Fresh off the release of her first project with Griselda Records, titled “The Liz,” we spoke to Buffalo, New York rapper Armani Caesar. In our conversation, she took us through her creative process as rapper, her boutique Armani’s Closet and her thoughts on the STARZ series PValley.
Snobette: What were the beginnings of your journey as a rapper?Armani Caesar: “I wanted to rap at a really young age, most likely I was 12. However when I started going to the studio where I met Benny [the Butcher] and Conway [the Machine], I was 16 years old.”
Snobette: Where does the name Armani Caesar come from?Armani Caesar: The name came from DJ Shay, may he rest in peace. When 16-year old me used to come to his studio to record, we were all brainstorming. I knew I wanted a double name, something that spoke to the duality of not only my style but my talent.
“The African origin of Armani means faith, while Caesar as a ruler brings that authoritative energy. There’s also the sleekness of Armani, the fashion brand that also expresses style. I think together they make the perfect combination.”
Snobette: In a prior interview you mentioned attending college. What did you major in?
Armani Caesar: “I attended North Carolina State. I started as a nursing major but I knew that this field was not for me. I then transitioned to marketing. Overtime, I felt like I was wasting my money, messing up my credit so I left. Eventually I do want to finish, just to have that under my belt. We live in a time where you do not necessarily need a degree, but I also always want to finish what I started.”
Snobette: Do you think there is an aspect of being of stripper that allows women to be dope rappers?
Armani Caesar: “I can’t speak for everyone but in my situation, how I do one thing is how I do everything. If I am able to dance half naked among strangers in a club or walk up to a guy, ask for a dance, run the risk of being turned down, I can move with that same confidence in whatever realm of business I choose to go into.
“I think especially for females in this male-dominated industry, it’s important to set the bar high. We’re usually not taken seriously and men often think they can manipulate us. In the strip club world the tables are turned in a way. We really control the situation to get what we want.”
Snobette: Speaking of strip clubs, what do you think of “P-Valley”?Armani Caesar: “I love that show, it for sure humanizes strippers. There’s an instance in an episode where they cut the music and you can hear their breathing, the exertion, the amount of athleticism that these women are putting into their performance. I love that the series also shows that these women have goals and dreams.”
Snobette: You’re very open about about having been a stripper even in the face of a culture that still views it as taboo.
Armani Caesar: “Men glamorize being street hustlers and dealing drugs all the time. The streets and the strip club are directly parallel. We’re all selling the same product, were selling a fantasy, they sell an escape. Women are just demonized for using their bodies when drug dealing often entails lots of violence.”
“I used to be ashamed of having been a stripper, but it was a stepping stone. It is what it is and everything happens for a reason. The biggest thing about being a stripper, is to make sure to have an exit plan, a goal of what you desire to accomplish and stay focused.”
Snobette: What is your creative writing process like?
Armani Caesar: “It varies, I have tons of old notebooks with punchlines, verses of things I always wanted to say. I often pull from those, but now with having access to more technology, I don’t carry a backpack around. I might just bring my phone into the studio. The biggest thing is getting the words out right away, If I have an idea.”
Snobette: Do you think there always needs to be a consistent rapper and producer chemistry to create a dope track or its more about hopping on a beat and going with the flow?
Armani Ceasar: “I’m able to just hop on a beat with any producer, just because when I came into this game, I did not have the luxury of working with producers.
“Most of the beats I used to rap to in the beginning were free from Soundclick. If it was for an album then I would pay for for the beat. I also did not have the luxury to be in the studio to write. I would be writing on the way to the studio, in the car or at home. I always come to the studio clips loaded ready to just shoot, because I was on the clock. I didn’t have anyone supporting my passion, I definitely could not waste money sitting in the studio trying to think of something.”
Snobette: What can you tell us about your project, “The Liz,” released last month?
Armani Caesar: “‘The Liz’ is my first project with Griselda Records. Originally it was planned for August, but we released it on September 18th. I wanted to make music that was based around us as women. Something that every woman can take a piece from. Previously I had a very different sound. I wanted to show with ‘The Liz’ that I can rap, I have bars.”
“The title came from blending the energy of pro-wrestler Miss Elizabeth, and the glamour of Liz Taylor. The cover is a painting by artist Isaac Pelayo.”
Snobette: How did you evolve from selling your own clothes into Armani’s Closet?
Armani Ceasar: “Indeed, Armani’s Closet started from me selling my own clothes. I would sell pieces I never wore, with tags still attached, as well as pieces I wore only once. I started getting requests for different sizes of what I was selling. The demand pushed me to research some cool wholesalers whose clothing reflected my style. I wanted to make sure the clothes were trendy and affordable.
“I designed some pieces as well. We had a physical store before quarantine, now we are just online but I’m ready to be back in the store. Online is great but many of my clients want their clothes right away. We also do ship everyday, to make sure that the girls can get their pieces.”
Check out Armani Caesar’s “The Liz” below.