Interview: Armani White Talks Billie Eilish, Family Loss and Adjustment to Fame

Harvey Marwood

By Harvey Marwood

Harvey Marwood

5 Dec 2022

Hailing from West Philadelphia in America, 26 year old Armani White is nothing short of an international star. Boasting more than 10 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone, hit single ‘Billie Eilish’ released earlier this year gained impeccable traction for the charting rapper – sitting on more than 170 million streams on Spotify and finding its way onto the Billboard Top 100, peaking at 58 in September this year. With an expansive diverse discography, Armani White is a pure reflection of how an artist can captivate and create efficiently, and we had the privilege to have a chat with him about his life and career to date.

So who is Armani White? Where are you from and what is your background?

I’m Armani White from West Philadelphia. You know, hip hop artist – one of the greatest, I ain’t gonna lie to you. Yeah, man. I’m trying to figure out the best way to answer that question in the direction that you want it but I’m just you know, I’m the light man, I’m the light I’m the hope, I’m the truth, I’m the beacon of the future.

And how are you right now – and how are you finding being in London?

I’m great at the moment, bro. I’m amazing. At the moment. I’m blessed at the moment. London. I haven’t been here long enough to tell you but we did have a good night last night. Yeah, I was up until like 4am and we went to some club called The Windmill? Yeah. We did a little pop up there. Oh, man, London has some beautiful woman. Fire women.

For real bro haha. You’ll be back out soon I imagine.

I’d like to take it back to the beginning with you if that’s okay? Where did you grow up and what was your upbringing like, if you don’t mind me asking?

I grew up in West Philly on this block called 52nd Street – it’s a little rough, a little, you know, little rugged. I just I just grew up as one of them outside kids. I think I was like the last generation of kids that actually went outside. Whatever it was like if you had a baseball and somebody else had tennis ball, we were playing a baseball team and they end of the block. Whatever it was we just made do with the materials that we had we had fun but yeah, it was a lot. It was a rough city though. Definitely a rough city.

How did growing up where you did influence your career to date, would you say?

I think one of the biggest things that turned took away from just growing up in Philly is like, Philly is a very stark way of defining whether you’re going to be predator or prey. Not so much in an aggressive term or aggressive meaning but more or less like, are you going to go out and get the food or are you just going to sit back and be food for somebody else or allow others to eat your food. And so, early on, I just made a decision that I wanted to go out and hunt, I wanted to go out and work, I wanted to go out and get everything that I want and everything I dreamed of. In Philly, once you make that decision to be on that side of the fence, it just put a certain level of hunger in you that makes you want to go out and get what you want. Yeah.

100% bro. Were you educated or did you go through the college system?

Yeah, I dropped out twice. I graduated, I went to college, and then I went to college one time I dropped out, and then I tried again and went to college the second time, and I was like, Hey, I’m cool. I’m super extroverted so the so the reason I went the second time wasn’t like, for college, it was just for social purposes. I just wanted to talk to people. Yeah.

And were you making music at that point whilst you were still in college or not?

I’ve been making music my whole life, honestly – there were two reasons why I dropped out of college. One was ultimately because my father had passed away from cancer, but early before that I was starting to like… music shit was happening. I was starting to go tour, I had to go to the studio, a lot of times, I just couldn’t make it back to college. My college was around an hour and a half away from Philly. So yeah, it just started not making sense.

I’m sorry to hear about your father bro…

Obviously you said you’ve been making music all your life – but how old were you when you first started going to the studio and started writing seriously as a recording artist?

My first studio session was probably around seventh or eighth grade. It was like seventh or eighth grade. That was my homie – well his mom and bought him a microphone. He had like just the microphone on a little setupin front of the computer. And so we’d all just go over there and record. Me and him would just be trading places – we’d rap so he would record while I rap and then I’d press record and he would rap.

I’m interested in what kind of music you were listening to around your household and throughout your youth – and whether this had any influence on where you have taken your sound?

