ghetto, Fel Sweetenberg, Pacewon and Mr Green in recent years. I had single called Nothin Less Featuring Reef the Lost Cauze in 2010. I actually produced a song with Wanya Morris for a cat named Freddie Fingas a few years ago. That was dope, because he is who he is, you know? Mostly Vinnie Paz, OS and King Syze keep me relevant. AOTP fam show mad love.
Spek27: What’s it like being signed to a major label & then having to start all over again independently? What were some of the pros and cons of the Tommy Boy situation?
Lawrence Arnell: I don’t think I had the major label experience that most cats dream of. Tommy Boy really wanted to handle us more like an indie label. Loud was huge at the time and they were kinda indie. That’s what we were supposed to do. They actually launched an “imprint” called Tommy Boy Black which was supposed to serve that purpose. Ultimately, our music changed once we started recording and the label lost interest. I hate labels. They’re just loan sharks. I think once money enters the equation it’s immediately less fun. Obviously you need to sell records in order to make more records, but I’ve never been one for marketing, or even socializing much for that matter. Going indie for me is just fine. I’ve got an awesome regular gig. I make way more money than most indie rappers so if my record sells it all goes back to making more records. I don’t need rap money to pay my mortgage. And I don’t have to sign away my life to anybody. I’m very fortunate that way.
Spek27: If I’m not mistaken, you have a Biggie story, right?
Lawrence Arnell: Yeah, I think that was the Deadly Snakes first time performing together. It was before the deal with Tommy Boy, before we were even called the Snakes. Club Fever. Colby Colb hosted and we opened for Big and Jr Mafia. Looking back it’s crazy. Kim was wearing a Gap sweat suit. Nobody had a clue what was waiting for those guys.
Spek27: Finish this sentence – “Most people don’t know that I…”
Lawrence Arnell: Most people don’t know that I…… prefer writing songs to writing raps. It’s weird because I don’t think I’m a good singer. I get great responses and people want me to sing on their records. But I hate my own singing voice. That said, I do enjoy writing songs way more than writing raps. There’s so much more room to move around. It comes easier to me as well. Even as a producer. I could do love songs, ballads, blues, hell……. country! all day!
Spek27: How is the music you’re currently doing different from what people might remember from The Deadly Snakes?
Lawrence Arnell: I was the youngest member of the group and I had like no influence on the Snakes. I really had to fit into that group. There were times guys would tell me not to Rhyme with singing tones and such because that’s not what the Snakes did. On my own obviously I get to be myself. And that’s my main thing. My music is 100% honest and verifiable. A lot of rappers get to talk shit about guns and such and nobody calls them out. But with me being a cop, I can’t pretend to be a criminal. I also can’t run around dropping the N word or calling women B’s. So my music is all traceable. I have to be able to entertain with my actual persona, not a character I made up and get to change when it’s convenient. If I rap about carrying a hammer or putting my hands on someone, shit, that’s all a part of my job description. Google that shit. And I still have to make really dope records because I’m co signed by some of the best MCs alive!
Spek27: Ok, let’s bring things back to what you’re up to right now. Tell us about the new singles you just dropped.
Lawrence Arnell: This time around I’m doing an old school maxi single. Scared Money and Rage Against The Machine. Both songs are produced Fel Sweetenberg and Fel features on Rage. I think the songs embody my Theory of the Thinking Man’s approach. It’s like I said before, I don’t get to pretend to be someone else when I rap. So I’m challenged with trying to make the purest hip hop records I can without resorting to the crutches that other artists are allowed to use. So what we have here is raw hip hop production and a show of lyrical prowess that stands up to any record out there, but you can play it in front of your mom and I’m not calling her names. No one is disrespected. Unless of course you’re a wack MC. I give wack MCs the business.
Spek27: What are your plans for a full length album?
Lawrence Arnell: I can call the album complete as far as recording is concerned. I’m good there. I’ve got records with Planetary, King Syze, V Zilla, Baby Blak, Tanzania Lateef, Reef The Lost Cauze and Fel. As for production, I’ve got Fel, Skamaddix, Baby Blak, Cimer Amor, Max Damage from Chile, Dj Devastate from Switzerland, and I did a couple of joints myself.
Spek27: Will this project feature both singing and rapping?
Lawrence Arnell: I decided to make this a purely hiphop album. I kept the singing to a minimum. Tanzania Lateef blesses me with a hook on one record, but I fell way back with the crooning. I felt like I needed to flex my MC muscles a bit. I’m not sure people really get me as an Mc. This album is, for me, all about showing off my ability to make hiphop songs. Oddly enough I’ve been recording what I like to call a new school blues album at the same time. We’ll see if the people want that some time in the future. Right now I’m focused on moving the singles so I can give you guys “The Thinking Mans Approach”.
Spek27: Where can people go right now to hear your music?
Lawrence Arnell: The new joints are available on itunes and Amazon. The Scared Money video is up on YouTube for everyone to enjoy. The video for Rage should be ready real soon.
Spek27: Last words?
Lawrence Arnell: Just a thanks to everybody showing love lately. From IG followers to FB friends and blogs posting the material. That shit makes this fun. And as long as it’s fun I’ll get busy. And to whoever is updating my Wikipedia page, good look! I didn’t even know that shit was there!