My mum listened to a lot of Kurt Franklin and James Brown, Michael Jackson – she was just locked in. My dad – he did the same thing, but it was a lot more hip hop and reggae you know, so Ludacris. Anyone of the CDs I couldn’t get at my Mum’s house, I would go to my dad’s house and get it – like the Ludacris, Eminem, Ying Yang Twins. I was going over to my Dad’s and hearing rap music.

Great answer and great music great taste.

Your sound has developed so much over the past five years or so. Obviously, the first single which is on Spotify right now, ‘NYC Window’ – your sound has very much changed over the past five years. What do you think has allowed you to kind of make this continuous improvement and what has kind of shaped your sound to be so different to what it was when you first started?

I think the real answer is you go through life – NYC Window was made when I was at a really low point life – it was kind of just a confused record. I put it out just because we had it and I felt that way at the time. As I developed and as I grew up, I just learned how to put more of me into the songs you know. More of my own personality into the record – that just made the songs better and better and better. It feels less like you’re listening to a song by Armani White, but more as if you’re having a conversation with him.

And what was the reaction like when you first dropped that single? Was it what you expected or did it kind of go under the radar a little bit to begin with?

At the time yes. I had a song before that. That kind of went off on SoundCloud. It was like 2015-16, a song called stick up. But when my father passed I stopped I’m making music. New York City window was an OFF period moment. I put it out while I wasn’t even making music, I wasn’t promoting music, I wasn’t even thinking about music. I was just like, trying to get my mental right. I can’t say I couldn’t tell you too much about the reaction for that record – but following that record with public school the following year, that was when I actually started to put time and effort to work the records, put plans towards the records, put videos and content towards the records – and that shit was popping.

I love that bro. I understand this is a sensitive topic for me to touch on but you’ve brought it up a couple of times so far so I’d like to touch on it briefly – how did your fathers death affect you, and did that give you extra motivation to chase the music career and make him proud in a way?

Yeah – I think the word I’m looking for is mortality. Mortality is the word I’m looking for. I learned and I understood mortality after losing my father. That was one of the moments where you, you, you know… me and my dad, we didn’t have the best relationship. But in my head, it was always like, I’ll fix this shit. You know, like, later on, well, we’ll sit down, we’ll talk but then you learn how much time you don’t have, you know, I’m saying you learn how important these moments actually are.

Even for me, I think I always say that, that’s, that’s one of those moments that kind of breeded this happy hood music for me. I was in these moments where I had to turn the pain into happiness. I had to make the pain sound good. I had to make the pain feel good for other people to listen to. So they don’t have to, like, go through it with me sonically, but they can take the pieces of it and learn from it. For me the biggest thing I learned from losing my father was mortality. These are those moments where you can’t get him back. You can’t be like let’s just redo the last couple years and shit like that.

Honestly thank you for sharing that with me bro – I know it’s a sensitive topic but I really appreciate you trusting to talk to me about that bro. A lot of people know you best for Billie Eilish, obviously. How did that track come about? And how important has that song been for you?

Man, I was sitting on the toilet one day. True story. I had a flashback to when we had ran into Billy Eilish at ACL a couple of years back. We didn’t get to actually meet so to speak, but there was a tweet that I was looking at on the toilet. The tweet was like, I’m not a fan of Billie Eilish, but I love her because she dresses like the franchise boys and I was like, oh shit, that’s hilarious. So I just started coming up with that cadence around just like the idea of ‘I’m stylish, glocked up big t shirt Billie Eilish’. That’s my writing method – I just mumble a bunch of shit and then I fill in the words. Yeah, and at the time, I didn’t know what I was saying but I was thinking that bar right there that shits hot – I didn’t know if it was a verse a hook or whatever. But you know over time it was like this is infectious enough for this to be the driving part of the song so we just made it.

Had it already come before to you that you kind of realised that your life had changed from music would did it mainly come off the video and it’s dropped.

I was in a weird, what I’d call semi celebrity phase but I was nowhere near famous – there were certain things I couldn’t do though. People knew that people knew what I was doing. People knew what I had going on. I had like a fan base. I had music out that people listened to. It was no way near where I am now. It definitely changed afterwards though.

And you landed a deal with Def Jam. Am I right? That happened after Billie Eilish right?

That happened after Billie Eilish yeah – we talked and after Billie Eilish came out it really just made sense. And I was telling him Tunji, shout out Tunji that’s my guy – I really just want a partnership. I really wanted to work with somebody with would look at me like a partner Tunjie stood behind me and everything that I asked for. And yeah, we got that partnership.

Do you hold yourself in high regard in terms of self motivated success?

Yeah, I think I definitely motivated my success. One of the things I never did was therapy like actual therapy – but my music has always been that for me. My writing in general has always been that for me -I write my ideas down, write my thoughts down, I write whatever. And then I just read, I read it back to myself, and then I kind of coach myself through a lot of my problems, I guess, like coaching myself through music, through writing and through journaling. I think a lot of the success and level headedness has come from just me being able to be conscious and realistic and honest and open with myself.

And what’s your creative process? Are you going into the studio filled with confidence?

I write a lot of misery. I write all of my music when I’m alone. It’s just me in one room with loud speakers and I’m able to really get into it and really lock into the world. That’s just the best for me, it was the best way for me to make music – I get to hear myself. It’s not like me hearing myself whille everybody else is paying attention. I just get to be raw me, I just get to be the rawest form of me.

I fully understand that. That’s the best way to do it sometimes, though, because at least everything’s been authentic and original to that yourself, rather than having any external influence.

Is there any artists that you really want to work with right now or do you feel relatively accomplished with your discography to date?

I’m not but I want to work with everybody. I just think that music is a universal language – I like finding different ways to connect the dots. I just like making music you know, regardless of the direction.

So if I was to sit here and say you could have three dream collaborations past or present, who would they be?

Frank Ocean – the version of Childish Gambino where he’d be singing and Lil Uzi Vert.

That would be cold for real.

What are the plans for the rest of the year – chat to me – you haven’t released since August am I right?

Correct bro. We got a couple of releases geared up – I’ve just been on the road since since August – it’s a couple of records that we are lining up to release soon. I think as I leave the UK we’re right back on the road – but like I said it’s at a slower pace. I still get to like kind of go home and work on other stuff as well. It’s just so much music that even while we’ve been on a road it’s always music we’ve been creating -and we’re having so much fun with it in the process.

Does the travelling affect you on a personal level at all? As in do you miss staying at home and just doing what you were doing before all of the fame and all of the travel or is it part of the lifestyle that you just love now?

It’s a little bit of both – I love doing this and I love being outside. I love seeing the people that I love you know. I think it’s a necessary thing to step back for a second to like sit down and actually you know craft out what it is that you’re doing – I think the best answer is a little bit of both.

You’re going home tomorrow but have you got any plans for a UK show at some point in the future?

For sure, for sure! I’m definitely coming back for a London show but one of the things I just like about just Europe in general like since you know from blue we branded we went out did a pop up in Dusseldorf or not we did one in Cologne. We did last night where I popped up at The Windmill – it’s just the audience, the crowd the people in London like they’re just like… the ego is just so removed and the people are actually there to just have a good time. And that’s like you know, it’s such a cool experience. London feels a lot like home as it’s another big city and obviously everyone speaks English.

Describe your sound in three words

Happy hood music.

What is your opinion on social media ?

If you do it the right way, it’s the best thing that can happen to you. There is a thin line between it being super useful and super toxic – but it’s up to you how you use it? 

My closing question – what is the meaning of life to you?

Legend is the definition of a story. For me, the meaning of life is that you have a set amount of time to create something so memorable so that your eighty years alive can live on for eight hundred or eight thousand. It’s to do something so magical, memorable, potent and infectious that it carries on even when your life is over with. 

Great answer – thank you for your time my bro, really appreciate it.

Armani White is a star – and if you don’t already have him on your radar, get to know!